Product Toshiba Encore WTA8-A-103
Specifications 8in 1280x800 resolution Autobrite multi-touch touchscreen, quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740 processor, 2GB LPDDR3 RAM, 64GB SSD internal storage, 8MP rear and 2MP front cameras, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, microUSB and microHDMI ports, microSD card slot, headset jack, 5,280mAh lithium-ion battery, Windows 8.1 32-bit operating system, 213x136x10.7mm, 445g
JAPANESE INDUSTRIAL GIANT Toshiba's Encore tablet is a compact, relatively low-cost device that runs Microsoft's full-blown Windows 8.1 operating system despite its 8in screen format. It also comes with Microsoft Office 2013 included in the price, making it good value for money for those who want that and possibly a winner for business people or students.
Announced earlier this year and available now, the Encore is little larger than many e-readers and also roughly the same size as Apple's iPad Mini. Despite this, there is a full PC inside the Toshiba Encore tablet powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor, making it capable of running traditional Windows applications.
It's hard to know who Toshiba sees as the target market for the Encore. While its small size makes it a rival for Android tablets like the Nexus 7, it is heavier and more expensive than most such devices, while its relatively small screen and Atom processor make it less attractive for running demanding Windows applications than other Windows 8 tablets.
Toshiba said that the Encore could be used as a companion device to another PC in a business environment. However, the firm really seems to be aiming at students, judging by its bundling of Office Home & Student 2013 and an emphasis on Skype video chat and six months' worth of free Xbox music access in its promotional literature.
In use, we found the device somewhat sluggish at times, despite its quad-core Intel Atom processor, and its small screen makes it infuriatingly hard to do just about anything in the Windows Desktop environment.
Conversely, we found that the 'Modern' user interface of Windows 8.1 seems to suit a device with a small screen like this, as opposed to a laptop or larger screen PC.
While the Encore is relatively compact, it is also chunkier than rival tablets with a similar screen size, at just over a centimetre thick. It is also heavier, at 445g, when compared with the 290g of a Nexus 7 or the 331g of the iPad Mini. Despite this, we found it comfortable to use and hold in just one hand, especially in portrait orientation.
In fact, this seems to be how Toshiba envisions the Encore being used. The Toshiba logo on the front panel is placed in portrait orientation as is the Windows button, and the two speaker slots for audio output are on the "bottom" edge of the device in this orientation. However, the screen automatically rotates as usual, so you can view the screen in landscape mode if you prefer.
While the front of the Encore has the typical, almost featureless black fascia seen on most tablets, the rear and sides are formed from a single piece of plastic with a mesh of fine dimples that give the device a rather cheap look and feel when compared with the iPad or Nexus. It does, however, feel sturdy enough to take a few knocks.