Toshiba Encore, hands-on: Windows 8.1 to go

Toshiba's 8-inch Encore can run legacy desktop Windows apps, although you may find them difficult to work with on such a small screen. Performance could be better, but the price is attractive and battery life impressive.
Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributing Writer

Toshiba's 8-inch Encore tablet runs full-blown Windows, so it can run desktop applications other than the version of Office that's bundled with Windows RT on ARM-based tablets such as Microsoft's Surface 2.

With 32GB (£249) and 64GB (£299) options available, you'll need to think carefully about which local applications to install — our larger-capacity review unit had just 40GB free out of the box. Fortunately, data can also be stored on MicroSD card or in the cloud (SkyDrive, now called OneDrive, is preinstalled with 7GB of free storage)

The Encore is an 8-inch (1,280 by 800 pixels) Intel Atom-based tablet running 32-bit Windows 8.1. Image: Toshiba

Thanks to the on-board Micro-HDMI port you can attach a large monitor for delivering presentations to clients, or for working in an office. In the latter case, an external keyboard and mouse can be connected via Bluetooth (4.0). The wi-fi is dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n, so getting connected wirelessly shouldn't be a problem but, as ever with tablets, Ethernet is out of the question. There's an 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 2-megapixel one on the front. Skype is preinstalled.

The Encore has Micro-USB 2.0 and Micro-HDMI ports. Image: Toshiba

The 8-inch screen has a resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels, giving a moderate pixel density of 189ppi. You get a full copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 as part of the deal. Working at standard 100 percent view text is uncomfortably small. If you increase text size you can't view a great deal of it on screen at once. Serous wordwork over extended periods is likely to be out for most people, unless you hook up to an external monitor.

A chunky 8-inch tablet

Toshiba has not been able to make the Encore particularly thin or light, and the screen bezel is fairly large, so that overall this is a relatively big device for an 8-inch tablet. It measures 213mm by 135.9mm by 10.68mm and weighs 445g. Compare it to the Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, which comes in at 209.8mm by 123.8mm by 7.4mm and 314g, and it's clear how relatively chunky the Encore is. Even so, it's obviously a lot smaller and lighter than a notebook, and the build feels solid.

Reports of early units being unresponsive seem to have been ironed out — we noticed nothing untoward during our review period. However, although Intel's 1.33-1.86GHz Atom Z3740 processor, used here with 2GB of RAM in support, is designed for tablets, the Encore won't be up to running demanding workloads: the device was even slow to resolve changing screen orientation, which quickly became irritating.

Clearly the Toshiba Encore doesn't have potential to be a notebook replacement for many people. But the Encore may well appeal as a companion device if you can live with the small, tight screen and if your work is largely cloud-based. Its day-long battery life (Toshiba claims 14.5 hours of mixed use) just might make the Encore an excellent backup for those times when your notebook's battery can't cope.

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