Toshiba AC100 review

20 Sep 2010

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

Price when reviewed: 
249(£249 inc VAT)
4

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £212
Price inc VAT £249
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base Includes 1yr EU warranty

Physical specifications

Dimensions 262 x 190 x 21mm (WDH)
Weight 870g

Processor and memory

Processor Nvidia Tegra 250
RAM capacity 0.50GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 600
Resolution 1024 x 600
Graphics chipset Nvidia Tegra 250
Graphics card RAM N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 8GB
Hard disk usable capacity 8GB
Spindle speed N/A
Hard disk SSD
Optical disc technology None
Optical drive None
Battery capacity 2,300mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed N/A
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 1
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Speaker location Bottom
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? no
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Overall application benchmark score N/A
Office application benchmark score N/A
2D graphics application benchmark score N/A
Encoding application benchmark score N/A
Multitasking application benchmark score N/A
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Recovery method none
Software supplied Documents To Go Basic by DataViz, Evernote, Fring, Amazon MP3, FBReader