Portable computing companies appear to be hedging their bets in the laptop market. Whilst nobody but Apple can produce iPads, a lot of manufacturers are producing both Android and Windows 8 tablets, sometimes with very similar form factors. The Excite Pure is one of Toshiba's 10.1in Android tablets – but if you want a Windows 8 version, Toshiba makes one of those too, called the Encore, which looks rather similar from the outside although the interior specification is certainly different.
The Excite Pure has an attractive two-tone appearance, with a black glass front and silver back, which is mildly reminiscent of the original iPad although the back is textured. It's nothing radical, then, but has a solid, quality feel that is pleasant in the hand. At 630 grams, it's not the lightest 10in tablet out there, but neither is it heavy. We would describe the Excite Pure as firm but unassuming.
The power button is placed on the top edge towards the left in landscape orientation, which we found a little odd when using the tablet in portrait mode, as this places it on the left edge towards the bottom, where you probably wouldn't expect to find it. Of course, you can use the tablet the other way round, although this means all the ports and the volume control will be at the top.
On the left edge (in landscape mode) there’s a microUSB port, plus a combo microphone and headphone minijack. Toshiba offers up to 32GB of internal storage with the Excite Pure in some regional markets, although our UK model came with 16GB. If you need more storage, there's a microSD slot lurking under a cover, alongside the microHDMI port. So memory expansion is available, alongside the full range of connectivity.
There's an optional £78 Toshiba Keyboard cover, which acts as a stand but connects via Bluetooth, so doesn't quite turn the Excite Pure into an Asus Transformer admirer. You can usually add third-party accessories along these lines, but Toshiba's own model fits its Excite tablets perfectly, although we weren't sent one for the review so can't comment on the quality of the keyboard included. It's designed to act as a protective cover, so would be a good addition if you need to use your Excite Pure for extended typing sessions on the move.
Screen and sound
Although the 10.1in display's resolution of 1,280 x 1,080 matches up with a lot of existing tablets this size, we are now seeing four times this resolution from devices such as the Nexus 10 (opens in new tab), Kobo's Arc 10HD (opens in new tab), and Toshiba's own Excite Pro, so in this respect the Excite Pure is rather last year, although it is aimed more at the budget-conscious buyer.
The screen is not that bright, with its 240 lux rating somewhat behind the norm. However, what it lacks in brightness it makes up for in viewing angles, which are excellent. In landscape orientation, the Excite Pure's stereo speakers are on the left and right edges towards the bottom. Audio has a good stereo image and decent detail, but isn't particularly loud or full of bass.
The Excite Pure runs a very standard version of Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean, with a few Toshiba enhancements, most of which sit behind the scenes, for example performing app updates more proactively than via the Play Store. This works through the Toshiba App Manager, which checks for updates automatically, although it doesn’t do much else other than recommending third-party apps like Zinio Reader. There is also a Service Station app that checks for firmware updates for you, and replaces this function in the Android Settings panel.
There are a few extra Toshiba apps, as well, which replace or extend existing Android apps. The Media Player app is a DLNA-compatible player, so can access media streaming devices on your network. The File Manager is attractively designed, and offers file searches for music, video and pictures, as well as general file types. TruCapture is a camera app specifically designed for business users wanting to take pictures of whiteboards, printed material and notebooks. It has special features for reducing reflections and automatically cropping, as well as whitening the background of written text.
Toshiba also bundles ThinkFree Office 6.0, which offers word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. The word processor saves in Word formats, the spreadsheet app saves as Excel, and the presentation tool saves as PowerPoint. However, although these apps are nicely designed for tablet use, they lack some important features, such as a word count in the word processor.
The Excite Pure is based around Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor, rather than the Tegra 4. This is the T30L variant running at 1.3GHz, so it is significantly behind the latest tablets, such as the Kobo Arc 10HD, particularly in 3D graphics performance. We had no issues with video, which played smoothly, even in full HD.
There's a reasonable 1GB of RAM on board, although here again we are seeing 2GB on lots of tablets now. In Geekbench 3, the Excite Pure managed a score of 340 single-core and 1046 multi-core, which is way behind the latest and greatest. Similarly, in the gruelling GFXBench T-Rex HD graphics test, it managed 2.8 fps offscreen and 5.3 fps onscreen, neither of which are particularly stellar. You should still be able to enjoy most entertainment software, but the latest games aimed at Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 800 might not be so pleasurable.
There's a 1.2-megapixel camera on the front and a 3-megapixel camera on the rear. However, the latter has no flash and its resolution is about four years out of date. So here again the Excite Pure has cut corners, although at least it has both front and rear cameras, so you can use it as a giant smartphone snapper, or for videoconferencing, as the need arises.
Toshiba claims the Excite Pure can last for 9.5 hours of video playback, and 11 hours of a more mixed combination of tasks. Our experience was pretty close to this, which is decidedly impressive and close to some of the best premium tablets.
Toshiba lists the Excite Pure as costing £249, but we have found it available for under £200, making this a bit of a bargain. There are compromises here, in particular the Tegra 3 processor and the display with its disappointing resolution. However, there are no significant features missing, with both front and rear cameras present, as well as microSD storage expansion. The Excite Pure certainly doesn't feel like a budget model, and would make a good choice if you want an affordable general-purpose tablet rather than a premium model from the bleeding edge.
Manufacturer and Model
Toshiba Excite Pure AT10-A-104
Nvidia Tegra 3
1GB DDR3 SDRAM
Nvidia Tegra 3 with 12 cores
16GB solid state disk
Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean
10.1in LED side-lit touchscreen TFT with WXGA 1,280 x 800 resolution
802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
MicroHDMI, microSD, microUSB, combo headphone / microphone
Width x Depth x Height
261 x 179 x 10.5mm
1 year carry-in