In June this year Toshiba celebrated 25 years of notebook production by unveiling a number of products it believed represented the shape of things to come in the mobile computing world.
One of the devices was the AC100, a netbook lookey-likey powered by Nvidia’s Tegra technology and running Google’s smartphone OS - Android 2.1. Aimed at those after a very portable Internet experience, we have mixed feelings about the WC100 – and feel it’s a bit of a missed opportunity.
Let’s start with the good. At only 870g the AC100 isn’t a device you’re going to have any problems lugging around, while the fanless system (more on that later) has allowed Toshiba to cram the WC100’s components into a tiny chassis measuring only 21mm at its thickest.
Battery life is also a selling point for the WC100, and the six hours twenty nine minutes we got of video playback is impressive.
Toshiba AC100: Design and build
The tough, matt black plastic employed in building the chassis – with an inoffensive crosshatch pattern – makes the WC100 almost impervious to scuffs and scratches, great for a life on the road.
The 10.1-inch screen features a detailed 1024 x 600 pixel resolution and is very bright and a pleasure to view photos and videos on. The AC100’s keyboard, although a little cramped, is more than usable – although there’s no delete key which a regular typist might miss.
802.11n Wi-Fi is onboard for speedy wireless networking, while a 3G module is also included. This means that, having purchased a tariff and SIM card from a network provider, you’ll be able to surf the web/browse your email away from Wi-Fi hotspots.
Toshiba AC100: Android 2.1
Now the not so good. We’ve long been fans of Google’s ultra-intuitive Android OS, but it simply doesn’t make a smooth transition onto the AC100.
There’s no touchscreen, and the numerous hotkeys substituting for the multigesture swipes and scrolls normally executed on a smartphone’s screen are confusing. Similarly the Toshiba tweaked interface is unattractive and clumsy, and selecting applications or links – for example – is a frustrating affair.
Finally, instead of Google’s own apps Market, Camangi Market has been included. There are some decent apps available, but their quality is questionable.
Nevertheless, Nvidia’s 1GHz Tegra 250 chipset provides decent processing power, and runs the operating system smoothly. Its low power also means there’s no need for a fan system and the AC100 remained impressively cool to use. The graphics card is part of the main chipset, and produces smooth video playback.
While we applaud Toshiba for it's innovation with the AC100 it's hard not to see it as a bit of a missed opportunity. On paper it looks a great idea, but the hardware just makes the experence frustrating. It's also hard to see who will buy the AC100. For email, browsing and messaging you're better off investing in one of Toshiba's excellent Windows netbooks like the NB250, or if it's the Android experience you're after, maybe wait until the Toshiba Folio launches for only £30 more.
The Toshiba AC100 is out now, find out more from Toshiba