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The Toshiba Excite 10 LE, still the thinnest you can buy now, was one of my favorite gadget to launch at CES this year, and I could not wait to play with this super light and beautifully crafted Android tablet. The Toshiba 10 LE has been on the US market since March 6, when we were travelling in Europe to report news from MWC and CeBIT.The most unique feature of the 10 LE is its lightness (0.3” !!) and thinness (1.2 lbs) compared to all the other tablets. I personally love the elegant design. On the performance side, the Toshiba tablet offers regular specifications including a TI OMAP 4430 Dual-Core Processor with 1GB LP-DDR2 RAM, 16GB (or 32GB), 5 MP rear camera with LED, 2 MP front camera, and a 10.1″ display with a 1280×800 resolutionThe 16 GB costs $529.99 and the 32 GB $599.99 which is in the price range of other competitive products with bulkier bodies.

Specifications

10.1” display (1280×800)
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor
1GB RAM, 16GB of flash storage + microSD slot
5 Megapixel rear camera, 1.3 Megapixel front camera
WiFi B/G/N, Bluetooth, GPS
Battery capacity 6690 mAH / 25 Wh
10.1 x 6.9 x 0.3”, 1.23lbs

 

Unboxing


Context

We always have a hard time ensuring objectivity in our reviews, since different people use electronic devices in drastically different ways depending on their needs and lifestyle.
By telling you how I use a tablet, it will be easier for you to decide which aspects of this review will be useful for you to help make up your mind. I have used the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 for a few days as an additional device to my desktop computer, my MacBook Pro (running Windows), my Macbook Air (running Windows) and my Smartphone ( I use two of them when abroad). Since I have bought the Macbook Air, I do not use a tablet for meetings as much anymore, it has become more of an entertainment device from which I watch movies in my bed or in the plane, read news and books, play with apps (ie Angry Birds, Music apps), Skype/chat with friends, check Facebook updates, play music on a mini Bluetooth speaker.

External design (ultimate!)

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The most unique feature of the 10 LE is its lightness (0.3”) and thinness (1.2 lbs) compared to all the other tablets. I personally love the elegant design specifically the shape of the buttons, that are almost invisibles still fully functional with a good feedback. Toshiba did also a good job on the finish, the textured silver magnesium alloy surface conveys a unique style, a characteristic that I am sensitive to in this world full of flat black rectangle displays.

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Unlike the thicker (0.37”) and heavier (1.44 lbs) iPad, in addition to its proprietary connector, the Excite 10 offers a HDMI out port, a micro USB 2.0 port and a Micro SD card slot that allows to easily expand the memory, an important feature for a device that is commonly used in long flights or road trips to watch movies.

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Display (very good)

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The display is one of the most important and the most expensive component that ensure the quality of a tablet. The Toshiba Excite LE offers a high quality display with good contrasts and deep black. When compared to the latest iPad, the quality looks similar, the iPad has slightly more saturated colors, the difference is not obvious. When you look at the screen from an angle,  the color hue changes and you see a subtle squared pattern that is invisible when watching a photo or a video in front of the tablet. I do not find this to be an issue, since the tablet is so light making the viewing experience is great in normal use, especially when you have to hold the device.

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On the left Toshiba Exctie 10 LE – on the right iPad 3

 

Virtual Keyboard (good)

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The default keyboard is the Android keyboard, which is a good virtual keyboard. You also have the choice to switch to Swype. For people who have to type in two or three languages simultaneously, I would recommend to download the free version of Swiftkey or purchase the full version. Swiftkey has also a great smarpredicitve technology that learns your typing habits over time.

Audio (very good relatively to the thinness)

Speakers (very good relatively to thinness – good in absolute)
The audio quality when playing a HD trailer from Youtube is not as good as the iPad, but it is very hard to cram good speakers in a 0.3” thin body. To be fair, Toshiba did a very good job on the audio side for the Excite LE. The sound quality is good and you can watch a movie just using the built-in speakers, personally, I always use headphones when I play long video.
Headphones (excellent)
The audio quality is very good when using headphones. It is similar to the iPad.

Performance (Regular)

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Antutu is an overall system performance benchmark (CPU, graphics, storage), and what it shows is that overall, most recent phones land in a comparable performance footprint. This means that unless you do something very specific (like “gaming” or “downloads”), those phones should provide a similar overall performance.

