After the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet debacle, I was hesitant about getting another Windows 8.1 mini tablet. But I do need something for work (I’d be murderfied if I used the Android-powered Lenovo Yoga 8 at a MSFT event – not kidding!), so I decided to get the Toshiba Encore 32 GB 8” tablet, running Windows 8.1 (the consumer product, not RT). Note: I work for a Toshiba distributor, and I was lucky enough to get one of the very limited stock.
The tablet is just over 10mm thick. That’s thinker than an iPad mini, but not unreasonable. The portrait mode works and feels natural, but more on that later. The back is a tough plastic of some kind, not the Samsung shiny/bendy/slippery kind, but a pleasant & textured kind.
It’s a 1280 * 800 IPS display. It seems to do the trick. Don’t get overly caught up on pixel counts. The original iPad mini has a lower screen resolution. It’s all about pixels per inch (PPI). You don’t see those pixels with the normal human eye on a screen this size. It would be very different on a 10” device. Multitouch support is there as you would expect. Note that Windows 8.1 defaults to portrait mode.
You get a capacitive Windows button at the front of base of the tablet. It has a reassuring buzz response like you get on most Windows phones. The power button and volume rocker are on the top right edge, slightly protruding. I’d like them flush to avoid accidental pushes, but it’s not a big deal.
You get the new Intel “Bay Trail” quad core Atom CPU, with 8 logical processors. This is noticeably better than the previous generation “Clover Trail” CPU. The tablet is responsive and plays games like Hills Of Glory very well. Browsing was good. Video play is good.
I’ve not done any formal test but I think I’d get 7 hours from the battery. I’d like more, but this is a consumption device. You pick it up and use it lightly for short periods of time.
You get the expected Micro-SD slot, found uncovered on the top-left edge. This allows up to 64 GB of expansion. You’ll need this slot if you go with the 32 GB, which has just 10 GB free out of the box. I think most people should go for the 64 GB model once it appears. The price point of the 32 GB 8” tablets (all brands) will draw consumers to that size.
The device is powered via Micro-USB at the top. There is the usual audio jack on the top.
This tablet has something that I have not seen in others, and is definitely not in the Dell Venue 8 Pro. There is a Micro-HDMI port for connecting another display. That will be useful for PowerPoint. However, I have not found it useful for video. When you play a video it plays on the main display (the tablet). Without a Bluetooth mouse, there is no way to project the video to another display. This is a flaw in the Windows 8.1 video app rather than in the tablet itself. A way around will be Miracast, but that has challenges all of it’s own.
There is no support for a digitizer. You can use one of those tablet pens – not as good, but this is primarily a consumer device where stylus support is not required. Yes, the Dell Venue 8 Pro has a stylus option, but it sucks the big one.
You get some of the usual Toshiba bits, including manuals (uninstalled), Toshiba Today (or something), McAfee 30 day trial (uninstalled), and a third-party cra-app store (uninstalled).
Part of the cost of the tablet is a full OEM edition of Office 2013 Home & Student. Who really wants to work on Office on an 8” device? Maybe you want to view some stuff or make a quick edit? It’ll do that. But maybe you want to try use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and connect a monitor via Micro-HDMI? Then you have a lightweight productivity solution. I haven’t tried it, but I used my Clover Trail tablet for a lot of Office stuff, so with the right peripherals, the Toshiba Encore might do a good job.
On the App side, Windows is still lagging way behind. I have maybe 3-4 times more apps installed on my Lenovo Yoga 8 (Android 4.2).
I used the tablet quite a bit over the weekend after getting it on Thursday. Social media was the main thing, and a little browsing and surfing. In other words, just as it is meant to be used. It worked very well, especially when I was using it to keep up with other games while watching the NFL action last night.
This is a very nice device, and it’s working out much better than the questionable quality Dell Venue 8 Pro. The Lenovo Yoga 8 will continue to be my entertainment device, but the Toshiba Encore will be my work tablet. I’ll post more when I have a chance to push the tablet a bit.