It's official: Toshiba has taken the crown for the world's thinnest, lightest tablet. Weighing a little over a pound, Toshiba's $529 Excite 10 LE manages to fit a dual-core processor, Android 4.0 and a 10.1-inch display into its 0.3-inch-thick chassis. But do the Excite's features and performance match its extravagant price?
Where most tablets have a curved rear panel to make them seem slimmer, the Excite 10 LE has no need for that. Its squarish design reminds us of a svelter version of the first iPad, and, at 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches and 1.13 pounds, this slate can claim the title as the thinnest and lightest 10-inch tablet on the market.
The 1.2-pound, 10.35 x 7.11 x 0.32-inch ASUS Transformer Prime is the closest to matching the Excite's dimensions. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, which also weighs 1.2 pounds, is slightly thicker at 9.7 x 6.7 x 0.34 inches. The third-generation Apple iPad (2012) almost seems bulky by comparison with its 1.4-pound, 9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37-inch chassis.
The gray rear panel of the 10 LE is made of silver brushed magnesium alloy that resists fingerprints and feels sturdy. A thin layer of black plastic wraps around the tablet. The right side holds a black power button, volume rocker and sliding auto-rotation lock. While they are slim, we found the buttons fairly easy to press.
The Excite 10 LE's 10.1-inch display sits inside a thick, glossy black bezel that is interrupted only by a silver chrome ring at the top for the 2-megapixel front-facing camera. On the back, an embedded black plastic strip holds a 5-MP camera with an LED flash, with a chrome Toshiba logo in the bottom left corner.
While it doesn't have full-size ports like the Toshiba Thrive's, the Excite manages to cram in a microUSB and microHDMI port on the left. The Excite also ditches the full SD card reader in favor of a microSD slot and a combination microphone/headphone jack. A fairly large port sits at the bottom for the clunky proprietary charger, between a pair of slim speakers.
Display and Audio
The first things we noticed about the Excite 10 LE's 1280 x 800p Gorilla Glass-covered display were the prominent gridlines that crisscrossed the surface, which proved distracting when reading or watching video with dark backgrounds. Text from Yahoo! News and Kotaku.com was fairly clear, but many of the tablet icons were noticeably grainy.
At 371 lux, the Excite's display outshone both the Android tablet category average (359) and the ASUS Transformer Prime (348). The iPad was slightly brighter at 386 lux, while the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was a blinding 550 lux.
We easily made out the finer details of Spider-Man's suit during the YouTube trailer of "The Amazing Spider-Man." However, the trailer appeared darker than normal, with Oscorp's creepy electric blue spider lab taking on a more violet tint. We found that colors were richer and details sharper on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Both displays paled in comparison with the iPad's beautiful 2048 x 1536p Retina Display.
The Excite's bottom-mounted speakers filled a small room at full volume. Despite the SRS and Toshiba Audio Enhancement technology, the guitar on INXS' "I Need You Tonight" sounded hollow and tinny. We had the same results on Randy Crawford's "Street Life," complete with a brassy horn section. When we disabled the enhancements, the percussion was almost nonexistent.
The Toshiba Excite 10 LE comes with the standard Android keyboard. While we appreciate the .com button, it would be nice to access special characters by long-pressing the standard keyboard. Swype, our perennial favorite, is included on the tablet. As usual, tracing out words was slick and intuitive, with easy access to special characters. Google voice typing let us dictate messages with fairly high accuracy.
Software and Interface
The Excite 10 LE runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with little to no modification from Toshiba. There's the usual five home screens waiting for you to load them up with various apps and widgets, such as an Amazon MP3 and Google+ Photos. Widgets for the Google Play store and Bookmarks are already displayed on a couple of the screens.
An omnipresent black system bar resides along the bottom display with icons for Back, Home and Recent Apps in the left corner. Pressing the digital clock in the right corner will summon the Notifications shade and quick settings including Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi and Auto-rotate. Icons for Google Search and Voice Search can be found in the top left corner, while an icon to access the Apps page sits on the top right.
