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Toshiba Encore – Hands on and first impressions

When it comes to 8-inch tablets with Windows 8.1, consumers have quite a few choices this holiday season. The good news here is that so far, almost all of them have been really good in terms of performance due to the similarity in specs. Still, from Dell Venue 8 Pro to Lenvo’s Mixx2 to the Toshiba Encore, each brings a little something to the table.

Which one is the best? I’ll answer that later, but for now, I’m taking a look at the Toshiba Encore.

Toshiba Encore specifications

  • Intel Atom Z3740 Quad-Core at 1.3 GHz (up to 1.8 GHz burst)
  • 8 inch IPS 1280 x 800 display
  • Windows 8.1 (x86, not RT)
  • 32 GB of storage, micro SD expandable
  • 2 GB of RAM (DDR3)
  • Micro HDMI
  • 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front facing
  • 1.1 pounds (16.9 ounces)
  • 8.40 x 0.43 x 5.40 inches
  • 802.11bgn
  • GPS via GNSS (Updated)

When it comes to raw specs, the Toshiba falls in line with the Dell and Lenovo offerings. The IPS display is solid, though not spectacular, performance is really good for this class of device and even the camera (when it works) is noteworthy.

The big selling point for many with the Toshiba is the physical micro HDMI port. While many people don’t need (or care) about such a feature, for some it’s a must have and is unique to this device. I’m not a huge user of HDMI, but when I tried plugging it into my Samsung TV, everything went to hell. In short, the display rotated on the Encore to a vertical orientation and my TV said it did not support that resolution. Locking the display into landscape on the Encore did not ameliorate this issue and at least for now, HDMI on my TV is a no go. Why? I have no idea, but plugging in my Surface 2 or laptops to my TV has never been an issue.

Update: I forgot to mention that like the Miix2, the Encore has built in GPS (GNSS), which for some is a useful feature (see above).

Let’s also get this out of the way: the Encore is a thick, heavy device. Relatively, at least. It’s not prohibitively large and due to its rounded corners and edges, it’s really nice to hold. But it is much thicker than the Dell and at 1.1 pounds, it’s not light (the iPad Air, a full tablet, is just 1 pound). I emphasize “relative” because on its own, I don’t think many will mind the size, but as soon as you put it up against the Dell, Lenvo or iPad Mini, it looks huge.

In terms of design, the Encore is really nice looking and probably my favorite so far. The chrome edge around the black bezel is really elegant. The device does creek very slightly but you have to really force it. Where the display meets the body of the device, there are slight hairline gaps. The back is textured and cool to the touch. With the rounded edges and corners, the Encore is easy to hold. Finally, Toshiba kept the stickers to a minimum and the back is very clean.

Rear camera sample - Not bad

The cameras are actually decent, in fact I’d say on first blush they’re the best I’ve used for this range. The 2MP front facing camera picks up ambient light very well. Granted, the image was super noisy but if it’s between an image that you can’t see anything (e.g. Dell) or, one where you can (but noisy) in a low-light situation, I’ll take the latter. However, my 8 MP rear camera crashes on occasion—launching completely black and even causing the system to restart once. Clearly, there are some driver issues that need to be worked out.

The IPS display is really good. Whites were white and the viewing angle was IPS-worthy. The auto-adjust for brightness was more aggressive—in a good way—compared to other tablets. Brightness is adequate but the Dell has more juice here.

Buttons are much better than on Lenovo but not as good as the Dell. They clicked, which is great, but the profile is a little low. Still, I can’t complain too much. The Encore also has a front-capacitive button for the Windows key. It works, though sometimes I felt I had to press more firmly to get it to register. That may be a good thing though, as many of you are worried about accidental firings of that button.

The Encore also features dual microphones and dual speakers. The speakers are ‘ok’. They’re loud enough but they lack bass. I haven’t tried the microphones just yet and will follow up on that in the shootout next week.

The Encore comes preloaded with only a few Toshiba apps, though it does have Norton Anti-Virus on board (shudder). Luckily, you can uninstall it. It also comes with a free Office 2013 key, like all other Windows 8.1 devices.

Initial Conclusion

Despite the HDMI not working out for me and the rear camera occasionally not launching, both driver issues that presumably could be fixed, the Encore is an interesting device. In theory, I shouldn’t like it—it’s much thicker than the Dell and even heavier. But the rounded edges and chrome accents make it a looker. Performance is on par with the other tablets, though I’ll need to do some benchmarks for the nitty gritty.

For $329 is it a deal over the Dell? I can’t see a single reason why it would be. My gut is telling me that the Dell Venue 8 Pro will beat the Toshiba in almost every area: price, size, performance and even display. The Dell also support a (mediocre) pen and has an optional folio cover. Having said that, I can’t say I dislike the Toshiba either. It’s a good device, but there’s nothing amazing about it either.

