Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review

Toshiba's Encore Mini Windows 8.1 tablet is just £99 but it's still a waste of money. Here's our Toshiba Encore Mini tablet hands-on review from IFA 2014. See also: Best tablets 2014

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review: Price & availability

Bargain hunters will be attracted to the Toshiba Encore Mini's price tag, which we've heard will be just £99, making it the cheapest Windows 8.1 tablet out there, but as you'll find when you read this hands-on review, we still don't think it's worth it.

There's no specific release date for the Encore Mini yet, but it's expected to arrive before the end of the year.

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review: Design

Not forgetting that the Encore Mini is under £100, the tablet looks cheap. It's got a 7in display, but that's housed within some monstrous bezels and a chunky, plasticky body, measuring 10.9mm thick and weighing 350g. It's only available in a 'Pure White' design, which has a black front but all white back case.

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review: Hardware

That 7in display has a resolution of just 1024 x 600, so that's a pixel density of just 170ppi which is particularly noticeable when you're trying to work on the Windows 8.1 one software with its teeny tiny text and icons.

There's an Intel AtomTM Z3745 quad-core processor inside clocked at 1.3GHz, paired with 1GB RAM and Intel HD graphics, which is actually pretty decent for a budget 7in tablet but still doesn't make us like this tablet. That's also the same processor you'll find in the Lenovo Tab S8.

You'll get a microSD slot that'll allow you to add up to 128GB storage to the Encore Mini, which otherwise has 16GB of built-on memory. You do get a one-year subscription to Office 365 with the tablet, though, which means 1TB of cloud storage thanks to Microsoft's OneDrive.

As for connectivity, you'll get Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi, but there's no 4G option.

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review: Camera

You probably won't want to use the Toshiba Encore Mini to take photos, as it comes with a rather terrible 2Mp rear-facing camera and a 0.3Mp front-facing camera. The photographs we took with the tablet were quite terrible, but we're not keen on using tablets as cameras anyway so it's not a major quibble unless you intend to use it as your main photography device.

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review: Software

Toshiba Encore Mini hands-on review

This is where things get interesting, because it's the software on this cheap tablet that's its biggest downfall for us. See also: Best Windows tablets

We like Windows 8.1, but on a 7in tablet it's basically unusable. Even on the Acer Tab 8W, which has an 8in screen running Windows 8.1, we struggled to see what we were clicking on when using the software as the icons and text appeared so small, so when we discovered that Toshiba was offering a 7in Windows 8.1 tablet we wondered what the company was thinking. Microsoft is offering Windows free on tablets with displays smaller than 9in, so that's likely to be the main reason for this cheap tablet's existance.

You'll find the Start Screen easy enough to use, but as soon as you head over to the app menu and the Windows desktop interface you'll have real trouble reading the text and will struggle to navigate with the tiny icons.

Toshiba does, at least, offer a 10in Windows 8.1 alternative, the Toshiba Encore tablet, so we'd recommend considering that option instead. See also: Surface Pro 3 review

OUR VERDICT

Toshiba's Encore Mini is likely to be the cheapest Windows 8.1 tablet you can buy, but that doesn't mean you should buy it. 7in really is too small for the software we know and enjoy, and we're sure that anyone keen to get Windows 8.1 on a tablet will be disappointed with this one and find that it's almost unusable, so we'd recommend putting your £99 to better use and saving up a bit of extra cash for a Windows 8.1 tablet with a 10in screen or above.