After a period of comparative dullness, the mobile PC sector has become rather intriguing in recent months. Much of this intrigue can be attributed to the Apple iPad and similar devices stirring up the mix, but the Toshiba AC100 is another product that could upset the applecart.
Ostensibly the AC100 looks like a netbook but, instead of using an Intel Atom or similar PC-derived processor, it uses Nvidia's Tegra 250 chipset. This chipset, which includes a 1GHz, dual-core ARM A9 processor and a dedicated GPU of Nvidia's devising, is based on the same kind of tech found in most smartphones. Hence the AC100 isn't a netbook, but a 'smartbook' - a potentially powerful one, too, as Tegra 250 (aka Tegra 2) promises flawless 1080p video playback.
Semantics aside, the AC100 has a great deal in common with netbooks and offers a tangible alternative to them. Its screen measures 10.1-inches, and has a resolution of 1,024 x 600, and the price of the Wi-Fi model we have (the AC100-10Z) is £248.99 - i.e. about the same as a netbook. A 3G enabled version is also available for additional £50, pricing that compares very favourably to netbooks and tablets.
Value runs deeper than mere cheapness, however; the AC100 needs to prove it's a device you actually want/need to own. It's certainly got portability covered mind, as it measures just 14mm at its slimmest point (21mm at its thickest) and weighs (on our scales) a miniscule 860g. Being based on ARM-tech means it's completely fan-less and stone cold (not in the violent sense), so you needn't worry about burning your lap either.
Such lightness makes the AC100 perfect for chucking into a bag when on the move, and its design reflects this fact. Toshiba has given it a hardy, textured plastic finish all over, and the build quality feels equally reassuring. Even when punctuated by orange highlights it's not the most exciting machine to behold, and the battery bulge below the screen is somewhat unsightly, but the lack of visual flair is more than recompensed by its feather-weight dimensions.
Unsurprisingly such dimensions don't allow for much connectivity, but all the important stuff is present and correct. This includes an HDMI output, something not often seen on netbooks, an audio jack, and a memory card reader supporting SD cards up to 32GB. You'll be need that space, too, as there's just 8GB of internal flash memory. There are two USB ports, though curiously one is a full-size one and the other a mini one - a technical limitation, we assume. Inside you get 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1, and 3G if you opt for the more expensive model.