Can Toshiba make waves in an Android- and iOS-dominated tablet market with a cheap Windows alternative? The company is certainly giving it a good try with its new Encore 2 line of tablets.
The tablets, which are rolling out in both 8-inch and 10-inch display sizes, run on Windows 8.1. The mobile devices come preloaded with apps you would expect from a Microsoft-powered device, including Skype and Xbox Music and Video.
Toshiba is billing the Encore 2 line as right for both entertainment (the Kindle Reader also comes pre-installed) and productivity (the purchase price includes a one-year subscription to Office 365, Microsoft’s Web-based productivity suite). The prices start at $199.99.
What These Windows Tablets Offer
Philip Osako, senior director of product marketing at Toshiba America Information Systems, is hoping customers will buy into the idea that Encore 2 tablets are a “complement to a customer ’s arsenal of devices.” In the announcement, he played up the familiarity and functionality of Windows. That’s a valid point, though it hasn’t sparked massive sales of Windows devices in the past or taken significant market share in the tablet space.
One thing is certain: There is plenty of processing power for hard core tablet users. The Encore 2 line sports the quad-core Intel Atom processor. Toshiba promises up to a 10-hour battery life for general use and up to eight hours of video playback. That should get even the heaviest tablet users through the day without a charge.
Measuring 0.4 inches thin, the 10-inch Encore 2 weighs 1.2 pounds. The 8-inch version weighs less than a pound. Each tablet features an HD multi-touch display. Toshiba is positioning the 10-inch device as good for working on documents, Web browsing and movie watching and is hoping to attract entertainment consumers with the 8-inch model.
Other standard features include stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and the ability to enjoy content from the tablet on HDTVs with a built-in Micro HDMI port and wireless display support. There’s also a TruCapture app that works with the integrated cameras to capture and correct snapshots of whiteboards, blackboards and books, which comes in handy for students.
Both tablets can be configured with up to 64GB of onboard storage and include a microSD card slot supporting microSDXC cards up to 128GB and a Micro-USB 2.0 port for connecting to external devices and charging. The 10-inch Encore 2 tablet will be available for purchase in early July and sell at a starting price of $269.99. The eight-inch will sell at prices starting at $199.99.
Good Enough for Enterprise Users?
We caught up with Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the new models. He told us Windows tablets have not sold especially well to consumers without heavy discounts. Still, he understands why Toshiba is rolling out the new line, given that sales of traditional laptops are down.
“The nice thing about the Encore 2 tablets, particularly the 10-inch device, is that they can run full Windows apps,” Greengart said. “Traditional mouse and keyboard Windows apps don’t often run well on a 10-inch tablet, but for some enterprise users it might be good enough.”
As Greengart sees it, the Encore 2 tablets are reasonably priced but Apple’s iPad -- even though it costs significantly more -- is vastly more versatile because of the large catalogue of apps. On the other hand, consumers can buy Android tablets in the same price range as the Encore 2s -- and sometimes for less money -- with higher resolution displays.
“The Windows tablet market right now is a little challenging. Microsoft has the premium with the Surface Pro 3 that’s aimed more at laptops replacements,” Greengart said. “If you are using the Encore to start mobilizing Windows apps it can make sense for some enterprises and maybe some consumers will see this as a bargain, pair it with Bluetooth keyboard, and have a really inexpensive netbook.”