Toshiba AC100 review: Hands-on with the Android netbook and its 7-day battery

Meet the AC100 -- Toshiba's brand new Android-sporting laptop. It's a netbook with smartphone sensibilities, and we've had a go on one! Ooh, we are lucky blighters...

We have to admit that when Toshiba told us it was announcing a brand new product that wasn't quite a laptop, and wasn't quite a smartphone, we fully expected them to unveil a tablet PC -- something along the lines of the Dell Streak perhaps? But instead we got the AC100 -- an laptop that runs Android and makes some big promises when it comes to battery life and portability. Read on to check out our hands-on photos and our first impressions on this curious new machine...

Well, there you have it -- the AC100. Toshiba reckons that by combining the functionality of a high-end smartphone with the usability of a netbook, it can create something that's actually really good at web browsing, networking and editing your documents on the move.

As you can see, it's sporting a bee-like black and yellow finish, a great big keyboard and a 10.1-inch screen. The starting weight is 870g, so it's looking to be plenty portable. Right -- let's get down to the photo-analysis...

Hard to port

As you can see, the AC100 is thin. Really thin in fact -- 21 millimetres at its thickest point (the bevel) and just 14 millimetres at the front edge. On the right side of the machine you can see a USB socket, Mini USB socket and power input.

Over on the other side, bear witness to an HDMI port, a 3.5mm microphone and audio combo socket and a multiformat card reader. Also witness our intrepid reporter's oddly twisted hand.

That's not a huge array of ports -- we know Toshiba will be trying hard to keep weight and size down, but we can't help but think a second USB port might have been more useful than the HDMI output...

 

The AC100's chassis is adorned with these nice status LEDs...

 

The keyboard is sensibly laid out -- we especially like the great big return key and proper direction arrows. These things are normally the first casualty of space-saving when it comes to laptops. Also note the rubber texture on the wrist-rest -- we found that to be pretty comfy.

Tracking down

Likewise we were pleased with how the trackpad responded -- pleasingly sensitive and nicely textured, it made navigating the AC100's various menus rather pleasant. 

This is the 10.1-inch LED Backlit display, with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels. It looked pretty sharp to our discerning eyes, and crucially we didn't notice too many reflections. You've probably noticed that curious interface -- that's because the AC100 is running...

Android 2.1! Yes -- check the firmware version on-screen right there. Android is best known as the Operating System de rigueur for smartphones like the HTC Desire and tablets like the Dell Streak . It looks a little out of place on a laptop screen, and we noticed a few people familiar with the system prodding ineffectually at the display, expecting to find a touchscreen...

Inside, the AC100 has an Nvidia Tegra 250 mobile processor, clocked at 1GHz -- that's the kind of processor we'd expect to find in a mobile phone. 512MB of RAM serves as the memory.

Obviously that's not very much, but the operating system does look to be pretty basic, so we can't say for sure that the AC100 is slow until we get to grips with a final review model. However, with specs like these you may well find some memory-intensive websites make the AC100 a little wheezy.

For hoarding your precious documents and photos, you get 8GB of flash storage on-board.

 

Build quality seemed reasonably high, though we did notice a fair degree of flex in the keyboard, as this image demonstrates. That's a bit disappointing...

 

That black textured finish extends to the lid. What's really interesting is that Toshiba claims you'll get a massive seven days of battery-life with the AC100 on standby. Furthermore, opening the lid will pull the machine out of standby in under one second. We tested this, and it sounded like a fair claim to us -- the display popped up almost instantaneously.

Just how useful the AC100 turns out to be will depend largely on whether those battery-life claims turn out to be accurate, and of course how much it costs. We'll find out when it's released in August of this year, but until then, our curiosity is most definitely piqued.

 

 

 

 

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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