Top critical review
55 people found this helpful
Good tablet but let down by iffy build quality
on 5 October 2012
First impression. This is nicely designed tablet. There is nothing "flashy" about it. It's simplicity of a full glass front and an uniform textured aluminum back, does give this tablet a rather attractive and premium look and feel. It's weight of just under 590g, makes this one of the lighter 10" quad-core tablet out there in the market (if not the lightest). Despite some competitor product being just several tens of gram heavier, I do find this tablet to more comfortable to hold than others. The casing is well made, no creaking sound or flexing of the casing. All the corners are very smooth and no sharp edges (except for one, which I will come to later).
To the left side, you have the power button, the orientation lock switch, and the volume rocker. The volume rocker is very tactile, it has a positive click to it each time you press it. And it is fitted very well, no wobble. The power button is not as good. It feel slightly "spongy". Sometimes, when I pressed it, I've to check the screen to find out if it has registered the press. As for the orientation lock switch, well it is also very well fitted, and you can customize this switch to other functions, eg mute sound or lock hardware buttons, nice :). On the right side, you'll find the headphone jack, micro hdmi, micro usb and sdcard. There are two cameras; one in front, smack in the middle on top of the screen and another behind, on the top-left corner of the tablet. The front camera is low-res, but it will prove to be useful and sufficient if you are planning to use the tablet video call, eg skype. On the rear, you have a 5mp camera. Is it any good? Hell no. It is rubbish. Even my £100 pay-as-u-go smartphone takes better picture than this tablet. The focus is bad and the color is washed out, I've nothing positive to say about the picture quality. The only upside here is, I absolutely didn't buy this tablet for its photo taking prowess (or the lack of it in this case). On the top edge, you will find the built-in mic, which again will be useful for video call. And finally, on the bottom, you will find two speakers (left and right) and in the middle is a ridiculously huge (I do mean huge) proprietary slot for charging the tablet.
One of the main attraction of this tablet is connectivity. Toshiba have literally stuff every conceivable wired and wireless standards on this tablet. On the wired side, you have; micro usb (OTG), micro hdmi & full sdcard slot. And on the wireless front, you get the WIFI, bluetooth & gps. No built-in 3G modem though, since I intend to use this tablet at home, this is not a problem. I've tried connecting, keyboard, mouse, usb flash, external drive (exFAT format) and digital camera to the micro usb, and they all work perfectly. As for the full sdcard, I am using a lowly class 4, 32GB sd-card, FAT32 format and this tablet have no problem reading or writing to the sdcard (even with 3rd party file manager). I found the WIFI signal to be very good and strong. The GPS works very well to, even getting a lock when I am sitting indoor, fairly near a window. But I see little use for the GPS, am I really going to put this 10" tablet into my car and drive around? Definitely not!
And now, the screen. Got to be honest, it is not great. There are better screen out there, eg samsung tab2 10.1, asus tf300 and even the ipad2 beats this one. The color reproduction is actually very good (probably b'cos toshiba makes TVs), but the contrast and the brightness is lacking compared to other equally priced competitors. Also the viewing angle is lacking compared to other. I am not saying it is a terrible screen. On its own, looking at the screen it is a perfectly pleasant experience. Just when you put it side-by-side with other tablets, you quickly realized that Toshiba have definitely cut-cost here. On the upside, the screen is gorilla glass and it give you that added "security".
How about the sound? I am happy to report that it is good. Some says that it sounded a little soft. But I didn't think so. I mean, of course, if you are in a busy retail center or in a train you might find it pretty hard to hear it, but at home, the loudness is pretty acceptable. I almost never turn the volume above the mid point. Also worth mentioning, that toshiba have included some of their own software that allows your to tweak the sound. It is under the "audio enhancement" menu. I found the enhancement help a lot with the loudness and give the sound a bit more clarity.
