It's not easy to stand out in a sea of me-too Android tablets, but the 10-inch Toshiba Excite 10 ($449) hopes to get your attention with its quad-core power, plethora of ports and expandable memory via an SD Card slot. All of this is offered in a design that's very slim given the amount of features Toshiba includes. Find out if this slate is right for you.
The Excite 10 is heavier and thicker than its premium cousin, the Excite 10 LE, but it's easy to carry. The slate measures 10.3 x 7.0 x 0.35 inches and 1.29 pounds, compared to 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches and 1.1 pounds for the LE. The Excite 10 is certainly more portable than competing quad-core Android tablets like the Acer Iconia Tab A510 (1.5 pounds, 10.2 x 6.9 x 0.43 inches and ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 (1.6 pounds, 10.35 x 7.11 x 0.38 inches).
Instead of a smooth, brushed aluminum rear panel on the LE, the majority of the Excite 10's rear has a champagne silver aluminum surface with a dimpled back. While not as elegant, we found this treatment makes the Excite 10 easy to grip. The top and the sides of the panel are wrapped in a silver matte aluminum band. There's a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash in the top left corner of the back, and a chrome Toshiba logo is sits in the lower right corner.
A thick black bezel surrounds the 10-inch display, and both are highly susceptible to smudging and fingerprints.
While we like the Excite 10's overall design, we took issue with the size of its proprietary charger. Instead of the small connectors used by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and the iPad, the Excite 10 uses a large, unwieldy connector.
It's nice to see that the Excite 10 packs a full-size SD Card slot, which will let you expand the included memory to up to 128GB. The right side of the device also houses a micro HDMI port for outputting content to a TV and micro USB for syncing with a PC.
The first thing we noticed about the Excite 10's 1280 x 800 glossy display was the lack of visible gridlines, a big step up from the 10 LE. We were also struck by how vibrant and sharp the display looked. Text was nice and crisp on both CNN.com and Joystiq.com. As we watched a 1080p trailer for "The Great Gatsby" remake on YouTube, the cornucopia of color impressed.
Leonardo DiCaprio's electric blue eyes popped, despite the luminous whites, deep blacks and rich pinks and greens of the flapper dresses wrapped around lithe bodies that shimmied and undulated Roaring Twenties style. We were also taken with scenes of the infamous mustard Rolls-Royce as it barreled down the street.
At 460 lux, the Excite 10's display is one of the brighter panels we've seen in a 10-inch tablet. That's higher than the category average of 355 lux, and even the iPad's 386 lux rating. Despite that, the Excite 10 couldn't compare to the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime's sky-high 550 lux rating.
The Excite 10's display also features 10-finger multitouch support, as well as haptic feedback, emitting a gentle buzz when pressed. While we found the latter handy when typing, it proved distracting at other times, such as when swiping. Fortunately, you can deactivate this feature in Settings.
Sound from the Excite 10's bottom-mounted speakers get a boost from SRS and Toshiba audio enhancement technology, but they didn't get as loud or rich as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 The Samsung has an advantage because the speakers flank the screen and face the user, while the Excite 10's speakers are on the bottom edge.
While it barely filled our small test room, we could clearly distinguish the warm tones of the piano against Marsha Ambrosius' emotion-wrought ballad, "Far Away." Although we heard some bass, it was rather faint. Pearl Jam's live version of "Once" was loud enough, but rather flat.
The Excite 10 comes with keyboards for Skype and Android. Both input methods offer large black keys with plenty of spacing. However, we prefer the Skype keyboard as it offers trace typing and access to alternate characters via long pressing a button. There's also Google voice typing that allowed us to dictate our texts and email. We found the system to be fairly accurate, with the exception of such homonyms as "pair" and "pare."
Software and Interface
The Toshiba Excite 10 runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with very little modification from Toshiba. There are the familiar five homescreens waiting to be filled with various apps and widgets. The ubiquitous black system bar along the bottom is also present complete with icons for Back, Home, Recent Apps, Wi-Fi, Battery Life and a digital clock.
Pressing on the clock summons the Notifications shade that displays the time and date, network and settings including Airplane mode, Audio Enhancement and Enable Balanced Power.
Icons for Google Search and the Apps page sit in the top right and left corners of the UI. Trademark Ice Cream Sandwich features such as capturing screenshots and closing running programs in the Recent Apps with a simple finger swipe are also present.
Like the Excite 10 LE, the Excite 10 comes packaged with a robust suite of multimedia apps, including Netflix, Amazon Kindle and Aupeo!, a streaming music service similar to Slacker Radio that allows us to create custom station by artist, genre or mood. Crackle, a free streaming movie service, was one of our favorite apps thanks to its varied selection including the cult classic, "The Last Dragon."
The Excite 10 also comes with a free trial version of Kaspersky's Tablet Security software, as well as the Quickoffice Lite HD productivity suite and the Zinio magazine and newspaper app.
The usual suite of Google apps are also here, including Gmail, Maps, Play (apps, books, music, and movies) and YouTube.
The Toshiba Excite 10 features a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM. On the Benchmark CPU the Excite 10 racked up a score of 3,349, which is higher than the Excite 10 LE's 3,210 and well above the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (2,834; 1.2-GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor and 1GB of RAM) and the category average of 2,752. The Excite 10 did, however, fall short of the 4,096 scored by the Tegra 3-powered ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime and the quad-core Acer Iconia Tab 510 (3,906).
The Excite 10's Nvidia GeForce graphics GPU helped this slate perform well on the An3DBench test, notching a record 10,006. That's well above the 6,779 scored by the Samsung Galaxy 2 10.1, the category average of 7,196, and even the 8,050 put up by the Eee Pad Transformer Prime.
In real-world testing, the Excite 10 was just as good as its benchmark numbers suggest. Apps opened quickly; scrolling through homepages was lag-free; and the overall performance was buttery smooth.
Camera and Camcorder
The Excite 10's 5-megapixel rear-facing camera captured grainy photos. A shot of a rose bush suffered from distortions that reduced the image's sharpness. Colors, however, were spot on. We also noticed a significant delay in the camera's shutter speed, despite the camera being set to auto. A video of the same rose bush offered equally grainy visuals.
Pictures taken using the Excite 10's 2-megapixel front-facing camera while in a well-lit room were similarly blurry. We noted that photos appeared darker than the preview image made them seem.
With a prismatic lithium polymer 2-cell battery, the Toshiba Excite 10 lasted just 6 hours and 26 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi. That's about a half hour less than the category average of 6:55 and the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 (7:00). The Eee Pad Transformer Prime managed 7:47 in Power Saving mode, while the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 ran for an incredible 9:59.
Our Toshiba Excite 10 came with an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage at a price of $449. Users looking for a bit more storage can move up to the 32GB model for $529, while a 64GB version will cost you $649.
The Excite 10 includes a one-year standard limited warranty.
With its vibrant display, excellent performance, good port selection and expandable memory, the $449 Excite 10 is a much better value than the $529 Excite 10 LE. We also prefer this tablet's design to chunkier slates like the Ionica Tab A510. However, the mediocre camera and below-average battery life keep this slate from being a top pick.
If you have less money to burn, the $379 ASUS Eee Pad TF300 gives you quad-core power for $70 less, while the more versatile $399 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 doubles as a remote and lasts much longer on a charge. Overall, though, the Excite 10 is a pretty good choice for those who demand expandability without the bulk.