Toshiba Thrive AT105-T1032 10.1″ Android Tablet Review

We had a good Christmas season at our house this year, electronics wise! A combination of events from price drops and clearances to unexpected cash meant that my wife and I both ended up with a tablet. She got a white 16GB iPad2, and I got a 32GB Toshiba Thrive AT105 10″ tablet. (I am not a big Apple fan but my wife is a professor of education and iPads are already deeply integrated into education, so it was a logical choice for her.)

Maybe you’ve read other reviews for this tablet- after all, it has been out for some time. If so, the over-all impression you probably got was that it was a good performer, and well-priced, but a bit clunky both in size and in power. What are my impressions?

In the interest of full disclosure, I was hoping this would be a review of the ASUS TF-201 Prime tablet and dock. That was the machine I was researching and hoping to get. When we got to the store to get my wife’s iPad, however, they only had a demo unit available. It blew me away but I would have to wait some time before it shipped. Bummer. Combine that with the already worrisome price tag – $600 for the 64GB machine and $150 for the dock. I was also wondering if maybe a Chromebook might be a better choice for me after having a chance to play with one.

Anyway, we were in the clearance section of the store hoping to score a cheap iPad cover to get us started, when I noticed a few tablets boxed up in the section… including the same iPad we were getting ready to buy for about $100 off! As my wife got more info on the iPad from the sales staff, I looked at the Android tablets. Most were the ‘off-brand’ units, or 7″ screens, but one was a 32Mb, 10″ Toshiba Thrive, which had not been on my radar much before. The price was nice – $379 for the 32GB version – about $100 less than the new models a few yards away were selling for. Hmmm!

My main screen (Beautiful Widgets for time and weather)

Most of the specs are pretty nice:

  • Android 3.2 Honeycomb (no word currently on when the Android 4 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ will be coming out as an upgrade for this unit.)
  • 10.1″ high-resolution screen, 1280×800, 16:10 aspect ratio, wide viewing angle (iPad2 – 1024×768)
  • 1GHz Dual-Core Mobile Processor with NVIDIA GeForce graphics (iPad2 – also 1GB Dual Core)
  • 1GB DDR 2 RAM and 32GB storage
  • 5MB main camera with flash and auto-focus, 2MB forward camera with microphone
  • Stereo speakers (with pretty decent volume and quality)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0 + HS
  • 23Wh Prismatic lithium ion battery with up to 11 hours per charge
  • Ports and jacks (get ready for this): full-size HDMI, full-size USB, micro-USB, proprietary dock (all behind port covers), full-size SD card slot, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, power jack
  • Sensors: gyroscope, accelerometer, light sensor, GPS, digital compass
  • Hard buttons or controls for power, volume, screen rotation, and back cover lock. LEDs for charging, connectivity, and notifications.
  • Textured, ‘Easy Grip’ back cover that can be replaced for customization
  • 10.75 inches x 6.97 inches x 0.62 inches, 1.6 pounds. A bit of a heavy-weight compared to the iPad2’s 9.5″ x 7.31″ x 0.34″ and 1.33lbs
  • MSRP of $480 (iPad2 32GB’s $600)
  • In the box: tablet, AC charging cord (2-pin AC cord, ‘brick’ and power cord), mini-USB cable, manual, other documentation
  • Software includes several Google apps, several Toshiba apps, and several 3rd party apps. A lot of it is bloatware. Some of it is actually kind of neat, but there is almost always a better app available. Complete list here.
  • Rootable, even though they keep trying to prevent it with some of the updates. There is also a good forum dedicated to the device, with a sub-forum on up-to-date rooting directions.

Compared to most other newish Android tablets, this thing is a little thick, a bit heavy, and rather slow. The camera is nothing special. However, it does a perfectly competent job on the main tablet jobs- video, music, web, basic games, ebooks, etc.

Side view- charging port, headphone jack, USB, HDMI, mini-USB

'Top' edge- SD cart slot, rotation lock, volume, power

'Bottom' edge with speakers and dock port. Samsung Epic shown for comparison- it is actually a tad thicker!

