As of this writing, you only have two choices among Encore tablets. A 32GB model will set you back $300 if you buy from Toshiba, while its 64GB sibling costs $350. If you're a savvy shopper, you can pick up the 32GB variant for less; it currently goes for about $280 at Amazon. At any rate, we'd strongly suggest that you get the 64GB edition if you can --we were down to less than 4GB of space (out of 23GB available) on our 32GB test unit within a matter of days, and that's without a significant media collection.
Moreover, there aren't any major first-party accessories to speak of; we could only track down a basic snap-on case. Unlike Acer, Dell or Lenovo, there are no docks or keyboard cases to turn the Encore into a miniature workhorse. Third-party peripherals thankfully exist to pick up some of the slack, but this does mean you'll have to search around if you're bent on getting a keyboard or protector.
If you look at specifications alone, Toshiba's slate does little to distinguish itself. It has the same processor, the same storage and the same underlying technology as much of its competition. It even starts at a similar official price these days (Toshiba originally charged $330).
Look closer and it gets more complicated. The Encore fares best against the Miix 2 and Venue 8 Pro, with the healthy battery life and micro-HDMI video that its rivals lack. Dell and Lenovo mostly rely on sales pricing to lure you away; it's common to find either of their tablets selling for less than $250, making them great bargains when every dollar counts. The Venue and VivoTab Note 8 both have pen support in their favor, although ASUS' $330 asking price hurts the VivoTab's chances.
As you may have gathered by now, it's Acer that gives Toshiba the real thrashing. The Iconia W4 has tangibly longer battery life, and it's easier to find at low prices (it's $250 at Amazon as we write this). While the Encore does have a brighter display and an easier-to-hold design, the Iconia counters these with reduced glare, better mechanical controls and a higher-quality rear camera. If the tablet industry narrowed down to just these two devices, Acer would emerge as the winner more often than not.
Don't be quick to balk at paying $400 for a ThinkPad 8, either. It's one of the few Windows tablets this size with a 1080p screen, and it has options for both 4G and 128GB of storage. That said, it doesn't claim a decisive victory over the Encore. We're in the midst of reviewing Lenovo's tablet, and we've found that it has both a mediocre six-hour battery life and a scratch-prone chassis. All told, you may prefer Toshiba's machine simply because it can take some abuse.
You might think we're down on the Encore based on the complaints littered throughout the review, but that's not true. We genuinely enjoyed our time with it, and it's safe to recommend if you can snag one at bargain-basement pricing. The battery life and performance are up to snuff, and there are no cavernous holes in the feature set -- so long as you weren't expecting an imaging powerhouse, anyway.
For us, the real problem is that there are few reasons to pick the Encore over something else. It's not the best at anything, unless you're in love with its silvery shell. If you want extended battery life, you should turn to Acer; if cost matters the most, go with Dell or Lenovo; if you like to jot down handwritten notes, choose ASUS or Dell. Toshiba has done a fine job with its first foray into 8-inch Windows tablets, but not the exceptional job it needed to rise above a sea of competitors.
Daniel Orren and Edgar Alvarez contributed to this review.