Tablets

Toshiba Thrive teardown: Most laptop-like Android tablet

The Toshiba Thrive's full-size ports make it a very laptop-like device, but they also risk making it too big and heavy for some tablet users.

The Toshiba Thrive is the company's first mainstream Android tablet. (Toshiba's earlier Folio 100 Android tablet was only released in Europe and in limited numbers.) This 10" device has a 1GHz dual-core NVidia Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of RAM, and both front and rear cameras. The Thrive comes with Android 3.1 Honeycomb installed.

As of this writing, the Thrive is available in 8GB ($429.99), 16GB ($479.99), and 32GB ($579.99) versions. The current versions only support Wi-Fi connectivity. Toshiba has not announced 3G or 4G models.

Weighing 1.6 lbs. and measuring 10.7" (W) x 7.0" (H) x 0.6" (D), the Thrive is one of the thickest and heaviest tablets that I've cracked open. It also has a variety of full-size port/memory card slot options. The Thrive's dimensions and these full-size features make it feel like a laptop in tablet's clothing.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Toshiba Thrive

Cracking Open observations

  1. Assembled by Pegatron: Labels and markings inside the Thrive indicate that Taiwan-based Pegatron assembled our Thrive unit.
  2. Counter-intuitive back cover lock switch: Despite being designed for removal, the back cover is more tricky to take off than it should be.
  3. User replaceable batteries: Once the back cover is removed, both the Thrive's 2030mAh Li-ion main battery pack and CR2016 system battery can quickly be replaced.
  4. Easiest-to-open tablet: Despite Observation 1, the Thrive was easier to crack open than any tablet I've worked on. Toshiba used standard Phillips screws throughout the device, and the internal hardware layout made component removal a snap.
  5. Front panel (digitizer) and display are separate units: The Thrive's LCD is not fused to the the front panel (digitizer). It is held in place with a metal bracket and standard Phillips screws. This lets you replace the components individually.
  6. Removable storage chip: The SanDisk SDIN4C2-16G storage chip is soldered to its own PCB and attached to the main PCB (motherboard) via a small ribbon cable. I suspect this configuration allows Toshiba to use the same motherboard for the 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB Thrive models. It may also mean that you could upgrade the Thrive's storage capacity--assuming you could get a replacement storage unit.

Internal hardware

Our Toshiba Thrive test unit had the following hardware components:

A laptop in tablet's clothing?

As I wrote in my Cracking Open analysis of the HTC Flyer, you can tell a lot about a company's history by dissecting its hardware.

The same is true for the Toshiba Thrive. The tablet's full-size HDMI port, full-size USB port, and full-size SD Card slot are designed for users who want a very laptop-like tablet. On the company's product page for the Thrive's Multi Dock with HDMI accessory, Toshiba even suggests you can get a "a desktop-like experience" by connecting a Bluetooth keyboard. The Thrive seems to be one of the company's popular Satellite or Portege laptops reincarnated as a tablet.

As someone who's used and supported desktops, laptops, and tablets, I really appreciate the Thrive's construction and design. The device has a case that's a little tricky, but not difficult to open. The internal components are attached with screws and not glued to the front panel or back cover. And, many internal components can be replaced individually. Unfortunately, the Thrive's full-size components, "componentized" construction, and user-replaceable battery also make it one of the bulkiest and heaviest 10" tablets on the market. It feels like a laptop in tablet's clothing, and this fact may cause some tablet buyers to look elsewhere.

Updated 7/20/2011: Added information about the Toshiba Folio 100.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

5 comments
pthiel69
pthiel69

I think you guys are forgetting the objective here. To compete in the current market, commercial and private, a tablet needs to be versatile. Allowing users to modify and change the product is essential. I think Toshiba hit the mark with this bad boy. I am in the market for a tablet, and this one seems to fit for me (Information Technology Administrator).

JJFitz
JJFitz

This looks like a tablet for the DIYer - not the typical media consumer. I can see this selling to techies and the average tablet user will not understand why.

fergusfog
fergusfog

Have you conveniently forgotten the utter gash Folio? Seems so.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I didn't mention the Folio 100 because it was only released in Europe and in limited numbers. I would categorize the Thrive as Toshiba's first mainstream Android tablet.