Toshiba Encore 2 WT10-A

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F,Screen size: 10.1in, Screen resolution: 1,280×800, Rear camera: 5 megapixels,Storage: 32GB, Wireless data: None, Size: 258.9x9x175mm, Weight: 550g, Operating system: Windows 8.1

The Toshiba Encore 2 WT10-A is a 10in tablet running Windows 8.1 at a competitive price. There’s also an 8-inch version of the tablet available for around £170, but those wanting to use their Windows tablet for work will most likely appreciate the extra space.

Those few extra inches will certainly make a big difference for anyone looking to be productive on the road and, usefully, the 10.1in Encore 2 comes with a year’s subscription to Office 365 Personal. This gives you a licence to use the software on the tablet, on a smartphone and on a PC or Mac, making it great value. Be sure to activate your Office 365 subscription within six months of activating your Windows 8.1 license otherwise you’ll miss out.

It’s unlikely you’ll want to write your magnum opus or edit spreadsheets using the onscreen keyboard, and the tablet has no USB ports for a keyboard and mouse, so you’ll want to use a Bluetooth set. You’ll also likely need a suitable stand such as Toshiba’s own Stand Case (PX1875E-1NCA, £29) to prop up the tablet for comfortable viewing as you work.

The Toshiba Encore 2 isn’t the most exciting tablet to look at, with a slightly utilitarian design. However, it feels well-made, if a bit chunky and heavy, and rather unwieldy to hold one-handed. At 550g, the Encore 2 is very much a tablet you’ll need two hands to use. Its chassis is made from a lot of hard plastic that feels slightly cheap but reassuringly doesn’t have any flex.

There’s a microSD slot for expanding the tablet’s built-in 32GB of storage. There’s also a Micro HDMI output for connecting to an external display; this might come in useful if you want to watch a film on a television or connect a monitor for working. There’s a pair of stereo speakers on the tablet’s sides, but their audio isn’t anything to shout about.

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The Encore 2 comes loaded with Windows 8.1 with Bing. This is a version of the operating system that Microsoft offers to manufacturers for a reduced cost as long as its Bing search engine is set as the default in Internet Explorer. Microsoft is banking on most consumers not bothering to change search providers, but it’s easy enough to do so if you prefer the likes of Google or Yahoo.

PERFORMANCE AND BENCHMARKS

Processing power comes from an Intel Atom Z3735F chip running at 1.33GHz. It can also burst to 1.83GHz for a short-term performance increase when temperatures allow. This is one of Intel’s quad-core “Bay Trail” processors, and it showed strong performance in our standard Windows application benchmarks, managing an overall score of 19. This rivals and in fact exceeds even some budget laptops’ scores. With 2GB of RAM, the 10.1in Encore 2 is better equipped for multitasking than the 8in equivalent with its paltry 1GB.

In our SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, the Encore 2 produced a score of 489ms, which is about average for a Windows-based tablet, and higher than we see from most Android slates. In our subjective tests, the Encore 2 certainly handled Windows 8.1 smoothly, and the gestures for pinning apps side-by-side and multitasking felt smooth and responsive. Apps from the Windows Store also loaded up quickly and the tablet boots in little time.

The Toshiba Encore 2 also showed reasonable 3D performance in our benchmarks. In our 3DMark test the tablet managed a score of 8,917 in Ice Storm Extreme and 10,326 in Ice Storm Unlimited. The tablet will therefore cope well with Windows Store games such as Halo Spartan Assault or Asphalt 8. However, you shouldn’t expect but don’t expect to play any Windows titles not adapted specifically for tablets on a touchscreen The catalogue of games on the Windows Store isn’t as diverse as on iOS or Android either. However, although the tablet couldn’t cope with the intro video to Blizzard’s card-collecting favourite Hearthstone, the game played fine and is optimised for touchscreen devices.

The tablet’s 10.1in display isn’t anything special. Its 1,280×800 resolution is typical of low-cost 8in Windows tablets but as the pixels are this time stretched across a larger display the pixel density suffers; 149ppi makes for some fairly blocky text. The display appears slightly grainy and has a subtle blue colour cast, making images appear colder than they should. Our calibrator showed that the display could only display 63.9% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is below average. Its black levels were better at 0.34cd/m2, but an overall contrast ratio of 891:1 is nothing to shout about.

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There’s a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera that will be useful for video calls, and a 5-megapixel camera on the back. In outdoor test shots the camera’s performance was surprisingly respectable, showing decent sharpness and colour accuracy; the camera managed to expose the scene correctly and maintained plenty of highlight detail with minimal noise in the shadows. The 10.1in size makes the Encore 2 a somewhat unwieldy camera, but it does a good job if you have nothing else to hand. The display was sufficiently bright enough to be seen outdoors, and made for a large viewfinder.

CONCLUSION

The Toshiba Encore 2 WT10-A is a very respectable 10.1in Windows 8.1 tablet. It has strong performance, so you’ll get away with running desktop Windows applications as well as tablet apps from the Windows Store. The display isn’t the best we’ve seen, but the tablet’s camera is surprisingly good. If you factor in the year’s subscription for Office 365 Personal, it becomes even better value. If you’re looking for a more elegant Windows tablet-cum-laptop, however, the Schenker Element (Shopper 320) with its keyboard case is a great alternative.

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