Toshiba’s success in the Android tablet market is owed to the manufacturer’s competitive specs and prices. 2011 was without a doubt the year of the tablet. The year was packed with some of the most iconic pads we have seen. The Toshiba Thrive was competing against tablets with almost identical specs, but it was priced at an aggressive $430 in a world filled with post-$500 tablets.
In comes the Toshiba Excite 10, right in the middle of 2012. The newest iteration of Toshiba’s 10-inch devices is part of a family of Tegra 3 tablets that includes a 13-inch beast and a 7.7-inch pocket-friendly pad. But what can we make of the $450 tablet in this point in time? Let’s jump into the full review and find out!
Form-Factor & Build Quality
In terms of form-factor, the Excite 10 is everything you can expect from a 10-inch Android tablet. It is not the most portable or thin pad around, but it does measure in at a very reasonable 9 mm. of thickness. This is only a bit thicker compared to its 7.7 mm. cousin, the Excite 10 LE (which happens to be the thinnest 10-inch Android tablet). The Excite 10 is also 10.08 inches wide by 6.93 inches tall, which is pretty much standard for devices of its kind.
One can find a 5 MP camera with LED flash in the backside, along with a 2 MP front-facing camera in the top-front part of the device. The edges are populated by ports and buttons, as one can expect. There are power and volume buttons along the left side, accompanied by a screen orientation lock toggle. The bottom part includes the tablet’s stereo speakers and proprietary charging port, and the top edge of the device features a solitary microphone.
Along the right side you will find something that may just be one of this tablet’s (and Toshiba’s) greatest lure. There is a variety of ports, including a 3.5 mm. headset jack, a micro-HDMI port and a micro-USB port. But what really takes the stage is the inclusion of a full-sized SD card slot.
It is important to note that Toshiba has gone a long way in design since its first Android tablets. The Toshiba Thrive did sport a full array of ports, but it was also a thick and badly built, plastic behemoth. This tablet shines in build-quality, even compared to the Excite 10 LE. It is up to par with devices like the Transformer series, and it even gives an HTC-esque feeling.
Though it is a light tablet, it definitely feels like it has a “weight to it.” It is significantly lighter than its comparable predecessors at 599 grams (save the Excite 10 LE). The better build-quality is also accomplished by adding an textured aluminum back. Which surprisingly, is not even close to being as slippery as other aluminum-built tablets.
Buttons are also much better compared to other Toshiba devices. These are very well held by the tablet’s casing and don’t move around or feel loose. They also offer a very healthy click when pressed, unlike other devices that have very soft, are hard-to-press or have insignificant feedback.
Most would agree that the display is one of the most important parts of a tablet (or any device). Sadly, the Toshiba Excite 10 is nothing special in this department. This is not to say the tablet’s screen doesn’t hold its own, though. It just isn’t anything special.
The 10.1-inch LCD display comes with a 1280x800p resolution. At 149 pixels-per-inch, text and media is not as crisp as it could be. Especially if you are used to a 720p display in a sub-5-inch device.
Viewing angles are good, but not impressive. But the screen offers very good brightness, which makes it easier to view in direct sunlight. This may also contribute to the fact that there is a a significant amount of back light bleeding around the edges.
Colors do seem a bit washed out. Especially if you are used to Super LCD or AMOLED displays. But if you do tend to carry your tablet around, it will come as good news that the screen happens to be protected by Gorilla Glass.
Those looking for a strong and capable tablet will probably want to at least have the Toshiba Excite 10 in mind. It comes packed with a Tegra 3 quad-core processor clocked at 1.5 GHz and 1 GB of RAM. This puts it up there with high-end tablets like the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity and Transformer Prime.
With such high-end specs, the tablet is very snappy and responsive. I would say it may be a bit faster than the competition, but it also has more glitches and hiccups. This compromises user-experience and gives the impression that the tablet is not as powerful as it is on paper.
Such issues can be noticed when opening apps, as well as when quickly swiping left and right in home screens and app drawer pages. These problems do appear and disappear quickly, many times being unnoticeable if you are not looking closely. But those used to the performance of a Transformer Prime (or the unspeakable Apple tablet) will definitely notice the hiccups.
If you are looking for a Tegra 3 tablet that probably means you are also interested in gaming. NVIDIA’s mobile processors are known to be among the best for those purposes, and this is not the exception. The tablet runs NVIDIA Tegra Zone games like a boss. So much that it seems all these little problems disappear as soon as you launch a Tegra 3-optimized game.
As it can be expected from Tegra 3 devices, gaming is fluid and visual optimization is rich. Special effects, texture and natural environment behavior is only the beginning of Tegra 3′s potential, which this tablet displays perfectly. The tablet does seem to work just as well as a dual-core Tegra 2 tablet when playing non-Tegra-optimized games, though. And the same little issues mentioned above come back to life.
The Toshiba Excite 10 does come with Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, which is the standard for tablets in mid-2012. Sadly, this is still a point-of-sale for many manufacturers, as we still have plenty of tablets operating under Honeycomb. With that in mind, we definitely give Toshiba a thumbs up in this department.
