As we took this tablet on a trip around the office to snap some photos, several strangers remarked that it's "way too big." And truly, it's only appropriate that we take a moment to note how huge the Excite 13 is. Dimension-wise, we're looking at 13.5 x 8.5 x 0.40 inches. Add in a weight of 2.2 pounds, and you can see how the Excite 13's extreme width and considerable heft could become burdensome. Toshiba thoughtfully includes a stand for propping up the slate at a viewing-friendly angle, which will come in handy if you plan on using the tablet for any extended period of time.
Like its smaller siblings, the Excite 13 has a much more polished design than Toshiba's earlier Thrive tablets. That chunky, chintzy build is replaced by a thinner silhouette and an aluminum casing that's elegant but still textured enough to provide a good grip. Though the tablet feels sturdy, it bends slightly when you apply significant pressure. That's not to stay this isn't a solid device; it feels tough enough to take a beating (read: one or two falls off the kitchen counter), and the display is coated in Corning Gorilla Glass for protection against scuffs and scratches.
Taking a journey around the tablet starting from the top edge, we have the volume rocker and multi-function toggle (it locks screen orientation, locks hardware buttons or mutes sound, according to your specification under Settings), along with the 2-megapixel front-facing camera. A headphone jack, SD card slot, micro-USB port, micro-HDMI connector and the charging port lien the right side. The bottom edge is bare save for two large external speakers, and the left side hosts the power button. Around back is the 5-megapixel shooter with LED Flash. We can't move on without a word about the Excite 13's power cord: it could easily be mistaken for that of a laptop. Just another reminder that this device is truly huge.
The 1600 x 900 panel is a great canvas for surfing the web, thanks to its ample size and bright, accurate colors.
Now, onto that display. The 1600 x 900 LCD is a great canvas for surfing the web, thanks to its ample size and bright, accurate colors. We loved watching full-screen videos on YouTube and scrolling through Tumblr -- everything showed up in full, crisp detail. However, as with many other tablets, glare can be a huge issue, so you'll want to avoid sitting near heavy lighting while watching clips on the tablet. It's also worth noting that plenty of lower-cost tablets (ASUS' whole Transformer lineup, for example) come with easily viewable IPS screens in tow.
Like the smaller Excite tablets, the Excite 13 ships with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3, to be precise). We appreciate that Toshiba doesn't deviate much from the standard ICS experience. Yes, there are some pre-loaded apps (more on those below) but the standard Back, Home and Recent Apps buttons in the system bar, along with five home screens to fill, are sure signs that this is a vanilla build of ICS.
Toshiba's generous selection of pre-loaded apps includes Adobe Reader, Amazon Kindle, Amazon MP3, Crackle, Hardwood card games, LogMeIn, Netflix and Rdio. Of course, the standard suite of Google apps -- the Play store, YouTube, Search, Gmail and so on -- is here too. In addition to the stock Android keyboard, Toshiba includes Swype. There's also SRS audio enhancement on board, which, when toggled on, can boost volume and voice clarity.
Think taking photos with a 10-inch tablet looks ridiculous? Try shooting with the Excite 13. Even if the two cameras were high-quality, the device's size is enough to dissuade most users from bringing it along on a family picnic -- and it's certainly not coming with you for a night on the town. You won't be tempted to stuff it into your bag either, because its 5-megapixel camera and 2-megapixel front-facing shooter are similar to what you'll find on the Excite 7.7 and 10 -- that is to say, quite bad.
Photos show washed-out colors, and we found that both auto and manual focus were unreliable in helping us achieve crisp shots. Worse still, pictures are extremely pixelated, and most of our samples have a reddish cast to them.
The Excite 13's rear-facing camera is also capable of capturing video in 720p. Much like our experience with still photos, sample clips appear blown out and a little fuzzy. On the upside, we didn't notice any motion blur or jerkiness when moving the camera to follow moving cars.