I work for a Toshiba distributor so every now and then they let me put my hands on something new … or sometimes something that isn’t coming out for quite a while. A few months ago I got to hold and play with the new Toshiba 8” and 10” Encore 2 tablets. Both were pre-production models. I just got my hands on a production version of the 8” Toshiba Encore 2 (WT8-B-102), running Windows 8.1 with April 2014 Update.
To be precise, this is running Windows With Bing, the free (to OEMs) edition of Windows that is hard coded with Bing as the search engine. The idea is that instead of OEMs paying for Windows and then taking money from another search engine to set them up as the default, the OEM gets a free copy of Windows, and this brings down the cost of the h/w for the consumer.
This is a consumer tablet. It has an Atom processor so it does not run the doomed Windows RT. It’s running a 32-bit copy of Windows 8.1. There is 1GB RAM and 32 GB of storage … don’t fret! This is the April 2014 version of Windows so it features the new magic installation that consumes a lot less space. This tablet has just over 20 GB free out of the box. That’s a big improvement over the original 32 GB Encore which I own. And 1 GB is enough for the light weight consumer stuff that you’ll do with this tablet: apps.
The tablet is slimmer than the Encore 1 and has a smooth back. It is grey instead of “gold”. Also, the Windows button has moved to the top edge, instead of a capacitive button on the front-bottom; I guess that reduces costs.
The Micro-HDMI port of the Encore 1 is gone – cost savings for the masses, I guess. It’s not a big deal; Windows 8.1 defaults to portrait mode on 8” devices and that’s incompatible with a TV. There is an audio jack on the top and an open Micro-SD port on the side for easy access. On the base there is actually a place to tie a wrist cord if you should want one.
There is a normal micro-USB 2.0 port, unlike the dodgy one you get in a Dell Venue 8, which breaks if you do plug in a normal USB cable “upside down” – which the Dell unfortunately allows you to do. One teeny design thing I don’t like: the included power chord is angled and obstructs easy access to the Windows button. You can use any old (Windows or Android) phone charger cable and that solves the issue. The box also includes a USB dongle; with this you can plug in your USB stick/drive into the tablet and it also has an additional micro-USB port so you can continue to power the tablet while using a USB device.
The cameras are 1.2 MP on the front and 5 MP on the back. There is no 3G/LTE option – the thinking here is that people already have mobile phone plans and can enable a hotspot. There is no stylus (above you see a normal pen for a sense of scale) – this is a consumer machine.
I am told that the retail price in Ireland will be around €220 – I only see our buy price as distributors. I have seen this tablet for sale for under €250 on Irish online stores. Amazon.com has it on sale for under $240. Amazon UK has it for under £180. It’s not on Amazon.de yet.
It’s a nice tablet at an affordable price, and has made form factor improvements over the first version. The biggest improvement, though, is the additional free storage capacity in the 32 GB model, thanks to Windows 8.1 April 2014 Update. The only real concern is apps – which is outside of Toshiba’s (Lenovo, Dell, Asus, etc) control, and it’s something that Microsoft must do a better job at sorting out. Either the apps suck (Kindle reader for Windows) or don’t exist, and there are still too many cra-apps in the hard-to-navigate Windows Store.
I hopefully will get to play with the new 10” Encore 2 (under $270 on Amazon.com) in the near future.