Toshiba Encore Tablet: Hands-On Review

Toshiba’s 8″ Encore tablet is yet another Windows 8.1 Bay Trail Tablet. Here’s my early impressions.

The Encore tablet has an 8″ 1280×800 IPS display, 2GB of RAM, either 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage, Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 pre-installed and a claimed battery life of “up to” 7 hours.
I had some brief hands-on time at Toshiba’s Sydney headquarters earlier today; here’s my early thoughts. No, this isn’t a full review; it would be daft to make final judgement on a unit that I’ve held for less than fifteen minutes.

Toshiba Encore: Initial Upsides

It’s relatively lightweight for what is essentially a full PC, and it’s fairly well supplied with connectivity options, from micro HDMI — so you could use it as a full PC — through to 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and micro USB for hooking up any peripheral that Windows 8.1 can handle.
Toshiba reckons it’s also custom built for Skype with noise cancelling microphones built into the top and a 30 day worldwide Skype subscription bundled with each Encore tablet. Mind you, the new Surface tablets — which cost a little more — do rather outdo that with a year’s worth of Skype instead.

Toshiba’s claim is that from suspend it’ll start up in under 300ms; that’s quite impressive, although obviously you’d be using battery power the whole time, and it’s certainly not quite that fast from a cold start. Responsiveness on the Bay Trail Z 3740 processor appeared good in the time I had to test it.

Toshiba Encore: Initial Downsides

There’s a lot of these kind of tablets coming; quite literally the day before I had a brief hands-on with Dell’s new 8″ Venue tablet, which boasts many of the same features. Competition is always a good thing, but the one thing that struck me across both tablets is that vendors are pitching Microsoft’s tablet vision, not their own; there’s not a lot of “unique” software on offer here, and that makes pricing and build quality the prime differentiators.

A Windows 8.1 homescreen, the same as any other.
A Windows 8.1 homescreen, the same as any other.

The Encore is relatively inexpensive, and that’s a good thing, but it’s also not quite the most premium finish you could find on a tablet. The rear plastic cover felt a little hollow and plastic in my hands; the best comparison point I could make is that it feels similar to the first generation Nexus tablet. Not awful — but certainly not premium either.
As with any Windows PC, the included software eats up storage space; the indication I got from Toshiba is that Windows 8.1+Office would consume around half the storage space on the 32GB unit. Or in other words, budget for a microSD card or external USB hard drive if you want to drive the Encore hard.

Toshiba Encore: Pricing

The Toshiba Encore will sell locally for $399 (32GB) or $469 (64GB) when it launches in early November.

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