Toshiba’s Encore Mini is too cheap. (Hands-on Video)

Posted on 17 September 2014 by

There’s ‘value’ and there’s ‘cheap.’ The Toshiba Encore Mini falls into the latter group and even at $119 it’s got too many issues to be recommended for most types of user.

The Toshiba Encore Mini was one of the first devices I got hands-on with at IFA earlier this month and although it was an attractive size it was immediately clear that it had cut many corners. The screen, a non-IPS panel of just 768×1280 resolution, is terrible. Even my eyes, old and tired, saw jaggies and poor viewing angles.

And then there’s the specifications. The Z3735G CPU is acceptable but it’s coupled with just 1 GB of RAM which might work OK for the RT/Modern environment but you’ll run into problems as soon as you attempt to used the desktop. Given the low resolution and the RAM issue the Encore Mini might as well have desktop disabled so that RAM can be saved for the Modern environment. In fact, perhaps this should be a $99 Windows RT device? The 13 Wh battery is the smallest I’ve ever seen on a Windows PC.  This is a 5-hour tablet, not a 10-hour tablet.

On the positive side the Encore Mini is just about the cheapest Windows PC in the world and comes with one year of Office 365 and 1TB of One Drive storage included. You could potentially run a DisplayLink monitor from the USB port, connect a keyboard via Bluetooth and charge it from a solar panel. Products like the ASUS Eeebook X205  and the Acer ES1/E11 notebook are cheap but consider that these $199 options are 66% more expensive and that could be the difference between having a PC or not.

I’ve got a set of images on my broken Ultrabook that i’ll recover next week but you can watch the video below and see everything you need to know. The price will make this a stand-out offering as one of the cheapest ‘PCs’ on the market but please, check out the video before buying. Rarely am I so negative about UMPCs but there’s no place for this tablet in the developed Western markets and even in developing markets I would suggest caution.

Categorized | Hands On

  • Roland

    This thing is the worst device I saw at this years IFA. Worse than any of the chinese devices, worse than the w3… they’re scaling windows down to make it fit on there! and that screen holy sh it’s bad ;) the worst thing though is, that they are going to launch this in germany at 199 euro! yes. 199. with a purple back cover only. It’s gonna retail thru one major retailer and the price is fixed… at least that’s what they said on the show floor. That is just about the worst rip-off ever heard of. Even for 119 usd which is what this is selling for in the US now, it still is a joke. And a bad one.

  • NobbyNobbs

    I don’t really understand why MS is allowing this device to be sold with their OS. They really must be pretty desperate for market share. But I think that, in the end, devices like these are going to scare customers away and negatively influence the public perception of win8.1 as a tablet os.
    I even understand Toshiba less. Why? Why did they do this? The 1st wave of 8″ devices featuring win 8.1 just restored my belief in win8.1 as an os for mobile devices. I barely get by with the 2GB of Ram, but otherwise I feel like these devices can, at least at their current selling prices of ~200€, kind of stand up to the armarda of 7″ Android devices out there.

    My favourite 8″ win 8.1 tablet at the moment is the avoyo a1 mini, which I bought for ~120€ from China. 2GB of Ram, HD-IPS screen, hdmi out, charging via power connector or micro usb, windows bing and decent build quality. To me it’s kind of livinb proof that cheap win8.1 tablets could work just fine and really make an impression in the market – if they are done right.

    Just my 2ct,
    Nobby

  • In the developed world these things are a hard sell in my opinion. It will be a nightmare to use. Double te money and you have a real good tablet without any compromises. A Samsung TabPro 8.4 with a nice IPS panel (2560×1600) and good specs can be had for under 250 euros.

    • mark

      But not everyone wants to spend twice the money! There are plenty of Android tablets at half the price of the Tab Pro. I mean, I can understand if people were claiming “You can get better Android devices for the same price” or “This is too rubbish to be worth it”. But saying it’s not as good as one of the most premium devices on the market…?

