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.