I make this review as someone who is very comfortable with computers and windows but who has not owned a smart phone or tablet before and therefore I have gone through something of a learning curve to get to this point.
I originally just wanted a colour e-reader (to supplement my Kindle) for art books etc but discovered that as soon as I went to an LCD (away from e-ink) that the world changed to reflective bright glass and poor battery performance. If I was to endure those things, then I thought I may as well go the whole hog and get a tablet that could at least perform well for the other things that a tablet will do.
I initially bought the Samsung Galaxy 2 7 (7" tablet) for £200. It had the latest Android version, duel core processor, 8 GB of memory and could take a micro SD card to expand the memory. Anyway, I then discovered that the SD card could only store data type stuff (movie, music and docs) and not apps and since the system hogged half the memory, it only left 4GB on the machine.
I changed the device to the Toshiba AT300 costing £330 and the step - up was noticeable. Quad processor (4+1) and 16GB of memory but with the higher screen resolution spread over a bigger screen (10.1") so lower actual resolution per square inch. The machine also had better connectivity with more ports and could take a full sized SD card. It also runs on Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich).
Unfortunately, like the Samsung tablet, Apps do not want to seem to move to the SD card, I even downloaded the APS 2 SD app without success (Comments online now lead me to believe that this is a problem with Android 4 rather than the machines) however on this 16GB machine it matters less, the system takes up the same 4GB as it did on the Samsung but the difference is,you are left with 12 GB spare, so although 16MB is double the memory of 8MB tablet, in practical terms you actually get triple the capacity (12GB not 4GB remaining) to play around with, so I can't see app storage being a problem for me. The Toshiba also takes a full sized SD card rather than the micro SD card that some machines are limited to, so it might make a useful camera companion. The Samsung by the way does come in a 16GB version and had I got that version, I might have stuck with it, though I like the bigger screen, extra processing power and USB port on the Toshiba.
I had to fully charge the machine as it was flat from new, which I did as an overnight job, as it takes around 8 hours. The charging cable is almost 1.5 metres long, which is handy when accessing plugs, though not convenient to carry around
On start-up I noticed on the black screen that there was quite a bit of light bleed around the outside edge of the screen. A quick internet search broadly put my mind at rest. It seems bleed is fairly common on LCDs but can be more pronounced on some machines, the Toshiba AT300 might be one such example. The forum comments generally took the view that providing it is not too intrusive, it is just one of those things to live with. In real world use, I only see the bleed on the black start-up screen and never in anything else that I do, though I have not run any movie yet with dark scenes such as night shots etc.
The machine uses Gorilla Glass, I wasn't sure what that was, but the clue is in the name. Anyway, I was not surprised, it just adds to the sense of this being a nice machine that has not fallen prey to short cuts for cost cutting .
I don't have much use for the micro HDMI connection at the moment but the macro USB is useful. Once tethered to my Desktop, the Toshiba shows up on the windows screen and is treated just like another hard drive, so that it as easy for the user to add and remove files from the Toshiba, such as my music files by just dragging on the PC's window environment.
I really enjoy the bigger screen, in particular it feels much better than the 7" model when viewing websites in landscape. The tablet is very slim and light for it's size and has a nice aluminium effect rear plate, it feels really nice and sleek in the hands - though, after 30 - 40 minutes of hand holding, it can feel heavy on the wrists when reading, so I bought one of the generic flip out cases, so that the screen could stand upright unaided by me, making things easier for longer sessions.
The bigger screen means you get a nice sized (soft) keyboard, which has nicely spaced letters that suits my big hands. You can shift the keypad into two other modes that allow either numerals or the directional keys (for editing) to be used.The text system works well, especially from a mobile perspective, but this is probably not a replacement to a laptop for people who type a lot of text as despite the `office' apps being very good, editing on a long article will require flipping back and forth between keyboard modes for text, directional arrows and numerals and this is much less convenient than a traditional keyboard. However, the tablet has a microphone that can be activated from the soft keyboard and you can just speak and the computer prints your speech as text into the document with incredible accuracy.
The microphone can also be activated from the home page with commands such as `find maps' or find `google' and the computer then delivers you an internet link that you can tap onto.
The screen is nicely responsive to touch and things can be moved around the screen and managed effortlessly, no doubt with thanks to that quad processor. I have not come across any lag.
The speakers are on the bottom of the gadget and their reproduction is reasonable for their size, providing the volume is not pushed to full. Earphones and external powered speakers are the better option and on my portable external battery powered speaker, the sound is very good.
The screen is quite bright and fairly sharp, good enough for games, text and photographs for most people. I tend to be a bit critical about photo images and when I compare the pad photograph with the same photograph (being read from the pad via USB) on my monitor,there is a clear difference in very fine detail , vibrancy and contrast, though I am probably being quite unfair on the tablet here and would like to see the same image on other higher resolution tablets for a comparison. I like the program that uses an art filter to change the photographs into a more `painterly' look, it just gives your photo collection a different and generally satisfactory feel.
The screen brightness is set to auto by default, I have switched to manual and lowered the brightness, which especially for text based pages on a white background makes for a more comfortable read and hopefully it will save me some battery juice as well.
There is a rumbler / buzzer in the tablet, which you can feel through the back plate, it heralds the machine being turned on, but can also be `alive' for every time something is activated on the screen. At first I was puzzled as to how I could turn it off and even sweated that it might be a permanent feature, but eventually I found that the control was located under the Haptics section. I am now happily vibration free!
Being keen on photography, I was interested to see how the back plate camera would perform and I was disappointed with both inside and outside shots, though I gather that tablet cameras in general are not the best devices, so it's not just a thing with this model, which does have flash by the way. The camera does auto focus and you can tap on the focus screen for the point of focus. The camera has easily accessible controls for EV, white balance and scene mode. The capture will certainly show the details of the scene but I am rather spoiled by my dedicated cameras - which again probably causes me to make an unfair judgement on tablet cameras. It serves fine as a point and shoot recording device and I can see it being useful for taking record type shots.
On it's first charge, the battery ran down to 3% after 6 hours 40 mins and 6 hours 38 mins the second time. I was quite careful to turn the Wi-Fi off while game playing. I am hoping that this will improve a little after the battery has been discharged and re-charged a few times, as it seems a tad on the poor side, though I doubt any of the `advertised' battery capacities are attained on a regular real world basis.
I have sold a handheld console and a laptop computer to help pay for this tablet, as the tablet seems to render those two items unnecessary (I still have a desktop computer and a netbook), particularly as the type of games that I enjoy are puzzle games, word games, chess, platform games and some adventure type games, all of which seem ideally suited to the tablet. I do quite a bit of heavy work on the computer, so even though the tablet is competent, for me, it doesn't make a computer replacement device yet, though for net browsing, video, game play and checking e-mails on a very portable platform it is superb. I can even see myself doing a bit of word processing when in places like cafes etc - although talking into the microphone might be best avoided in such places (a new take of "I'm on the train" being broadcast to the annoyance of others).
Google Shop content for Android seems fine for my needs. I have put the kindle app on the tablet and my books on watercolour paintings look nice as do some military illustrations. When it comes to a coloured picture in the books, you can just tap on the picture and it expands to full screen size, very nice. I will still use my kindle for my black and white text based books as it is kinder on the eyes for long reading sessions.
I have downloaded the Avast app for my anti-virus needs and I am hooked on the word game `Dropwords' at the moment - good fun. Read more ›