Toshiba Encore is the company's first 8-inch Windows tablet; coming November for $330 (hands-on)

Acer may have beaten everybody to market with the first 8-inch Windows tablet, but we knew it wouldn't be long before the other guys started catching up. Toshiba just entered the fray with the Encore, an 8-inch tablet that manages to be even cheaper than Acer's W3. Like the W3, it runs on an Atom processor, but because Toshiba waited longer it got to use one of Intel's new quad-core Bay Trail chips. What's interesting, too, is that Toshiba apparently worked closely with Microsoft on this, not just in optimizing the tablet for Windows 8.1, but in making sure the tablet's dual mics and 2MP front camera will be Skype-certified by the time it ships. The Encore arrives in early November - i.e., not long after Windows 8.1 ships. As for that price we alluded to, it'll cost $330 with a category-standard 1,280 x 800 display and 32GB of built-in storage (expandable via microSD). Not bad considering the W3 hit the market at $380, and is still going for about $350 in most places. That leaves just one teensy question: what's it like to use?

Gallery | 8 Photos

Toshiba Encore hands-on

Gallery | 9 Photos

Toshiba Encore

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The Encore makes a good first impression. The screen, though standard in resolution, serves up pleasant colors, and wide viewing angles too, so far as we can tell. Hopefully our gallery of hands-on shots gives you a taste of the viewing experience you can expect while watching at a slightly off-kilter angle, or with the tablet lying face-up on a flat surface. (We can't, however, vouch for its performance in bright sunlight.) The tablet's also very easy and pleasant to hold, at just 479 grams (1.06 pounds). Even if you've got a small hand, like yours truly, you should have no problem holding onto it. What's more, a Toshiba rep staffing the company's IFA booth indicated that the tablet would ship with a more grippy material lining the sides.

In the meantime, though, as we said, it's hardly unwieldy. We were also pleased by the matte plastic material. Yes, it's a bit plain, in the way Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 tablets from last year were plain. But plain can also mean inoffensive, which this indeed is: it might not sport a metal cover or a more pleasing soft-touch finish, but it at least does a good job repelling fingerprints. (And this is a good place to test that -- imagine how many tech bloggers have handled this thing!)

Taking a tour around the device, you'll find all the standard accoutrements: an open microSD slot, a volume rocker, et cetera. What's nice is that Toshiba positioned all of these on the sides and toward the top, so that when you're using this in portrait mode (and you probably will be, since it's an 8-inch tablet), your fingers won't brush up against anything.

As for performance, that's the sort of thing we'll need to evaluate when we eventually do a full review. We did notice a slight delay when we flipped the screen from portrait to landscape mode -- the sort of hiccup we've seen on many other tablets as well. Again, though, we're willing to file that first impression away until we can spend some time with a final retail model.

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TOSHIBA REVEALS ENCORE, A POCKET-SIZED TABLET SET TO DELIVER A FULL WINDOWS 8.1 EXPERIENCE
All-new Encore Tablet With an 8-inch Multi-touch Display and Intel Atom Processor Delivers Fast, Full-screen Web Browsing, Best-in-class Skype Experience, Xbox Second-screen Capabilities and Much More
NEWS HIGHLIGHTS
- Optimized for Windows® 8.1 and developed in close collaboration with Microsoft, the Encore hardware features are designed to support a full-spectrum software and apps experience.
- Equipped with dual microphones for a best-in-class Skype experience.
- Powered by the latest-generation Intel® Atom processor with InstantGo, unleashing fast, fluid
performance with connected standby capabilities and long battery life.
- Includes full version of Office Home & Student 2013, Xbox SmartGlass app, free streaming pass
to Xbox Music, Norton Anti-Theft and more.

IRVINE, Calif. – Sept. 5, 2013 – Toshiba's Digital Products Division (DPD), a division of Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., today unveiled the Encore tablet, a consumer device designed to deliver an exceptional Windows 8.1 experience in a pocket-sized form factor. Developed in close collaboration with Microsoft and built for consumers seeking a versatile small-screen tablet for home, work and play, Encore is well-positioned to accelerate the market for Windows-based tablets by delivering software- optimized features and sleek hardware design at a competitive price point.

"Encore is poised to re-energize the opportunity for Windows tablets in the market," said Carl Pinto, vice president of marketing, Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., Digital Products Division. "Our fundamental approach to designing Encore was to create a better convergence of hardware and software so the overall app experience and capabilities on a Windows-based device is better than ever. Windows has a lot to offer for a tablet user, and with the new features that Windows 8.1 brings, we believe that Encore will deliver more choice against a range of competitive tablets."

Smart, Small-screen Design
Designed to be held in one hand, the 8-inch1 Encore tablet is optimized for use at home or on the go. A high-resolution (1280 x 800) multi-touch HFFS display is well-suited for entertainment with wide viewing angles, while the new scaling capabilities of Windows 8.1 maximizes the screen real estate, making room for full-screen web browsing and an unencumbered Start screen view in both portrait and landscape orientations. Encased in a stylish silver textured backplate, Encore is both slim and lightweight, measuring 0.42 inches (10.68mm) and weighing just 16.9 ounces (479g)2.
Encore is powered by the power-efficient Intel® Atom processor, which delivers great performance, fast start-up and page loads, and exceptional battery life. It also includes the connected standby capabilities of InstantGo, enabling the device to receive updates while sleeping so content is always up to date when use is resumed. In addition, Encore includes top quality features, such as an 8-megapixel camera, a full suite of sensors, including a gyroscope, accelerometer and GPS, as well as stereo speakers.

"Toshiba continues to drive touch innovation by bringing new and exciting Windows 8 form factors to life," said Jordan Chrysafidis, vice president of Worldwide OEM Marketing, Microsoft Corp. "We look forward to working with Toshiba on the launch of Windows 8.1 and seeing its holiday 2013 devices delight customers worldwide."

Optimized for Skype
Encore is optimized for Skype, making high-quality video chatting and calling possible. Utilizing on-board dual microphones with beam forming technology and integrated 2-megapixel front camera – consumers can chat with clarity with friends and family throughout the world.

Easy Sharing and Streaming with Windows 8 Devices
Completely compatible with both Windows 8 apps and Windows 7 programs, Encore offers seamless integration and content sharing with other Windows devices, giving the device an edge for multi-device home users looking to stream and share content from room to room.
Great for play. Ideal for work.

The Encore tablet supports a wide range of applications – from books, games, movies, music and photos to productivity – making it a versatile device that can be used and enjoyed at home, at work or on the go. Ready to go right out of the box, Encore will feature Xbox Movies, Music and Games entertainment services, Amazon's Kindle e-reading app, as well as the Xbox SmartGlass app which turns the tablet into a secondary screen for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One game consoles. Also included is a full version of Office Home & Student 2013 for convenient viewing and creation of Word, Excel® and PowerPoint® documents.

Equipped with Tablet Essentials
Encore includes 32GB of storage4 and is equipped with essential ports including a Micro USB 2.0 port, Micro HDMI® port and a microSDTM slot for up to 32GB more storage. Ultrafast dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi® enables easy wireless media streaming.

Pricing and Availability
The Toshiba Encore tablet will be available for purchase in November at major retailers, e-tailers and direct from Toshiba at ToshibaDirect.com for $329.99 MSRP5.