      I think the biggest problems are non-IPS and poor battery life (since even the cheap Android devices don’t have those limitations). But resolution – 1280×768 is surely usable, I have no problems with 1366×768 on my 10″ T100. Whilst super-high resolution can give nicer rendering for text, I don’t think it’s essential. 1GB is poor if you’re trying to use it as a more general PC, but for casual tablet use, it’s the same RAM as plenty of other cheap Android devices out there, as well as the expensive IOS devices as someone points out.

      To answer why they didn’t go with Windows RT? Presumably because they went with Intel, and Windows RT isn’t available for x86. I don’t know if it’s possible to disable the “desktop” on Windows 8 x86, but I don’t see any advantage in doing so, and it risks more customer confusion.

  • hlov

    what OEMs are doing is weird, I was expecting that the 2nd generation of w8 tablets will be awesome but they are actually worst. Instead of bumping up the specs they are doing the opposite.
    if MS ever launch the surface mini it will be a big success

  • Martin

    I don’t understand the 1 GB of RAM even if MS lowered their minimum memory requirements. Even on Android and iOS, 1 GB of RAM isn’t enough but for the most casual and lightest user.

    I have an iPad Air (64-bit OS and apps + 1 GB RAM = bad) and apps sometimes crash due to out of memory issues. Browser tabs are always getting killed off causing you to lose everything (ie. form input) and you have to reload the page. Similar browser problems occur with Android and 1 GB. Based on that, I can expect a lot of memory paging on Windows tablets with 1 GB of RAM.

    • You are absolutely right. Paging becomes an issues very quickly. I’ve tested the 1GB Encore 2 WT8 and on boot-up there’s already pagefile useage. Open a few tabs and the disk activity increases. Once you’ve got a few tabs and a few apps open, witching between them can take seconds and performance drops quickly.
      1GB Windows 8 should never have been allowed. As for Threshold / Windows 9, things could be different.

      My Encore 2 review.
      http://www.notebookcheck.net/Toshiba-WT8-B-102-Tablet-Review.124034.0.html

  • Greg

    Chippy,

    Not so sure about your comment “…he Encore Mini is just about the cheapest Windows PC in the world and comes with one year of Office 365…”

    I just bought this amazing 8″ Winbook TW801 for only $139.
    …and it has a FULL SIZED USB 3.0 port in addition to a micro USB.

    Can you say it with me… charge and CONCURRENTLY connect external devices on an 8″ tablet!!

    Anyway, I have been testing it for two days and so far I love it.

    Check out the specs at Microcenter.com

    It also comes with one year of Office 365.

    Specs:
    Model – TW801
    Color – Black
    CPU Type – Baytrail-TZ3735D
    CPU Core – Quad-Core
    CPU Speed – 1.33GHz Normal (1.8 GHz Turbo Mode)
    CPU Brand – Intel
    Operating System – Microsoft Windows 8.1
    Memory – 2GB
    Memory Type – DDR3
    Flash Storage – 32GB
    Expansion Slots – MicroSD
    Display Size – 8″
    Display Type – IPS LCD
    Resolution – 1280×800
    Display Features – 5-Point Multi-Touch 16:10 Widescreen
    Touch Screen – Yes
    Video Chipset – Intel Gen7 Graphics
    Audio Recording – Integrated Microphone, 3.5mm Microphone Jack
    Front Camera – 2 Megapixel
    Rear Camera – 2 Megapixel
    Speakers – Built-in stereo speakers
    Wi-Fi Support – 802.11b/g/n
    Bluetooth Support – Bluetooth 4.0
    Ports and Connectors
    1 x Micro USB 2.0
    1 x USB 3.0
    1 x SD (SDHC/SDXC)
    1 x Micro HDMI
    1 x 3.5mm Audio Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack
    Battery – 1 Cell Lithium Polymer Battery
    AC Adapter – 10W 5V 2A 100-250V/50-60Hz
    Dimensions – 8.25″ x 0.43″ x 4.84″
    Weight – 13.05 oz
    Manufacturer Warranty
    Parts – 1 Year Limited
    Labor – 1 Year Limited

    • mo

      $119 is less than $139. So that quote is still true when it comes to the device you mentioned.

      Of course, the rest of Chippy’s statement still holds: it’s too cheap. You get a pretty crappy device for $119.

    • Sounds like a good deal.
      Fancy writing a little owners report on it for the site?

