Many people will have doubts about how well Windows can run on a tablet that costs $119, but the Intel Atom Z3735G processor in the Toshiba Encore mini handles it fairly well. This chip primarily runs at 1.33 GHz but can jump up to 1.83 GHz in times of peak demand. It gives this tablet enough power to handle the typical tasks it was designed for: web browsing, email, social networking, and casual games.
The most significant limitation isn’t the processor but rather the amount of available internal storage. Microsoft found a way to squeeze Windows 8.1 into a device with just 16 GB of capacity, but that leaves virtually no room for anything else – there’s about 2 GB available to the user. The microSD slot can be used to hold music and video files, and Microsoft offers free space on its OneDrive cloud, but there’s no room for much third-party software.
Case in point, there’s so little space on the Encore mini we were unable to install our benchmarking tools.
The computer only has 1 GB of RAM. However, our testing showed this won’t be a significant limitation for the average consumer.
The meager amount of available storage capacity means that users are generally going to have to depend on Microsoft’s pre-installed software. Fortunately, this collection is fairly robust and complete. Internet Explorer is a highly-capable web browser and the Mail app can handle consumer and business accounts. The Windows Store offers apps for the most common social networks, or users can also turn to the web versions if they prefer.
Like all devices that run Windows 8.1, the Encore mini has what in a human might be considered multiple personality disorder. There are apps that run directly from the Start Menu that have been designed for touchscreens – these have larger buttons and other controls, and simplified user interfaces. But there’s also software that runs from the Windows Desktop, which is hidden behind the Start Menu. Those applications weren’t designed for tablets, especially not models with 7-inch screens.
Included in this group is Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. A one-year subscription to Office 365 is included with the purchase of this tablet, which is well and good, but the small screen makes using the productivity suite a challenge. The buttons and controls are very small on the Encore mini’s display.
The basic expectation of tablet users is that their device can last through an entire day without recharging. The Encore mini passes this test, for the most part.
Toshiba promises that the battery is good for six hours of use, and our testing indicates that this is a reasonable claim. That is enough for casual use throughout the day, but is still a fairly low figure for a tablet, and means that moderate-to-heavy users will certainly need to recharge it every night.
Price and Availability
Don’t miss Page 3, which sums up our thoughts on Toshiba’s Encore mini.