First Look: Toshiba Folio 100

Before we start, it must be said that the current build of the Toshiba Folio 100's firmware is far from complete. Indeed, the slightest deviation from the basic apps and functions causes the pre-production model to fall over faster than an amateur hurdler. Therefore, it should be remembered that this First Look is just that, and that there are caveats that we fully expect to be ironed out before release.

Certain elements of the tablet can be taken as final though, such as its physical build, capacitive screen and overall ambition. The form factor is not going to change. Nor is its overall spec. Any alterations from now will be software based, both at OS and app level.

That's not to say that there wasn't enough to see; far from it. The 1024 x 600 TFT-LCD screen, for example, is as bright and detailed as it's going to get. While doesn't quite have the resolution of the iPad (1024 x 768), it is 16:9, so the Folio already stands out as the more movie-centric media device on the block. Obviously, its aspect ratio is matched by the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but it's all about the real estate if you want to get a home cinema experience away from home.

The Tegra 2 processor is a constant too, and whips applications along like a Roman guard. One area where tablets outdo their netbook equivalents is in start-up time, and the Folio 100 is instantly on, instantly off. You also need that punch to play Full HD video files, both on device and through HDMI to a receptive TV. Thankfully, this tablet does both.

One surprise on board is its USB 2.0 port. Neither Samsung nor Apple allows USB devices to hook-up to their respective slates, and certainly not to transfer files to and fro, so it's welcome to see such connectivity offered by Tosh. A memory stick won't increase the storage though - that's through SD card only - but it will make hooking up cameras and other devices easier.

The Folio 100 is also DLNA compatible, allowing you to stream its video content to a compliant TV or set-top-box, or, alternatively, you can stream content stored on a PC or NAS box straight to the tablet. That way, you can watch video, listen to music files or look at photos indoors without having to store it on the internal memory. Nor do you have to use external software to convert file types on the fly, as there's healthy file support.

If there's anything negative to say at this juncture, of something that isn't likely to change before release, it's that the Folio 100 looks as if it's been designed by a PC company, rather than a lifestyle one. The build is more per functionary than pretty. It's not ugly per se, but the thick outer bezel and plain exterior more suits the editor of Computer Shopper than Vogue. And the overall size of 281 x 181 x 14mm comes in at a weight 760g; not exactly handbag material.

This current generation is also restricted to Wi-Fi use (802.11n), while a further model with 3G connectivity is planned for around Easter 2011, but at least that means that it is capable of fast access and quick streaming of HD content.

Battery life is a respectable 7 hours for general, multimedia use, and although there's no rear-mounted camera, there is a 1.3-megapixel webcam for videochat. Something tells us, though, that this will seldom be used; the Toshiba Folio 100 is more suited to media viewing than creating.

Verdict

What will determine the Folio 100's success or failure is its ability to impact on the sales and hype of both the iPad, obviously, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, it does have one distinct advantage, the price.

At £329 for the 16GB (upgradeable) Wi-Fi only version, it's a good £100 cheaper than the iPad, and offers more features and a 16:9 screen. In addition, as it runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo), there's already a world of apps and software available. The compatibility with Flash 10.1 and HTML5 for web browsing is also advantageous.

Our only worry is that it isn't the sexiest kid on the block. It's turned up to a rave in a three-piece suit, so it'll be interesting to see if any but the geekiest of geeks can see past the stern exterior. Maybe that's just what Tosh is after; leave the fly-by-nights and fashionistas to their toys, and focus on the hardcore technophiles. Time shall tell.

As will we, when we see the final review model in October.