While it is a bit bigger than the top end units, it feels comfortable to hold. The ‘Easy Grip’ is lightly rubberized and ribbed so it feels good in your hands and you feel like you have a good grip on it. OK, holding it up in bed one-handed and such is a bit more tiring than holding an iPad would be, but I just use my cell phone for that sort of thing.

I am not going to worry much about speed specs and so on. This is an older tablet and there are lots of reviews that touch on things like that. Besides, it is a ‘full-featured’, but ‘low-end’ unit, so the numbers are not that impressive. What I would like to look at are the interesting aspects of this tablet.

First, since it has a full-sized USB port, it takes thumb drives! They need to be configured for FAT, but the file manager can copy files, media, etc. to and from the drive quickly.  So far, I have not had any luck getting it to read my Cirango 250Gb drive, but the exFAT formatting may be the issue. It also reads SD cards as easily as the slot in my laptop does.

Maybe your tablet does this as well, but I have not seen it mentioned before – the Toshiba keyboard has a microphone button so you can voice input instead of typing! It certainly is not perfect – it got my name and address right, but the phrase “I own four tortoises” came out as ‘iPhone4 work’, but it is pretty interesting and potentially helpful for transcriptions, interviews, and people with disabilities. I know there are apps that do this, but so far the native ability works better than any app I have tried.

Still working on using an external portable keyboard. There are several on the market that work with it, but I have a $70 Freedom Pro folding Bluetooth keyboard that works nicely with my Samsung Epic Smartphone (because it can do Bluetooth HID or SPP support, and many Android devices need SPP) that I am trying to connect. I have read that it can be done, so I probably just need to re-install a driver or something.

Connecting to the computer via the mini-USB was effortless, as was connecting to Wi-Fi and syncing to my Google accounts. Overall, the start up process was pretty dang painless.

This site shows up great, even in portrait mode

I have already seen the benefits of tablets at work, for fun, as a productivity tool in meetings, and more. As soon as I get the keyboard working, I may never tote my laptop anywhere again, and my smartphone may stay in my pocket most of the time!

I do have a short wish list for it, however. I wish it had a built-in kickstand, like the HTC EVO 4G has. That little feature was such a handy element. I know that most cases do this for you, but I really wish it had it already. I wish the power button was a bit easier to find. It almost lines up with the charging LED, but there is little sign of where to press when you look at the front of the tablet. Many other reviews touch on the idea that the camera is located where your fingers try to go – that would be nice to fix as well.

It also suffers the typical Android tablet lament – lots of smartphone apps do not like the size or processor. However, I have seen lots of reviews that suggest the issue is even worse for the newer processors, so that is another small benefit of the late adopter! My favorite games are generally board, card, and dice games that play nicely on the Thrive, even if a few are a bit stretched or pixelated. I don’t do many games that demand a lot from the machine, but things like AirAttackHD play just fine.

Would I rather have gotten the Prime? Well, sure! It is newer, sleeker, faster, brighter, etc. – but with the dock to get about the same functionality as the Thrive, I would have had to spend about $650 to do what I am now able to do for under $440 (once I get the Bluetooth keyboard working.) Plus I get the benefits of the slow adopter – reduced prices, established support community, known bugs and work-arounds, less expensive and widely available accessories, etc. The dock is available on Amazon for under $15, backs can be had for under $4, and several cases are available for less than $20.

So… want something with more ‘oomph’ than a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet? Not ready to spend more than a good laptop for a new tablet? OK with something a bit older, thicker, and slower? The Toshiba Thrive may be your tablet!

 

Product Information

Price:$499.99 MSRP
Manufacturer:Toshiba
Retailer:Amazon and others
Pros:
  • Low cost
  • Full sized HDMI, USB, and SD card ports
  • Well-established support community and accessory selection
Cons:
  • Bigger, thicker, heavier, and slower than newer tablets
  • Only a 5MB main camera
Posted in: Android related, Reviews, Tablets, Ultra Portables

21 comments… add one

  • JohnnyL January 16, 2012, 4:45 pm

    Nice review. Covered all the things a user may need to know for real life instead of being spec heavy. I wish tablets would get rid of the back camera. The back camera on a tablet is awkward to use as if you are actually gonna hold this think up to take a pic. Get rid of this camera as it messes the design of the back up and put the savings into improving the front cam. I actually wouldn’t mind if they got rid of both cameras. Where did the insistence that all digital devices had to have a camera come from?

