toshiba-tablet[CES 2011] CES is still a couple of days away, but we got our hands on the upcoming Toshiba Tablet powered by Android (Honeycomb) and the NVIDIA Tegra 2 “system on a chip” (SoC). The tablet weighs 1.7lbs, which is close to the iPad’s 1.5lbs (WiFi) or 1.6lbs (3G). It has a 10.1″ multi-touch display (with haptic feedback) with a 720p (1280×720) resolution that is superior to the iPad’s. That’s great because Tegra 2 can easily decode 720p HD movies from a local file, or from a website like YouTube (it’s been demonstrated many times).

Physical design (clean)

Unfortunately, this unit wasn’t quite ready for a live demo (this should happen @ CES though), but we now know how it feels to carry it. It’s different from the iPad: the back is rubberized, so you can hold it with a strong grip (the back is removable/customizable too!). The tablet also won’t slide away when you’re trying to rest it against something. It’s a common iPad issue that forces many iPad users to use a case that makes the device much thicker. The front design is clean, and at the top, you can see a 2 Megapixel webcam + microphone.

On the right, there are a few icons to show the battery level and network connectivity. Toshiba could probably do without those, but they don’t get in the way. In the back, there’s a 5 Megapixel camera that captures both photos and videos… another “must have” that is missing on the iPad.

On the side, there’s a very interesting Dock connector that could be used to turn the Tablet into a light workstation, which would be great for email and other text-intensive work. We hope that the Toshiba keyboard will be transportable. Also, there’s a small chance that the Dock connector might be more capable than just connecting a keyboard (would it extend audio? usb? ethernet?) – we’re just speculating here.

Dimensions: 10.7 x 6.9 x 0.6″ for 1.7lbs. The numbers could vary, but this is pretty much what Toshiba is planning for, and this seems realistic.

Connectivity (plenty!)

Unlike the iPad, the Toshiba tablet doesn’t mind physical connectivity: USB 2.0 (yes, USB!), Mini USB and SD ports are present to exchange information with the world. But that’s not it: there’s also a built-in HDMI port that outputs 1080p HD video (we wonder if HDCP is supported). Of course, WiFi (802.11N) and Bluetooth are present as well, without forgetting the GPS chips (with compass). The USB ports will make a lot of people happy, because it’s just so damn convenient!

Software (extended)

The Toshiba Tablet should support the regular Android Market, but Toshiba plans to introduce Toshiba Places and Toshiba BookPlace eReader. Toshiba Places will feature Android applications that are optimized, or built especially, for this tablet. By doing so, Toshiba hopes to feature the best apps for its tablet, partially solving the “discoverability” issue that all developers face. Toshiba Book Place should focus on content that offers rich graphics.

Battery (mysterious, but removable)

There’s the final point: the battery. We don’t yet know how long the battery life is, but we do know that it is removable. The fixed battery hasn’t been a real problem for iPad (and iPhone, actually) but it could come in handy if the battery needs to be replaced/serviced, or if having a second battery is critical – it’s nice to have the option. Toshiba said that they would be “competitive” on that front,  but we’ll have to see what that translates to in the real world. Last point: we didn’t ask if the Tablet could be charged over USB, but we hope that it can be.

Conclusion (promising!)

While CES will probably be the “Tablet Show”, this early peek at what Toshiba has in store for you has been very interesting, and the Toshiba Tablet certainly sets the bar higher. We won’t know for sure how cool it is before we can get some decent play time with it, but the large screen, fast hardware and crazy connectivity makes it one of the top gadgets to keep an eye on.

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