Review: Toshiba Tablet AT330

Review: Toshiba Tablet AT330

The 13in Toshiba Tablet AT330 is huge, but little thought has gone into the overall user experience

The 13in Toshiba Tablet AT330 is huge, but little thought has gone into the overall user experience.

Design and display

There's no mistaking just how big the Toshiba Tablet T330 is. At almost 344mm wide and nearly 212mm tall, this is one giant Android tablet. Despite its size, Toshiba's designers do deserve some credit. The AT330 is just 9.81mm thick, which is barely 1mm thicker than the company's regular sized 10in (AT300) tablet.

The Tablet AT330's overall design is positive, too. The formula is based on the company's 7.7in (AT270) and the 10in AT330 tablet, particularly the latter. We quickly grew fond of the grippy, aluminium panel on the back. This surface, filled with tiny, indented circles, means the AT330 won't easily slip out of your grasp. The metallic silver finish also contrasts nicely with the glossy back front, though the latter is a fingerprint magnet and is quite reflective.

Unfortunately, the build quality of the Toshiba Tablet AT330 can't match that of the company's smaller and impressive AT270. The bezel surrounding the display on our review unit clearly creaked when any force was applied and the edges physically depress, too. There's also a thin gap between the edge of the plastic in this area which easily attracts dust and particles after just a few days of use.

The sheer size of the AT330 also makes it a tough device to hold and we found no comfortable way to balance it in our hands. The extra screen size comes at a huge cost of weight, too. At almost 1kg (997.9g to be exact), the AT330 is by far the heaviest Android tablet on the market. Although this has been designed for use in and around the home, the weight will still pose an issue for many users.

Toshiba has at least utilised all of that extra space for plenty of ports on the Tablet AT330. On the right side you'll find a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a micro-USB port for connecting to a computer, a micro-HDMI port for connecting to a television or projector and a full-sized SD card slot. The latter is a welcomed feature, as most other Android tablets tend to use the smaller microSD card slot for expandable memory.

There's also a round power connector on the right side, so the AT330 ditches the giant, bottom-mounted dock connector of previous models. While the connector itself is smaller, the cable includes a notebook-like power brick that adds further weight and bulk to the already large package. The upside to this connector is that it charges the AT330 in less than two hours.

On the left side of the Tablet AT330 is a power/lock screen button, while the a screen rotation lock slider and volume controls are located at the top. While these top mounted buttons provide good tactility and are comfortable to press, their position makes them hard to access. On the bottom of the tablet are two speakers that pump out relatively decent sound for a tablet.

The Toshiba Tablet AT330 has a 13.3in LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1600x900. The display is bright, clear and responsive to touch, but it lacks the vivid colours and striking brightness that we've come to expect from AMOLED screens. It also displays dimmer blacks than many rival devices.

The 1600x900 resolution gives the Tablet AT330 a pixel density rating of 138ppi (pixels per inch), slightly less than the AT300's 149ppi. This is significantly less than Apple's new iPad (264ppi) and the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity (224ppi). Text is certainly readable but if you look closely you'll notice plenty of visible aberrations on the edges of letters. The extra screen real estate is definitely an advantage for watching movies and videos, but the overall quality isn't great.

Read more: Toshiba eyes cancelling chip unit sale if no China approval by May, reports say

Software and performance

The Toshiba Tablet AT330 runs an almost completely stock version of Google's Ice Cream Sandwich Android OS. This user interface is almost entirely void of any software customisation by Toshiba, aside from some video and audio enhancements that although work relatively well, don't add a significant deal to the overall package.

There are a wealth of included apps on the Toshiba Tablet AT330 that otherwise normally wouldn't come with Ice Cream Sandwich. These include Amazon Kindle, the ThinkFree Office Suite, a File Manager, the WildTangent Games app store, Norton Security, the PrinterShare app, Toshiba's Service Station app for software updates, the Skitch drawing app, a sound recorder, the Splashtop remote desktop app and the TuneWiki social media player. Toshiba has also pre-loaded Reckless Racing and Shadowgun games, both nice inclusions.

Besides the games, most of these pre-loaded apps are underwhelming, though Toshiba's Media Player is definitely worth a second look. In addition to acting as a player for video and music files and a photo viewer, the app also allows you to stream multimedia content to compatible DLNA devices like televisions.

The default Ice Cream Sandwich software runs relatively well on the Tablet AT330 but the software hasn't been optimised for this huge display and that's ultimately the achilles heel of this tablet. There isn't a single app on the AT330 that has been designed with a 13.3in screen in mind. Most apps are simply blown up to fill the screen, creating an even more awkward experience than usual.

Apps are one thing but default functionality is another. Toshiba has seemingly dumped a standard interface on the AT330 with little thought or regard for user interaction. An example is the default keyboard, which still requires you to tap a '123' button to access numbers despite so much extra screen real estate. Most of Android's common tablet issues also remain, though these are issues with the platform itself rather than the Tablet AT330 hardware. The browser often lags when scrolling or zooming in on pages, especially image-heavy sites, and the screen takes too long to rotate when you change the orientation.

Performance is reasonably impressive but could be improved. We experienced some occasional lag when attempting basic tasks, like changing settings and scrolling through widget-heavy home screens, though all the games we played ran smoothly. We didn't experience any lag while gaming and both the graphics and frame rates are impressive.

Camera and battery life

The Toshiba AT330 appears to have exactly the same camera as the AT300 and that's bad news. It's one of the worst cameras we've ever seen on a tablet and almost all of the photos we captured suffered from a lack of focus, lots of image noise and a complete lack of detail.

In fact, the 5-megapixel rear camera hardly takes better quality images than the front-facing 2-megapixel camera, though at least the latter is useful for video call apps. Any photos or video captured with the camera can be stored on the AT330's 16GB of internal memory, or an SD card (not included).

Toshiba includes a software based SRS sound enhancer on the Tablet AT330 and it significantly boosts the volume of the larger speakers at the bottom of the device. There's a wide range of audio settings available to tweak including wide surround, volume boost, voice clarity enhancement and an automatic volume adjustment. There's also a video enhancement setting, but we didn't notice too much of a difference when it was switched on.

The Toshiba Tablet AT330 has reasonable battery life. In our tests, it lasted for up to seven hours before needing a recharge. Considering the large size of the screen, this is a reasonable result.

The Toshiba Tablet AT330 is available now through major Australian retailers for $699.

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