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Toshiba AC100 review

Verdict

Has so much to offer tech junkies that it feels like a bargain, but the limited software makes it clear this is a first-generation device

Review Date: 20 Sep 2010

Reviewed By: Tim Danton

Price when reviewed: £212 (£249 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

If you look at any Toshiba advert you'll see the phrase "Leading Innovation" sneaked in somewhere, and that's exactly what the AC100 aims to show. This is no run-of-the-mill ultraportable running Windows 7; instead, it totes a highly tweaked version of Google Android.

And it had to be tweaked. The AC100 has a 1,024 x 600 screen and uses a keyboard as its sole input method, with no touchscreen to navigate system options. It could have been a disaster, but numerous thoughtful design touches make using it a pleasure rather than a chore. (You can see a selection of screenshots here.)

Those neat touches stem from the physical design, which we praised in our exclusive preview of the AC100 earlier this year. For example, the Esc key doubles as Back, which is vital when browsing through Android's menus, and you can jump straight to Settings by pressing the cog-wheel button at the top-right. To flick between open applications, press the button to its immediate left; switching on wireless or changing brightness is also a simple button-press.

The keyboard itself is pretty good for such a small device. We had no trouble reaching good typing speeds thanks to the generously sized keys, and although the action is nothing special - clicky is a word that springs to mind - touch-typists should have little trouble adjusting. The one annoying omission is a Delete key; Backspace and separated cursor keys are your only friends if you make a mistake.

Toshiba AC100

Toshiba has even made the effort of partnering with DataViz to provide an adapted version of Documents To Go. Dubbed "Basic", this loses the ability to perform word counts in Word To Go or inserting new worksheets in Sheet To Go, and most aggravatingly you can't create new documents - but you can get around this by opening an existing blank document. If you do want to access such options, you'll need to pay $15.

Which brings us to potentially the biggest problem for the AC100: the apps. Or, more precisely, the lack of them. While Toshiba does include an eBook reader, Fring for VoIP calls, an Amazon MP3 app and Evernote, you can't perform the usual Android trick of heading to the Android Marketplace to download the app of your choice.

Instead, you must make do with the Camangi Market. This is no artificial restriction: there's an inherent difficulty when trying to use an app designed for a 480 x 800 screen on the AC100's large display. However, the Camangi Market is embarrassingly sparse with just 145 apps. There's no battery meter, for instance, and while there are some useful apps (a money manager, for instance, and a currency converter), we'd say the majority wouldn't pass the Apple quality-control test.

Perhaps surprisingly, the lack of touchscreen isn't such a killer. While being unable to tap a dialog button can be frustrating, and you sometimes hit odd interface problems (such as wanting to drag the scrollbar down, when counter-intuitively that moves the screen up in the same way that dragging a screen with your finger would work), the responsive touchpad and numerous shortcut keys make life easier.

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User comments

802.11 draft-n support?

(On the Specs page).

My god, is 802.11n STILL not finalised? The IEEE must be the only organisation in the world slower that n-Power (my new boiler installation has just passed its first anniversary!).

By JohnAHind on 22 Sep 2010

My previous comment a month or two back about "Draft-N support" in specifications met with a complete ignoral...

By JohnGray7581 on 22 Sep 2010

Lack of apps

I'm thinking the lack of apps could make this machine a good candidate for beginner and/or elderly computer users. Are there any other advantages/disadvantages highlighting suitability for this role?

By luke20 on 22 Sep 2010

Thankfully avoided this

It was high on my short list. However, unfavourable usability issues by some commentators both here and elsewhere on the net, put the mockers on that.

Bought Eeepc 1001 instead.
not exactly heaven (XP HOME - eurgh!), but at least it's flexible enough to be useful.

By technogeist on 23 Sep 2010

draft-n

We've asked our company's website tech team (that is, Dennis Publishing's tech team rather than PC Pro's) to change all mentions of draft-n in the specs list to 802.11n, but right now it's not high on their priority list. And because our database isn't exactly straightforward, this is a reasonably complex task.

As soon as we can get the work done, we'll change it.

Tim Danton
Editor, PC Pro

By TimDanton on 27 Sep 2010

silly idea?

I know the whole point of this was to push the boundaries of what we can do with android, but is there any reason why I couldn't put Ubuntu on it and have the great hardware tied to that?

My only other worry would be the battery life, but a spare battery would solve that.

By khellan on 19 Oct 2010

A 870-kg "ultraportable"?

"Weight 870.000kg" is too heavy for me.
Versailles, Sun 28 Nov 2010 19:55:00 +0100

By MichelMerlin on 28 Nov 2010

Weight mistake

Hi MichelMerlin - thanks for pointing this out! Corrected!

By TimDanton on 29 Nov 2010

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