Hands-on with Toshiba Thrive tablet and Satellite ultrabook

Toshiba provided a sneak peek at its first ever ultrabook and itsseven-inch tablet on Wednesday in the race to keep pace with its rivalsin the increasingly competitive global market for thinner, lighterlaptops.

The Thrive seven-inch Android 3.2 tabletwill hit the Canadian market by the end of November. Pricing hasn’tbeen finalized yet, with Toshiba keeping a close eye on competitorprice points during the lead up to the lucrative fourth quarter holidayshopping season.

A look at Toshiba’s Thrive tablet.

“We don’t have specifics yet but it’ll be below $400. We’re waiting tosee what happens in the market,” said Steve Wong, product manager forconsumer notebooks in Toshiba Canada’s information systems group.

“This seven-inch will compete with (RIM’s) Playbook, the Acer Iconiaand, indirectly, the (Amazon) Kindle Fire. It has to be competitiveagainst those offerings,” Wong said at a preview of the devices formedia in Toronto.
Pricing will play a key role in Toshiba’s drive to capture a 10 per cent shareof the world’s overall tablet market by 2013, a goal announced by its digital products president Masaaki Oosumi at a Tokyo press conference in April. A sub-$400 price tag for the Thrive seven-inch is in line with recent pricing pressure from other Android tablets. There were fire sales on HP TouchPads, andseveral other Android tablets on the market can be had for under $350,including the Acer Iconia Tab A100, Lenovo IdeaPad A1, ViewSonicViewPad 7 and the original Samsung Galaxy Tab.

As for what slice of the tablet market the new seven-inch Thrive isaimed at, Wong said it’s designed to appeal more to consumer rather than enterprise users.

“Right now Android is targeting a type of family consumer user, butyou’re starting to see some more business oriented tablets coming out,”Wong said. “Right now these (Thrive seven-inch) devices are targetedtowards consumers.”

Compared with its precursor, the Thrive 10-inch, the new model issmaller but still packs a big visual punch, with Toshiba calling it thefirst seven-inch tablet on the Canadian market with a true HD display.

“And it runs on the exact same (screen) resolution as the 10-inch butit’s so much finer on the seven-inch. It’s the highest resolution youcan get on a seven-inch tablet on the market right now,” Wong said.

Compared to some other seven-inch tablets out there, this one has anadaptive screen display that automatically adjusts its brightnessdepending on whether the tablet is being used indoors or outside (userscan override this function manually if they wish). It also has microSD, mini HDMI and mini USB ports, giving it more connectivity optionsthan Amazon’s seven-inch Kindle Fire tablet, Wong said.

The camera on the seven-inch Thrive comes with a flash, something the10-inch model lacked. Not all the changes from the 10-inch Thrive are necessarilybetter, depending on user needs. Although the battery in the 10-inchThrive was removable (in case users wanted to buy an extra battery tohave on hand while the other was charging), the seven-inch battery is afixed internal with a life of about six to eight hours, Wong said. TheThrive seven-inch will come with 1GB of memory and will be availablewith either 16 or 32 GB of storage.

Toshiba also gave media a chance to kick the tires on its entrant inthe ultrabook race, the Z830. Billedby Toshiba as the lightest 13.3-inch laptop in the world, it weighs inat “less than 2.5 pounds,” according to Toshiba.

“It’s the thinnest and the lightest but you’re not giving up anythingin terms of connectivity,” said Ken Lam, commercial notebook productmanager at Toshiba Canada’s information systems group.

The Z830 has full-sized ports (including two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0port, and an HDMI port), a plus compared to the mini ports offered by some ultrabook competitors such asLenovo. 3G connectivity will be available starting in February 2012.Other features touted by Toshiba include a spill resistant backlitkeyboard, HD webcam, fixed internal eight-hour battery and Toshiba’sHi-Speed Start Technology that promises start-up times as fast as 10 to13 seconds.

Toshiba’s first ultrabook.

The Z830 will hit the Canadian market in mid- to late November. Likethe Thrive seven-inch, pricing for this ultrabook isn’t finalized yet but the entry level i3 model will be sold at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of “under $1,000,” Lam said. The i5 and i7 models, equipped with more Intel processor muscle for enterprise users, will both be more expensive with final pricing yet to be determined, he added.

The Z830 will be marketed in two versions: the Satellite Z830 forconsumers (with a glossy screen) and the Portege Z830 for enterpriseusers (with a matte, non-glare screen and other business features likefingerprint recognition security).

Apple has dominated the market for ultrabooks– super thin, lightweight laptops that run on powerful Intel processors–  with its 11- and 13-inch Macbook Air models, but ultrabookbuyers looking for PC alternatives now have many alternatives to choosefrom, including offerings from Samsung, Lenovo and Acer. Although Toshiba is releasing a Portege version specifically forbusiness users, it’s not aiming the Z830 more towards the enterprisemarket than the retail market, Lam said.

“I believe it’s for both (consumer and business) markets equally. Iwouldn’t say it’s totally for the business market,” Lam said.

Christine WongChristineWong is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow her on Twitter,and join in the conversation on the IT BusinessFacebook Page.
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