June 12, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Changing course is sometimes the only way to reach where you need to go. For Toshiba, taking a sharp right turn was necessary to find its place in the crowded Android tablet market. The original Thrive was not the desired destination, and a miniaturized follow-up was decent but didn’t catch fire. With the Excite 10, Toshiba’s turned the car around and headed back to the starting point.
HARDWARE SPECS & DESIGN
Don’t worry, that’s mostly a good thing. The Excite 10 is noticeably thinner than the dead and gone Thrive tablet, though it’s not quite as sleek as the gorgeous Excite 10 LE (8.89mm to 7mm). A millimeter or two is more than forgivable because the device is still plenty skinny and has a nicely textured aluminum back plate. It’s not as pleasing to look at as the LE, but the Excite 10 feels exceptionally better and remains cooler longer.
Toshiba’s design choices look fantastic thanks to simple round edges, better camera placement, and fewer ports and buttons to contend with than devices past. That’s great when using the orientation switch, which quickly locks the device in landscape or portrait, or trying to access the power and volume up/down buttons. All three are located on the left side of the device while the ports – microUSB, micro HDMI, SD (full), and headphone jack – are located on the other.
The Excite 10 continues Toshiba’s legacy of distinguishing itself via external hardware, but it makes some mistakes on the device front. The front bezel has an outer rim that reflects light and can sometimes be distracting, and the proprietary charging port is one of the biggest, ugliest, most annoying I’ve dealt with since…well, the last Toshiba tablet that I’ve seen. Sometimes, it’s better to follow the crowd.
Screen tech is run of the mill for a modern day tablet. The IPS display does a solid job of showing colors, but it has neither the vibrancy of IPS+ nor the warmth of Super AMOLED. The 10.1-inch screen has a WXGA display with 1280 x 800 resolution and seems to stream HD fairly smooth pretty damn smoothly. Just don’t stare at the edges of the screen too much because when viewing a black background, there are several pockets of light bleeding.
PERFORMANCE & SOFTWARE
Gaming fans will be pleased to discover that Toshiba ditched the TI processor found in the Excite LE in favor of an NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip for the Excite 10. Tegra 3 delivers a higher-class of games with dynamic lighting, more complex but fluid graphics, and a quad-core architecture that improves performance. Sessions of Riptide, Shadowgun, and Shine Runner were hiccup-free, and the same could be said of standard activities like reading, tweeting, and web browsing. (Chrome seemed to act strangely with flickering and ticks, something I haven’t seen on other devices, but the Browser app worked fluidly.)
On the software front, Toshiba continues to flatter and frustrate. The company leaves Android 4.0 naked and intrusion free, letting most of the default UI elements and features speak for themselves. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Excite 10 gave me the fewest number of force close errors I’ve had when dealing with any tablet.
I love how Toshiba doesn’t muck-up Android with overdone graphical changes, but I wish the company would wise-up and be as unobtrusive when it comes to pre-loaded software. The Excite 10 has an app drawer full of pre-loaded items that require a paid subscription, are inferior to alternatives in Google Play, or don’t have any solid value. Users can disable the app to have them no longer appear, but Toshiba includes so much junk that users may have to disable as many at least a dozen apps.
As for the camera, you all know my stance on tablet cameras – they’re mostly pointless and mostly suck. The Excite 10 does alright when taking pictures outdoors and not so great indoors because of noisy images. It’s also rather pedestrian when shooting 720p video, as you can tell from the photo and video samples below.
Toshiba has repeatedly attempted to find the right formula for success in the tablet market. After using the tablet for a few weeks, I can comfortably assure them that they’ve got more work to do in the lab. Don’t get me wrong – this is a nice tablet, but it’s probably not nice enough to be as successful as the company hopes to be in the tablet market. I can tell you about the mostly charming design, the solid battery life and gaming performance, and the decent sound produced by the SRS-powered speakers. But you’ll notice those are all complementary, not exemplary, descriptions. With the exception of its port options, there is nothing remarkable or awe-inspiring about the Toshiba Excite 10. It’s a good tablet, not a great one, and that’s not good enough when stacked against the competition.