Hey, Toshiba: There's such a thing as too big

The company's bigger and pricier 13.3-inch tablet may stand out, but not in a good way.

The Excite 13 from Toshiba is a beast of a tablet. Donald Bell/CNET

commentary When it comes to mobile devices -- specifically tablets -- size certainly matters.

Toshiba has apparently forgotten this concept with its new Excite 13 tablet. The new tablet comes in at a whopping 13.3 inches. And it has the price to match its supersize frame: $650 for the lower-end 32GB model and $750 for double the capacity.

If Toshiba is looking to stand out from the crowd, mission accomplished. But being different doesn't necessarily mean better.

To be honest, I haven't played with this beast of a device. My colleague, Eric Franklin, said the Excite is heavier than he's used to for a tablet , and he's a pretty big guy. I have handled many 10-inch tablets, ranging from the Apple iPad to the Motorola Xoom, and they are just small enough for everyday use. Any larger, and things get a bit unwieldy and uncomfortable to use.

Yes, it comes with a stand. But needing to carry a peripheral just to prop a device up sort of defeats its so-called mobility. The 13-inch body of the tablet more or less negates its categorization as a mobile device.

The Excite is just the latest device to attempt to break the normal convention for how large a mobile device can be. The other prominent product is Samsung Electronics' 5-inch Galaxy Note, an unusual tablet-smartphone hybrid.

It's still unclear how consumers will readily accept the Note, although early sales have been decent. But in that case, it gets a nice subsidy from AT&T and benefits from the marketing heft of Samsung.

Toshiba doesn't enjoy the same kind of cachet. While the company has an established brand, when it comes to laptops, it has virtually no presence, when it comes to mobile devices. The last few tablets came and went with little noise. Can you name the last line of tablets Toshiba put out? If you said Thrive, you probably follow Toshiba way too closely.

Toshiba has opted to go alone in building Wi-Fi-only tablets, following the laptop model of distribution to big-box retailers and other electronics stores. The company gets no support from the carriers, though it's unclear if a carrier would even sell this product.

As for Samsung, the company has experimented myriad tablet sizes, ranging between 7 inches and 10 inches. But with all the market research Samsung has done in this area, it's telling that it has never attempted a 13-inch tablet.

Companies should strive to be different and innovative. A Toshiba representative told CNET at CES that a larger tablet makes sense in Japan, where tablets are used as portable movie screens and televisions. But it's unclear why it would make sense in the United States, where homes have multiple televisions and many more computer screens.

Companies should be creating products that are easier and more fun to use for consumers, not ones that place a heavier physical burden on them. Can you imagine holding a massive tablet for more than a few minutes to read a book or play a game?

The bigger screen, meanwhile, shouldn't justify a higher price. Its base model is $150 more than the cheapest iPad and $50 more than the 32GB version of the 10-inch Wi-Fi-only iPad.

Will consumers pay $50 for those extra 3 inches? I would say it's unlikely.

Brooke Crothers contributed to this story.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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