Laptop manufacturing titan Toshiba is joining the Android tablets fray. Last week, the Japanese company announced its official entry to the tablets race: the Toshiba THRiVE, created with laptop users in mind. It will carry the latest Android 3.1 Honeycomb.

Believed to be a potential contender against the iPad 2 and the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Toshiba THRiVE will be available for preorders on Best Buy beginning on June 13 and will be available in U.S. stores on July 10.

Jeff Barney, Toshiba’s digital products department chief, explained that, since the company’s strongest suit is in laptops, they’re going to approach the tablets market with the mindset of a laptop maker. He explained that Toshiba will not take the same approach as other manufacturers are taking; that is, of producing a tablet with extended smartphone functionality and a larger screen. Instead, Toshiba opts to pare the laptop down into a tablet.

It is that kind of reasoning that accounts for the Toshiba THRiVE’s rather thick design–it’s at 0.6 inches. If not for the standard laptop ports that Toshiba decided to latch on to the THRiVE, it probably won’t be as thick. But, laptop lovers will delight in the THRiVE’s built-in ports: HDMI out, SD card slot, USB, and mini USB. These are standard ports on most laptops today, and Toshiba didn’t ditch them in the THRiVE. It weighs about 1.6 pounds–a bit heavier than other tablets. It’s a reasonable tradeoff for battery longevity and performance, if you ask me.

The THRiVE’s back plate is also removable and can be replaced with a different-colored plate. This suggests that the THRiVE has a removable battery. Back plates come in black, green, silver, blue, purple, and pink. Each one costs US$20. These are completely optional, of course, but, along with a removable battery, may draw more eyes toward the THRiVE.

And, with a price much lower than the iPad 2’s, the THRiVE can potentially turn many heads. According to reports, its entry-level model carrying 8 gigabytes of storage will be priced at US$430.

Here are the technical specs of the Toshiba THRiVE:

Processor NVIDIA Tegra 2 (dual-core)
OS Android 3.1 Honeycomb
Screen 10.1 inches
Storage 8 GB; 16 GB; 32 GB
Camera 5 MP (rear); 2 MP (front)
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, HDMI
Battery removable; max. 8 hours (continuous HD movie viewing)
Software Log Me In (remote desktop connection); file manager; PrintShare
Weight 1.6 lbs
Price US$430 (8 GB)
US$480 (16 GB)
US$580 (32 GB)
Availability June 13 (preorders on Best Buy); July 10 (target release date)

The summer race for Android tablets is indeed heating up, huh?

Image credits: Toshiba, CNET News