Muted excitement for latest Toshiba Android tablet

Shaw reviews Toshiba's Excite 10 SE tablet and HP's EliteBook Folio 9470m Ultrabook.

The scoop: Excite 10 SE tablet, about $350, by Toshiba.

What is it? Toshiba offers four different Android-based tablets, ranging from a 7.7-inch model (the Excite 7.7) and three different 10.1-inch models (the 10, the 10 LE and the 10 SE). The 10 SE weighs 1.4 pounds, measures 0.4 inches thick and includes the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) OS.

Hardware features include dual HD cameras (front and rear), a micro SD card slot for media transfer and extra storage, stereo speakers with SRS Premium Sound and the Nvidia Tegra 3 Super 4-Plus-1 quad-core processor. The base model includes 16GB of storage capacity, and you can upgrade to the 32GB model for an additional $50.

[ FRANKEN-TABLET: Toshiba Excite edges Microsoft Surface RT in test of 5 flawed tablets ]

Why it's cool: The tablet is basically the same as the company's other Excite tablets, save for the addition of Android 4.1 and some other minor changes. The price tag is about $50 less than a comparable iPad (the older iPad 2 is $400; the latest iPad with Retina display is $500). The back of the unit features a Fusion Lattice material that is easier to grip than the aluminum surface found on the Excite 10 model. The tablet gives you the full Android/Google tablet experience along with other services and apps that go along with it.

Some caveats: The 10SE model features lower-resolution cameras compared with the similarly priced Excite 10 model. On the front, you drop to a 1.2-megapixel camera compared with a 2-megapixel camera; on the rear, you drop to 3 megapixels from a 5-megapixel version. In addition, there's no micro HDMI port, which you have on the Excite 10 model. You're also replacing a full-size SD card slot for the new micro SD card slot. In addition, your Wi-Fi is limited to 2.4GHz; it's not a dual-band radio. There's also no built-in 3G or 4G wireless, so you're limited to Wi-Fi areas for Internet access (although you could connect via a Mi-Fi-type mobile hotspot device). The tablet is also sold directly through Toshiba's website; you can't find it at other retailers.

Grade: 3.5 stars (out of five)

The scoop: EliteBook Folio 9470m Ultrabook, by HP, about $1,350.

What is it? This is HP's first ultrabook designed for business users -- the light notebook also includes docking capabilities (if you get the $150 UltraSlim Docking Station), longer battery life options and IT features like security management tools (including an integrated smart card reader). The 14-inch notebook measures only 0.75 inches thin and weighs about 3.5 pounds. It also includes three USB 3.0 ports, a VGA and DisplayPort, built-in Ethernet and memory card reader (SD/MMC).

Other specifications include the latest versions of 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and options for 3G and 4G network connectivity, a 720p webcam and integrated stereo speakers.

Why it's cool: The notebook is small enough to make mobile workers feel like they're carrying around the latest-and-greatest thin notebook, yet big and powerful enough to make the IT group happy (on both the security side and software side). Unlike other ultrabook models, the 9470m doesn't feel like it will break into 50 pieces if you drop it (although it's not protected for large drops like more rugged notebooks).

The long battery life options are also impressive -- depending on the battery chosen (as well as the hard drive type you pick), you can get from 8.5 hours up to 21.75 hours of battery life. That's a lot of work that can get done before you need to worry about where you've stashed the power adapter!

Some caveats: The version I was sent included Windows 8, which dampened my enthusiasm greatly. It's unclear why someone would want a Windows 8 notebook without a touchscreen -- the display on the 9470m is not a touchscreen. You can get the notebook with Windows 7 flavors installed (as well as FreeDOS), so it's hard to completely ding the notebook for this problem. I'm also not a fan of the dual headphone/microphone combo port, which can make for difficult webchats (most headsets I use still use the dual jacks).

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.

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Tags android tabletConfiguration / maintenanceToshiba Excite 10 SEEliteBook Folio 9470mPCNetworkingwirelesshardware systemsToshiba TablettoshibaData CenterHP EliteBookHP ultrabookMicrosoftnvidiaHewlett-Packard (HP)

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Keith Shaw

Network World
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