Thriving with my favorite tablet

In many ways, I am not adventurous.

If I find something I like, I’m generally going to stop looking. I’ve been driving the same car for several years now. Until they broke, I had the same eyeglasses for more than 10 years; I’ve replaced the lenses over the years, but the frame stayed. I discovered cheeseburgers at the Esquire shortly after I started working at The News-Gazette way back in the last millennium, and my purchases alone have, I’m guessing, made more than one mortgage payment there.

Now, I’m fond of gadgets, but even there, I am not the one you will normally find out on a limb. It’s almost never a good idea to buy Anything1.0

But when it comes to tablet computers, I am positively promiscuous.

I have owned several models of Fujitsu’s Stylistic pen computers. I have had Archos and Cruz devices, and I’ve tested the Motorola Xoom and HTC Jetstream Android tablets.

What is it about tablets that I find irresistible? It’s probably at least in part because of my typing skills. I’m blazing fast if you don’t count the number of times I have to hit the backspace key. When I take notes for a story, to this day, I use pen and paper; my penmanship is atrocious, but I can read it. Tablets let me do that.

And I’m no artist, but I like that I can jot something down with a pen that I can’t jot down with a keyboard. The tablet gives me both of those worlds.

And with the right software, they act just like laptops.

If you told me I had to get rid of all of them but one, the Toshiba Thrive AT100 is the one I would keep.  My Thrive is rooted – configured so I have access to the operating system at a basic level – and has a custom “ROM,” a version of the Android operating system that can operate outside the limits Toshiba builds in.

I went out on a limb with the Thrive. I bought it refurbished for about $280 when it was on sale at woot.com in January. This is a website that offers one item for sale per day (except on "wootoof" days, which today happens to be). It’s a little riskier to buy refurbished items, but I’ve had excellent luck with Woot and, in this case, Toshiba provided a 90-day warranty. I figured I would use the tablet enough in three months’ time that if it was going to fail, it would. It didn’t. Even at full price, I doubt you'll find a tablet with features to match this one.

The tablet came with 16 gigs of internal storage, but that’s not extraordinary. Many tablets now will have at least that much. Front and rear cameras, which also are not unusual – although the rear camera especially works very nicely for a 5MP camera. What has sold me on this tablet are the features it has that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else:

A slot to accommodate an SDXC card of up to 128 GB. I have a 64GB card that has dozens of movies and enough room left over for a couple seasons’ worth of TV series. Many tablets can use microSD cards, with a 16GB limit the most common I've seen.

A full-sized USB slot that will recognize up to a 32GB flash drive. Newegg had such a flash drive on sale this month for 17 bucks delivered. (USB drives generally have been a very good value the past few weeks.)  That USB slot also accommodates my keyboard/carrying case, so I can make my tablet act very much like a laptop.

And a full-size HDMI port. So I can attach the tablet to a high-definition TV and watch a James Bond movie or check Facebook, for instance, from the treadmill.

Not that anyone would actually do that.

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