Toshiba Encore Mini First Impressions

Toshiba Encore Mini First Impressions

First and last

The Toshiba Encore Mini has arrived and as you may expect, I really wanted to like this cheap new mini-tablet. But here's the reality check: You can't price a tablet at $120 without cutting some corners. And in this case, the result is horribly lacking, and something I simply cannot recommend to anyone.

The issue, generally, is that the Mini falls on the wrong side of that cheap vs. good value argument. As I noted in my Toshiba Encore Mini Preview, this thing only costs $120. $120! That's incredible. Less incredible is the reality of this device. In other words, it is cheap, yes. But it is not a good value at all. By comparison, the $250 Acer Aspire E 15 ES1-511-C590 Signature Edition Laptop—now that's a mouthful of a name—is both cheap and a great value. (And I was able to purchase it for just $200, and even better value.)

The issue, more specifically, is the screen. There's been some confusion around the resolution of the Encore Mini's smallish 7-inch screen. Microsoft Store says it's 1280 x 768, which would be perfectly acceptable. The Toshiba web site says it's 1024 x 600, which would be OK, assuming that Windows Store apps would work at such a low resolution. Which they don't.

So here's what's really happening. The screen is physically 1024 x 600. But it scales the display to 1280 x 768. And that means that text look garbled, blurry, and often unintelligible. I'm actually concerned that you could harm your vision by using this device.

The effect is worst in the OS: In places like the App screen and the desktop, icon labels and other textual elements are glitchy looking. In apps like News, the text is just blurry. But to be clear—unlike the text—neither is acceptable.

Scaled text on icons in the Apps screen - see all the dead spots?

For this reason, I will not be reviewing this device and recommend that you ignore it. I will be returning the one I purchased and requesting a refund.

A few other notes about this device.

The Encore Mini's packaging is almost humorously cheap.

The Office 365 Personal subscription (with the included Office desktop software) is not preinstalled. Instead, it comes as a card-based code you can use with the on-tablet installer.

It comes with a standard mini-USB cable, but no power plug. The mini-USB cable has an L-shaped end which is actually kind of nice.

The device itself is kind of bulbous and thick, almost like something you'd give a child. I happen to prefer 8-inch tablets, but compared to a Nexus 7, this looks kind of old-fashioned. And it's a lot newer.

The tablet arrived with almost no remaining battery life. Not Toshiba's fault per se, and I bet Microsoft removing it from box, blasting the Signature edition on their and then repackaging it has something to do with this.

I guess I'm not going to be able to test the performance all that much. I know there are concerns about a Windows devices with 1 GB of RAM and only 16 GB of storage. But it seems fine in the casual use to which I've put it. File Manager reports that there is 5.15 GB free of 10.7 GB, by the way, and I know some are curious about that kind of thing.

One final point about "cheap vs. good value": I think you can find a nice middle ground with any product type.

For example, in handsets, I'd argue that the Lumia 530 is cheap but that the slightly more expensive ($99) Lumia 635 is a good value, a great value, really, and that even the truly non-affluent would be much better off with the latter. The price differential is small. But the value difference is enormous.

For mini-tablets, skip this piece of crap and look at more expensive tablets that are better values. In the Windows space, that means the $229 Lenovo Miix 2 or the $229 Dell Venue 8 Pro, both of which can be had from Microsoft Store in Signature editions. (I've not reviewed or even seen the $200 Toshiba Encore 2, but that is likely not horrible either.) The price jump here, alas, is much bigger, but until we learn differently, this sort of suggests that the real world low-end price for a usable Windows tablet is $200, not $120.

Long story short, you can do better. And you should.

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