After a shaky start with tablets, Toshiba is showing promise for schools
You have to respect the design statement on tablet connectivity Toshiba has made with its most recent Android tablet aimed at education – the AT100.
With more than a nod to the undying unease about the iPad's lock-down, Tosh has ensured that you can hook the AT100 to almost anything bar a toaster - and it's just £280 for schools.
The AT100 may not be svelte like Apple or Samsung tablets but it's a refreshing, robust approach to play-with-anyone computing. The review model could import or export material via an SD card, connect to any USB device or computer via standard or mini USB slot or even HDMI.
The one thing you can't possible say about this tablet is that it is locked down, and that means a lot to schools convinced by the power of tablets but uncertain of total buy-in to Apple. (Companies like Avantis are already providing management solutions for school sets of Android tablets.)
You can use the AT100 like any other Android device with apps from the Android Market, but Tosh has added a few of its own, in much the same way as it does with its laptops. And as with the laptop add-ons, these don't really rank as essential.
What's to like about the AT100 can be also what's not to like. Like the removable case which can be swapped for an alternative. Some find the extra real estate somewhat clunky, but that doesn't include those who like the convenience of hot-swapping batteries. (Anyone who does this with a mobile phone will know just how useful it is – a lifesaver in some circumstances.)
Although Flash may have a limited shelf life, loads of websites and learning resources still depend on it. So Android's ability to handle Flash will continue to hold appeal for schools for some time (It was one of the reasons behind Cramlington Learning Village's recent decision to invest in 300 Samsung tablets so it's certainly not to be sniffed at.)
The AT100 was perfectly adequate for everything asked of it over the review period – and it provided connections impossible with some rivals – but Toshiba could certainly improve the user experience. Particularly by ramping up screen response and clarity. It could also smarten up the power switch which is not a pleasing introduction to an otherwise great value-for-money device.
After a hesitant start with tablets, Toshiba has made a bold entry that's attractive for schools looking for value for money and open standards. Visitors to BETT 2012 can see Tosh's new, slim and sleeker AT200 which should be available at around £400..
Toshiba AT100 tablet
Android (Honeycomb 3.1) tablet with 10.1-inch screen, NVIDIA® Tegra 2 processing, full-sized HDMI, two USB ports an SD card reader, battery life of up to six hours, for around £280 ex VAT.