Reviewing the Toshiba Encore 2 with Windows 8.1 - Is It a Good Tablet?
Toshiba has announced a new generation of devices with Windows 8.1 and some of them are pretty exciting, at least in terms of design and specifications. The first device that was launched is the new Toshiba Encore 2. This tablet looks great and it is available in two versions: a 10" tablet and an 8" one. Luckily we got our hands on the 10" version and we were able to use it and test it for 10 days. Read this review to learn more about this device and what it has to offer.
Unboxing the Toshiba Encore 2
Unfortunately, there's nothing special about the way the Toshiba Encore 2 is packaged. It uses a rather plain box with very few details about what's inside. You will find the following items: the tablet itself, a micro-USB cable, the charger, the manuals, the warranty and the product key for your Office 365 Personal subscription that is valid for one year.
If you would like to learn more about the unboxing experience, view the video embedded below.
Given its affordable price, the package doesn't include a docking stand or a keyboard.
The Toshiba Encore 2 that we tested is a 10" tablet with an IPS display working at a 1280x800 resolution. The display has vivid colors and decent viewing angles. Toshiba also offers also an 8" version of this device with the same hardware and software specifications.
The 10" tablet weighs only 1.2 pounds (0.5 kg) and it has a Li-Ion battery which promises to last up to 11 hours. Toshiba Encore 2 has a quad-core Intel Atom Z3735G , 2GB of RAM DDR3 and 32GB of storage space on an SSD. Some versions may feature only 1GB of RAM so pay attention to this important detail when purchasing this device because the quantity of memory impacts the performance you get.
Toshiba Encore 2 sports a micro HDMI port, a micro-USB port, a microSD slot, a 1.2 megapixel camera on the front and a 5 megapixel camera on the back.
Unfortunately, the biggest missing feature of the first Toshiba Encore is present here as well: there is no USB port. Yes, you can use a micro USB cable and connect it to all kinds of devices and adapters but a full USB port would have been more useful for transferring data. Also, you can't use USB devices with the Toshiba Encore 2 while you want to charge it, because you have only one micro-USB port.
The tablet lacks 802.11ac wireless connectivity, but you can connect to the network and the Internet through its 802.11n wireless adapter.
Regarding audio, it has two incorporated speakers and a jack for plugging in your headphones.
The Toshiba Encore 2 has a 32-bit edition of Windows 8.1 with Bing and not Windows RT. This is great, since you will be able to run also desktop applications on it, but it also means that the operating system will require slightly more resources to run smoothly.
Using the Toshiba Encore 2
We have to admit, Toshiba Encore 2 has a very stylish look and feel. It doesn't look cheap and the build quality is definitely above average.
We very much liked how thin this device is, especially when compared to its predecessor.
In terms of weight, it is a bit heavier than the 1.06 lbs (0.48 kg) of the first Encore, weighing 1.2 lbs (0.5 kg), but it is still easy to carry around. The back cover, while it looks good, doesn't have a textured grip like the previous model does and it's quite a fingerprint magnet. However, the tablet doesn't slip when you hold it in your hand, so this shouldn't be a big downside.
Regarding the button layout - all buttons are placed on the top side of the tablet, when you hold it in landscape mode. We missed having the Windows button on the front of the device, like on the previous model. Having it on the top makes it harder to reach and navigating Windows 8.1 is not as easy because of that. Also, taking screenshots is a bit more difficult.
Toshiba Encore 2 works generally well. We did not encounter any major issues with it, only a couple of small issues.
For example, there are moments when the Toshiba Encore 2 slows down while you are using it, especially if you multitask among many apps. It's like it doesn't have enough resources to deal with all of them and it makes you wait when you load a new app or switch to another window. If you work with 2 to 4 apps at a time, its performance and responsiveness is good but if you try to use 5 apps or more and you also add desktop applications to the mix, you should expect some degree of slowness.
For this new model, Toshiba has optimized their apps for portrait mode, so they don't look weird anymore when you are holding the tablet that way. Also, Windows 8.1 works better in this mode than Windows 8 did, which is great.
While we were using the Toshiba Encore 2, we noticed that it lost its wireless connectivity at random intervals, even though it was used in the same room with the router. This also did not allow us to perform tests that evaluate how long the battery lasts when browsing the web. Hopefully this problem can be fixed in a future firmware update.
The front camera has 1.2 MP and the back camera has 5 MP. You can use them for brief video calls and for casual picture taking. However, the quality of your photos will not be great. This device is suitable mostly for quick video calls and selfies, not for great outdoors photography.
