Home / Computing / Laptop / Toshiba AC100 / Software and Usability

Toshiba AC100 - Software and Usability

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



Our Score:


That's the hardware covered, but the AC100's software is markedly different to that of netbooks as well. Unlike netbooks it can't run Windows, or even the Linux alternatives such as Ubuntu Netbook and Jolicloud, so Toshiba has opted for a tweaked version of Android, version 2.1 to be precise. This has several knock-on effects, not all of them good.

First and foremost, due to the nature of the hardware, the AC100 can't use the standard Android Marketplace. Instead it uses the Camangi Market, an app store dedicated to applications that support tablet style devices. Unfortunately it's sparsely populated, and the apps it does have are of questionable quality and value - even if they are free, as most of them are.

This instantly negates one potential advantage of Android, though Toshiba has at least attempted to offset this by pre-loading some apps. Highlights among the usual set of standard apps include the Opera Mobile web browser, Documents To Go for viewing and editing documents, and the Toshiba Media Player for playing video, listening to music and viewing photos. Toshiba has also added its own file manager application, which is an invaluable tool for dealing with your files.

These represent an okay foundation, but ultimately the actual functionality of the AC100 is very limited - more so than any netbook. While you can view and edit documents offline, it's only possible in a very rudimentary manner. Anything more advanced will require using online applications, where you'll quickly run into further issues.

For instance, due Android 2.1, there's no Adobe Flash support. This will rule out many online applications, but even those that do work will suffer the AC100's somewhat sluggish web page rendering speed. We compared the AC100 to a Samsung N130 using Chrome on the Jolicloud OS, and the Samsung was infinitely quicker dealing with requests. And, of course, no Flash support means you're severely limited where online video is concerned.

Another side-effect of using Android is that, despite looking like a computer, the AC100 doesn't really behave like one. Hitting the Backspace button in the web browser won't take you back, while re-treading your steps in an application (for which there's a dedicated button on Android phones) is performed by the Esc key; neither can you use the Tab button to switch between cells in forms, something that's a natural time saver on any real PC, and you can forget about the usual array of keyboard shortcuts.

Consequently there's a noticeable learning curve to using the AC100, one that even experienced Android users will encounter. Given time you'll learn to live with such differences, but some - such as the lack of common keyboard shortcuts - are rather more fundamental. There are other irritations, too, such as the inability to read USB drives formatted in the NTFS file system.

Neil B

September 21, 2010, 2:43 pm

Very interesting review, I can see the point of this kind of device more than a tablet to be honest. The problem with this though is it will live or die on the strength of the available apps (more so than a smartphone). I like the fact that it is relying on you having your media on an SD card. You can watch your movies / listen to your music on this device for the flight, then whip out your SD card and put it in your MP3 player when you're at your destination.


September 21, 2010, 2:49 pm

Nice balanced write-up.

This is an interesting development. Certainly some potential here, but the lack of apps is worrying on many of these niche Android devices that don't meet Google's minimum Android Store requirements.

This needs to be addressed - and quickly - to make Android an attractive option in the consumer space beyond Smart-Phone devices.

A walled garden for app purchases makes sense for Apple - not sure it's quite so clear-cut for Google... can see arguments both for and against here. But the bottom line is that any general purpose device needs a healthy supply of apps and a vigorous community of developers that can target a wide spectrum of device types with minimal hassle (e.g. avoiding having to get their apps approved in a dozen different app stores).


September 21, 2010, 3:16 pm

If this were running a flavour of linux i'd snap it up.


September 21, 2010, 3:58 pm

Okay, how come this cost 1/3 the cost of the tables (from Samsung)? And why can't a OEM come up with a similarly priced tablet?!!!


September 21, 2010, 4:00 pm

@piesforyou, it is :)


September 21, 2010, 4:04 pm

@Ash: Because the quality of hardware in the Samsung is on another level. Maybe not quite so high a level as to justify the price but higher nonetheless.

There are tablets that are as cheap. The Archos 7 Internet Tablet for instance.


September 21, 2010, 4:31 pm

Android was never designed to be used on anything other than phones. Shoehorn it onto a computer and it works, sure, but why would anyone express surprise when it doesn't work very well?

What I find even more surprising is why a manufacturer would bother with this, when Google themselves have said that they are creating another OS (Chomium) expressly for the purpose of providing a cheap online based computer! I guess they are just trying to beat google at their own game, but it's so futile.

I think the concept will work fine with the right OS, but Android's not it!


September 21, 2010, 5:40 pm


How much better are the components? This has a dual core processor while the tab doesn't. Even if the Tab is markedly better hardware is it worth 2.5 of these at £600+?

This gives me hope that a fairly decent tablet could be made for £300-£400. Maybe not top quality but more than good enough.

