The Toshiba tablet for laptop lovers

Toshiba's first Android tablet, called the Thrive, arrives in stores in early July. The laptop maker hopes to grab attention with features many usually associate with laptops.

Toshiba included ports like HDMI, USB, and an SD slot on its upcoming Thrive tablet. Erica Ogg/CNET

If you're coming out with an Android tablet this summer, it's going to be challenging to stand out from the sea of 9- and 10-inch Honeycomb 3.1 slates . But Toshiba's going to give it a shot.

The Japanese company known mostly for its laptops is hoping to make inroads into the Android tablet market with its first attempt, called the Thrive. The Thrive is mostly what you'd expect: a 10.1-inch screen, the latest version of the Android operating system, Honeycomb 3.1, front-facing 2.1-megapixel camera and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera for photos and video conferencing, a gyroscope, rotation lock, and a 7- to 8-hour battery life (that's continuous hours of playing HD video). It weighs in at 1.6 pounds, and is a little on the thicker side at 0.6 inches.

The thickness was compromised for several features that Toshiba thinks customers will want: built-in HDMI out port, USB, mini USB, SD card slot. In other words, ports you'd find on many computers.

"There are two approaches you can take to a tablet," Jeff Barney, vice president and general manager of Toshiba's digital products division, said today. "One approach is as a smartphone with more functionality and a bigger screen. Or more from a laptop down to a tablet. We're laptop people, so we took that approach."

There's not a flip-out physical keyboard or mouse to buy as an accessory with the Thrive, but there are some features you won't find on the iPad, Apple's so-called post-PC device. Toshiba has included Log Me In software to allow users to access their home computer desktops via the Thrive, and a file manager built on top Android to browse files stored on a USB device or SD card connected to the tablet, and to see what media content you've downloaded, like movie, music, and book titles.

There's a removable back plate that can be swapped out for a different color for $20 each (green, orange, purple, blue, pink, silver, or plain old black), which also means the battery is removable, something else Toshiba is banking on to draw attention to the Thrive.

Also included is PrintShare software that allows documents to be printed directly from the tablet, similar to the iPad's AirPrint and Samsung's MobilePrint.

The Thrive will come in three sizes: 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB. All are Wi-Fi only, and will be priced at $429, $479, and $579, respectively. Pre-orders will begin June 13, and it will be in stores by July 10.

Toshiba is hoping that brand-name recognition and getting a plug from its most important retail partner Best Buy will also steer tablet-seekers toward the Thrive.

"People want brands they're used to with computing," said Barney. "So Tier 1 computing guys, HP, Dell, us, will have a head start."

So is Toshiba worried that making a tablet with some laptop functionality will take away sales from its laptop business? Not so much. Toshiba will take the sales no matter where they come from, said Barney.

"People will probably touch their laptops less," but they're not going to stop buying laptops altogether," he said. "But the replacement cycle (to purchase another laptop) may be longer."

About the author

Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.

 

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