Toshiba is taking direct aim at Apple’s iPad Mini with its new 8-inch Windows 8.1-powered Encore tablet. The slate, which debuted here at IFA 2013 in Berlin, is the first Windows 8.1 tablet to carry the Toshiba nameplate, and one of the first pint-sized 8.1 tablets around. Want proof this slate is meant to take on the Mini?
The $329 Encore has the same price as the iPad mini but it sports a higher resolution that Apple’s slate. Still, the iPad Mini is one of the best small tablets on the market. So how does the Encore stack up? We went hands-on to find out.
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According to Toshiba, one of the Encore’s biggest selling points is its slim frame, and at just 0.43 inches, it is undeniably thin. Still, the iPad Mini has the Encore beat, measuring a scant 0.3 inches thick. The Mini is also lighter than the Encore, weighing in at 10.9 ounces compared to the 16.9-ounce Toshiba. That said, the Encore still fits nicely in one hand, and felt lighter than its weight suggested.
Where the Toshiba really shines is with its gorgeous display. At 1280 x 800, it may not offer the kind of image quality found on the Nexus 7’s 1920 x 1200 resolution screen, but the Encore still produces a vibrant image. What truly struck us during our hands-on with the slate, however, was its incredible viewing angles. Thanks to the tablet’s HFFS display, we were still able to see images at nearly a 90-degree angle. That’s certainly something Toshiba should be proud of.
From a design perspective, the Encore is rather dull. Its front features slim silver accenting that runs along its black bezel. That same silver color coats the tablet’s back panel. The only distinguishing characteristics that let you know you’re using an Encore are the small Encore logo on the front and an inlaid Toshiba emblem around back.
Inside, the Encore packs one of Intel’s new 1.7-GHz Atom Bay Trail processors, 2GB of RAM and up to 64GB of onboard storage. Intel’s CPU grants the Encore with not just long battery life, but strong performance and Intel’s new InstantGo feature, which allows the slate to receive notifications even when it’s in sleep mode. Swiping around the Encore was smooth and free of slowdown. Of course, we won’t know how well the slate performs until we get the chance to benchmark it.
With its dual microphones and 2-megapixel front-facing camera, the Encore is the first Windows 8.1 tablet to be Skype certified. We didn’t get a chance to test out the app on the slate during our hands-on, but certainly will when we perform our full review.
The big news with the Encore is the fact that it runs Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 OS. In truth, there is little noticeable difference between Windows 8.1 and its predecessor. In fact, the only way we knew we were using 8.1 was the fact that Internet Explorer ran in full-screen mode and that the tell-tale Start button was in its rightful place on the desktop. Despite the update, we’re still hesitant when it comes to Windows 8.1’s capabilities as a tablet OS. Our primary reason for that is that there are relatively few killer tablet apps for the OS.
Toshiba certainly has the makings of a great small tablet in the Encore, but is it better than the iPad Mini? To answer that, we’ll have to wait until we perform a full review of the slate. So check back when we get our hands on a review unit.