After Toshiba had a rough go with the Thrive line of tablets they figured it was time to up the ante the second time around. After all, the Thrive’s never got that much critical acclaim and most reviews of the tablets were just down right critical. “Thriving” to to reach a higher standard, Toshiba recently introduced the Excite line of tablets in hopes to wash the bad taste out of reviewer’s mouths. They ultimately created 4 new slates that fall under the “Excite” name and range from the ultra portable Excite 7.7 to the awkwardly huge Excite 13. In between those two fall the Excite 10 and the Excite 10 LE, the latter being the one that we will focus on today. So sit back, grab a refreshment, and jump past the break as we dive in head first for a full review after spending a full week using the Toshiba Excite 10 LE.
When I first saw the Toshiba Excite 10 LE I instantly thought it was one of the best looking Android tablets available to this date. Not only is it touted as the thinnest 10-inch tablet on the market at a mere 0.3-inches thin, it has a great brushed magnesium alloy case that just screams sex appeal. Now I realize that looks aren’t everything and once you hold the Excite 10 LE in your hands, that saying begins to hold some truth. What appears to be stout metal at first, is in reality just a super thin alloy sheet that when touched reminds me of plastic. When I hold the Excite I can’t help but feel that it is somewhat flimsy in the hand, so much in fact that it almost feels as if you could bend it in half if you tried hard enough. For comparison sake let’s take the Transformer Prime as a more “sturdy” feeling example. If you hold the Prime with two hands and try to twist each hand in opposite directions it doesn’t want to budge. Now do the same thing with the Excite 10 LE and it definitely has some flex to it and I eventually stopped “tweaking” at the point of hearing little stress noises. Something you don’t want to hear coming from a brand new tablet. Now I realize that this is an expensive piece of hardware and you would never intentionally try to bend your tablet on purpose, but for this review I figured this is something worth mentioning and is most likely an attribute to its svelte weight of only 1.23 pounds. Not to say that it is cheap in quality by any means, I just wouldn’t want to let any younger children have at it for any length of time although it would most definitely survive any “normal” tablet use you could throw at it. I never had a cause for concern during the week long period I spent with the tablet.
On to the good stuff, the Exite 10 LE is equipped with a handy microUSB that not only allows you to connect and transfer data to and from a computer, it will also charge the tablet as well. It also comes with a proprietary cable that serves as a charge-only purpose, no data can be transfered. The actual plug for the proprietary cable is unusually big in this instance and can be somewhat cumbersome when using the tablet while charging.
Along the same edge as the microUSB port you will find a useful microSD slot capable of up to 64GB of additional storage, a headphone jack, and the much appreciated HDMI out port. Along the opposing edge of the tablet you will find the power and volume buttons, both of which are very small, so small in fact I found that the power button was somewhat difficult to activate because of its slender size. In between the power and volume rocker lies a handy color changing LED that indicates battery and charging states, and below the volume rocker is a lock switch that when activated will lock the screen in its current orientation whether it be landscape or portrait. All-in-all the Excite 10 LE has design features and an overall appearance that we like to see in a tablet. That is except for the lack of a more robust build quality.
The Excite 10 LE sports a 10.1-inch IPS display that provides wide viewing angles and crisp clean colors while its HD resolution of 1280 x 800 rendered images that were crisp enough not to produce any noticeable pixelation. While the resolution could be a tad higher, this wasn’t our main concern with the display. When viewing the screen in different lighting it became noticeable that the digitizer’s crosshatch grid was apparent and produced an annoying series of lines that could be seen easily once recognized. I ended up having to turn the brightness up when screen glare was present to help mask the grid as I couldn’t stop focusing my attention on it. This is a bummer because 20% brightness was plenty enough for indoor use and 100% brightness is what is required for adequate outdoor use. Overall the screen is appealing if you can just get past the slight appearance of the digitizer grid in various lighting situations.
Housed inside the slate is a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor and 1GB of RAM that when put to the test, unfortunately didn’t live up to the overall appeal of the tablet. I say unfortunately because I really want to like this tablet. It looks damn good in my opinion but in my case performance outweighs appearance. The 1.2GHz chip struggled when opening and closing apps and often produced a laggy experience when scrolling through homescreens and the app drawer, and tapped out at just under 27 FPS on the AnTuTu benchmark test. Speaking of AnTuTu, the Excite 10 LE scored a total 4574 and ranked just under the Amazon Kindle Fire believe it or not. This isn’t going to be the tablet for you speed freaks, and I am not sure any custom kernel or ROM will make any huge difference either. Overall performance was less than desirable from a tablet that is the upper end of retail pricing for a 10-inch slate although the upgrade from Honeycomb to ICS proved to help in upping the software’s fluidity.
One thing to take into consideration when talking about the thinnest tablet on the market is its ability to house a decently sized battery. Although interior space is somewhat limited, Toshiba managed to squeeze a rather substantial (considering the circumstances) battery capable of up to a claimed 8 hours battery life. We tested the Excite 10 LE’s battery for ourselves using Laptop Mag’s Battery Test (continuous web surfing using Wi-Fi) and scored just under 7 hours of continuous use. Not bad given the slate’s uber skinny form-factor.
Running Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Excite 10 LE comes equipped with the usual suspects when it comes to Android tablets but it also contains some apps that are outside of the Android norm and include:
Kaspersky Tablet Security
SRS Premium Voice Suite
Toshiba Sound Enhancements
Toshiba News Place
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Toshiba App Place
Toshiba Book Place
Toshiba Service Station
Toshiba Media Player
Toshiba File Manager
On the rear of the Excite 10 LE you will find a centrally placed 5MP camera on the upper edge of the tablet. When used indoors in a low light situation the camera produces images that generally noisy, somewhat grainy and a tad bit over-sharpened. Outdoors the camera performed quite well, producing good color with a lot less noise than the indoor shots. One thing I did notice is that when shooting an object with bright vivid colors, the object seemed to loose its detail around its perimeter. You can notice this finding in the picture of the flowers below.
The 5MP camera is also capable of shooting 1080p HD videos that turned out pretty good outdoors given its MP’s and the fact that it is a tablet camera. Outside the results were far superior to the indoor videos that appeared somewhat stuttery on recording and playback. Reducing the resolution to 720p seemed to help improve video quality when indoors.
The Excite 10 LE at first glance could very well become your most favorite Android tablet with ease, but after getting to know it for a while you may start to think otherwise. For a tablet that starts at $529.99 for the 16GB version and goes up to $599.99 for the 32GB model, you might feel like it is lacking in the performance department. Other than its great looks, light weight and super slim design we couldn’t help nut feel that there were better options available for 10-inch tablets in that price range. For $379 you could get the new ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 and save some money while at the same time doubling the processor to a quad-core Tegra 3. If you happen to be fond of the Toshiba brand then I would recommend going with the newer Excite 10. Not only does it also come equipped with the speedier quad-core Tegra 3 chipset, and it even runs cheaper than the LE, retailing for $450 for the 16GB version and the 32 and 64GB versions retail for $530 and $650 respectively. We will review that one soon.
Bottom line, if you’re simply looking for a tablet that has super good looks and you can live with mediocre performance in a world of tablets that are advancing at a high rate, then the Toshiba Excite 10 LE might just be the tablet for you. After all, it is the thinnest tablet on the market and has got to be one of the lightest as well. This has to amount for something when you are looking for a portable device. To get a more up close and personal look, be sure to check out our initial hands-on review.