Toshiba Encore review
The first compact Windows 8 tablet we'd seriously consider buying, packing in usable performance and a generous software bundle for a very tempting price
The Toshiba Encore marks the company's first foray into the Windows 8 compact-tablet market and, on paper at least, it gets off to a strong start. It comes with Windows 8.1, an Atom Bay Trail processor and Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 thrown in for good measure. Better yet, at only £200, it's significantly cheaper than the two other Windows 8 tablets we've reviewed recently – the £250 Acer Iconia W4 and £304 Asus VivoTab Note 8. See also the 11 best tablets of 2014
That lower price does come at a cost: the Encore isn't the slightest compact tablet we've seen and, weighing 455g, it's also heavier than its rivals. It's also slightly chunky, at 11mm thick. However, despite its comparative heft, the Encore is endowed with a robust build. Twist it, and there's hardly any creak or bend.
It's easy on the eyes, too: the plastic back panel has a brushed-metal finish, and curves softly up at its edges to sit snugly in the hand. The rear panel is slightly textured for a better grip. The bezels surrounding the screen aren't distractingly broad, and the whole thing is set off rather nicely by the silver capacitive Windows button below the screen. We could do without the Toshiba logo, though.
Scattered around the edges, the Encore's selection of ports fall in line with what we'd expect from a compact tablet of this ilk, with micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack on the top edge, plus a microSD slot on the left for adding to the 32GB of eMMC storage already provided. Wireless connectivity comprises dual-band 802.11n plus Bluetooth 4, but there's no NFC, 3G or 4G.
Core specification and performance
Underneath its attractive exterior is an Intel Atom Z3740 processor, supported by 2GB RAM. In our Real World Benchmarks, this setup delivered results that were in the same ball park as the the Iconia W4 and Asus VivoTab Note 8, netting an Overall score of 0.36, with its rivals achieving 0.41 and 0.35.
The tablet's two-cell lithium-ion battery didn't disappoint, either. In our light-use battery test, with the screen set to 75cd/m², the Encore managed 9hrs 26mins, not quite up to the VivoTab Note 8's time of 11hrs 29mins and the Iconia W4's 12hrs 5mins, but good enough to keep the Encore powering through the day.
The similarities between the tablets continue. The Encore has an 800 x 1,280 HFFS panel (a technology similar to IPS), which is on par with those of the VivoTab Note 8 and the Iconia W4. Brightness peaked at 314cd/m², which is enough to ensure the Encore remains readable under harsh overhead light or even outside on a bright day. The contrast ratio of 803:1 was a little lower than the Iconia W4's 1,030:1 and VivoTab Note 8's 1,094:1, but still enough to lend images a good dose of dynamism. If we had any gripes, they'd be that the colours don't fully cover the sRGB gamut, leading to slightly orangey reds and yellowy greens, and there is a tendency to crush darker greys into blacks.
The touchscreen is perfectly responsive, however, and swiping through Windows Store apps and navigating Windows 8.1's tile-based Start menu feels both natural and fluid. However, using the Encore in desktop mode is tricky thanks to the comparatively high pixel density and the small screen; icons and error messages are extremely small. There's no stylus included, either, which goes some way to explain the discrepancy in price between it and the VivoTab Note 8, which does have one.
Stylus or no, however, the Toshiba Encore is still significantly cheaper than both its main rivals, it (mostly) matches both for performance, and packs in all the connectivity you need to turn it into a lightweight mobile workhorse. With a full copy of Office 2013 Home & Student onboard as well, it's a bona fide bargain.
|Price ex VAT||£167|
|Price inc VAT||£200|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||5|
|Dimensions||213 x 136 x 11mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,280|
|Resolution screen vertical||800|
|Display type||LED HFFS|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1.3GHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||8.0mp|
|Upstream USB ports||1|
|Mobile operating system||Windows 8.1 32-bit|