When it comes to tablet computing, Apple's iPad is the king of inspiring envy, with its svelte, luxurious image and burgeoning app store. But the iPad and all of its non-Apple tablet competitors are by no means an all-encompassing technology for anyone who needs serious computing power. Into that voids steps Toshiba's Thrive, a virtual Swiss Army knife of tablets.
Released July 10, 2011, the Thrive (originally called simply the Toshiba tablet) targets a sector of the tablet market that's so far been neglected -- those consumers who want to do more than play games, surf the Web and fiddle with apps. Most notably, the device features full-size USB 2.0 and HDMI ports, along with a mini USB port and a standard-sized SD card slot, which accepts cards with capacities of up to 128GB. On a laptop, those ports would be yawners. But on teeny tablets, any added connectivity adds exponentially to the number of tasks you can perform.
Via the USB port, for example, you can connect a full-size keyboard and speed through any chore that requires typing, rather than settling for a slower touch-screen keyboard. That simple USB port also might let you attach, say, an external hard drive, meaning you can quickly access or back up just about any sort of content, from pictures to text, using the included File Manager app.
In spite of these advantages, the Thrive is currently hamstrung a bit by a shortfall of apps. Thrive comes with the Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system, and for now, there are only a few hundred apps optimized for this OS. That's a big red checkmark for app addicts, especially if you're enthralled with the nearly 100,000-plus apps available for iPads [source: Apple].
However, Thrive didn't set out to become the next iPad. As evidence, it comes with only Wi-Fi connectivity and no cellular capabilities (although future versions will have cell access). That laptop-ish trait means you'll have to look a bit harder for Internet access when you're out and about, but you won't have to pay a hefty monthly fee for 3G data plans.
Toshiba jammed even more goodies into the Thrive in hopes of enticing tablet buyers. Keep reading to find out more about the technology in this genre-twisting device.
Toshiba Tablet Features and Specs
Toshiba squished tons of high-tech wizardry into the Thrive's 1.6-pound (0.7 kilogram), 0.62-inch (1.5-centimeter) thick frame, which is heavier and chunkier than the iPad (1.3 pounds, 0.5 kilograms and 0.34 inches, 0.86 centimeters) and all other tablets currently on the market. In the $400 base model, you'll find a 10.1-inch (25.6-centimeter), 1280 by 800 resolution touch screen and 8GB of internal memory paired with 1GB of RAM. For $30 more, you can upgrade to a version with 16GB storage, and the 32GB model is $500. In comparison, the 16GB iPad 2 goes for $499.
At the heart of the Thrive is a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, a mobile CPU (central processing unit) that's specifically designed to devour a minimum of power while providing ample oomph for processor-intensive applications.
Thrive has two built-in touch-screen keyboards. Those include the standard Android version and Swype, an app that lets you "draw" words by running your finger from letter to letter as the program predicts the word you want.
Both work via the capacitive touch screen, which detects changes in an electrical field on the screen's surface. Because human flesh (and thus, a finger) is a conductor, the screen can precisely determine where you're pressing and understand the commands you're inputting.
This screen also provides haptic feedback in the form of vibrations, which give you tactile confirmation that the tablet is receiving your finger presses. Most haptic feedback systems use small motors which produce vibrations, giving a livelier feel to what would otherwise be a lifeless touch sensation.
The exterior of the Thrive has what's called Easy Grip, a rubberized and texturized backside that's designed to provide you with a secure hold. If you don't like the neutral black color, you can remove it and replace it with a more colorful back; there are 5 options, and they sell separately for $20 each. You can also buy a carrying case that lets you protect the entire device and any fancy covers you add.
Like its back cover, the Thrive's battery is also replaceable. Unlike the iPad, you can remove or replace the device's battery at will. Not only is this helpful if you'll be far from a power source for long periods, but it also lets you substitute a new battery for one that goes bad without having to consult the manufacturer. You can charge the battery with the included laptop-sized AC adapter or by investing in the standard $35 dock, which also enables you to use a Bluetooth keyboard.
There's a lot more magic in this machine. On the next page, you'll discover even more about the advanced features found on the Thrive.
Thrive's Tech Fundamentals
Toshiba placed a premium on audio features in its Thrive, which has built-in stereo speakers and also comes with a 3.5-millimeter jack that lets you connect to exterior speakers or headphones. Thrive keeps tabs on background noise in your environment, and if things are chaotic and loud, it correspondingly boosts volume to compensate [source: TechRadar].
Thrive offers even more when it comes to visual capabilities. A forward-facing camera is 5 megapixels but doesn't have a flash, and a user-facing camera is 2 megapixels. You can capture still pictures or video with either, meaning that video-conferencing is an option via Google Chat.
The 2-megapixel camera pulls double duty by sensing ambient light wherever you might be working. That sensor enables Ambient Display technology to adjust screen brightness and color saturation automatically. So if you're working in darkness, the screen dims, and in bright sunlight the screen becomes much brighter (and uses more battery power, too).
This tablet also has an integrated gyroscope and accelerometer. Together, these sensors detect the tablet's tilt angle and movement. In simpler terms, that means if you're surfing the Web, you can simply turn the Thrive 90 degrees and it will automatically adjust the screen for portrait (vertical) or widescreen (horizontal) viewing. And for certain types of games, such as driving simulators, you can turn the tablet back and forth like a steering wheel to guide movements within the game.
Toshiba also worked to ensure quality video. Thrive incorporates the company's Resolution+ technology, which scales up standard definition video to a level that simulates high-definition video. This feature is perhaps most useful when playing video from the Thrive to an HD television via the HDMI port.
The Thrive isn't for everyone. Its looks might not appeal to people who want to impress their friends with the latest and greatest in digital innovation. But it does provide a utilitarian range of tools found in no other current tablet. Those features alone may make help this tablet thrive amidst a jungle of appealing smartphones, tablets and laptops.
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