Stay tuned for our 8-inch tablet showdown next week. Have questions? Ask away in comments. Finally, check out our other 8-inch tablet reviews:

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

110 Comments
  • What's wrong with Norton antivirus?
  • It sucks. Always has.
  • I wouldn't say it has always sucked. Although I agree it has been the worst AV you can get since 2004, but up until 2002 - 2003 it was one of the best. The only people I see using it now, are the ones that used it back then, and were never told that is has been crap ever since. They just assume, if a trial version came with the computer, it must be endorsed by the manufacture, and they wouldn't endorse crap... right? They just don't realize Norton pays to have this crap installed, and THAT is why it comes with your computer, not because it is a good AV to have.
  • http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2424097,00.asp PC Mag seems to think that its excellent, so please give us some sort of reference to how Norton sucks Here's another where it is in the top three for 2013... http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2372364,00.asp
    .
  • Using Norton since 2003,no crashes,viruses,etc etc till now......
  • I've used nothing since 2003.... no crashes, viruses etc. I use Microsoft Security Essentials, only because it doesn't bother me, doesn't interfere with my system, and because Microsoft aren't paying the guys to write viruses like Norton, AVG, McAfee and the other guys who benefit from viruses being spread.
  • The primary problem is how badly it impacts your machine's performance. Compared to other options out there I don't know many who would recommend Norton
  • I definitely would not recommend it. Go with AVG.
  • Haha, another crappy antivirus. Norton has become better while AVG has become more crappy over the years. My advice: don't install anything. You already have built in anti-virus.
  • Funny because I used AVG for a few years, installed Norton and it found a dodgy file that my dad opened from his emails that AVG did not. Norton hasn't slowed my machine down at all, just because it wasn't the best in the past doesn't mean that's the case now.
  • AVG was reasonable 6 years ago, now it's just awful as they pile on more crapware every day. Go with Microsoft Security Essentials - does everything you need without the crap
  • I've used Norton Internet Security for years, the same as on this tablet.   Any x86 version of Windows must have an antivirus of some sort and Windows Defender or whatever it's called at this point does not get the best ratings...
  • I dunno. On 8 inch tablets I'm sticking with Windows Store Apps and Outlook email. Where am I going to get a virus from? I haven't even had a false positive in years...
  • The likelihood is that neither of us open up e-mail attachments from people we don't know, usually run 64bit OS's and are careful.   However e-mail attachments are one way of getting infected as is poisoned websites or hanging out at fringe (porn or warez) sites. Personally there's just no way I am gong to run a full version of Windows without an anti-virus.
  • Daniel, where did you get that wallpaper? its cool
  • If you watch the ratings over the years, you will find that every AV ends up falling from the top spots for speed, accuracy, etc. It's cyclical. Like IRL, no matter what protection you choose, if you like the seedy underbelly of life or the web, you will eventually get infected with something.
  • I used McAfee for years till it locked up my PC, that's when I went to Norton and never had a problem with it.
  • Whats the point of using an anti virus on a personal computer? It often takes longer to scan your files than it does to just format it. I occasionally run Spybot Search and Destroy, keep a firewall, and don't act stupid. I've never had a problem with viruses. I format my PC about once or twice per year to keep everything running smoothy and getting rid of programs and files that I don't use. Antiviruses are only useful for enterprises.
  • 4look, you're either crazy or not being serious. Yikes.
  • concur with poddie I oftentime reformat when I buy a new motherboard which is often every couple of years.  However to reinstall and configure all my software which takes a significant amount of time is not a task I'd want to do just so that I can avoid running an anti-virus.   I certainly want to avoid having my documents and such pawned by someone just cause I don't feel like installing an antivirus.   That just strikes me as foolish.   I am not saying that a good anti-virus is a 100% solution, but whatever protection it gives is far better than no running one.
  • I think you sound a bit paranoid.
  • It's foolish to mistake wisdom for paranoia.
  • Paranoid to reformat when he gets a new motherboard? With all the low-level drivers required for optimum performance and to prevent system crashes, it's practically mandatory.
  • Thanks for the support, but I don't think he is talking about me reformating but rather that I am arguing for using anti-virus.   Earlier in a different thread he states "My advice: don't install anything. You already have built in anti-virus."   That's better than some people who seem to be arguing for no anti-virus at all, but a few of us have pointed out some of the issues with Microsoft Security Essentials. I'm just surprised at how many enthusiasts argue for not using an anti-virus, that just seems weird.   But hey, somebody has to be the people in those botnets, getting their computers ransomed, having their bank accounts drained; just as long as it isn't me....  
  • Windows 8 has its own AV built in, based on security essentials.  Additional virus scanners are just...redundant.  
  • Just that Windows Defender/Security Essentials is pretty much useless when it comes to Day-0 exploits/attacks.
  • I just don't see how this is an issue with Store apps and IE11, unless you open every bad link in an email or do visit really janky sites.
  • Totally agree with what others have said. Unless you habitually visit dodgy web sites you don't really need any anti virus software installed. You definitely do not need Norton whatsoever
  • I agree with you, I havent used AV on any of my personal computers for years, however on the PC's at work, I use Endpoint Protection and  it's great.