The manufacturer is not very well-known for updating its devices in time, though. The latest example being the fact that the Toshiba Thrive and Thrive 7″ ICS update just got pushed back to the Fall of 2012.
At this point, the tablet has the latest and greatest Android version, but we do not expect Toshiba to update its Excite tablet series to Jelly Bean very soon. And with Google IO at our doorstep, the next Android iteration could be coming very soon.
Toshiba’s brownie points go to the fact that its tablets are all running stock Android, with very minor manufacturer customization. Stock Android fans will like the fact that the Excite 10′s operating system is left intact, making the experience as uniform and simple as Android can be.
Storage & Price
Offered in 3 versions, this tablet can be purchased with 16, 32 or 64 GB of internal storage. These options are more than enough to satisfy the most demanding storage-hungry users, as well as casual and budget-conscious users. But there is no need to worry about running out of space, as Toshiba has made it surprisingly easy to upgrade.
The tablet comes with a full-sized SD slot, supporting SD cards as large as a whopping 128 GB. This will make it easier for the user to go for the 16 GB, $449.99 version. But those that have higher needs and prefer having storage available straight from the device can also opt for the 32 GB and 64 GB versions. These cost $529.99 and $649.99, relatively.
With these prices, it seems Toshiba is a bit stuck in a 2011 mentality. Currently affordable tablets are already at danger, with pads like the Tegra 3 Nexus 7 coming with $200 price tags. Manufacturers are currently releasing high-end, 10-inch tablets for $400, and Toshiba may be shooting itself in the foot with a starting price of $450.
This price may have been a dream in 2011, but things are moving fast and manufacturers have to keep up with the competition. The fact that the Excite 10 doesn’t offer anything special, and even lacks in some areas, is also a major discrepancy.
Tablet cameras are not known for being the best way to capture a great moment. This has become common knowledge, many of us would hands-down give up tablets’ rear-facing cameras for a fair discount. The Toshiba Excite 10 is a great example of this issue. In fact, this device is significantly bad in this department.
We can see a great improvement over its thinner cousin, the Toshiba Excite 10 LE. Captured images still display a significant amount of noise in low-light conditions, though. Images are also not as sharp or crisp as we would like them to be. And colors appear very washed out and pale.
Most of us will probably not be using this camera at all, though. What might come as a better feature is the front-facing camera. The front shooter is still noisy and grainy, but it serves a better purpose for what it is – A tool for video chatting.
The software works just as expected from a stock Android experience. You have tools for zooming in/out, flash, exposure, white balance, panorama mode and video.
Video recording is a bit better, as the tablet is able to record at 720p (which happens to be a downgrade compared to the Excite 10 LE). Still, its performance is nowhere close to astounding. Video is still grainy under low-light conditions and colors are equally “washed out.” The video does seem very fluid at 30 frames-per-second, though.
I normally don’t dedicate much time to speaking about sound quality in my reviews. This is because it tends to be rather poor for most tablets, especially for a musician that honestly cares for sound. I have to say I was rather surprised with the sound quality in this tablet.
No, it will not replace your sound system, or even your computer speakers (depending on what you own). Compared to other tablets and smartphones, though, these bad boys are quite the treat. Sound comes out very clear and crisp from its stereo speakers, which are located on the left and right-bottom part of the device.
The speakers were very well placed, as they are usually not covered by your hands when you are holding the tablet, allowing the sound to travel freely. And the Toshiba dock does not cover the speaker areas, almost making your music a bit louder when the sound bounces off a table. Speaking of volume, it is good. Music fills up an average room, but it will not blast it. Those ground-rumbling listeners will have to look for something else (definitely not pre-installed in a tablet or smartphone).
The Toshiba Excite 10 has average battery life under regular conditions. I mostly used it for about an hour of web surfing (overall), 1-2 hours of gaming, checking my email twice an hour, social networking and a bit of video streaming. With settings at its most, the tablet is able to last about 9-11 hours on average to heavy usage.
If you are a light user, though, you will find that the tablet can also give you some amazing battery life. Turning down the brightness, GPS and bluetooth will result in battery life extending to almost 2 days of light/moderate use (proof posted below).
Something that many of you may dislike is the fact that the battery is non-removable. But we can’t complain too much about that, as it has become standard for Android tablets nowadays.
As a tablet, the Excite 10 works well. It is nothing out of the ordinary for mid-2012, though. One can find equal, or better, tablets for about the same price ($450). Sometimes even for less. Take the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 as an example, which does not have a superior build quality but works perfectly as a Tegra 3 tablet (costs $400). Not to mention the recently-announced Android 4.1 Nexus 7, which also has a Tegra 3 processor and goes for a mere $200.
I would mostly recommend this tablet for those looking for stock Android, good performance, solid build quality and a vibrant display for under $500. We also have to give it to Toshiba for adding a full-sized SD card slot. This addition makes it extremely simple and inexpensive to upgrade your storage space.
It is a great option for the casual user that wants a good gaming experience. Aside from that, I can simply find no incentive that will make this tablet enticing. Most Android tablets strive to hit a certain niche, or have something special about them. Sadly, the Excite 10 does seem like it is “just another tablet.” A solid one in its category, but without that “wow” factor.