Toshiba bundles the Excite 10 LE with a number of multimedia apps, including Netflix, Amazon Kindle and Zinio, the magazine newsstand app. We were pleasantly surprised to see Crackle, which features hundreds of free movies and TV shows (including some of our favorites: "Kung Fu Hustle" and "Fist of the North Star"). Music streaming service Aupeo! let us create custom stations based on artist, genre or mood. There's also a load of games from Hardwood, including backgammon, hearts and spades.
In terms of productivity apps, there's QuickOffice and LogMeIn, which allowed us to remotely access files from our notebook. We loved being able to quickly connect to our printer via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth using PrinterShare, but were disappointed at the short trial period of five free printouts. We prefer Acer's PrinterShare, which let us print to our heart's content free of charge.
Toshiba-branded apps include Toshiba App Place, Book Place, File Manager and News Place. There's also the DNLA-compatible Media Player and Service Station, which cues up any available software updates.
The remaining third-party apps include Adobe Reader, YouTube, Skype, and Kaspersky Tablet Security.
The Toshiba Excite 10 LE forgoes the latest quad-core processor from Nvidia for a 1.2-GHz TI OMAP 4430 dual-core CPU. Nevertheless, we were able to perform some pretty heavy multitasking. We played a few rounds of "Avatar Fortress Fight 2" with four apps running in the background and eight open tabs in the Web browser.
On Benchmark CPU, the Excite 10 LE scored 3,210. That's 492 points above the Android tablet category average and on par with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1's 1-GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual-Core CPU, which notched 3,159. However, the ASUS Transformer Prime's 1.3-GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU delivered a more impressive 4,097.
During An3DBench, which measures graphics performance, the Excite 10 LE notched 7,662. That's enough to best the 7,185 category average and the Galaxy Tab 10.1's score of 7,526, but the Transformer Prime maintained its dominance with a score of 8,050.
Camera and Camcorder
The 5-MP rear-facing camera on the Excite took fairly sharp images, but we were really impressed with the color quality. After snapping some shots of flowers, we saw deep magentas, rich yellows and opulent reds. Not only did our favorite shot of a nearby tree deliver vivid greens, but we could clearly see drops of water gently resting on the leaves. Indoor shots were another story. While colors remained accurate, we noticed quite a bit of graininess in a photo of superhero tchotchkes.
A major point of frustration was the slowness of the camera. We lost approximately 3 seconds of our youth waiting for it to focus, and 2 seconds more before the camera was ready to take another photo.
Despite an overcast sky, 1080p video yielded fairly vivid color. While we could read most of the text on the passing cars, there was a noticeable haze to our footage. We also noticed that the camera took a few seconds to adjust back to street level after panning skyward.
Images from the front-facing 2-megapixel camera were grainy but still delivered relatively vivid color on stills and video.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the Excite 10 LE lasted 6 hours and 46 minutes. That's 5 minutes shorter than the 6:51 category average and nearly an hour less than the Transformer Prime (7:47) in Power Saving mode. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 delivered an epic 8:23.
Our $529 review unit came equipped with a 1.2-GHz dual-core mobile processor with integrated graphics, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The 32GB version has identical specs but costs $599.
The Toshiba Excite 10 LE comes with a one-year standard limited warranty. See how Toshiba fared in our Best and Worst Brands 2012.
In the land of tablets, thin doesn't always get the win. Although the Toshiba Excite 10 LE offers a sleek, slim design and solid performance, we couldn't look past the highly visible gridlines on the display, slow camera, and $529 price tag. For $30 less, consumers can go home with a 16GB iPad, or the ASUS Transformer Prime with its quad-core Tegra 3 CPU and Nvidia graphics. Overall, the Toshiba Excite 10 LE is simply not worth the premium.