When I attended IFA in Berlin in September and CEATEC in Tokyo in October, one of my favorite products at both shows was the same item: Toshiba’s 10″ tablet. But back then, Toshiba wasn’t saying anything about plans to bring it to the U.S.
Now it is. In this country, the tablet will be known as the Excite X10, and Toshiba says it will show up in “mid-Q1 2012″. (I guess that most likely means February.) It’s one of the company’s major announcements at CES, which is beginning to get underway in Las Vegas even though the show floor doesn’t open until Tuesday.
Toshiba says that the X10 is the thinnest 10″ tablet in the world–and it’s the only Android tablet I’ve seen that’s on a par with the iPad 2 in terms of pure industrial-design panache. In person, it looks nicer and is less of an iPad wannabe than it looks like in the above picture–the magnesium-alloy case has curvier corners than the iPad, and an indentation that runs around the edge. It weighs 1.18 pounds and is .3″ thick.
In terms of specs, the Excite has the goodies you might expect in a high-end Android tablet, including a 16:10 10.1″ display 1280-by-800 resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass, a 1.2-GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, a MicroSD slot, Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB ports, a 2-megapixel camera on the front and a 5-megapixel one on the rear, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
Judged on pure hardware appeal, the Excite looks like a winner; as usual, with Android tablets, though, the software side is a stickier matter. Toshiba’s press release says the Excite has “the latest Android technology,” but when I got a sneak peek at the tablet recently, Toshiba representatives told me that they weren’t yet positive whether it would ship with Honeycomb 3.2 or Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0. If it goes out the door with Honeycomb, they said, it will get Ice Cream Sandwich as soon as possible.
Toshiba will release two models of the Excite: a 16GB one for $529 and a 32GB one for $599. The first version is $30 more than an 16GB iPad 2, and the second one is the same price as a 32GB iPad 2. That’s steep, especially given that the prices of other Android tablets have started to tumble. (Last week, Sony knocked its Tablet S down to $400.)
Toshiba does have a 10.1″ tablet in the Sony’s price range, though: Its 10.1″ Thrive, which loses the Excite’s sex appeal but gains a removable battery and full size ports, remains on the market at $380. So does the 7″ Thrive which I recently reviewed. Toshiba plans to approach the tablet business much like it does the laptop business, with multiple product lines with different priorities and price points.
If I knew I wanted an Android tablet, the Excite X10 would certainly be on my list of contenders; if price wasn’t a big issue, it might even be at the top of it. (I’d want to see reviews with battery-test results before I plunked down my money, however.)
But Toshiba, like all makers of Android tablets, is still hobbled by the fact that Google’s software isn’t yet an inspiring tablet operating system, and it’s way too short on top-notch tablet apps. That’s why the question “Why should I buy this instead of an iPad?” is still so difficult for Android tablets to answer convincingly. Even an attractive one like the Excite X10.