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Best Tegra3 Android Tablet So far... unfortunately.
on May 16, 2012
So far I've owned the ASUS Transformer Prime (TF201), Acer Iconia Tab A510, and now the Toshiba AT305. The TF201 had build quality and wireless/GPS issues and the A510 had a "grid effect" to the LCD and some bad heat issues (106+ degrees). And now the AT305, which has light bleed issues. The sad part is that despite this annoying "issue," it's still the best Tegra 3 tablet out there.
As with the Acer and Asus, I've already gone through two AT305's just to make sure these issues were consistent. But let's go into a bit more of a detailed review first on the AT305 that I've been using for a few days now.
Out of the box, initial impressions are very good. The tablet has a great solid feel to it, it's comfortable to hold, thin, and yes, even light weight. The back has a hard, smooth, plastic feel to it - although I hear its aluminum. If so, it probably has some type of coating on it. Basically, it's one nice looking tablet.
I won't go into details regarding where everything is or what feature it has, as you can easily see this from the pictures. Although the one item I must point out is the SD Card Slot, which is on the right side. There is a blank filler card that must be removed when you want to use your own SD card. While the addition of a full-size SD slot is very welcome, there is nothing to cover the slot once your card is in there.
So your hand will frequently rub against the sharp inside edges of the plastic casing. I'm normally not a big fan of plastic covers, but in this instance, it would have been very nice to have. If you're planning on getting a case, this won't likely be an issue.
I've tested both wireless and GPS extensively and found them to both perform very well. I'm able to maintain a solid WiFi connection even at the furthest reaches of my Access Point. And GPS can actually pick up a few satellite in-doors, which is always impressive. Outside I can get accuracy down to less than 18ft, within 1-2 minutes. This of course was verified with the GPS Test application.
Overall the device is very snappy and I haven't had any issues that I didn't run into with the other Tegra3 devices on Android 4.0.3. There are still a few occasional bugs or glitches with ICS, which I hope they'll resolve soon. Otherwise, nothing specific to the AT305.
Antutu scored a 10,313 and Quadrant is right at 4,000. I've seen slightly higher Antutu scores on the A510, which was closer to 11k. Although as I recall, this is the highest Quadrant score I've seen to date. Keeping in mind that both devices I had scored nearly identical. And in either case, the scores are subjective and personally don't put a whole lot of faith in them.
Until they have some new benchmarks that really take advange of the quad core CPU and Tegra3, they're just something to give you interesting numbers to look at. :) Real world tests are where it's at. Speaking of which, playing Tegra 3 games is smooth and they all run expectedly nice. Surfing the web, running apps, and other such tasks are all as expected. Quite good.
After watching movies and playing games, I got temps as high as 93 degrees on the back, right side. This was determined by my infrared thermometer. It's not as cool as the 85 degree TF201 but also nowhere near the 106+ degree A510. So I consider that to be on the warm side, but not uncomfortably so. I think the material on the back Toshiba uses helps to dissipate the heat so it doesn't "feel" hot or uncomfortable.
While surfing or running normal apps, the temps were staying in the 80's where it should be.
Starting positive here, the LCD does look very nice. In fact, of the TF201 and A510, it's the nicest I've seen. Even though it's not IPS (it's TFT as I recall), it looks great. The images are very crisp, colors are vibrant, and it has surprisingly good contrast ratio. The best part is that they've found a very nice color temperature balance.
While the A510 was very cool and the TF201 was on the warm side, I found the AT305 to quite neutral. This makes it very pleasing to use whether you are reading, surfing, playing games, or watching a movie.
But of course we can't ignore the negative part of this. There is light bleed, and it just makes me very sad. You won't notice this on any normal colorful image. But if you're watching a movie or looking at a picture that has a black background at the edges, you'll see a very uneven amount of light emitting from the sides. And the more you turn up the brightness, the worse it is.
In fact, just powering on the tablet, you'll see this on the Toshiba logo as it has a black background. It was exactly the same with both AT305's I got. And it's not something I ever experienced with any other tablet I've owned or used. Normally, this is considered a defect and swapping it out would resolve the issue. But based on my experience and countless other reviews/posts on-line, this is quite common with the AT305.
Whether you call it a defect, poor build quality, or a cheap display, it's not desirable.
Just in general, when you make something smaller, you tend to make some sacrifices. In this case, it was the battery life. To test it out, I started with a fully charged battery. Then basically used it non-stop until I got down to 20% remaining, at which point we were right at 6 hours of usage. This isn't very good. Although keeping mind this is "heavy" usage. I was downloading a bunch of apps, playing games, watching movies, and even ran a benchmark or two during that time.
So I'd say heavy usage, you're looking at 7+ hours. Personally I don't like allowing the battery get much lower than 20%, so that's normally about the time I'm looking for a power cord. And yes, the power adapter is straight out of the 90's. There's no reason it needs to be that big; but it is, and I got over it.
For me, with "normal usage," I'm easily lasting the entire day on a single charge. This is mostly because I don't use it non-stop and spend most of the time checking e-mail or surfing the web. And overall, it's a fair compromise for its light weight and thinness.
As with the A510, the AT305 has down-firing speakers at the bottom, and there are in fact two of them (unlike the TF201). They are backed by Toshiba and SRS enhancements, which are definitely needed. If these sound enhancements are turned off, the sound is horrible. But with them on, the speakers actually sound pretty descent.
I do suggest turning on the "boost" function if it's not loud enough. Surprisingly even with that turned on and volume maxed out, there is no distortion. The A510's speakers still sound noticeably better as there is most detail and they have a fuller sound. The TF305 has a tendency to sound a bit muffled at times, depending on how you're holding it.
I still wish they'd put them forward facing. Otherwise, I find them perfectly acceptable and wouldn't mind watching a few shows or demoing the device to friends.
So let's wrap this one up.
+ Looks very nice
+ Light weight and thin
+ Tegra 3 Performance
+ Full-size SD Card Slot
+ USB functionality
+ Descent stereo speakers
+ Gorilla Glass
- LCD Light Bleed
- Only "OK" battery life
- No SD Card Slot Cover (when in use)
- Considering specs (16GB model), could be a bit cheaper
So how bad is the light bleed? It's annoying enough that this is getting returned. I've been in the IT field for nearly 2 decades and have repaired so many computers and electronics (including many LCD's), I wouldn't even want to guess as to how many. In other words, I know a defect when I see one. :) However, my lovely wife did play with this for a while and she did "volunteer" to take it off my hands - even after showing her the light bleed. It didn't bother her one bit, which I'm sure will be the case for many other folks out there.
So my search for a solid Android tablet continues. On the plus side, I think we're getting closer! Just give me all of the good features from Asus, Acer, and Toshiba, and we'll have one killer tablet on our hands. Come on folks, it can't be that hard to spend $400-$500 on a tablet without making compromises.