Technologizer

Toshiba’s New Tablets Loom Large (and Small, and Medium-Sized)

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Toshiba's new Excite 13 tablet.

In their never-ending, so-far-unsuccessful quest to give the iPad a run for its money, makers of Android tablets have produced models in a dizzying array of sizes. It doesn’t seem to be helping, and the novelty is wearing off. But I do confess to being intrigued by a new model which Toshiba is announcing today. It’s the Excite 13, with a 13″ screen that makes it the largest Android tablet so far. Toshiba gave me a sneak peek at the model recently — one of three tablets in an all-new lineup — and the screen is so spacious that it makes it feel like a different class of device altogether.

As its name suggests, the Excite 13 is a bigger brother to the 10″ Excite which Toshiba announced back at CES in January. It shares the same basic industrial design — a thin, curvy aluminum-clad look that makes it one of the few Android tablets to rival the iPad for sheer aesthetic splendor. Like the 10″ model, it has more connectors than most competitors, including an SD slot and Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports. (Toshiba is discontinuing its earlier Thrive line, which featured full-sized ports but were pretty chunky and plasticky by current standards.)

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If the Excite 13 were a laptop, its 13″ widescreen, with 1600-by-900 resolution, would qualify it for subcompact status. But it’s a strikingly large tablet — something I’ve been hoping someone would make. At .4″ thick and 2.2 pounds, it’s still reasonably portable, but Toshiba expects it to appeal to folks who intend to use their tablet mostly at home, not out and about. I think it could be a lot of fun for use with graphics apps: the iPad and other more conventionally-proportioned tablets are a tad cramped when it comes to sketching and painting.

The tablet has an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor with 1GB of RAM and will ship with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich; as with all Android tablets, its single biggest downside is going to be the sparse library of Android tablet apps. I hesitate to mention battery life, since claimed figures so often bear little resemblance to reality, but Toshiba says it’ll get up to 13 hours. If true, that’s impressive.

Toshiba is going to offer a 32GB version of the Excite 13 for $649.99 and a 64GB one for $749.99 — fifty bucks more than the equivalent iPad in each instance. (The company doesn’t have any immediate plans to ship versions with 3G or 4G wireless broadband.) It plans to ship them on June 10.

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Will the expansive Excite 13 do well, at least by Android tablet standards? I dunno, but I’m glad Toshiba is giving it a try.

The company is also announcing another new Excite in a new size, the Excite 7.7. It’s got a screen that measures — wait for it — 7.7″, and is Toshiba’s first tablet with a vivid AMOLED display instead of a more typical LCD screen. It looks similar to the larger Excites, has Micro SD and Micro USB, and is .3″ thick and weighs 13.4 ounces. It’ll go for $499.99 with 16GB and $579.99 with 32GB, and will also be available starting on June 10.

Lastly, there’s also a revised version of the original 10.1″ Excite. The new Excite 10 has similar specs to the 13″ model, including the Tegra 3, 1GB of RAM, SD slot, Micro USB and Micro HDMI. It’s .35″ thick and weighs 1.32 pounds. It’ll be available on May 6th in 16GB ($449.99), 32GB ($529.99) and 64GB ($649.99) variants.

Samsung remains the king of Android-tablet size experimentation: It’s got…let’s see…models at 5.3″, 7.0″, 7.7″, 8.9″ and 10.1″? (Why not, say, 6.3″ or 8.4″? I’m not sure…and for all we know, they’re coming.) But Toshiba now has a coherent lineup with machines that offer similar looks and benefits at three distinctly different sizes. That’s not so different from the approach that it’s long taken as a maker of notebooks, and it’ll be interesting to see if it works in the tablet business.

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