Toshiba has had mixed fortunes in the tablet market to date, with early devices such as the Toshiba Folio 100 being pulled from UK retail outlets and more recent tablets like the Toshiba AT200 winning great critical acclaim.
The latest in the range is the Toshiba AT300 and this slim and usable Android device could be Toshiba’s best yet. But is it enough to match up to the competition?
While its predecessor, the Toshiba AT200, was marketed as being the world’s thinnest tablet, the Toshiba AT300 is no slouch when it comes to slenderness. Measuring 9mm thin it is a pleasingly slim device. At 590g it is a little heavier than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 but it is still very comfortable to hold and use on the move.
Similarly to the Galaxy Note, Toshiba has crafted the Toshiba AT300 from plastics, so it lacks the high-quality feel of its biggest rival, the Apple iPad; inevitable since it also costs around £70 less. As a result it lacks the resilience of Apple’s tablet and the chassis is more prone to attracting scuffs and scratches than we’d have liked.
That’s not to say the Toshiba AT300 feels badly made, though. Despite the less than hardy plastic finish, the chassis feels firm throughout with little signs of flex. The faux brushed metal plastic on the rear of the device adds a touch of style and the textured panel gives a comfortably tactile feel, while helping provide a firm grip.
The Toshiba AT300’s glossy screen is thankfully more scratch resistant than the rest of the chassis, thanks to the ultra-tough Gorilla Glass. Toshiba claims it has an anti-fingerprint coating but we found no evidence of this. In fact it picks up fingerprints very easily, so you’ll need to buff the screen regularly to keep it clean.
In terms of screen quality the Toshiba AT300’s 10.1-inch panel is effective, if a little underwhelming. Brightness, colour and contrast are more than adequate, with photos and videos shown with plenty of impact. It lacks the punch of the Galaxy Note 10.1 and the more affordable Google Nexus 7, though, which is a bit disappointing.
The 800 x 1280 pixel resolution is common for a screen of this size and renders images with a satisfying amount of sharpness. Of course it can’t match the market-leading Retina display of the latest iPad but if you’ve not tried Apple’s tablet first-hand, you’re unlikely to feel shortchanged by what the Toshiba AT300 has to offer.
A feature we were pleased to see was that the Toshiba AT300 is equipped with a Micro HDMI port. Letting you easily get connected to an HDTV for enjoying your photos, videos, games and apps on the big screen, it adds a nice touch for multimedia fans. Unfortunately there is no HDMI cable included out of the box, though.
The Toshiba AT300 also comes equipped with two cameras for snapping photos and recording videos. A 5-Megapixel camera sits on the rear of the device, along with an LED flash, while a 2-Megapixel camera is on the front. Unfortunately, though, neither camera provides anything more than the most basic image quality.
Photos lack detail and have a hazy quality regardless of whether you capture images indoors or out. Colours are also washed out and so results are never anything more than average at best. Since many users will already have a camera-phone it’s not enough to seriously flaw the Toshiba AT300, but it’s still disappointing.
Usability is excellent and the capacitive technology used on the Toshiba AT300’s touchscreen makes it easy to operate. Haptic feedback, which makes the screen vibrate when you select apps or swipe between screens, is set up as standard for those that like such a feature, but can be easily disabled for those that don’t.
Whether tapping to select options, swiping to scroll through menus, or pinching to zoom images, the screen responds well. Even when gaming we found it a very accurate and responsive panel, so navigating the UI and enjoying apps is games is smooth and easy, adding to the overall user experience of the Toshiba AT300.
Toshiba hasn’t wasted time with old versions of Android and has installed Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich right out of the box on the Toshiba AT300. At the time of writing there was no news on whether Toshiba will upgrade the device to the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, but we have no complaints with the device as it is.
Android 4.0 provides a great interface through which to control the Toshiba AT300. With its easy-to-use features first-time tablet users will feel right at home, while there are also more than enough advanced tools for experts to tweak the OS to their heart’s content. We also found it runs quickly and smoothly at all times on the device.
This speed is thanks to the Toshiba AT300’s high-powered, quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Apps and games run well. It can’t quite match the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and even the Google Nexus 7 provides a similar specification for less than half the price, but we were more than satisfied with the speed it delivers.
Storage is also satisfying and the Toshiba AT300 is available in a choice of 16GB or 32GB iterations. And if you want to add more storage for your files, a full-size multi-card reader on the side of the chassis supports lets you add up to 32GB of extra storage and supports SD, miniSD, microSD, SDHC and MultiMedia cards.
While the Toshiba AT300 has none of the glaring flaws seen on some of the more affordable Android tablets on the market, it also fails to fully measure up to the high quality seen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 or even the Google Nexus 7. And we can’t forget that for between £20-£70 more you can buy yourself an Apple iPad.
If we ignore the competition the Toshiba AT300 has a lot to offer to tablet buyers, with its great usability, decent screen and ample power raising it high up the list of recommended Android tablets. Compared to its rivals, though, it’s not the first choice we’d make if we were after the best device at this price.