Hopefully once 3.0 comes out support for non-phone form factors will improve markedly, along with market compatibility.


September 21, 2010, 5:50 pm

Can you comment on how likely an upgrade to 2.2 will be, by either Toshiba or someone like XDA?

Also.. would a simple hack like for the wifi archos', to get access to the main market not make a huge difference.

How would skyfire fare as the browser, I believe it hands off flash?

I've just recently got a samsung galaxy s, so I'm thinking either samsung tab (too pricey) or hacked archos(looking likely) or something like this(possibly..).. I would be looking to tether from galaxy s, not get another data plan..

Loving the galaxy S by the way..


September 21, 2010, 6:32 pm

One of those 'almost but not quite'

If you had a spare £250 quid to just fritter away you may think lets have a play with this.

A better OS(flash support) and a 1366 x768 resolution and i would have a punt on this.


September 21, 2010, 11:53 pm

How odd. Hasn't Ubuntu been ported to the Tegra platform? I distinctly remember reading about a hack using a couple of components from the Android SDK. It involved building from source, but surely it'd be trivial for a company like Toshiba to create an installable image for its hardware?


September 22, 2010, 1:22 am

I began reading this review looking at the rating going, "But this looks great. What's the catch?" But then of course a badly implemented Android is something I've been scared away from ever since those reviews of the Archos 5, even though I'm attracted to the lightweight one piece hardware. In fact even with flagship devices, the Android OS still looks too messy for my taste. Perhaps I've been psychologically conditioned by Apple, but I'm much more comfortable with the clean lines and repeated UI tropes of the iOS. I might give Android another year.


September 22, 2010, 6:29 am

I wanted this to be my Psion 5mx with modern bells on. But it's not. However, I applaud the effort and vision that a mainstream manufacturer has shown in trying to take a different approach to the small, portable, notebook-like device that is not a laptop but is just as useful. I miss Psion, instant-on OS, a month on two AA's, a brilliant set of burned in apps that did everything you really needed...they were just ahead of this connected time. Give me a 5mx with modern radio connections, colour and a decent browser with flash compatibility and I'm in love. I'll use a phone to phone. Surely there is mileage in an instant-on Linux OS, flash memory device, pocketable or at least baggable device that isn't trying to be a phone but is still connected to whatever wireless network is available at the time? Still, nice thinking Tosh, at least it's a bit different.


September 22, 2010, 6:39 am

The battery life is completely unsatisfactory.

Do not buy this. I am suffering currently.

There are other web pages which outline the problem within the device which drains the battery faster than a laptop.


September 22, 2010, 2:49 pm

@GoldenGuy: "Android OS still looks too messy for my taste"

The cosmetics are supposed to improve significantly with the upcoming release of Gingerbread just around the corner, but I know what you mean. It's funny, as an Android user, the home screen of iOS, with its regimented and relatively inflexible grid of icons, looks primitive and overly simplistic to me. The recent introduction of wallpapers has helped, but really I know it's just perspective. Usability is more than skin deep.

That said, this machine highlights why Android is not yet suitable for a smartbook type device. Roll on Chrome OS.


September 23, 2010, 12:12 am


I appreciate that Chris. Maybe I phrased that badly. I didn't just meant aesthetically speaking (although that is part of it and like food, I concede I am tasting first with my eyes) but the experience of navigating around each app for me actually feels a lot more varied and inconsistent than when I'm footering around the iOS. Maybe I just need to spend more time with it but it still looks a bit... well, a bit beta even in Q3 of 2010. A bit 'In House Preview Only'.

Funnily enough, from my perspective, after MS gave us years of the Vista of the mobile space in WinMo, maybe Phone 7 will be the desktop Windows 7 reboot I'm looking for, combining the openness Apple has no intention of ever providing, with a really attractive, almost OSX-like intuitive interface. Given that Phone 7 is shaping up to be the successor to Zune instead, I'm not sure how I feel about that. Like most Brits my experience with Zune is at a distance. But as I said elsewhere, whatever the feel of the OS, it's going to need to get those killer apps, like good Office integration and gaming nouse, straight out of the gate.


September 24, 2010, 10:32 pm

Will it be possible, do you think, that (in the UK, of course) BBC iPlayer videos will be able to be downloaded and watched on my HDTV via the HDMI output - also is it likely the WMV file could be played on the AC100's Toshiba Media Player?

I like the 'idea' of watching missed progs on my 40" HDTV... but how will I know if it will 'work' before I buy? Also, I assume the Android 2.2 (Froyo) will be a firmware upgrade... questions, questions... thanks for 'listening'!

Jamie Kitson

November 15, 2010, 7:09 pm

It can run ubuntu:



November 20, 2010, 2:06 pm

This machine is just begging to run Haiku.

comments powered by Disqus