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Building the perfect Franken-tablet

Toshiba Exite edges Microsoft Surface RT in test of five flawed tablets

By Tom Henderson and Matt Evangelista, ExtremeLabs, Inc., Network World
March 11, 2013 06:03 AM ET

Network World - Finding the right business tablet can be a daunting task. Do you want a seven-inch display or a 10 inch? Built-in keyboard? Snap-on keyboard? Which operating system? What apps? How about ruggedness, style, battery life, price?

We tested a sampling of five business tablets, or perhaps we should say: four business tablets and the iPad Mini. Prices ranged from $429 for the iPad Mini to $2,000 for the ruggedized GammaTech. Each device had a different operating system, and, even more importantly, a different app ecosystem.

None of the products were perfect, but in our testing, the Toshiba Excite 10 came out on top because it has solid features, but also because it isn't deficient in important ways. It draws on a huge application profile set that we believe pushes it past the competition -- by a hair.

The Android Market, Google Play and Amazon Store, which the Toshiba draws upon, are rife with a myriad business focused applications and access methods for tablets to get VDI sessions, communications links, and other business focused applications.

We tested three seven-inch display tablets, an Apple iPad Mini, GammaTech T7Q Durabook, a Blackberry Playbook 2; and two 10-inch tablets, a Microsoft Surface RT and a Toshiba Excite 10. Hands down, we liked the 10-inch displays, although the larger size is somewhat offset by its heft. We found that there wasn't a strong correlation between display size and battery size. Only GammaTech offers the option to change the battery.

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If we could take the best features and build a Franken-tablet, it would have the slick feel of the Windows Surface and its optional keyboard binder. But it also would have the durability of the GammaTech unit so we could drop it, or not feel in fear of hurting its good looks. It would have the removable batteries of the GammaTech. It would have the brilliant display of the Toshiba Excite, but all of the Windows 7 apps of the GammaTech.

Tablet net results

Here are the individual reviews:

Toshiba Excite

The Toshiba Excite is a lightweight device that sports a 10-inch screen and runs a version of Android. Apps open quickly and movements in and among applications are smooth.

The processor power is strong, and we found ourselves using multiple apps at once without fear that too many apps would slow down others already in progress.

One of our major complaints with the Excite 10 was that it uses a proprietary charger connector that's huge, and doesn't give tactile feedback about its correct polarity position -- yes, it's a polarized, weird connector.

The Excite 10 came preloaded with QuickOffice Lite HD (an upgrade for the "Pro version" is available, LogMeIn, PrinterShare and Adobe Reader. A standard Gmail application is also included. The modules for QuickOffice included word processor, spreadsheet and a presentation app -- with file browser. There are no licensing constraints for use of the QuickOffice applications. They're production applications, as opposed to the Windows Surface RT.

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