The competition—which includes not just Apple, but Samsung, Dell and Archos—have all opted for a restricted set of connectivity options or a fiddly choice of ports (micro USB, miniHDMI, microSD and proprietary connectors all feature elsewhere), but Toshiba has made a bold change. You wanted USB? You got it: one full-sized port and one mini! An HDMI output? There's one on the side, and it's not a mini either! There's no need to go and dig out that miniHDMI convertor ...
Some tablets have a microSD card slot ... but the Folio has a real SD/SDHC slot. It's big, has lots of connectivity options, Android 2.2, and goes for around £400. Could the Folio 100 be the perfect tablet?
It's certainly big ... and heavy too
Picking it up can be an off-putting experience: the Folio 100 is certainly big. It's bulkier than Apple's iPad, and 30 grams heavier than the 3G versions, at 760 g on the scales. The ideal way to use a 'mobile' product this big is to sit down and keep it on your lap, but as we'll see later on, the screen soon leaves your wrists in an uncomfortable position.
The Folio 100's exterior mixes a variety of different plastics, but Toshiba has made a few basic mistakes with the finish: the display is mounted in the tablet so sloppily that there's a bit of a wobble in the gap between the frame and the screen. The cover over the connectors is a bit flimsy, as is the screen lock at the left hand side, and the touch sensitive buttons are, well, not too sensitive. We're still glad to see so many inputs and outputs though.
The wide edges make it easy to hold the tablet without covering up the touchscreen, and, in some ways, it's good that the touch-sensitive buttons don't pick up too many false positives. Toshiba has done a good job of fitting the speakers into the rest of the device, but it's just a shame it hasn't thought to include a stand, like Archos did with the 70 and 101 IT.
Screen should have been screened out
With such a big screen, you're naturally tempted to surf the web and watch plenty of videos, so Toshiba is going to have to make sure it's up to scratch, especially given that the manufacturer has plumped for TN technology. But when we started testing it, things took a definite turn for the worse. Firstly, the contrast ratio is just 244:1, the worst we've seen on any tablet we've tested so far. The response time isn't worth celebrating either at 35 ms. The colours are all over the shop too, with an average deltaE of 10.3 and a strong blue tinge meaning it struggles to reproduce them accurately.
And because it's a TN panel, the viewing angles are very narrow, so the colours appear to inverse as you tip the screen forwards and fade to black as you push it back. The angles are so narrow that you spend more time getting it lined up nicely than anything else. In the three photos below, you can see what we saw firstly if the tablet is slightly tilted towards the user, then perfectly straight, then tipped back. It's three very different worlds ...
It's almost impossible to relax with a film by gently tipping the tablet to a comfortable angle. There are so many problems with the Folio 100's display that it feels like it's ten years out of date. It's a very large weakness, and almost critical.
Android and Folio
Because it's running Android 2.2, the Folio 100 has a definite advantage over other tablets in terms of its ability to manage the hardware resources and ensure overall stability, even if the OS still isn't totally cut out for use on a tablet. While we're waiting for Android 3.0 Honeycomb and the support for larger screens it promises, Android tablets are forced to rely on extra software support, so Toshiba has had to add a few extras to Google's mobile OS. The choice of different desktops is hardly innovative, but at the bottom of the screen there's an interesting menu bar with easy access to a series of apps organized by category. Both this Toshiba-designed menu and the rest of the interface are very smooth, and the credit can go to the Tegra 2 processor. You can flick from an app to a web page and then onto watching a video without any noticeable lag.
Another problem of putting a version of Android before 3.0 on a tablet is that the Folio can't access the Android Market directly, and needs instead to rely on a workaround. To get more apps, users need to go via the Toshiba Market Place, which has been specially created for the Folio 100. It only has a limited selection of free and paid-for apps at the minute, but there's also access to music downloads from 7Digital, which doesn't have a very big catalogue and streaming web radio.
Jack of all trades ... and master of none?
If the large number of inputs and outputs and the choice of Android as an OS are anything to go by, Toshiba wants its Folio 100 to be open to a wide range of users and should, in theory, be able to offer a lot of different ways to keep them entertained.
For the web, the browser is one of the fastest we've seen, but still doesn't support Flash, because Toshiba is still in negotiation with Adobe. There is some limited support: some windows pop up, but then it's impossible to see what's inside them once you've clicked on them. Although it's not going to win any awards for accuracy, the screen is big enough to show web pages off in both portrait and landscape mode.
For multimedia, your tunes won't sound quite as good as they should when they come out of the muffled speakers. We recommend you use the line out with some headphones instead, which, although it's not the most accurate reproduction ever, is still less annoying than the speakers and is powerful enough.
Watching video is a frustrating experience. We would have like to enjoy high definition on a screen this big, but, unfortunately, even the 720p video we tried was jerky. Archos and Samsung both make tablets that can both play and record this format, not always without complaining, it must be said, but you can still at least see what's on screen. The Folio 100 does do a decent job of showing SD video.
If you want to plug in an external hard drive, you should note that it has to be formatted using FAT32 rather than NTFS. When we tried looking at photos from an SD card, we had a few problems, with the tablet refusing to recognize some cards. When it does work, the photo viewer is fast, and, as long as you line the screen up properly, it's great for looking at photos. If you're plugged in at home, the Folio 100 is compatible with UPnP and go looking for content on your local network.
Your choice of apps is automatically limited by only having Toshiba Market Place, but there are guides on the web that show you how to force Android Market to run on the Folio 100. It's a little disorganised, but at least it looks nicer than Google's own Market. Then again, as nice as the animations are, there are hardly any apps, whether you're looking for free content or are willing to shell out some money. You can still find a few 'must haves', including a new browser like Dolphin Browser HD.
The webcam is so fast we thought it was actually running a timer ... but do we really need to say much about the quality of the photos it takes?
Like every other tablet manufacturer, Toshiba claims that its new product has a battery life of between eight and ten hours. And just like everybody else, the reality is very different. We were expecting it to manage about seven hours of video playback, but it said goodbye after just 5 hours 34 minutes. That's about the same as the Dell Streak, but can't compete with the Galaxy Tab, the iPad or the Archos 70 IT. The screen is bigger than some of those other devices, of course, but it's so mediocre you have to turn the brightness right up to be able to see anything, which counts heavily against it. When you're using it for lots of things at once, the Folio 100 doesn't manage to go for much longer than six hours.
Although it's regularly updated by Toshiba, the Folio 100 is still something of a poor first attempt at a tablet: all of its strengths are weakened by a number of significant problems. The powerful processor and large screen are undermined by the dreadful display, stuttering HD video, lack of support for Flash, below average battery life, an uninspiring finish and the rather empty Toshiba Market. As a result, it's hard to claim it's good value for money, but perhaps an upgrade to Android 3.0 will bring a bit of life into it.