      • Greg

        Chippy,

        Give me a few more days to test and put the system through its paces and I will try to write something up.

        Be aware that MicroCenter is not selling these online (yet) and you must physically go down to one of their stores here in the states and pick them up in person…

        BTW, I also tested video output via Miracast. It’s not bad, but it does suffer from a little bit of lag as with most wireless displays. Dongle output to VGA and DVI is good. HDMI perfect.

        Bluetooth audio output to a headset is fine as well.
        Lovin the full sized USB 3.0 and 2nd micro USB..

        Again, so far so good.

  • Greg

    I knew someone was going to say that. I was hoping the words “.. just about ..” would cover me for the extra $20 difference :-)

    Regardless, the WT801 has it’s minor shortcomings:
    – USB cable for power was defective. Replaced with a $2 spare.
    – 2mp camera on the back could have been 5mp to 8mp
    – Would have been nice to have MS Office Student edition instead of just 1 yr of 365
    – 32gb… 64gb is more useful
    – gps and digitizer would be nice, but pushing it for that price.

    Honestly, I got a $20 bt kb, a portable usb wired mouse, a few micro hdmi to vga, dvi and full size hdmi dongles, a small 4 port usb3 hub, a small stand and I now have a completely portable office for the road. When back home, full size monitor, kb and external drive and it’s back into Windows desktop.

    Oh, and already got 10hrs use on a full battery charge while streaming pandora over wifi with the screen at dim setting and bt on.

    So far so good….

  • DavidC1

    Ok I just have one issue. You said: “The 13 Wh battery is the smallest I’ve ever seen on a Windows PC. This is a 5-hour tablet, not a 10-hour tablet.”

    The Dell Venue 8 Pro gets 8-10 hours of use with better specs on a barely bigger battery, at 15.5WHr.

    If the Dell one can get 8.5 hours with a 15.5WHr battery, the Toshiba should be able to do 7 hours on 13WHr.

  • OMEGATALON

    It’s crude; but even the Toshiba Encore is relatively crude especially given how with pricing having fallen so much for SSDs and memory, you’ve got to wonder why they can’t build a 4GB with a true 64/128GB SSD for possibly $100 more than the $200.

    If you could get a machine with 4GB of RAM and a true 64GB SSD for possibly $300; most people would jump at the chance.

    Computer builders are cheap as they’re using the equivalent of a 32/64GB SDXC card that’s hardwired in the computer for mass storage.

  • JohnCz

    Toshiba should have stuck with their much stronger offerings, Toshiba Encore 2 W8 and W10, I recently bought a W10 32GB/1GB model and I’m impressed. Never thought I would buy a PC with only 1GB but its workable for the casual use scenario. 2GB version can be had only at the Microsoft online store as far as I can tell. With the W10, Toshiba got the weight, thickness, audio, and port arrangement right.

  • Wooxer Pt

    Everyone that’s bashing this is just plain clueless about computers…
    The reviewer says the fonts are too small, well, the solution to any rational being would be to make them larger, and, incredibly enough, microsoft had the exact same though and included some nifty menus that you can get to in like 2 clicks from the desktop that do just that, but for the writer that must have been too complicated…
    Yes, it has low resolution, however, it’s not because of the low resolution that you can’t see the fonts you caveman as this tablet still has more PPI than most screens, the reason it does so is that to run certain apps windows 8 forces a higher resolution than the native one (you can check this by turning the resolution down and trying to open some apps, I think IE is an example but I’m not sure as of now) and it won’t open and force you to run at higher resolution. Higer resolution will make the text blurry and more difficult to read as it’s not the native resolution, to make this a little better you can calibrate the fonts on your screen, it won’t however make the problem fully go away, windows 10 lets this tablet run at native resolution and is therefore a much better choice, microsoft made windows 10 update available for this tablet for free.
    The cpu on this is a complete gem, few tablets up to 300$ have a better one, it’s very fast for most tasks, however, users complaining of speed are usually ignoramuses as they won’t turn off power hungry windows features and many won’t even install the drivers, yikes.
    To those who end up using windows 10, please install the updates as out-of-the-box it just wasn’t stable or usable in this tablet.

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