Toshiba AT200 Review

Toshiba is proud of the fact that its AT200 it the thinnest tablet going. That pride might be justified, too, in a market lead by Apple, with the latest iPad proving to be slightly thicker than its predecessor.

At 7.7mm thick, the AT200 measures a shave less than the new iPad's 9.4mm thickness. However, because the edges are squared off, rather than tapered, the AT200 doesn't look especially thin. The 256 x 176mm front dimensions don't help with that perception, either, but a device housing a 10.1in display can only be so small. On the plus side, at 535g the AT200 is comfortable to hold for long periods of time.

The AT200 is a handsome device at a distance thanks to its glossy black bezel at the front and a brushed-metal effect finish at the rear. The buttons on the AT200's edge have a reasonable feel to them, and in a nice touch there's a slider than works as either a mute or orientation lock toggle, depending on an option in the device's settings menu.

However, the AT200 isn't the most sturdily built tablet. No doubt as a result of its slender frame. Although a somewhat subjective observation, the AT200 doesn't feel like it will stand up to much abuse. There's enough flex to leave the impression that pressing too hard on the rear when holding the AT200 might even send your fingers through the screen. Given the price, it seems reasonable to expect more.

The display is also a bit of a let down. Although it's not surprising that the display's 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution doesn't look as sharp as the new iPad Retina display the image produced is bright and vivid. There is a more fundamental issue, however, in the tendency for presses to go unregistered at the far edges of the screen.

Inside the tablet, a 1.2GHz CPU is coupled to 1GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. The AT200 is fitted with a microSD card slot, enabling extra capacity to be added if needed. A micro-USB port is provided in addition to a proprietary docking port in the bottom, alongside a mini-HDMI output and headphone port. Frustratingly the USB port is only used for connecting the AT200 to a computer to transfer data - only the proprietary cable can charge the tablet.

A front-facing camera for video calling is also provided, and does its job well-enough not to disappoint. The rear 5-megapixel camera fitted to the AT200 is, as expected, nothing to write home about, although it does serve as useful proof that resolution really isn't everything, producing muted, underwhelming images. Although it's possible to record up to 1080p video on the AT200, it certainly won't replace a dedicated camera.

As hinted, despite its processor's reasonable clock speed, and decent amount of RAM inside the AT200, performance isn't fantastic; a result of running an older, less well-tuned version of Android than other tablets. Navigating menus feels smooth enough, but complex web pages can take a noticeably long time to render (the inability to use Chrome doesn't help, here) and games have a tendency to stutter from time to time. This subjective perception is backed up by the AT200's Passmark score of 1,627, some 600 points less than the Asus Transformer Prime's 2,249, currently the highest scoring tablet on that benchmark.

Toshiba's claim of eight hours of battery life is a little optimistic, but with light use the AT200 will manage a little over seven hours. Watching videos and playing games will pull that down nearer to six hours, but even that isn't terrible, although the best of the competition offer better longevity.

Where the AT200 really lets itself down is the version of Android it runs, namely 3.2. Having used devices with the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), it's a slight shock reverting to the older build, as it's somewhat lacking in a number of areas. The inability to install Chrome, for example, is disappointing, and there's no quick way to close open applications, which negatively impacts both performance and battery life.

Thas made a couple of efforts to improve the stock experience, with a selection of its own apps. One of these is Toshiba Places, which gives access to video, music and game downloads. This is only likely to appeal to AT200 owners who also have a Toshiba TV, which can also access Places content, otherwise it's no improvement over the Google Play store.

Toshiba also has its own media player on the AT200, which works well. Particularly useful is the ability to stream files from a network device, such as a NAS box, as the Toshiba-provided file browser can only access the built-in storage, however the lack of support for formats such as DivX, will leave many looking for other options. The size of the AT200 of course means that the speakers built into it have no chance of blowing you away, but the audio quality is okay for the odd TV episode, or YouTube clip.

It's a shame for Toshiba that the AT200 doesn't live up to the promises it makes. An attractive and slender frame is compromised by disappointing build quality, mediocre performance and an out-dated version of Android. An Ice Cream Sandwich update is promised, which will improve things, but that doesn't help the AT200 now.

Verdict

The fact that the AT200 is the thinnest tablet on the market isn't enough to warrant its selection over the alternatives. It's a classic case of style over substance, in a marketplace crammed with tablets offering both.

Pros: One of the most handsome Android tablets available.

Cons: The old version of Android fails to impress, and there's no knowing when an Ice Cream Sandwich update will arrive.

Score: 6/10

Manufacturer: Toshiba

Price: £379