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Toshiba Excite 13 review:

Toshiba Excite 13

The Excite 13's rear-facing camera. Josh Miller/CNET

The front-facing camera, surprisingly, has all the same features save for the panoramic shooting. There are also only five picture sizes, ranging from QVGA to 2 megapixels.

Video recording for the rear camera has continuous flash, and the same digital zoom, white-balance, and geotagging options. There is also a time-lapse feature with which you can record every 1 to 10 seconds, and you can choose your video quality (up to 1080p). One of the two interesting features is the "silly faces" mode, which will distort your image while the video records. It can squeeze your face together, shrink your mouth, or make your eyes huge and cartoonlike. Needless to say, I got a kick out of it. The other is a background module, where you can change your background to outer space, a sunset, a disco, or your own custom image. The front-facing camera contains all the same recording options except for the flash and the two different video qualities.

The Wi-Fi-enabled device comes packaged with a metal stand and is equipped with 1GB of RAM, Bluetooth, GPS, digital compass capabilities, a gyroscope, and an accelerometer.

Powering the Toshiba Excite 13 is a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor equipped with GeForce graphics. The CPU was pretty impressive -- there was some lag time when it came to switching the tablet from portrait to landscape mode, opening large applications, and transitioning back to the home screen, but scrolling through the app drawer, pinch-zooming on Web pages, and swiping through the different home screen pages was a breeze.

Most importantly, games and videos played effortlessly and rendered quickly. While we played our go-to game, Riptide GP, the device executed high frame rates and its splashy water effects were smooth. Colors were vibrant and videos were crisp, but again, only if they met the aspect ratio. If they didn't (which happened a lot), resolution was disappointingly poor for a 13-incher.

Audio quality was ample, however. At times when the volume was on maximum, sounds came off tinny and harsh, but at a reasonable level; they were clear and didn't bleed together. The Toshiba audio enhancements did make audio sound noticeably less muffled, but just as on the Excite 10, Ambient Noise Equalizer didn't seem to do very much.

The camera quality was also perfectly adequate. The shutter speed on the camera wasn't instantaneous, but I didn't have to hold the Excite 13 for long to prevent motion blur. Feedback followed my movement of the camera without much lag and when I recorded video, audio was picked up clearly.

Photo quality wasn't stellar, but was decent nonetheless. In dim-to-low lighting, edges were ill-defined and bled together. Dark hues were hard to distinguish, and bright lights were often washed out. Photos taken in natural sunlight fared better. The low front-facing camera specs make it barely good enough to video chat and take vanity shots with (if your arm doesn't tire out first). When I did manage to take a decent picture, colors were not as rich as they appeared in real life, and images were grainy. Vanity shots taken indoors fared even worse, as colors were extremely dull.

In this sunny outdoor shot, edges are defined, but colors aren't so vivid. Lynn La/CNET
In this indoor shot, you can see the graininess in the ceiling and floor tiles. Lynn La/CNET
The colors in this indoor (in-train?) shot taken with the front-facing camera are muted, and images are blurry. Lynn La/CNET

Toshiba reports that the tablet's battery will last for 13 hours of usage time, and seven days of standby time. During our battery drain tests for this device, it lasted an average of 8.8 hours. Anecdotally the battery life was better than I expected. With such a large screen to support, I thought the battery would die within a few hours. However, on average, I spent a handful of hours surfing the Web, watching videos, and playing games, and the battery lost only about half to a quarter of its energy. I did need a charge to get me through the rest of the day, though.

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Toshiba Excite 13 8.8

Ultimately, only the individual customer knows what's good for him or her, and the ideal screen size depends on what the tablet is being used for. While I commend Toshiba for providing customers with more choices and more space for those who need it, it's hard to imagine a situation where those extra 3.3 inches are completely necessary.

Though the Toshiba Excite 13 was meant for the home, the portability of a tablet is part of its appeal. When propped up or docked, it functions beautifully and you don't feel like you're using one of Moses' rock slabs in "The Ten Commandments." But with this device, it feels more like you're lugging this thing around than carrying it. In addition to the high cost, there's also the fact that most media files won't fit its aspect ratio perfectly, rendering that screen even more of a waste.

If you like Toshiba's brand of tablets, consider the less cumbersome Excite 10 instead. It delivers similar specs, and yes, while it has 3 inches lopped off the display size, it has $200 chopped off the price, too.

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