    • Mark Adkins January 16, 2012, 5:53 pm

      That is an interesting point. I have not used the camera yet- but the lack of a camera bugs me in the Fire. IF I use the Thrive’s camera, it wil probably be to scan codes, etc.

  • Ian Lim January 16, 2012, 7:17 pm

    Nice review. Yes it is “old” hardware but for a lot of people it will still do the job. With the release of the new Tosh hopefully we’ll see a substantial drop in price of the Thrive in sell outs.

    You did omit that the Thrive is pretty much the only Android tablet that has a user replaceable battery. You can purchase additional batteries and easily replace to keep the thing going and going……….

  • Mark Adkins January 16, 2012, 9:42 pm

    @ Iam- While I knew that the battery was user-accessible, I did not know it was a rare feature. I have not had it long enough to notice batteries on any sales site I’ve been on. I’l have to keep an eye out for them.

  • Mark Adkins January 17, 2012, 12:36 am

    Quick update- got the Freedom Pro keyboard working (following directions on their site carefully), but ‘no joy’ on the drive so far. The Thrive does not read ExFAT format, and the 250GB drive seems to be too big to format as FAT32. Not a big deal, I’ll just use some SD cards and/or thumbdrives instead, along with better use of the cloud.

    I’m already finding that I am not using the laptop as much for web-browsing, or the smartphone for things like reading and quick look-ups.

  • dan batchelor January 17, 2012, 10:03 am

    This is my first tablet. I am 47and I love this thing. I have the thrive 16gb. I love watching movies on it sitting by the beach or just general web browsing and playing card games.

  • rocker January 17, 2012, 1:32 pm

    i guess instead of MB, it should be GB(gigabytes) ..

  • AlPeaston January 18, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I originally bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. It is a beautiful, sexy, thin and light Pad Challenger… However, it is $500 from the 16GB model. The screen is fly Samsung magic, 1280 x 800 of gorgeous led image, really breathtaking. Easy to hold. However, it has on connector (inconveniently on the bottom), everything you need to expand capabilities (USB, HDMI, etc.) Must attach here, including the power / charging cable. Need USB support, its a $20 Dongle hanging three inches down from the bottom (and no way to have USB ability while powering it with the a/c adapter)! Need HDMI? Another dongle @$40. So already, to equal the Thrives full size USB AND HDMI will cost youat least $60 additional (and no way to use USB whike powering the tablet)!! Want to extend battery time with an addition battery…Can’t do it, no user replaceable battery!!! I needed a tablet that could be as PRODUCTIVE as well as fum (web surfing, watching videos and ables to type a 25 page report. It easy with the Thrive. A powered hub eith a USB hard drive (up a terabyte in size) a vull size keyboard AND mouse, and unlimited timewith either additionak batteries or…just plug it in, all the connector are indepdndent! Once I fully saw the limitations of the Samsung (and for that matter the iPad2) I sold the Szmsung on eBay znd for $100 less then the q6gb Samxung git a Thrive

  • Mark Adkins January 18, 2012, 10:29 pm

    @Rocker- Sorry about that. Odd how consistent it is for the first half of the review. Like they told us over and over in high school- it is really hard to proof your own stuff.

    Hopefully it is all corrected.

  • Mark Adkins January 18, 2012, 10:35 pm

    @ AlPeaston- The more I hang on the Thrive forum and see the Thrive through the eyes of people who have had other tablets (I have not), the happier I am to have it. All joking aside, it seems to be one of the best values in the tablet community, and rarely advertised or hyped.

  • Mark Adkins January 18, 2012, 10:43 pm

    @ Dan Batchelor- 47? Geeze you make me feel old.

    Hey… wait a minute there, bub! I’m 53! You supposes that is why I am not particularly fond of many of the graphic-heavy video games out there?

