Toshiba Android Tablet AT200: A Closer Look

After the popularity and interest in our video (that can be found below) and the article on how Toshiba have stopped selling the AT200 in Australia, which you can read here Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before it Begins, we thought we’d take a closer look at Toshiba’s new slimline tablet, as it will still be available around the world for some time.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

Just released globally, the Toshiba AT200 sets new standards in lightness and thinness for tablet devices.

Toshiba love being able to set new records and try new products that are a little left of centre.  Although some products aren’t successful in the mainstream, like the Libretto W100 Dual touch screen device, they do point to a company willing to take some risks to push the envelope.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is such a product. To call it the Ultrabook of the tablet world might be taking it a little far, but it does seem to go hand in hand with theZ830 as a companion in the thin and light mobile computing category, read that article here Toshiba Satellite Z830 Ultrabook First Look . At only 535 grams and 7.7mm it is currently the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet, matching the boasts of its Ultrabook sibling.

The overall design is of two slivers of silver being sandwiched together, with a black line running the entire way around the middle of the edge, except for the buttons and ports. It’s a stylish design and seems to be inspired in some part by its Ultrabook, with no tapering, just a consistent thickness all around.

The back plate has a metal finish with the Toshiba logo embedded, just in case there was any question as to what brand this eye catching tablet was. The back panel also holds the 5 megapixel camera. The front camera is 2MP.

What a great business model Gorilla Glass has now, becoming the go-to company for scratch and impact resistant display. The AT200’s 1280 x 800 display is protected by the Corning company’s mobile/tablet product.

Toshiba have kept the controls and ports very minimal but still manage to provide all the necessary outputs to satisfy most needs. The connection on the bottom of the tablet is for power and connection to a PC via USB, and the proprietary cable comes in the box.

It probably would have been easier to avoid duplicating the onboard connectivity of their previous 10.1”, the AT100, but they’ve gone all out and retained a full set of outputs.

The left hand side contains all the connections I mentioned earlier – headphone jack, micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD. It is interesting that Toshiba can provide such a comprehensive connection suite in a product with such dimensions, beating both the iPad 2 and Tab 10.1, both of which offer only a single proprietary connection that can be accessed with various add-on cables.

Interestingly, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 uses a Texas Instruments dual core processor, which is comparable to the Tegra 2 or A5 processor used in iPads and other Android tablets. This may mean that another tablet with Tegra 3 may be on the drawing board down the track.

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Software-wise, the Toshiba is still rocking the Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS, and no word on upgrades just yet. Given the amount of exposure Ice Cream Sandwich is getting now, read our article here Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet. I’m sure this question of ICS upgrade will be on the lips of any prospective AT200 owner.

In line with their pedigree in the commercial and enterprise space, rather than focusing on entertainment, Toshiba have included a few productivity apps. This includes Thinkfree Office for Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatibility; Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager (which surprisingly some tablets still don’t have out of the box), the popular Evernote and McAfee security.

When you look at the types of apps on board and the styling of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200, you do get a sense that this is more of an executive’s secondary or third device rather than a casual gaming and entertainment tablet. The absence of Ice Cream Sandwich may turn some users off, but we’ll ask Toshiba for an update on that and come back with details when available.

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s our video of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200:

What do you think of the AT200 from Toshiba?

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before It Begins

Toshiba Australia very kindly sent us a shiny new Android tablet to play with and we produced a segment, as seen below, and liked a lot about this new tablet. The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is the thinnest and lightest 10.1” tablet in the market, beating all other tablets on thinness and weight. The AT200 has its own look and feel that separates it from its competitors.

However, late Friday we were informed that as of this week, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was going “End of Life” in Australia. This meant no more units would be brought into the country to sell.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Samsung also announced a fairly sizeable price reduction across the board for its 10.1 Galaxy Tab range, which now puts it at $100 under Apple’s iPad, you can read that article here Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop .

The AT200 was originally pegged at $579 for its 16GB Wi-Fi only model, which would have put it directly up against the iPad, and $100 more than the repositioned Samsung.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was, on paper, a pretty likeable machine. It weighed only 535 grams and was 7.7mm thin, eclipsing any other current tablet. Like its predecessor, it managed to retain a comprehensive set of connections -– headphone jack, Micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 offered great connectivity and a sharp looking body.

It also had a pretty inclusive set of software on its Honeycomb OS. This included Thinkfree Office, Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager, Evernote for spontaneous information gathering and McAfee security. One uncertain factor was when it would be upgraded to Android 4.0.

