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
- Assembled by Pegatron: Labels and markings inside the Thrive indicate that Taiwan-based Pegatron assembled our Thrive unit.
- Counter-intuitive back cover lock switch: Despite being designed for removal, the back cover is more tricky to take off than it should be.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Our Toshiba Thrive test unit had the following hardware components:
- 1.0 GHz dual-core NVidia Tegra 2 application processor (A09B350 1039A3)
- EETI EX5404 Projected Capacitive Touch Controller IC Solution (EX5404 1026-EG41)
- AU Optronics B101EW05 LCD (1280 x 800 - 16:10 aspect ratio)
- 16GB SanDisk SDIN4C2 MLC NAND flash storage chip (SDIN4C2-16G)
- AzureWave AW-NH931 802.11 b/g/n Wireless LAN, Bluetooth and FM Rx Combo Half Mini Card
- Broadcom BCM4329 Low-Power 802.11n with Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and FM (Tx and Rx)
- Winbond WPCE775CA0DG IC
- Texas Instruments TPS658621C Multi-channel Power Management Unit with Li-Ion Battery Charger (TPS658621C 14A979W G1)
- Parade PS8122 1:2 HDMI/DVI Demultiplexer (PS8122 A1 U08CST D43PS 4410)
- AzureWave GPS-S17 SIP GPS module IC
- 1MB Hynix H8TJR00X0MLR LPDDR2 RAM chip
- SMSC USB3315 Hi-Speed USB Transceiver
- Wolfson WM8903 Ultra low power audio CODEC
- Texas Instruments SN75LVDS83B FlatLink transmitter (0CD4ECK G4 LVDS83B)
- Alcor Micro AU6254 USB2.0 Hub Controller
- Intersil ISL88731C Level-2 Lithium-ion battery charger
- Invensense MPU-3050 Triple Axis Gyroscope with Embedded Digital Motion Processor
- 2030mAh Li-ion main battery pack
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.Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.