Toshiba recently brought three new devices to the tablet market with the Excite Write, Excite Pro and Excite Pure. Whereas the Write ($579) and Pro ($479) are high-resolution slates running on Nvidia's new Tegra 4 processor, the Tegra 3-powered Pure is Toshiba's entry-level tablet starting at $299. But when held up to other value-priced, 10-inch competitors, does the Pure truly excite?
The Toshiba Excite Pure is a two-toned 10-inch tablet, with a familiar-looking black border around the front screen and a silver casing on the back. When held horizontally, the device's dual headphone/microphone jack, volume control and microUSB slot are on the left side along with a plastic cover that opens to reveal a microHDMI output and microSD slot. The Pure has stereo speakers on either side of the tablet, with a front-facing camera and power button on the top of the slate.
Measuring 10.3 x 7.0 x 0.4 inches, the Pure is generally the same size as competitors such as the Google Nexus 10 (10.39 x 6.99 x 0.35 inches) and Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 (9.57 x 6.93 x 0.31 inches). The 1.32-lb. Pure felt significantly heavier than the 1.1-lb. Tab 3 10.1, though the Pure's dotted grip made the device easy to hold.
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Click to EnlargeThe Pure packs a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 AutoBrite display complete with 10-finger multitouch support. The device matches up with the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1's 1280 x 800 TFT LCD screen, but sits at a far lower resolution than the more expensive Nexus 10 and Excite Pro, both of which offer 2560 x 1600 pixels.
At 240 lux, the Pure's screen is far less bright than the Tab 3 10.1 (444 lux) and category average of 367 lux. Still, we had no trouble making out our colorful home screen while tilting the device thanks to the tablet's 170-degree viewing angles.
Click to EnlargeWe watched "The Wolverine" trailer in 1080p on the Pure and had no problem making out both the high-speed action scenes as well as the finer facial features of a grizzled, bearded Hugh Jackman. The video quality produced by the Pure is comparable to the Tab 3 10.1, though the trailer had slightly more saturated colors when viewed on Samsung's slate. We noticed a similar difference when playing "Despicable Me: Minion Rush" on both devices.
Click to EnlargeWith stereo speakers and DTS Premium Voice Pro technology, the Pure delivered good audio quality when we listened to a variety of songs through Spotify. At max volume, we could easily distinguish each instrument of the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes," and the rapid vocal wordplay of Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" came through the dual speakers clearly. The bright bass of MGMT's "Electric Feel" sounded crisp and clean on the Pure, as did the song's silky vocals.
When playing music on both the Pure and Tab 3 10.1, Samsung's slate produced much louder sounds, but lacked the clarity provided by Toshiba's device.
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Operating System and Interface
Click to EnlargeToshiba's slate is aptly named, as the device runs a mostly pure version of Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean with no special frills. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the OS works quite well on the entry-level tablet.
You can use either a touch pattern or facial scan to unlock the Pure; the facial scan worked for us instantly on standard settings, though the device had a hard time picking up our eye motions when we added the "required blink" credential.
Viewing notifications and changing the tablet's settings is as simple as sliding down the top left and top right segments of the screen, respectively. The Pure comes with Google Now, which pulls up a customizable set of weather, sports and entertainment widgets by simply sliding the screen upward.
If you typically share your tablets with others and often argue over app and wallpaper choices, the Pure's multiple user functionality will come in handy. Once multiple accounts are set up on the device, Pure owners can simply select their user icon from the lock screen and enjoy their personal layout, app selection and Google account connectivity.
However, keep in mind Restricted Profiles is only available in the newer Android 4.3. This feature allows parents to block specific apps and disable in-app purchases.
Click to EnlargeThe Pure utilizes a standard Android touch-screen keyboard, with customizable settings for auto-capitalization, auto-correction and word suggestions. The device allows for trace typing, so you can search the Web and send messages by sliding your finger across the digital buttons.
