Design-wise, the Thrive is a mixed bag. From the front, it looks pretty generic, save for a chrome webcam surround. The screen is obviously the dominant feature here, though the larger bezel leaves it with a larger footprint than the rest of the 10” tablets. Beyond that, the front of the tablet has the front facing camera, mic, light sensor, and notification LEDs for power, battery, and WiFi—pretty simple. 

The back of the Thrive is more interesting; the battery cover takes up the entire rear portion, with a rubberized texture and chrome Toshiba badging. The curve of the sides and the texture make the Thrive feel pretty comfortable to hold, which is nice. The Thrive is a bit too wide to be ideal for one-handed use in landscape orientation, but for portrait and two-handed use, the design works well. The chrome webcam surround from the front wraps around to the back to house the rear facing camera as well. 

It’s the single worst thing about the Thrive’s design—a distinctly cheap industrial design element on an otherwise clean, if somewhat generic, device. I’m not sure who at Toshiba decided this was a good idea, but evidently they liked it enough to push it to the 7” Thrive as well.  The chrome plastic doesn’t help—if it was matte black plastic, or even a less-bright metal, I think I’d be a fan, just for adding an element of visual interest. But in chrome? It just looks kitschy. 

The lid otherwise is pretty cool. It’s one of the few recent tablets with a removable battery, which is always nice. Toshiba offers a number of replacement lids in different colors—I got a bright green one from them; other options include silver, dark blue, lavender, and a magenta-type color that Toshiba calls Raspberry Fusion. It adds a nice touch of color to the otherwise completely black device, and the cost is surprisingly reasonable (I’ve seen them go on sale for $5-7 pretty regularly). 

The best part of the design is the port selection. There are real, life-sized ports on board here—a USB port for connecting input devices and mass storage, a full-sized HDMI port (no smaller connectors or anything here, hooray!), a full-sized SD card slot, a mini-USB port to connect the tablet to a computer, and the standard headphone/mic combo jack. 

All of these ports are hidden by a cover that basically is just a thin plastic contour that is attached to the tablet by a strip of flexible plastic that's begging to be fatigued into failure or simply torn off with an errant gesture. It holds itself to the tablet using small plastic clips, and has the unique distinction of being at once poorly built, annoying to use, and basically devoid of any functionality. If this were my personal unit, I would tear the cover off, it doesn't serve much purpose other than keeping dust out of the ports. That usually doesn't present itself as a problem on other mobile devices with exposed connectors, so I just don’t see the point.

Toshiba definitely made some missteps with the design and build here, but they show that they are learning. Their next tablet, the Excite, measures at exactly 7.7mm thick and 558g (basically one-upping the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Transformer Prime), has none of the odd design elements that the Thrive does, and generally seems to bring Toshiba into the high-end of the Android tablet market. We’ll see about pricing and availability, but $499 and February wouldn’t be a bad bet. Either way, the Thrive isn’t nearly competitive with the Galaxy Tabs and iPads of the world from a device hardware standpoint. We expected that going in given the price delta, but it’s still worth noting that you do get what you pay for from a design standpoint. 

Toshiba's Thrive - The Hardware Performance
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  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    It's meant as "four to five hundred dollar range", which I'm sure you know, but I'll update it just for clarity.
  • cjs150 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    As these things get cheaper and cheaper I start wondering whether they can double as a really capable intelligent remote control device.

    Consider: I have a relatively simple AV system, TV, AV receiver, Blu ray player, cable box and am intending to add a small basic computer to it (media streaming from NAS, internet browsing and email device, maybe a little light and casual gaming - Zotac Nano AD10 or the new Via Artigo 1150 looks ideal). That will mean 4 remote controls and a media keyboard/mouse. Now I could buy an intelligent remote (use a Logitech Harmony in another room which is not bad but a bit clunky with the cable box). One of the top of the range remotes costs about same as this tablet (or Kindle fire)

    Surely taking a low end tablet would work better, just needs IR blaster, can double as both keyboard and mouse, programmable with lots of "activities" to switch things off and on.
  • therealnickdanger - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I picked up a few Acer A100s on Black Friday for $189. Great little Tegra 2 tablets. Anyway, I paired one up with the Logitech Link device. Any Android device on our network can use the Harmony app to control all our AV gear.
  • doggod - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Do any of the tablets come with ir built in, it would save having to have extra hardware to do the conversion.
  • Roland00Address - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    The sony s series tablets have IR built in and a preload app for remote control
    The samsung galaxy 7 plus also has an IR built in. The samsung galaxy 10.1 does not have IR built in.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - link

    Thanks everyone for the input. Definitely worth me looking more closely, maybe waiting until the prices come down a bit
  • therealnickdanger - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Like was posted by someone else, Sony has one.

    I can't speak to your exact need, but for my home theater needs, a stationary IR device is preferred. My experience with other universal remotes, even Harmony remotes, is that they often mess up complex IR requests due to angles or device reception.

    The benefit of the Link is that it works with any PC, Android or iOS device, whether it's a $600 Sony or a free smartphone.
  • Crono454 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure I understand all the Kindle Fire fan boys. There is no way I recommend that to anyone over the new nook. It is garbage and has been unanimously covered as medicare mediocre
  • tzhu07 - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    There is a huge design flaw. The perimeter bezel surrounding the display should be as clean as possible. This tablet is all dark, but then there's a chrome piece hanging off to one side. Very distracting.
  • VivekGowri - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - link

    The chrome webcam surround is literally the single worst thing about the design. If it was a matte black plastic and there wasn't a door hiding the ports, I'd like the Thrive about 50% more.

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