As for the software, the tablet runs Android 4.0 Ice cream sandwich (ICS). I personally thinks that Android is a fantastic platform. No saying that Android is the best mobile OS, and it not perfect either, but the flexibility and the openness of the OS appeals to me. So if you don't want or don't like Android, go buy some other device. The OS runs very smoothly on this tablet, the transition in and out of apps are very quick. This tablet doesn't miss a beat. There are rumor out on the web that Toshiba will be rolling out the Jelly Bean upgrade in the future, but since ICS runs so well, I don't think I will be too bother if Jelly Bean comes or not.
The apps installed on this tablet are pretty much standard stuff. I use this tablet mainly for browsing, watching videos and some casual gaming. The stock browser is excellent. Loading of web pages are very fast (this is a relative concept of course), the zooming in and out is smooth (not that you need to do much with a 10" screen) and embedded videos (flash and html5) all play perfectly. As for video, I've thrown a few formats at it, and the stock player cope very well with divx, xvid, mkv & mp4 (mixture of SD and HD resolution). But stock player fail to play flv, not a real problem because most 3rd party video player would do it. Gaming, well this is where this tablet shines. I've tested some of the more cpu/gpu intensive games from tegra zone, and this table eat games for lunch. The effect were fantastic and the games runs silky smooth. I've got about 20 games installed so far, and all of them runs beautifully.
Toshiba has thrown in a few bloatware, some of them good and useful (eg, the file manager is not bad and the office suite is good too), and there are others that are not so good (eg, toshiba places). There is also the audio enhancer (which I mentioned earlier) and there is also a video enhancement feature. I've enabled this once and it simply crashed the video I was watching a reboot the tablet. So avoid the video enhancement feature.
There are a few things that I do not like about this tablet. One is the proprietary charging connector and slot. Why can't we just use the standard usb for charging? I know other tablet manufacturer (eg asus, samsung) does it as well, doesn't mean I have to like it. Another issue is the sdcard slot. To insert a sdcard, you will have to remove a plastic cover. Once the cover is removed and the sdcard inserted in its place, you now have a big gap along the right side of the tablet. And the corners/edges on this gap is fairly sharp. So, if you are gripping the side of this tablet, you find the edges digging into your hand, very very uncomfortable. I find myself consciously, avoiding the sd card gap when holding the tablet. This is just a sign of bad design by Toshiba.
Now, the bits that are not so good. The built quality is a bit of a let down. I like to point out that I am now on my second AT300 tablet (returned the first one). On the 1st At300, on the top edge left side, I found that the screen is "lifting/separating" away from the casing. Then if I run my finger along the edges of the screen, I can feel some bits are lower or higher than the rest. It is as if, the screen have not been secured evenly/properly onto casing. And also, as many have mentioned, there are backlight bleed all around the edges of the screen. So, is my second AT300 any better? Unfortunately NOT! Bits of the screen is still lifting off the casing, though less severe, and the backlight bleed is still there. I know, I know, at under £300, this is not a "premium" product, but bits of the screen sticking out of the casing, that's just a sign of very very bad manufacturing and no quality control! Shame on you, Toshiba.
So, despite the bad build quality and the minor problems, why am I still holding on to this tablet? Because right now, in the UK, for under £300, I feel this tablet have the best combination of features versus drawbacks. The nearest contender is the galaxy tab2 10.1 (£300), but this one uses a out-of-date dual core TI OMAP chip. The next one up is the old ipad2 (£330), and this one has no ports at all, useless! Next is the acer a510 (£330), which I've to admit is pretty tempting, but down to personal experience with acer laptops, I've sworn never to buy acer ever again (too bad for me?). And finally we have the asus tf300, this one tick all the right boxes, but the package and pricing of this product represents everything that is wrong with how the UK consumers are being rip-off when it comes to consumer electronic products (compared to the ppl in the USA). I mean you can go to US today, walk into Best Buy and get a basic model of tf300 (16GB, no keyboard) for a mere £260 (yes pounds, not dollar). And what do we get in the UK? We get a bloated, pre-packaged, asus tf300 32GB + keyboard dock for £399! That's £140 more for the extra things that I do not even want or need.
Rant over. And that's it. Thanks for reading :)