Android seems to be flavour of the month at the moment as far as smartphones are concerned, and it is set to start making inroads in the tablet market soon as well. Toshiba is among those set to launch an Android-based tablet, but in the meantime the company has come up with the AC100, an Android device in a notebook format. Does the combination actually work?
The AC100 comes in two flavours. We had the less expensive AC100-10Z to test, but for around £50 more you can get the AC100-10U which adds 3G data support. Apart from that, both versions of the notebook are identical and both have Wi-Fi.
The hardware is superb. A 10.1-inch screen makes for a small notebook that measures just 262 x 189 x 14-21mm and weighs a mere 0.87kg. The design is novel in that most of the chassis is brown with orange highlights. This won’t appeal to everyone, but we found it rather fetching.
Processing power comes via an NVIDIA Tegra 250 Mobile Web Processor, much more the kind of thing you’ll find in tablets and slates than in fully fledged notebooks. Its 1GHz dual core ARM A9 processor and NVIDIA graphics processor mean it can support 1080p video, and video playback is a real highlight of the AC100.
Ports and connectors are restricted, with a combined microphone and headphones slot, HDMI port and two USB ports being all you get. There is an SD card slot so you can boost the 8GB of built-in storage. Oh, and there is a webcam sitting above the screen so you can do a bit of video calling.
The screen’s 1024 x 600 pixels can’t compare to any ‘real’ notebook, and its reflective coating makes it a challenge to use in sunnier conditions. We can see that a computer like this might have appeal as a machine that moves around the home – and maybe also the garden – but in reality its reflectivity may limit its potential.
The keyboard is really nicely made. It felt comfortable under our fingers, and some thought has gone into making it Android specific, with a Home button for going to the Android home screen, separate media playback buttons, and a web browser shortcut. But there’s no multitouch support on the touchpad, which is a pity.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is that Android just doesn’t work well on the AC100. The basic Android apps don’t lend themselves to the keyboarded format in the same way they might do to a tablet. The keyboard simply feels redundant, largely because it is tricky to find software for producing and editing real documents. There’s no flash support so even many web based document editing options are out of the question.
There’s no Android Market, either. There is a marketplace for apps, the Camagni Market, but it doesn’t have much content and concentrates on apps formatted for the large, high resolution display. Toshiba has added a couple of apps including Documents to Go for viewing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, and the Opera web browser, but without the thousands of apps in the market, Android is hamstrung here.
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