Toshiba AC100 Smartbook Unboxing & First Impressions

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27 Aug, 2010 2:44 pm

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First Impressions

After spending a little bit of time on the AC100 here are my initial impressions below, and from someone who is new to Android. (which isn’t surprising if you live in Japan)

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The AC100 has great hardware, superior to Intel’s when it comes to mobile use with Nvidia Tegra 2 on board.  It’s incredibly thin and makes current netbooks feel like bricks. Toshiba rates the battery at 7 hours and standby time should be great. I’ll be getting to such figures in later benchmarks.

The biggest issue is the software side of things, mainly the OS. Android (2.1), while rocking the smartphone world, is just not suited to this netbook / smartbook form factor as of yet. For an OS built around finger touch the interface feels very mouse unfriendly. There’s no hover, no scrollbars,panning through items requires pan and drag (like you would in Photoshop). I couldn’t tab through text entry boxes. Right click is one of the dedicated Android buttons for bringing up a menu.

The default browser lacks any Flash, or any additions to make web browsing suitable to use with a mouse. I could not view YouTube or write any WordPress posts. Thankfully, Opera Mobile is pre-installed and has Flash working along with some tweaks to make mouse usage pleasant. You can actually use your scroll wheel to scroll pages, open up multiple tabs, write wordpress posts and view YouTube videos. Strangely YouTube video quality was horrible. Even in HD playback was clearly worse than SD. (update – obviously, it’s clearly the mobile version)

Web browsing seemed fine. Perhaps a little behind your typical Atom netbook in terms of speed and page load. A brief play showed everything working on the surface. The finger based interface pops up again – lots of wasted space that’s irrelevant when using a mouse. I did not like that there is no instant feedback when you click a link or anything visual when you hover over a link (since it’s a touch based OS we can’t have hover) which keeps you second guessing as to whether or not you actually clicked a link or not.

The first time I played back a 1080p H.264 video trailer, it stuttered slightly and crashed half way through. Worked fine the second time through and seemed to play flawlessly. I could transfer files from my SD card however my USB stick was deemed unfit – probably formatted wrong for Linux or something?

On the hardware side again. One USB port is going to be frustrating especially if you connect a wireless mouse, though you can always opt for a bluetooth connection with a mouse and free that USB port. My Logitech mouse worked fine, too. There’s no wired LAN connection so you’ll have to be careful which hotels you stay at, if you don’t have any workarounds.

My basic requirements on the go are WordPress and a working web browser. If these work well on the Toshiba AC100 then it could end up replacing my Intel Atom netbook but we’ll see how it fares over the next week or two.

* Toshiba likes to give Japanese users the special treatment, hence the Japanese model is uniquely known as the Dynabook AZ but it is the AC100. Toshiba Japan will be updating to version 2.2 at a later date. They did not comment on an upgrade to 3.0.

Read the comments for updated commentary on my Toshiba AC100 experience.

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