updated 09:40 am EST, Tue February 28, 2012
Toshiba AT270 gets our hands-on take
NVIDIA has ended up being the star of Mobile World Congress so far, heading up the processor choice in devices like the HTC One X or LG Optimus 4X HD. A pleasant surprise, however, has been Toshiba's so far still unofficial 7.7-inch tablet, which it briefly teased at CES. It's called the AT270, it runs on a Tegra 3, and NVIDIA let us try what could be one of the more interesting tablets of the show.
The design is like that of the Excite (AT200), but the smaller screen size means a lot: Toshiba's design is almost absurdly light, and it's one of the few you could genuinely hold like you would a paperback for reading. It's very thin, and although it's using plastic, it still feels fairly high quality.
Most of the hardware checks the right boxes. The 7.7-inch LCD looks to be IPS-based and very colorful without being overdone. Naturally, the quad-core Tegra 3 also made Android responsive; it's certainly faster than the Galaxy Note 10.1 and nearly any other tablet that wasn't using the Tegra 3 at the show. Gaming with titles like Golden Arrow was understandably smooth and looked detailed.
Expansion isn't big, but a microSDHC card slot and mini USB give it some extras, along with the iPad-like docking port.
At least on the pre-release device we were using, Android 4.0 was stock. If it keeps that way, that could be a positive. Most custom Android tablet skins so far have usually gotten in the way; Android 4 still feels too much like a desktop OS, but the lack of clutter (even if it had the standard icon grid) and the potential for quick updates are there. The screen size was very nearly right. The extra 0.7 inches over other tables in its category makes it feel less cramped. We're wondering if rumors of an eight-inch iPad might have merit, especially as Apple would use a taller aspect ratio that would be better for portrait orientation typing and browsing.
We were disappointed in the performance of the five-megapixel back camera, which was slow and not terribly accurate; going by Toshiba's history, it's likely a two-megapixel shooter that's not worse in other ways but resolution.
NVIDIA didn't know when the AT270 would reach stores, although we suspect it's a candidate for close to the CTIA spring show in May, especially if there's a 3G version. There's no guarantees it will turn out as well as an initial look suggests -- even the Excite somewhat fizzled -- but we'd keep an eye out on it as a possible frontrunner, especially if the price lets it undercut any size of iPad.