I’ve downloaded, installed and tested and can confirm that not only are you getting V2.2 of Android with a noticeable performance boost but you’re also getting Flash support which finally enables a reasonable YouTube experience. There’s also the Toshiba market for apps, music and radio and, of course, some nice features in 2.2 like the 3G hotspot feature for those of you with 3G versions. I’ve also noticed an increase in compatibility with sideloaded applications. Streaming audio through applications like Last.FM now work and there’s better graphics compatibility. Previously, many games just weren’t working.
One of the big question marks though is about standby. Original versions of the AC100 would often jump out of standby, an almost off state, and never fall back into it meaning batteries would be dead by the morning. I’ll be testing that tonight [Update: This morning it was still in standby. More testing needed thought] but in the meantime I’ve been checking to see if Toshiba have improved the active-idle battery life. They haven’t. Screen off idle, with Wifi on and apps able to use the Internet results in about 2.5w continuous drain. That is, in ARM-platform terms, quite embarrassing for Toshiba. I’m not able to test Internet-connected idle mode with the 3G here. [Previous testing here] In-use battery life still seems to be around the 6hr mark which is good for 800gm of device with a 25Wh battery but they really should have worked on the active-standby figures before the product went out of the door.
Performance increase is noticeable with browsing, UI actions and measurable in Sunspider and other tests. Sunspider results have improved from 4800 seconds to 3900 seconds – a 19% improvement. Quadrant results are at the 2000 mark and Linpack returns 34MFlops, an impressive figure.
So does it bring the AC100 back from the dead? I just had a look at the prices and I certainly think there’s value here now. The model I have under my fingers right now has just broken through 200 Euros in Germany. That’s with 512MB of RAM and 8Gb of storage, USB OTG and 1080P playback (with uPnP support) a good keyboard, about 6hrs battery life (10+hrs max) in an 800gm chassis. You don’t get Google applications (I would happily pay 50 Euros for that enhancement) and you’ll pay 40 Euros for the addition of 3G but still, that’s a great deal. Remember that a Novatel MiFi costs at least 150 Euro and you certainly can’t type docs, play music and 1080p video or Angry Birds on that! It’s not a netbook, but it’s a good value gadget.
I captured my download, install and testing on camera this afternoon:
About 3 months ago I bought a Toshiba AC100 ‘smart’ book for testing. While I didn’t believe it would provide me with a netbook experience I was very interested in continuing my testing with ‘always on’ ARM-based devices. Unfortunately, that ‘always on’ experience highlighted in marketing and videos, has still not been delivered 3 months later. It’s time Toshiba actually stood up, removed the false claims, started apologizing to customers and fixing this broken device. More importantly, potential owners need to keep fingers off until we can confirm the problem is fixed.
We highlighted the standby battery life problem just a few days after we got the AC100 and a few weeks later delivered the message direct to Toshiba at IFA. The product simply doesn’t provide anywhere near the claimed ‘up to 8 days’ of standby battery life. You’ll be lucky if the AC100 still has a charge 24 hours later. Many many users have confirmed the same issue.
A promised upgrade to Froyo was the light at the end of the tunnel that most owners clung on to but that is now many weeks overdue with no official word about a timescale. In fact, a surprise firmware update last week that failed to install was followed by another firmware update that doesn’t seem to have fixed the problem or updated the device to Froyo. Do you trust them to deliver 2.2 AND fix the battery life problem?
In attempts to actually get something useful out of the AC100 I hacked the bootloader (yes, forgoing any rights to a return or repair under guarantee) to install Ubuntu and after trying the update a few days ago, I now have a bricked device. I’m sure others will fall into this trap.
I’m not going to address this email to Toshiba because their forum should be alerting them to their problems (link) instead, I’m addressing it to current and potential owners. The AC100 is still broken and I advise you to check your standby battery life and if you think I’m right, return the device. [If not, please let us know – we’d love to strikethrough and update this article.] Potential owners should refrain from a purchase until there are clear confirmations that the problems have been fixed. Better still, pass the message on and highlight that the AC100 is not yet the device with the ‘ultimate battery life’.
You might have caught my excited tweets and posts about getting Ubuntu running on the AC100 over the last few days and if so, you might be starting to realize how close these ‘smart’ books or ARM-based netbooks, effectively smartphones in a netbook-style case, are getting to the netbook experience. The overall experience is certainly not ready for the average customer but take this video as a demonstrator that 1) Processing power is significantly better with dual-core devices to the point where Web browsing is not slow 2) A productive experience is possible through Linux applications 3) that the AC100 is well positioned as a device for further hacks. MeeGo, Android 3.0, Chrome OS and other Linux builds included. At 800gm for 4hrs productivity, Intel need to take note. I’m definitely looking forward to see if the same hacking process works on the Toshiba Folio 100 tablet.
Before you watch the video though, note that there are problems.
512MB RAM – Ubuntu 10.10 netbook build needs to be a lot slimmer for the AC10. 512MB might work if swap space was fast (not on the SD card.)
Battery life – The AC100 is lasting 4 hours but should last 6 or more. A big part of the problem is the lack of screen brightness control – it’s on 100%, all the time. Also, Linux is very uncontrolled when it comes to networking and disk access too and with 152 process running (gulp!) I doubt there’s a moment’s silence for the silicon inside the device. Take the iPad as a benchmark in this area because with a similar size screen and battery it’s getting 10hrs or more.
You can’t run a full Linux build from an SD card without disk access blocking from time to time.
No sound, video, 3D graphics support or WebCam at the moment as far as I can tell.
Installation requires flashing the BootROM of the AC100 – A risky process
Again, this isn’t a solution that anyone could use on a day-to-day basis yet but I regard this as a seminal moment for ARM-based ‘netbooks’ because it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to efficiently run my desktop work processes (Web apps, blogging, image editing, twitter) on an ARM-based device. With the doors open now, I expect the AC100 to get picked up by quite a few hackers in the coming weeks and for progress to accelerate even faster. My testing continues but i’ll refrain from posting further articles on Carrypad unless anything significant happens.
I’ve installed Ubuntu on my Toshiba AC100 ‘smartbook’ and I’m accessing my WordPress back-end via Firefox 3.6. This is a test to see if I can create and post an entry.
You should see a photo on the right (uploaded from the filesystem on the AC100)
Wifi is obviously working and considering i’m running this from an SD card the experience isn’t too bad. It’s locking-up from time to time as the OS works with the filesystem but i’m seeing some quite impressive CPU-related performance.
An interesting example of the performance is the SunSpider result i’ve just got from Firefox 3.6. Its the fastest result i’ve ever seen on an ARM-based device.
The work of the uber-Linux and Tegra Lords of these three forums allowed me to do this today:
Yes, you’re looking at Ubuntu 10.10 (RC) running on a Toshiba AC100 smart book.
This is the most exciting thing I’ve done in a long long time. It’s not quite there yet (the boot hangs at this point but the people-that-know are working on it) but apparently everything works apart from sound.
If I can fire up Firefox and get 7 hours battery life out of this 800gm slim-n-lite then I’ll be shouting “See. I told you the smart-book wasn’t dead.”
It took one Linux box, some Nvidia Tegra tools, a new bootloader (dangerous) and Ubuntu built for ARMv7 on an SD card. Clearly the doors are now open for other installations although if Ubuntu is fast enough it should be good enough for most people.
I’ll be doing more work on this when the new tarball arrives.