Our understanding is that the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is still alive and well in other regions around the world, so it appears to be a local decision not to continue this model on this continent. The Australian market is sometimes used as a litmus test for new products and technology for vendors as it’s fairly isolated and we’re a proud bunch of early adopters. This could indicate a subtle shift in Toshiba’s overall strategy in the tablet space.

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So where could Toshiba be heading, given this was a benchmark product in form factor at the very least? My initial guess is a ramp up to develop a strong Windows 8 tablet as part of its overall Windows ecosystem offer.

Toshiba released a touch screen all-in-one model last year, so they now have desktops, notebooks, Ultrabooks, and potentially tablets that would put them in a healthy position to offer Windows 8 across virtually all device types, except for mobile phones. Given Toshiba’s strength in the Australian market, such a strategy could be extremely beneficial.

After all, Android has evolved from the mobile platform whereas Windows has developed from a desktop/server platform, giving it a very different set of development challenges. Given Toshiba’s long history supporting Windows as its dominant operating system, there is no doubt they will come out with a strong offer at the launch of Windows 8.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 cancellation and Samsung’s price move are two significant news events in one weekend for tablets. We are still to see the iPad 3 resolve into a real product from the conjecture and rumour that is feeding the hype before the announcement.

It’s going to be a real interesting few months for the tablet industry.  We will see more Tegra 3 products released, ICS deployed and upgraded on more machines, and the new iPad 3 awake from its secret slumber. In the second half of the year, Microsoft will make its move with partners like Toshiba champing at the bit to get into the market with Windows 8 on multiple hardware options.

Watch the video below or read our article on the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 a Closer Look for more information.

Does Toshiba’s announcement change your mind about Android, and are you waiting for Windows 8 on a tablet?

Acer A500 Iconia Tablet – Unboxing and Overview

Acer were the first to release a Honeycomb tablet to the general retail market, and as I mentioned in a previous blog post, they set the benchmark for the type of inputs and outputs one could previously only wish for on a tablet – mini and full size USB, HDMI, and SD Card slot are all built into the body of the A500.

One comment that I’ve noticed lately from customers is the lack of embedded 3G in the Iconia, as opposed to some of the other tablets now available in the market, particularly those offered by telcos. One thing many people don’t realise is that if they own a late model iPhone or Android phone, and have updated to the latest phone firmware, they can now take advantage of their phone’s 3G internet connection by turning on the personal hotspot function.

This allows the Iconia to find the phone as a Wi-Fi access point, and use the phone’s plan for any browsing or downloads through the tablet. Many people have a home landline account, home internet account and a 3G phone account, and don’t want yet another plan – this is an easy way to share the bandwidth available on your smartphone.

During the filming of the unboxing video that we produced for Bing Lee, we tried streaming video via a phone hotspot, and there was some buffering at the beginning of the clip but it played smoothly after that – we did have full signal strength so I’m sure that helped. Of course, you wouldn’t always be streaming video, other online activities would include downloading email, browsing the net, and using apps that require online updates.

So, who out there has been using an Acer Iconia, and how has your experience been with it so far? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s the unboxing video:

Asus Eee Pad Transformer – Unboxing and Overview

The “first look” article I wrote earlier this year for the Asus Transformer tablet has become the most popular post on this site, and now we’ve produced a video for Bing Lee that covers the tablet and its unique keyboard dock in detail.

After spending a lot of time with this unit, the keyboard attachment makes a lot of sense for extended writing and input-heavy tasks. When separated from the keyboard/battery/dock, the Transformer tablet on its own is still a very impressive and well-designed device.

With Acer showing the way in terms of inputs and accessibility with its Iconia tablet, Asus have carved its own niche by way of innovation and adding features that we may not have thought we needed. Once you start using the Transformer with the keyboard, it definitely becomes second nature, and points to an even broader appeal with its netbook-like appearance and functionality.

The Transformer has also now been the recipient of the first Android Honeycomb update, from 3.0 to 3.1. Some of the improvements include the ability to add peripherals like mice, keyboards; resizing widgets to make your home screens even more customisable; attach digital cameras and manage content to and from them; and the ability to use VOIP and other audio streaming services. This progression takes the Honeycomb OS a step further in cementing it as a real alternative for tablet devices.

For your enjoyment, here’s our detailed run-through of the Asus Transformer:

Ritchie’s Chat Room: Intel Director Makiko Eda

As the director of Intel’s marketing and sales division for Asia Pacific, Makiko Eda can talk with authority about her company’s current and future position in a world now dominated by daily tablet announcements. Hailing from Japan, Eda was in Sydney to meet retailers and get an update on the Australian arm of the Intel business.

