- Good connectivity
- Rival tablets better for business
The Toshiba Encore offers the full Windows 8 experience in an 8-inch tablet, but is it solid value at just £249?
Toshiba’s Encore is the latest tablet to rock full Windows 8, and with an 8-megapixel camera, quad-core Intel processor and full Office Home and Student 2013 included for just £249, the 8-inch Encore certainly seems to offer good value for money. But is this the ultimate affordable tablet for Microsoft fans?
Design: Flexible friend
One area where Toshiba appears to have cut costs is the build quality, with a plastic silver back that wraps around to the front of the tablet. It feels rather cheap, flexing under pressure. We found ourselves longing for the sleek finish of the new Google Nexus 7, with its soft-touch rear. In contrast, the Encore is rather chunky and not particularly pretty. Its 445g weight feels quite a lot considering the compact design, but we had no trouble fiddling with it one-handed for extended periods.
Connectivity is a plus point, with micro USB to hook up to computers and a mini HDMI port for plugging to televisions. You also get a microSD memory card slot for boosting the 32GB of storage space.
OS and media: Windows in full
Like Asus’ splendid little Transformer Book T100, the Toshiba Encore runs full Windows 8 instead of that Windows RT thingy you find on most tablets. The biggest benefit is the ability to install and run any Windows-based PC software you like, so you aren’t reliant on apps. Considering how much fantastic software is freely available online, this is a big plus.
You get a fair few apps pre-installed, and our unit came with a code for downloading Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013, a great bonus that’ll keep your productive wherever you roam. Xbox gamers can also pair their tablet and console, using the Encore as a controller or second screen.
The Encore’s 8-inch screen features a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution, which means is sharp enough for enjoying movies and games, and keeping web text readable even when zoomed right out. The panel isn’t as bright as we’d like, and combined with its ability to attract grime, we found it difficult to see when glare rears its ugly head. Viewing angles are good, and colours are pleasing to the eye.
Of course, an 8-inch screen isn’t ideal if you’re serious about business software. We found the Asus Transformer Book was a better choice when messing around with spreadsheets, presentations and productivity suites, thanks to the 10.1-inch display. The Book’s dockable keyboard also makes work much easier. You’d need to hook up a Bluetooth keyboard to the Encore to get the same level of control.
We were impressed by the power of the dual speakers, which pump out a solid bit of audio. Top volumes are more than enough to enjoy a film, or some tunes while sat at your desk. The only irritation is the speaker placement – they’re at the edge of the tablet, and we kept accidentally covering them with our palms when watching video.
Performance and battery life: Atom splitter
An Intel Atom Z3740 processor is stuffed inside the Toshiba Encore, the same chip found in the Transformer Book T100. Once again it proves its mettle, turning in a pleasing performance for a low-powered processor. We did notice the occasional mysterious stutter or pause, but games such as Lego: Lord of the Rings run smoothly even with lots happening on-screen. And since this is full Windows 8, you can download any PC game you desire to stave off boredom.
The Atom range has always held up well in battery tests, and the Encore is just as blessed. We happily streamed video for seven full hours before the Encore died, and you’ll get a full day between charges with more conservative use.
Camera: Dual shooters
As with most modern tablets, the Toshiba Encore comes packing dual shooters – an 8-megapixel lens around back, and a front-facing 2-megapixel camera for conversing online. Toshiba has clearly considered web chatters, as UK Skype users get a month’s free access to Premium calls, while the top-mounted dual mics do a decent job of picking up your voice in noisy environments.
If you’re more up for snapping your mates than chatting with them, the 8-megapixel camera is a decent way to do it. Our photos came out with realistic colours, and plenty of detail over distance. You get the bare minimum of options, however – timer and exposure is your whack. Video mode is similarly streamlined, but once again our home movies looked fine, with the lens adjusting to cope with changes in lighting.
Toshiba Encore Verdict
Toshiba’s Encore tablet might not be a looker, with a cheap-feeling plastic build, but it’s an affordable way to enjoy full Windows on a tablet. You can download and install any PC software, and enjoy it over ridiculously long journeys thanks to the excellent battery life. However, the Asus Transformer Book is still on top for staying productive with its bigger screen and keyboard dock.