Unfortunately, while the Toshiba performs comparably with many other tablets like the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 or older models like the Motorola Xyboard 8.2 and Xyboard 10.1, most Android tablets with a quad-core Tegra 3 processor will leave it behind.

Keep in mind that while Antutu’s score scales well with more cores, real world performance doesn’t always follow such a pattern. Most of the time, things like the user interface, music, movies, emails and web browsing aren’t optimized for more than 2 core.s However, games with physics and video editing apps may use the cores at their full potential.

Nenamark 2 is a test aimed at measuring the graphics processor performance. It is handy, but keep in mind that the latest games use much more complex techniques that are not represented in this test.
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In terms of graphics performance, there are clearly two camps: the sub-25 and the 50+. Basically, Android tablets equipped with Qualcomm’s S4 or NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 processors have taken the lead. There are other players such as PowerVR (iPad gen3) and ARM (Mali), but the iPad doesn’t run this particular benchmark and we haven’t played with an actual product using one of the faster Mali graphics chip.

In any case, the Toshiba Excite 10 LE will do very well in video decoding, but not in 3d-gaming. While most people may be fine with this, keep in mind that the gaming experience on this particular tablet will probably be sub-30FPS for most cool polygonal 3D games.

SunSpider is a Javascript test that mostly measures how good the Javascript engine is. Performance jump of 100% have been witnessed after software updates, so keep in mind that this may not be a great CPU test. It also uses a single-core, so it won’t be able to differentiate much between single and multicore architectures. Also, please don’t consider it to be a “web performance” test, because it is not. Most of the perceived web performance is felt during the load time and rendering time, both of which often have nothing to do with Javascript performance.
toshiba exite 10le sunspider In this one, Toshiba does OK and is close enough to other modern tablets. In this chart only unreleased tablets like the ones based on Intel’s mobile processor and the new Snapdragon S4 Pro do clearly better. Also, keep in mind that we tested the S4 Pro with a development kit, and not with an actual product.

“Perceived performance”: Synthetic benchmarks can only carry us so far. What they don’t show for example is the user experience is smooth and responsive (responsiveness is not always solved with brute-force processor power). In the end, what good is raw performance if you can’t perceive it?

Overall, the performance is reasonable, even if it’s not as fast as the fastest tablets on the market. To put that in perspective, it is also fair to mention that given how light and thin the tablet is, it could be hard for others to do much better given the same constraints. Only the market can tell.

Media and Entertainment (very good)

Video playback (very good)

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Like the Toshiba Excite 10 LE, most 10-inch Android tablets have a 19/9 ratio and feature a wider display than the iPad, providing a larger image size when watching videos. As such the video watching experience is great, additionally the device offers very good image quality, and good audio (excellent with headphones).

Gaming (regular)

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From the processor specifications and the benchmark results, we already know that 3D gaming is not top of the line here. To date, Tegra 3 devices and the latest iPad are the fastest and the most responsive tablets when it comes to 3D gaming. To be sure, I tried Riptide GP on the Excite 10, I could play well, but I could tell that the frame rate was lower and the responsivness slightly slower than the same game played on the iPad.

Battery Life (good relatively to the thinness – average)

Battery Life – video playback (good relatively to the thinness)
The battery life dropped 20% while playing a video during one hour, we can assume that the battery will last for 5 hours playing video non stop with WiFi on. We assume that given the thinness of the device (0.3 inch / 7.6 mm) , it was not possible for the manufacturer to place a more powerful battery, but this is just a guess. The battery capacity is only 25 Wh compared to 42.5 Wh for the iPad 3 which is way thicker (0.37 inch / 9.4mm)

Charging time (good)

After 1 hour 30 minutes the battery was charged 28%. It took 3 hours and 30 minutes to charge it at 85%, which is a regular time for a 10-inch tablet.

Conclusion

The most valuable feature of the Toshiba Excite 10 LE is its light and ultra thin body that features  a stylish design.

Overall the tablet delivers a good user experience, with a good quality display and regular performance. We have to keep in mind that it was introduced on the market a few months earlier than the fastest and newest Tegra 3- powered Android tablets launched in the past two months. Still, none of the latest 10-inch tablets are so light and thin and so elegant.

I would recommend the Toshiba Excite for people who likes to travel light, value style for their gadgets and prefer to watch movies rather than play 3D games.

Filed in Featured >Reviews >Tablets. Read more about Toshiba.

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