After the worldwide recall which affected all PC manufacturers, Intel is preparing to re-launch its second generation Core processors commonly known as Sandy Bridge. Eda is under no illusion that the recall did not affect business for both Intel and its customers, admitting there was “pain in the supply chain, delay, and missed opportunities in the market.”

Eda notes that they have strengthened their verification process in the production and testing areas, saying there is definitely a need for “an extra step at the factory”. After the success of the first generation of iCore models, Eda noted there was a “military” push to get the new chips to market, and when they did find the issue that sparked the recall, Intel “had to make a quick decision.”

That recall left much of the market starved of higher value product, particularly in the quad core notebook range. The challenge now is to make enough noise about a category that has been overwhelmed by the interest in tablets. “We hear a lot of concern, that computers are kind of boring”. The new range, Eda says, “has a lot of new capabilities and can bring more excitement into the category. As Intel we have to do a better job of communicating that excitement and experience that Sandy Bridge brings to the market.”

So how does Intel feel about the impending onslaught of tablets? “Tablets are a great device, but they’re not going to replace computers.” says Eda. “It’s going to be a secondary device, but it is getting a lot of attention in the market.” With NVidia becoming well known for their tablet processors, Eda says Intel will have their own offering in the second half of the year. “Our products will focus on energy efficiency, performance and added value to the tablet.”

In the meantime, Eda says that netbooks remain a viable alternative in the near future as a second device, and that Intel are working with manufacturers on innovations to keep the netbook category relevant. “We’ll come up with interesting form factors, like hybrids. You’ll get the goodness of tablets, ease of access and thinness but at the same time you have the convenience of the keyboard.”

Intel have set their sights on the lounge room as well, with a host of manufacturers showing off Intel-embedded Smart TVs at this year’s CES exhibition in Las Vegas. Said Eda, “We’re working with some partners to enable the internet experience on TV more seamlessly. We want to make it an out-of-the-box experience.”

With cloud computing also on the horizon from a consumer perspective, Eda believes that the enterprise space will derive the most benefit at this stage, where “the internal cloud makes more sense”. Consumers may not be ready to make the leap because “you rely so much on the communication infrastructure. You may still want to have a photo on your hard drive; you may have videos you want to see, without thinking ‘do I have an internet connection here’?”

Security will be foremost in the minds of end users when products like Chrome notebooks begin to make their way into the retail space, and to that end, Eda says that Intel are “working on hardware-based solutions”. Intel’s acquisition of McAfee may be part of that plan, with Eda hinting that Intel intends to “extract some of the (McAfee) goodness to integrate into the core business with security features in the future.”

With the computer industry evolving quicker than ever, Intel faces challenges from many corners, but Eda is confident of her company’s ability to repeat the successes of last year’s Core processor launch. As Eda explains, there’s more to computers than talking about speeds and specifications. With the marketing focus on the “experience”, rather than the product, Intel is “trying to put a little bit of the human side into it.”

Interview courtesy of Intel Australia.

When Is a Tablet Not A Tablet?

During my latest planning meeting with my contacts at Samsung, I had a closer look at a product that has been shown at various exhibitions but not yet released for sale here in Australia. It’s an interesting product, given the upswell in interest in the Tablet category. It’s called the Samsung Slider Series 7 PC. Note that the word “tablet” isn’t in the description.

Many manufacturers are lining up to offer their own take on the tablet product space, and this model from Samsung, aside from the Galaxy Tab, is a form factor that does take some cues from the tablet concept but is still very much a netbook. Why? It’s all about the operating system.

As you can see from the picture above, this model comes with full functioning keyboard and for all intents and purposes works just like a standard netbook, although it does use an upgraded Atom processor and is loaded with Windows 7 Premium as opposed to Starter, so it has a full notebook operating system. In this form, the netbook is also touchscreen enabled, which may be useful in some situations.

However, the screen can be articulated all the way to be flush with the keyboard, and slid down to change into a tablet. This action activates a customised user interface. You can then hold and handle the Slider PC as you would a tablet, although it is a little thicker due to the keyboard adding an extra layer of componentry and hardware.

Samsung mentioned that more “apps” would be available as they’re developed, and they would appear on the screen above.

This is certainly an interesting product, and worked well for the short time I had it, but is it a tablet or netbook first and foremost? I think the answer lies in the software. Both iPad and Android have an interface that has been built from the ground up for the touch experience, and they have an app environment that Windows does not really compete with.

If this product does eventually come to market, I think it will appeal to the user looking for a small notebook or netbook with a keyboard; that wants to use Windows-based programs such as Office; and likes the idea of being able to convert the netbook into a touch screen for ebook reading or viewing video content.

This product concept illustrates the influence of the tablet usage model into other designs such as this netbook. Is this a product you’d consider purchasing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.