With the Excite X10, Toshiba is trying to have it all. The company claims that the Excite is the “world’s thinnest” 10.1-inch tablet, but it also wants to be the most accessible. No, not from a pricing standpoint (this will be two or three times the price of the Kindle Fire); we’re talking about ports here. Below are my first impressions of Toshiba’s only new tablet announced at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.
Thin and light – Yes
The Excite is 0.3 inches thick and weighs only 1.2 lbs. That’s thinner and lighter than almost anything else on the market. The design is rather bland and certainly doesn’t stand out, but when you’re using a tablet, the thinner and lighter it is, the more comfortable you are typing and browsing on it. That’s just the bottom line. I’m not entirely sure that the 10.1-inch form factor is the perfect size for tablets (8.9 inches is my current favorite size for Android), but the Excite X10 is skinny enough that it shouldn’t bother most users.
A step up from the Thrive – Yes
In almost every way, the X10 is a huge improvement over the Thrive. Though we like the full-size USB and SD ports on the Thrive, the tablet is bulky, has a chunky plastic shell, and attracts more fingerprints than any major touch device in some time.
Fingerprints no more: Toshiba has recognized its error; the first thing representatives told me was how the screen repels fingerprints. I wouldn’t say it’s the best smudge-resistant tablet I’ve seen, but fingerprints are no longer a major problem.
Magnesium alloy shell: Toshiba is into magnesium. It used this lightweight metal in its Toshiba Portege Ultrabook and is bringing it to the Excite X10 as well. Strangely, it’s hard to tell that the shell is metal at all. The Magnesium alloy feels light and sounds like plastic when you tap or scratch at it. This device isn’t plastic, but we’re not entirely sold on the “coolness” of Magnesium yet. I hope that it helps make the X10 a more durable, yet lightweight tablet, because it doesn’t make it feel like a more premium product. In all fairness though, with companies like Samsung getting away with fully plastic cases, Toshiba is probably ahead of the curve.
Better camera location: The cameras are now in much more common, and more efficient places from the awkward design of the Thrive, which has them located exactly where your left hand needs to go.
Power and volume are hard to find: On the downside, the power, volume, and other buttons are almost invisible on the right, but also seem a bit hard to find and press.
From big ports to little ports: The Excite has a Micro HDMI port, Micro USB port, audio headphone jack, and Micro SD card slot as well as a docking port. The full-size ports on the Thrive were great, but a small port is much better than no port at all. Most manufacturers offer USB or nothing. Toshiba offers more.
The next big thing – No
I like the Excite X10. It’s a fine tablet. But it’s also a 2011 tablet. There’s nothing particularly new or revolutionary about it, aside from its size. Internally, it runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, it has a 1280×800 pixel screen, and it will ship with Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) instead of Google’s new Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS. In 2012, I expect more manufacturers will chase Asus and begin developing tablets with keyboard docks and other peripherals, but Toshiba is still chasing Apple’s iPad, much like most vendors did in 2011. That strategy doesn’t seem to have paid off for many companies, but it has continued to make Apple very rich.
It may not be apparent yet, but the release of the Amazon Kindle Fire has changed the tablet market. Perhaps the most damning aspect of the Excite X10 may be its price point. It’s set to release in the next three months at a price of $530 for a 16GB model and $600 for 32GB. You can buy three Kindle Fire’s for that price. I’m not arguing that the Kindle Fire is as nice as Toshiba’s tablet, but the company may have a hard time finding an audience for a device that costs more than the market-leading iPad and a lot more than the #2 tablet on the market: the Kindle Fire. Still, I wouldn’t feel bad getting an Excite X10. If you’re looking for an Android tablet, this is a great option.