- Review Date: 2/20/2014
- Bottom line: The Toshiba Encore, the company's first 8-inch Windows tablet, looks pretty good with solid performance, decent battery life, and an affordable price.
- Pros: Solid performance from fourth-generation Atom processor. Has 32GB of internal storage. Clear, responsive touch display. Decent battery life.
- Cons: Limited port selection.
Laptops have always been portable and Windows-based hybrids and tablets have begun to offer more mobility than laptops past, but even the lightest 13- or 14-inch system is a bit too big to really use when you're walking down the street or hopping into a car. Well, the tablet PC has finally caught up. The Toshiba Encore is the company's first entry into the new category of 8-inch handheld tablets designed for on the go use. Two different models of the tablet are offered, with a 32GB model (reviewed here) selling for $329.99 and a slightly more expensive 64GB model selling for $399.99 (list). Both models take an Atom-powered device and puts a full version of Windows 8.1 running at 32 bits in it, instead of the crippled Windows RT.
Design and Features
As with any tablet, the display takes center stage. The Toshiba Encore features an LED backlit 8-inch widescreen display with 1,280-by-800 resolution and 5-finger multitouch. That resolution will support 720p video playback, but might still look a bit low-res when compared with other mobile devices, particularly Apple's Retina-display-equipped iPhones and iPads. That said, it's a common resolution for this category—the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Acer Iconia W3 (64GB) both offer the same resolution.
The display is paired with two stereo speakers and Dolby Digital Plus sound enhancement. The speakers fire downward through two slits on the bottom edge of the tablet. The volume they put out is on the quiet side, and you'll probably want to use headphones for most uses. While the sound quality isn't fantastic, the speaker placement is a little better than the rear-firing speakers on the Lenovo Miix 2 8.
The plastic back of the Encore is covered with a textured pattern that gives you more of a grip in addition to looking nice. It's also small, measuring 8.4 by 0.43 by 5.4 inches (HWD) and weighing 0.98 pound; it's a little heavier than the Lenovo Miix 2 8, which weighs only 0.75 pound, but it's still pretty light. It's also sold without any sort of cover or accessory keyboard, meaning it's not quite as productivity-friendly as our Editors' Choice Asus Transformer Book T100TA (64GB), which pairs a 10-inch tablet with a docking keyboard, offering a bit more versatility.
The tablet is made with one-handed use in mind, and is oriented vertically, with the Windows button at the bottom of the screen. Going around the edges of the tablet, you'll find buttons for volume control and power on the right, and a microSD card slot on the left. On the top edge are ports for micro USB 2.0 and micro HDMI, along with a standard headset jack.
A front-facing 2.0-megapixel camera has fixed-focus, paired with a dual-mic array and optimized for video chat through Skype and similar services. On the back is an 8.0-megapixel camera with auto focus. The small tablet also has sensors less common on Windows machines, like an ambient light sensor, gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer, GPS, digital compass, and vibration for haptic feedback. The tablet is also outfitted with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. That Bluetooth connectivity will be important should you ever want to use an accessory keyboard or mouse, since the tablet has no full-size USB port.
The Encore comes in two flavors, distinguished by storage capacity. Our review unit has 32GB of internal storage, while a 64GB model sells for a bit more ($399.99 list). However, you're not limited only to that storage, as the tablet's microSD card slot lets you plug in a larger 32GB or 64GB card to bolster the capacity.
Preloaded on our review unit was the Windows 8.1 operating system, along with a handful of apps and programs preinstalled. Most notable is the full version of Microsoft Office 2013 (Home and Student version), which is included at no extra cost, along with a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security. Additional apps include Amazon Kindle Reader, Netflix, Skype, iHeartRadio, and a few tools from Toshiba, like Toshiba Service Station (a combination user manual, troubleshooter, and tech support line). Toshiba covers the Encore tablet with a one-year warranty.
The Encore uses an Intel Atom Z3740 processor and 2GB of RAM, the same combination found in the Asus T100TA, as well as the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Lenovo Miix 2 8. As a result, performance was quite similar to those competing systems. In PCMark 7, the Encore scored 2,506 points, just behind the Lenovo Miix 2 8 (2,564 points) but ahead of both the Dell Venue 8 Pro (2,303 points) and the Asus T100TA (2,485 points). Only the Acer Iconia W3 fell behind, with a previous-generation Atom CPU, scoring 1,454 points.
The Encore finished Handbrake in 2 minutes 41 seconds, the same time as both the Asus T100TA and Dell Venue 8 Pro, while the Lenovo Miix 2 8 edged ahead by two seconds. Again, the Acer W3 brought up the rear, taking far longer to complete the same test—a patience testing 8:48. Compared with older Atom-based systems, the Encore was quite fast, but the overall performance will still feel slow compared with a current laptop.
While a Windows tablet will let you run all of your regular software, the integrated graphics solution used by the Atom Z3740 isn't good for much more than basic video and Web games. It was unable to run either of our gaming tests, and only completed 3DMark 11 on Entry settings (338 points).
In our battery rundown test, the efficiency of the Atom processor was really brought to the fore, with the Encore lasting 8 hours 51 minutes. That's 20 minutes longer than the Dell Venue 8 Pro (8:31), but more than two hours behind the Asus T100TA (11:20). While the battery is sealed into the tablet chassis, the long life of the 2-cell Lithium-Ion battery will keep you going throughout the day.
The Toshiba Encore isn't the first 8-inch Windows tablet we've seen, nor is it the best of the bunch, but this little tablet still manages to offer solid performance, nearly nine hours of battery life, and comes in at a very affordable price. Compared with the Editors' Choice Asus Transformer Book T100TA (64GB), the Encore lacks any sort of docking keyboard and has shorter battery life. But if you want on-the-go simplicity and an even lower price, the Toshiba Encore is a good little tablet to consider.