The 8-inch Windows tablet battle is about to get a lot more interesting, thanks to Toshiba’s new Encore tablet. This Baytrail-powered, Windows 8.1 device is currently available for $299 ($329 MSRP), and is a direct competitor to the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet. Toshiba is looking to outclass Dell’s slate with a sharper 8-MP camera, micro-HDMI, a preloaded Xbox One SmartGlass App and dual mics better Skype calls. Speaking of video chat, the Encore will also feature 30 days of free Skype calling.
With its rounded edges, the silver Encore is a fairly elegant-looking device. However it’s 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.43-inch dimensions are noticably thicker than the Venue 8 Pro’s 8.5 x 5.11 x 0.35-inch frame. The 15.7-ounce slate is also heavier than the 13.6-ounce Dell. Mimicking the design of previous Toshiba tablets like the Excite 7, Excite Write and Excite Pro, the Encore’s rear panel is made from a silver textured plastic that ensures a better grip.
The front of tablet houses an 8-inch display surrounded by a series of thick black bezels. The upper-right corner houses the 2-MP camera, which tells you that Toshiba designed this tablet for portrait use. Unlike the Venue 8 Pro, Toshiba placed the Home button where it belongs — in the center of the bottom bezel.
In addition to the micro-HDMI port, the Encore has a microUSB port, a micro SD Card slot, a headphone jack and physical buttons for power and volume.
The 8-inch 1280 x 800 WXGA panel delivered vibrant colors. The dual bottom-mounted speakers sounded pretty loud in our quick test, filling a small office. Having Dolby Plus technology on board certainly helps. However we wouldn’t recommend rocking out a max volume.
Similar to the Dell Venue 8 Pro, the Encore is equipped with a 1.8-GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3740 processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. Navigating between desktop and modern modes on the tablet was fluid experience, as was switching between apps. Toshiba claims that the Encore offers between 10-12 hours of battery life.
In addition to Skype and the SmartGlass app, the Encore also features Microsoft Office Home & Student. There’s also Netflix, I Heart Radio, Kindle, ebay and Zinio. Toshiba has also preloaded some of its proprietary software, including Book Place, Service Station and TruCapture, a note-taking app.
The Toshiba Encore looks like it has what it takes to beat the Dell Venue 8 Pro, offering a sharper camera, HDMI out and a presumably better video chat experience. However, the Dell offers a thinner and lighter design, and we haven’t yet tested the Encore’s performance or battery life. There are also other Windows 8 tablets, such as the Lenovo Miix2 and Acer Iconia W4, looking to make waves in the 8-inch tablet market.
Stay tuned for a full review of the Encore to find out if this slate has what it takes to be your next work-and-play device.