5th Sep 2013 | 17:48
Do we want more, or do we want MORE?
When Acer announced the Iconia W3 back at Computex earlier this year, there were mixed feelings all around. The full Windows 8 experience in a tablet is a great proposal, but in an 8-inch tablet? Could this possibly work?
Whether or Not Acer thinks its idea was a success, Toshiba is now following suit by putting Windows 8.1 on the 8-inch screen of its own Encore slab. Its announcement was significant on the base of it being Toshiba's first 8-inch Windows tablet alone, but there's something much bigger happening inside.
Toshiba's tablet is also using Intel's new Atom Bay Trail processor with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory making for a tablet that's now much more capable of running the full Windows 8.1 desktop experience.
So it runs Windows quite well then, yes? Well for the most part. It certainly fared better than expected though there was the occasional hiccup and one full crash. We were told at the start that it wasn't the final finished product and there were still a few bugs in the system so we hope that things will be more stable come its release later this year.
But those gripes aside, moving around the Windows desktop was mostly fluid and easy with the small screen. We found that the 8-inch display did make the 1280 x 800 resolution look extra crisp and vibrant, which is what you want when flicking around your colourful Windows tiles. It's also much nicer to look at than Acer's more washed out offering.
The other good news is that you'll be able to hold this in one hand though we doubt you'll be doing that too much with the full Windows 8.1 experience at your fingertips. But it's an important factor to mention.
The on-screen keyboard is another important element with a diminutive screen. Toshiba has compensated for this by bulking up the keys which is good news for your finger accuracy but means the keyboard is particularly big when using the tablet in landscape.
The alternative option is to pair up a keyboard via Bluetooth and even a mouse too if you're feeling particularly crazy.
The Encore also comes with a free Office Home & Student 2013 pre-installed, and this is where the real test lies. Just how viable is it to use desktop applications such as Word and Excel on such a small touchscreen?
We found the experience to be similar to that of the W3 - a bit too cramped - but the added speed of Bay Trail definitely had a positive impact. The problem is that we just can't see ourselves using these applications on such a small device, which begins to make the whole idea feel a little redundant.
One significant change that will take place before the tablet hits the market is the rear casing. We quite liked the smooth finish but could see it slipping out of our hands, and sure enough we were told that the Encore will have a bumpy texture on the back in the final version.
It certainly lacks the high quality feel of the iPad mini right now so we hope the final product will feel more premium when it arrives.
More and more people consider tablets to be viable camera options - we're not sure we agree. But Toshiba's 8-inch Encore almost slots into phablet territory and therefore becomes dangerously close to being an acceptable snapper.
Toshiba has loaded it with an 8MP rear camera and 2MP front-facer which are both capable of capturing 1080p video. This is by no means bad but again leaves us wondering what this tablet is for. Is it really the 'everything' device that we've been waiting for or will we stick with our smartphones for those picture moments?
But currently phablet fans open to a small size upgrade will suddenly get a whole lot more with Toshiba's smaller tablet. And if you do find yourself needing to use it for tasks more intensive than the screen size can afford for, the Micro HDMI port will let you hook it up to a PC.
Battery is said to be around seven hours but our Toshiba representative declined to give us a solid figure considering that the tablet is not quite finalised.
But can the Encore also hit Acer on the price? It sure can - we're told that Toshiba's tablet will hit the UK in Q4 for £249 ($329, around AU$361), giving the W3 an undercut.
We're still not sure that 8 inches is really deserving of Windows 8.1. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should and it'll be interesting to see whether or not this can convince the market, as Acer doesn't seem to be doing the trick right now.
But if you're still holding onto the belief that there's a device that can do it all then the Encore ticks most of the boxes and - assuming nothing goes wrong before it arrives - will most likely be your best 'everything' tablet option when it hits the market.
It's an intriguing proposition, we're just not convinced that even Toshiba has quite nailed it yet.