The most succussful Android tablets have tended to be 7-inch tiddlers, but there are 10-inch iPad alternatives on offer too.
Toshiba's AT300 hopes to tempt 'droid fans with its sleek design, quad-core processor and Google's impressive Android operating system, known as Ice Cream Sandwich. With a starting price lower than that of the iPad, it might be in with a chance.
It's available this month for £329 for the 16GB model or £379 for the 32GB version (neither has 3G). That makes them £70 and £100 cheaper than the corresponding new iPads. The older 16GB iPad 2 is also £329.
Toshiba's previous tablet, the AT200, was one of the slimmest on the market, measuring only 7.7mm thick, so the AT300 has some skinny shoes to fill. At 8.95mm, it's not quite as slender, but it makes up for it with a much more appealing design. It's slightly slinkier than the new iPad, which comes in at 9.4mm -- and you'd hardly call that chubby. Not to its face, anyway.
The AT200 may have been incredibly slim, but that seems to have resulted in build quality issues. Notably, the edges were so sharp, I was very conscious about not brushing my fingers over them when I was holding it. Thankfully, the AT300's updated design replaces the angular edges with a rounded finish. It would have been better had Toshiba kept it very slim and made it more pleasant to hold, but I'd rather have it this way around if I can't have both.
The chassis is made entirely from various plastics that don't have the same premium feel of the iPad's metal casing, but thankfully, it doesn't feel cheap and nasty like the plastic shells of bargain basement tablets like the. There's little flex in the back plate and none of the loose edging or unexplained gaps between pieces, that tell of shoddy construction. I'd be quite content chucking it casually into a bag and whisking it off on an adventure.
Like most tablets, there's not a whole lot going on with the front of the device. The glass slopes away attractively at the edges, which helps this design stand out slightly from the crowd. That small sloping edge has an incredibly subtle sparkly effect which you can only really notice in the right light, but it's quite attractive when you see it. Around the back is a grey plastic panel that's been given a textured effect that's arguably rather dull, but is pretty much par for the course for a lot of Android tablets.
As a 10.1-inch slate, you're unlikely to be holding it up in one hand for too long, especially given its 590g weight. You're more likely to use it on your lap while lying down, or standing it at your desk. If you particularly fancy one-handed tablet usage, you might want to check out the smaller and lighter Google Nexus 7 by Asus or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 -- your arm muscles will certainly thank you.
Around the edges you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, a micro-HDMI port for hooking it up to a big TV and a micro-USB port, as well as the usual volume rocker and power button. Awkwardly, the AT300 doesn't charge over USB so you're forced to plug in the rather chunky power plug. This also means you can't borrow a mate's cable if you start to run low on power.
A welcome addition is the full-sized SD card slot, which will allow you to whack your digital camera's card straight in, unlike the plethora of tablets that take microSD. I found it very easy to plug in a card and review the photos I've taken on a shoot, deleting any images that aren't up to scratch (hardly any), and revelling in the ones that will surely be award-winning (loads).
The 10.1-inch display comes packing a 1,280x800-pixel resolution. That's no match for Apple's eye-melting 'retina' screen, which offers 2,048x1,536 pixels. Neither does it challenge the Full HD display of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity 700, but it's still in the top half of the pile of Android tablets. The resolution is the same as that offered on the , and I found that to be lovely and crisp, so I had high hopes for this screen.
The screen is pretty bright. It's easily viewable under sunlight and the harsh office tanning bulbs of CNET UK Towers. There are still a few reflections that can't be avoided, but for the most part, the brightness deals with them well. I couldn't say it was any more or less bold than other slates in the top half of the market, but it's certainly good enough to enjoy your movies from the Google Play store or just to watch the odd YouTube clip.
The screen is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass, which is the same stuff found on the front of the. It's much harder than regular glass, making it particularly scratch resistant and less likely to shatter into a bazillion pieces if you dropped it on the floor. Don't expect it to come off too well if it plummets from several feet onto concrete though.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
The AT300 comes packing Google's 4.1 Jelly Bean, ICS is no longer cutting edge.operating system. Up until very recently, that was the latest version of the OS and I'd have applauded Toshiba for loading its slate with the most up-to-date gear. However, with the release of
Still, Jelly Bean only arrived a short while ago so it's still good to see a recent version of Android on board, rather than the now very outdated