I got the chance to go hands-on with the Excite Pro, earlier this month at a trade event and was generally impressed with what I saw, especially when it comes to design.
Sharp tablet with eye-catching display
As with most other Toshiba tablets, the Excite Pro features a textured plastic back plate, rounded corners and even has a handy compartment at the side for protecting your SIM card (yes, 3G is an option here), micro USB and HDMI connections.
The tablet is easy to grip, sturdy and a touch lighter than the fourth-generation Apple iPad at 1.4Kg, but it is the display that takes center stage.
At 10-inches and with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 (that’s 299 pixels per inch), the LCD display offers bright, colorful and crisp images. It is easy to glide your fingers across the glass surface to swipe or tap and the 1mm bezel reduces the risk of accidentally touching the screen when resting your hand on it.
Design is just one one of the good things about the Excite Pro, which benefits from running the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system.
The user interface sees an iOS-like bottom toolbar for favored apps like Gmail, Calendar and Chrome, a Google Search bar at the bottom, while a standard Android tab bar to the side lets you flip between open notifications. The apps icon lets you drilldown into apps and favored widgets (which include ones for email, Zinio and Twitter to name just a few).
All of this may sound little different to many other Android tablets, but one feature that is really great with Jelly Bean on this tablet is the ability to choose between similar apps. For example, when I selected Toshiba’s pre-loaded Thinkfree Office 6.0, it offered a pop-out view of the app along with Splashtop and a printing app to see which one I really wanted to use.
Good cameras, battery life & audio so what’s the problem?
Nvidia’s Tegra 4 processor is on-board with 2GB of RAM and generally punches through most tasks, especially gaming, but limited Wi-Fi connection (802.11 a/g/n; mobile broadband is an option) at the exhibition hall meant that I couldn’t get a real feel for the browsing speed.
There are other excellent features with the Excite Pro – the quoted 9.5 hour battery life would suit most professionals and the two cameras (1.2MP and 8.0MP) offer OK definition and decent image stabilization technology.
Harmon Karman speakers provide superb audio quality, which can be enhanced further in settings by adding audio enhancements, bass boost or noise cancelling. The audio quality was crisp, with the speakers sitting to the left and right at the bottom of the device.
In addition, you can upscale video for the resolution display and stabilize video in settings.
So, why did I come away feeling underwhelmed after using the Excite Pro? It’s a tough question to answer, but my gut feeling is that this is a good tablet rather than an excellent one.
The screen is hi-res but no more so than recent models from Kobo, Samsung, Google and others, while the design doesn't match the price. In fact, it's arguably less stylish than low-end models like Lenovo’s elegant S5000. At 1.4Kg, it’s a touch lighter than the iPad but still considerably heavily than Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 10.1.
The real trouble though is the price. Considering the Tegra 4 CPU, hi-def screen and general usability, the Toshiba Excite Pro would be a decent deal at say $399, but instead it's priced at a wallet-busting $499, matching the entry point of the iPad. Toshiba is certainly a well-known brand, but to woo consumers away from the market leader, it needs to be, in my opinion, more aggressive on price to better shout out its value.
("Choosing your next tablet, the operational advantage", will be one of the key sessions at the TabletBiz conference & expo in New York on November 13, 2013)