  • Maya February 6, 2012, 2:43 am

    Do you know if it is possible to use any kind of spreadsheet program with the Thrive (or any android device?) I have finally decided to get a tablet, and that’s the one thing I need it to be able to do, to make it a reasonable investment.

    • Mark Adkins February 6, 2012, 2:47 am

      @ Maya- there are programs, like Documents To Go, that can handle Microsoft Office items, or you can try Google Docs. I am sue there are other apps, too.

  • Al Gold February 22, 2012, 12:31 pm

    I wish I could find one of these in stock… somewhere so I could see with my own eyes – can not be found.

  • kristin castelly March 8, 2012, 2:26 pm

    I got mine a month ago, got a brand new SD card, worked fine when I fist put it in,then took it out to put some more music on the card, and now my thrive doesn’t read any SD card anymore! Anybody else with the same problem?

  • Jason Barnick March 12, 2012, 9:10 pm

    My wife wanted an iPad2 for Christmas, so I got her one. I am a huge Toshiba fan, so I got the Thrive. When I compare the two of them side by side for what I do, the Thrive wins out easily. For her, it is pretty much a draw. I like the fact that the only special piece I need for it is the charger.

    I bought an after market leather case for it, as well as the charging dock. I use both of them on and off. I would not trade it for any other tablet. Best toy I have gotten in years.

  • Charles Fitzsimmons January 18, 2013, 4:19 pm

    Really enjoyed this review and the comments. Just picked up a Thrive At100 agree days ago. It was being cleared out – old model, ripped box, no USB cable, kind of smeared and smudged – in other words irresistible! Took it to a coffee shop, plugged it in and it wanted to play immediately – basically set itself up. I have since let it upgrade itself to Android 4.04. All is well. I like the way Toshiba engineers it products. I really like this tablet. I also have an iPad2, which is wonderful, but I want to learn Android. The Thrive forum is really good – lots of excellent tips. I feel lucky to have this old Thrive. It just does everything well. Speech to text in Chrome is remarkable.

  • bill March 11, 2014, 3:45 am

    The single question I have not been able to find an answer is:
    What format eBooks does the Thrive 10.1, AT100, Android Version 4.0.4 read?
    I have some previously purchased Kindle eBooks, that I want to convert to read on my Thrive. But finding out what to convert to, has been a long and painful lesson in futility.

    The free app, at Amazon, does not support this machine.
    Thank You,
    bill.

  • Mark Adkins March 11, 2014, 6:34 pm

    @Bill- I believe I ran the Amazon Kindle app on it when I had it (I sold my Thrive some time ago in favor of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0). If you cannot run the Kindle app, try something like Moon Reader.

  • bill March 12, 2014, 6:10 am

    Mark, .
    the Amazon Kindle app, when I try to load it, specifically says it does not support this particular version of the Thrive. So that is not an option period…

    What format eBooks does the Thrive 10.1, AT100, Android Version 4.0.4 read?

    That is the question I need an answer to.

    There are converter software programs that I can use, once I know what the kindle eBooks need to be converted to for the Thrive..

    And I have been looking for an answer for over a year, even went on Toshiba live help/ chat, and could not get an answer.

    What format eBooks does the Thrive 10.1, AT100, Android Version 4.0.4 read?

    bill,
    Alb.

  • Mark Adkins March 12, 2014, 4:40 pm

    The tablet does not really read eBook formats, which may be why you are not getting a better answer to the question. Perhaps it would be more helpful if it was phrased “How can I open a Kindle-format eBook on the Toshiba Thrive?”

    The native book app in the Thrive is ‘Book Place’ which has an associated reader you can load if it is not there already but I never bothered with it. My default reader is Moon Reader, but I use Kindle for purchased books with protection in them.

    I don’t know why the Thrive is not taking the Kindle download, but you can post the problem and error message at the Kindle forums at Amazon.com. It may be that you already have too many registered devices, or something similar.

    According to other posts on other forums, this should work (http://forums.toshiba.com/t5/THRiVE-Tablets/Kindle-Android-App-for-Thrive/td-p/313530), so I wonder if it is something going on with your device?

Leave a Comment