We successfully typed full Google searches such as "How to make pizza" and "New York Yankees schedule" without lifting a finger from the screen. However, trying to type Web addresses with similar names proved troublesome in our testing, as names such as "GameSpot" frequently auto-corrected to "GameSpy" and "GameStop."
Click to EnlargeThe Toshiba Excite Pure features a quad-core Tegra 3 processor with 1GB of RAM. The Jet Ski racer "Riptide GP2" ran smoothly on the Pure, proving the Tegra 3 is still capable of churning out impressive water effects. We had a similarly positive experience with "Samurai vs. Zombies Defense 2"; the action never slowed, even when taking on large hordes of the undead.
However, the device showed its shortcomings when we played the recently released "Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame." The game often staggered during combat and the characters looked slightly blocky when playing it on the Excite Pure. By comparison, gameplay was smooth on the Tegra-4 powered Nexus 7.
The Toshiba tablet earned a score of 4,473 on the Quadrant benchmark, outperforming the Nexus 10 (4,467) and category average of 3,661, but falling below the Intel Atom-powered Tab 3 10.1's score of 6,153.
The Pure scored 2,881 on the 3DMark Ice Storm graphics test, which is significantly lower than the Google Nexus 10 (7,853), Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 (6,203) and category average of 5,898.
The Pure comes with 16GB of internal storage, of which 12.05GB is available. As with many Android tablets, the storage can be augmented by adding a microSD card.
Click to EnlargeToshiba has included a full suite of its own software with the Pure, including App Place, Book Place, News Place and Media Player. The App Place works very much like Google Play and Apple's App store, focusing on a smaller number of cloud-based selections that are independent of the Play store. We were impressed by News Place, which aggregates the day's top news articles into a convenient set of thumbnails. Toshiba's Media Player organizes all of your music, photos and videos, allowing you to switch categories with a single swipe. We found the app to be easy and intuitive, as we had no problem sifting through our content within seconds.
You won't have to download many apps from the start when using the Pure, as it comes preloaded with a healthy third-party app selection, including Adobe Reader, Amazon Kindle Reader, Netflix, eMusic, ThinkFree Office Mobile, Skitch, Fruit Ninja and a full lineup of card games from SilverCreek.
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Click to EnlargeUnlike the Tab 3 10.1 and the more expensive Toshiba Excite Pro, the Pure lacks a rear camera. Strangely, the Android camera app was absent from our review model on startup, so we downloaded it from the Play store. The device's 1.2-MP front camera wasn't terribly impressive; self-portraits looked pixelated and small facial details such as forehead wrinkles were difficult to distinguish. These photos did look slightly better when viewed on our PC.
As with any Android-powered camera, users can adjust brightness and choose from various scene modes, including "action," "night" and "sunset." The Pure's camera comes equipped with facial recognition and pinch-to-zoom, both of which worked reliably during our tests.
The 1280 x 720 pixel video we recorded of the LAPTOP office with the Pure was very blurry and had lots of streaking from ceiling lights. The device also quickly lost focus as we moved it around. The camera will suffice for video calls, but don't expect to take your next Facebook profile picture with it.
Rest assured that the Pure will last through most of the day on a charge. This tablet lasted 7 hours and 40 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), which is a few minutes longer than the Tab 3 10-inch (7:32) and about half an hour longer than the category average. The Pure even outperformed the Excite Pro, which lasted 6:14, but the Nexus 10 lasted 8:18.
Click to EnlargeWith good battery life and a relatively clean build of Android Jelly Bean, the Toshiba Excite Pure does everything it should for a $299 10-inch tablet. If you're on a budget and want a slate that you can share with the family, the device will satisfy all of your video streaming, digital reading and social networking needs.
For $30 less, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD offers even longer battery life and more robust parental controls, as well as lots of free content for Amazon Prime members. However, that smaller tablet can't access the full Google Play store. Overall, the Excite Pure isn't exciting, but it is a good value.