Toshiba AT300 – Android near contender

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The Japanese manufacturer’s best touchscreen tablet yet offers impressive quad-core performance, a strong feature set and all-round good value for tablet newbies – but it is still upstaged by stronger Android rivals

Toshiba has had mixed fortunes in the tablet market, with some early devices pulled from UK retail outlets and others, such as the Toshiba AT200, winning critical acclaim.

The latest in the range is the Toshiba AT300, and this slim and usable Android device could be Toshiba’s best touchscreen tablet yet. But is it enough to match up to the strong competition?

While its predecessor, the AT200, was marketed as being the world’s thinnest tablet, the AT300 is no slouch itself when it comes to slenderness. Measuring just 9mm thin it is a very slim device. At 590g it is a little bit heavier than Samsung’s excellent Galaxy Note 10.1 but it is still very comfortable to hold and use on the move.

Also similar to the Galaxy Note 10.1, Toshiba has crafted the device from plastic and it lacks the high-quality feel of its biggest rival, the Apple iPad – inevitable since it costs around £70 less. As a result it lacks the resilience of Apple’s tablet and the chassis is far more prone to attracting scuffs and scratches than we’d have liked.

That’s not to say it feels badly made, though. Despite the less than hardy plastic finish, the chassis feels firm throughout with few signs of flex. The faux brushed metal plastics on the rear of the device add a touch of style and the textured panel gives a comfortably tactile feel, while helping to provide a firm grip in the hand.

Gorilla glass
The glossy screen is far more scratch-resistant than the rest of the chassis, due to the use of ultra-tough Gorilla Glass. Toshiba claims it also has an anti-fingerprint coating but we found no evidence of this. In fact we found that it picks up smudges and fingerprints very easily, so you’ll need to buff the screen regularly to keep it clean.

In terms of image quality the 10.1-inch panel is effective, if a little underwhelming. Brightness, colour and contrast are all more than adequate, with photos and videos shown with plenty of impact. It lacks the punch of the Galaxy Note 10.1 and the far more affordable Google Nexus 7, though, which is unfortunate at this price.

The 800 x 1,280 pixel resolution is common for a screen of this size and renders images with a satisfying level of sharpness. Of course it can’t quite match the market-leading Retina display of the latest iPad, but if you’ve not tried Apple’s tablet first-hand you’re unlikely to feel shortchanged by what the AT300 has to offer.

HD connectivity
We were pleased to see the device is equipped with a Micro HDMI port, letting you easily get connected to an HDTV for enjoying your photos, videos, games and apps on the big screen. It adds a nice touch for multimedia fans, there is no HDMI cable included in the box, though.

It also features two cameras for you to snap photos and record videos. A five-megapixel camera sits on the rear of the device, along with an LED flash, while a two-megapixel camera is on the front. Unfortunately, though, neither provides anything more than the most basic photo or video quality.

Photos lack detail and have a very hazy quality, regardless of whether you capture images indoors or out. Colours are also washed out, so results are never anything more than average at best. Since many users will already have a cameraphone it’s not enough to seriously flaw the device overall, but it’s still a shame.

Usability is excellent and the capacitive technology used on the touchscreen makes it very easy to operate. Haptic feedback, which makes the screen vibrate whenever you select apps or swipe between screens, is set up as standard for those that like such a feature, but it can be easily disabled for those that don’t.

Whether tapping to select options, swiping to scroll through menus, or pinching to zoom images, the screen responds well. Even when gaming we found it to be a very accurate and responsive panel, so navigating the interface and enjoying apps and games is always smooth and easy, adding to the overall user experience.

Full article in Mobile News issue 526 (November 6, 2012).

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