Toshiba has launched three new 'Excite' tablets, all 10.1-inch devices rocking Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and all of them hitting UK stores in 2013 Q3. The Excite Pure is the most affordable new tablet, offering everyday performance from £249, while the Excite Pro and Excite Write pack the formidable nVidia Tegra 4 chipset for handling the latest games. The Write also comes with a stylus pen, as the name suggests, if you want to get all arty.
We had the chance to play around at the official London launch event earlier, and here's what we thought...
Toshiba Excite Pure
The Toshiba Excite Pure is an nVidia Tegra 3 tablet that is aimed at everyday consumers - it's designed to browse the web, run mainstream apps and play your media. From the front it's your typical black-border ten-inch device, with touch back, home and app shortcuts on the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean desktop instead of the tablet itself.
The back and sides are silver plastic, and while the finish is put to shame by premium devices such as the Google Nexus 10, and does flex a little pushed, we didn't notice any worrying weak spots. The Excite Pure does feel quite chunky and heavy, however, at 10.2mm and 600g. Maybe we've just been spoiled by the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, which is 6.9mm thick and over 100g lighter.
At £249, the Excite Pure quite pricey for an entry-level tablet, especially when you can pick up a slew of seven-inch tablets for around £149 these days. However, it seems to run apps just fine, the 1280 x 800 resolution produces some good-looking images, and the tablet comes with an HDMI port for connecting to a TV, as well as a 3MP rear camera and front-facing lens. We'll hold off judgement until we've had a proper play.
Toshiba Excite Pro
The Excite Pro is Toshiba's new premium tablet, starting at £349. Considering you can snap up the Nexus 10 for £30 less, and the likes of Apple's iPad for not much more, we're hoping the Excite Pro has some pretty strong features to entice in consumers.
First thing we noticed was the near-identical design to the Excite Pure. In fact, with the exception of the Harmon Kardon speakers around the back, we struggled to see any difference at all. It's a tiny bit thicker and heavier than the Excite Pure, though not noticeably. The same silver plastic finish decorates the edges and rear, which is a shame - we'd have preferred a more premium design considering the price.
It may look the same at first glance, but the Excite Pro's screen features a much sharper 'PixelPure' 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution, which makes movies and games look fantastic. Games are easily handled by the powerful Tegra 4 chipset, backed up by 2GB of RAM. You get the usual full range of ports and an 8MP camera for shooting on the go (plus a 1.2MP front-facer).
Toshiba Excite Write
Again, deja vu on the looks - the Excite Write looks just like the Pro, but this tablet rocks a stylus so you can scrawl directly on the screen. We only had a brief play with Toshiba's TruNote app, but the screen and pen seem to work together well.
The TruNote app can cleverly decipher your handwritten scrawls and change it into text, and even convert hand-drawn tables into the real thing. In our brief play, we found ourselves stumbling through the menus - it's not an intuitive piece of software by any means - so we'll have to wait for the full review to test out these features. There's also nowhere to store the pen (unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, which has a handy slot), so you'll have to stick it somewhere safe to avoid losing it.
The Excite Write starts at £499 which makes it a hard sell - the Galaxy Note 10.1 is a fantastic rival device, and we'd hoped the Write would be a chunk of change less to encourage sales. Internally, it's the same specs as the Pro, so at least you're getting a powerful processor and uber-crisp HD screen.