Just like on the first Toshiba Encore, the power cable is rather short and you can't use the tablet comfortably while it charges. Charging the battery does take less time than on the previous model, which is great. The first Encore took around 5 hours to charge while powered off. The new model charges in about 3 hours, which is a big improvement.
In terms of battery time the Toshiba Encore delivers decent results. Yes, Toshiba promises up to 11 hours but that will happen only if you don't really do much on this tablet. In our tests it lasted somewhere between 5 and 6 hours while using the tablet for things like browsing the web, email, using touch apps, watching short videos and doing some quick casual gaming sessions.
Because this device doesn't come with a stand and a keyboard, you can use it only as a tablet. This means that it is not going to be a productivity device, unless you are willing to invest in accessories like a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, plus a cover that can also be used as a stand.
The tablet experience offered by the Toshiba Encore 2 is generally good. This device is easy to hold, it feels good when you are using it and, except for few issues, it works generally well. Also, Windows 8.1 is a better tablet operating system than Windows 8 was. The only downside is the fact that the apps ecosystem offered by Windows lags when compared to that of its competitors but things should improve in the future.
Apps that are Bundled with the Toshiba Encore 2
Speaking of apps, Toshiba Encore 2 has almost the same software bundled with it as the first model:
You will find Spotify (which works only in a few countries), some Toshiba Manuals, the Toshiba Service Station and other utilities, Symbaloo (a shortcut to a web portal that you can set as your browser's homepage), an Office 365 Personal subscription (you need to activate it with the product key found inside the packaging), Google Drive and McAfee LiveSafe - Internet Security. Unfortunately, the McAfee suite makes the boot time longer and it is very difficult to use on a touch screen. Plus, in our series of reviews for Internet Security suites, it performed rather poorly. We recommend that you remove this suite and use better security products. In some countries, McAfee is replaced with Norton and, in North America, Hulu Plus is also bundled with Toshiba Encore 2 devices.
There are also some touch-based apps bundled with the Toshiba Encore: Toshiba Places, SkyScanner, WildTangent Games, Amazon Kindle, Amazon and Toshiba. Toshiba Places can be useful when you need to learn more about your tablet and how to receive support when it is needed, while SkyScanner can be useful for finding flights.
The WildTangent Games app is a touch based app but it offers for download mostly classic desktop games that don't work well with touch. Most probably you will want to uninstall this app because of this.
We think that you will appreciate apps and programs like Office 365 Personal, Spotify (if you are in a country where this service is available), the Toshiba utilities, Amazon Kindle and the SkyScanner. The others though you might not. We recommend that you quickly test each bundled program or app and remove those that you do not need. It will surely improve the performance offered by the Toshiba Encore 2.
Performance in Benchmarks
Now it is time to compare the Toshiba Encore 2 with the first Toshiba Encore, Asus Transformer Book T100 and T200. We ran several benchmarks and compared the results obtained for all these devices.
We first measured how fast this device starts, using BootRacer. The Toshiba Encore 2 boots, on average, in 34 seconds, even though it has some bundled programs that run at startup. This is a bit slower than the first model, which started in 28 seconds but better than the start time offered by Asus Transformer Book T100 and T200.
We also ran the 3DMark app from the Windows Store to measure gaming performance. In the Ice Storm Unlimited test (the most detailed test available), the Toshiba Encore 2 had a score of 14436. That is 6% lower than the first Encore's score of 15386.
Let's see the overall score obtained by the Toshiba Encore 2 and the ones obtained by its competitors. As you can see Asus Transformer T200 was the top performer in this test.
Since the overall score doesn't tell you much, let's take a look at the frames per second that were obtained in each test.
When we evaluate the battery time, we generally use the Peacekeeper benchmark that tells us how much the battery lasts while browsing the web. Because of the wireless connectivity issues that we had, we could not use this benchmark. Instead, we ran Powermark. When using the Balanced benchmark which runs web browsing, word processing, video and light gaming workloads, the battery of the Toshiba Encore 2 lasted exactly 5 hours, which is a good result in our view.
We mentioned earlier in this review that Toshiba Encore 2 took about 3 hours to charge itself. Below you can see a comparison with the charging times of its competitors. As you can see, it fares very well.
Where To Buy
Toshiba Encore 2 is a good looking tablet, with good build quality, good performance and an affordable price tag. It works great for users who do not need to use it as productivity device but only as a tool for consuming all kinds of content. If you want a tablet that allows you to browse the web, check your email, Facebook, YouTube and so on, then Toshiba Encore 2 is a great choice. If you want to do more and use it as a productivity device, then you should consider investing in additional accessories or you should purchase a more expensive hybrid device with Windows 8.1.