  • I disagree, you can pick up a virus from a bad advert these days. You should pick up Avast's free antivirus, it's been on every computer I've owned a decade
  • Then use ad block for sites you don't trust. I have been running my devices without antivirus for years without any problem with viruses . Once in a while I install antivirus , do a full scan and uninstall it right afterwards .
  • I agree Jay, many legit web sites get hacked and infected. They also go unnoticed for a while trying to infect every visitor to the site. Avast has been my go to AV for years as well. I even run it on my media centre PC, and all it does is play movies that I ripped myself. Avast id free, and has no noticeable performance impact, so why not run it?
  • totally agree Deamion Yes, legit web sites get infected, you don't need to hanging out a Porn Emporium.  I'm not necessarily surprised that people have differing ideas about Norton, but I am absolutely shocked at the idea that a number of people are saying they run without antivirus programs and are suggesting the same to others. It's not uncommon to read about botnets (there's news just today or yesterday that MS smashed a botnet) or about virii that encrypt and ransom your PC for cash, so I am just amazed that people put themselves at potential risk given it's easy to see there's stuff out there.
  • concur with zacman Windows Defender/Security Essentials is a last ditch anti-virus solution.  It's great for grandpa and if you are super poor, but it's detection rate is not great and I have every expectation that zacman is right about day 0 (or after) attacks. In situations where money is an issue or I rarely use the device (netbooks that I don't use much), I tend to run Avast.
  • I used to believe that - I ran Windows Security Essentials (Windows Defender now) since around 3 years back on my windows 7 and now windows 8 PCs and it was good - no viruses / malware - and I am always careful about e-mail attachments/suspicious websites and that sort of stuff BUT earlier this year, when a friend plugged in his external hard drive into my PC, it infected my PC which went undetected by Windows defender. Luckily I was able to catch it before it did any serious damage - from then on I have been using AVG free and have to say it's very good - cleaned up my system, my freind's infected external drive and has detected threats the moment it tries to enter the PC. The negatives are the annoying ads asking you to upgrade to full version when you open the program - but I can live with that, as it's an install it and forget it program. And I am uanable to find any performance penalties for running it. And on being other AV scanners redundant, once you install another AV, windows detects it and shuts off Windows Defender.
  • Let's pretend that none of us goes to prOn sites, and that we are careful about opening up attachments from strangers.   I've still had incidents to where friends of mine have been attacked and their entire e-mail list is sent a e-mail message with a payload.   There's times where I'm the person they call on to fix the issue.  I don't like slogging through someone's computer trying to erradicate a virus, so for those people that I did PC support for, I invariably had them install some form of anti-virus.
  • Windows 8.1 has a built in antivirus , but if you're even more cautious you wouldn't need an anti-virus to begin with .
  • its actually funny how people are discussing pc security and the many people hear complained about vista or longhorn which was built for with security a primary objective. i simply made some tweeks to my vista machine and had no issues with it.
  • It's a virus.
  • Don't use any antivirus. It will slow down your machine.
  • Try Avast, it doesn't slow it down!
  • The design of this tablet does look very nice, but it sounds like Dell still might have the best product for now
  • Any idea why everyone opted to put 32 bit Windows on these 8" tablets instead of 64 bit? Isn't this Atom CPU 64 bit? I know it's only got 2 gb of ram, but some of the software I use is going 64-bit only. Normally you wouldn't want to run that on something like this anyway for real work, but it makes for a neat demo at a trade show or something.
  • They haven't released 64-bit atom processors yet, they come out early next year http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57613424-94/heads-up-apple-here-comes-64-bit-android-on-intel/
  • These do support 64bit but connected standby is not supported yet in 64bit windows. So OEMs are going with 32bit versions.
  • So if I want to run the WP8 Dev Tools which are 64-bit-only, I will lose the network connectivity during standby? Is that what you described?
  • One thing I like about this tablet is the micro HDMI, and it's alway nice to have that extra hardware.
  • I absolutely agree.   A video out is a must have for me.   I've used a video out on an old phone to output to a hotel TV to play games and watch netflix.   I've done the same with a laptop to play netfix on a hotel TV. If I am going to get a tablet for media consumption then having a video out is critical.
  • You should look on youtube for a vid with a Dell Venue 8 Pro running 4 screens ;). It was lagfree. You dont need micro hdmi to have video out.
  • You are correct but there are some issues with connecting to a TV/monitor through the micro USB. First being the need for either a miracast or display port adaptor. Second is that through the display port you can't mirror(clone) yet, only extend which means you would need a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to even make use of that functionality (Miracast recently got an update which allows for mirroring.) And third, no easy way to charge while doing so. Now i have two venue pros and love how light and slim they are but i often wish that i had hdmi cause that makes like that much simpler.
  • Thank you pass11 for that information.
  • But in the article it says that connecting the tablet to a TV via HDMI didn't work. That needs to work for me to get this tablet--it's a huge selling point over the ot her 8" tablets. I want a tablet with Windows 8 to run Windows Media Center on it so I can connect it to my Xbox One and use the OneGuide to watch OTA television that way.
  • The Surface RT works when you connect to your TV. This is a full Windows 8 Pro it should have no problem, unless there's something wrong with the HDMI port.
  • I love my Surface RT but it cannot run Windows Media Center