Toshiba just announced two new Windows 8.1 tablets, offering up 8 and 10.1-inch versions of its Encore 2 slate. The new devices won’t be available to purchase until July, but we got a chance to try them out for ourself.
Both Encore 2 tablets offer a pretty nice all-grey design with curved edges. The new lineup is significantly thinner than last year’s model, with the 10.1-inch slate coming in a 0.4 inches thin and just 1.2 pounds. Meanwhile, the smaller 8-inch variant weighs in at under a pound. Both models are easy to hold with just one hand, though the bigger Encore 2 is clearly meant for getting work done with Windows 8.1.
Both models offer an impressive 1280 x 800-pixel display that looks sharp, though the colors aren’t quite as vivid as we’ve seen on competing Windows slates like the Microsoft Surface. Under the hood you’ll find a 10-hour battery, a quad-core Intel Atom processor and up to 64GB of storage with microSD support. Toshiba’s also throwing in a year of free access to Office 365, and both tablets come preloaded with Xbox Music, Xbox Video, Kindle Reader and Skype.
I haven’t personally had a chance to try out the new Surface Pro 3, but at 12-inches Microsoft’s new tablet isn’t competing with these smaller entries from Toshiba. Compared to last year’s Surface 2, however, the 10.1-inch Encore 2 is definitely a lot sleeker, thinner and best of all cheaper at just $269.99. It’s not quite as powerful and you’ll miss out on Microsoft’s built-in kickstand and accompanying Type Cover, but you’re still getting a decent Windows tablet at a significantly lower price.
Microsoft still doesn’t offer a Surface Mini, leaving plenty of room for third-party manufactures to offer their own small Windows tablets. In that respect the 8-inch Encore 2 is an excellent option, offering similar hardware to the 10-inch model for just $199.99. If you’re looking for a small cheap tablet that offers the full Windows experience this is a solid option, though we’re still holding out hope for an official Surface Mini.
Toshiba’s also thrown in a few extra software features. You can beam your tablet’s display wirelessly onto a nearby TV, though you’ll still need to plug a receiver into the back of your television first. The company also showed us a new camera trick that takes angled photos of text and flattens them out for easier reading. We wouldn’t say either feature is a key reason to buy an Encore 2 tablet, but it’s still a nice perk.
Overall we were impressed with Toshiba’s new Windows tablets. If you’re looking for a cheaper device that offers the full Windows 8.1 experience you could do a lot worse, though die-hard Microsoft fans will probably still prefer the official Surface experience.