Toshiba is kicking off summer with three new tablets. The company is expanding its Windows 8.1-powered Encore series with the Encore 2 in 8 and 10-inch models. Toshiba is also updating its Excite brand of tablets with the 7-inch Excite Go, which runs Android 4.4.2 (KitKat). When they launch in late July, the Excite 2 8-inch will sell for a competitive $199 while the 10-inch is priced at a wallet-friendly $269. The company is taking an even more aggressive stance with the $109 Excite Go.
Toshiba is hitting at all the sweet spots: productivity, portability and affordability. But is that enough to stand out from the growing influx of budget-conscious tablets?
Thin is in at Toshiba. The company has made a deliberate effort to slim things down. The 8-inch Encore 2 weighs 12.9 ounces with a thickness of .38 inches, a notable improvement compared to the original Excite (15.3 ounces, 0.4 inches). The 10-inch model is equally slim and lightweight at 1.2 pounds, 0.35 inches. However, the Sony Xperia Z2 weighs a scant 15.9 ounces with a svelte 0.25-inch profile. The 12.5 ounce Excite Go is on a par with the Excite 7 tablet, which weighed 12 ounces.
The tablets have also undergone a few aesthetic modifications, replacing the bland silver plastic rear with a rather elegant Satin Gold finish. Toshiba also ditched the small textured dots around the edges, leaving a smooth, but grippable surface. We had an easy time holding each of the tablets, especially the 8-inch Encore 2 and Excite Go, which fit easily in our hands.
The Excite Go features a 1024 x 600 IPS display while the 8-inch and 10.1-inch Encore 2 tablets each sport a 1280 x 800 IPS panel. The Encore 2 screens were noticeably bright, thanks to their 350 nit displays. During our demo, each of the tablets delivered vibrant hues with relatively sharp details. Touch response on the panels was swift and fluid. Similar to other Windows 8.1 tablets, we noticed that the screen rotation on Encore 2s had about a second of lag compared to the seamless transition on the Excite Go.
All of the tablets will support Wireless Display and Miracast in case you want to see your content on a larger display. We used Wi-Di on the 10-inch Encore 2 in concert with a nearby television. Transition time on the larger screen was nearly seamless, allowing us to navigate and launch apps with minimal lag.
Both Encore 2 tablets will feature an Intel quad-core Atom processor with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage that can be configured up to 64GB. The 64GB configurations of the 8-inch and 10-inch are priced at $249 and $299 respectively. Each tablet will have a microSD card slot that can support 128GB cards.
In terms of ports, you can expect to see a microUSB 2.0 port, microHDMI, a combination headphone/microphone jack. Each tablet will also feature a 5 megapixel rear camera. Toshiba has yet to confirm the front camera's resolution.
Outfitted with an Intel quad-core Atom CPU, the Excite Go will also feature 8GB of RAM and 16GB of on-board storage. Similar to the Encore 2 tables, the Go will feature a microSD card slot that can support a 128GB for more storage. The Excite Go will have a microUSB 2.0 port, microHDMI, a combination headphone/microphone jack.
Both the 8-inch version and the 10-inch version of the Encore 2 are projected to get 10 hours of battery life or 8.5 hours of video playback. Toshiba claims that the Excite Go will achieve 8 hours of battery life or 6.5 hours of video playback.
Toshiba has pre-loaded some compelling software onto each tablet to help them stand out from the pack. Productivity-minded users will appreciate the free full version of OfficeSuite Pro ($14.99) on the Excite Go. Encore 2 users will get free a one-year subscription to Office Personal, which offers full versions Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and Excel.
Each of the tablets also come with TruCapture, an app that captures text and images written on whiteboards, blackboards and books using the integrated cameras. The software automatically corrects images taken at awkward angles making it easier to read notes.
The Encore 2 and Excite Go certainly look like solid tablets. We like the revamped design and improved specs, but compromises had to be made to get such competitive prices, such as higher-res displays. However, the preinstalled productivity apps offer a compelling reason to give each of these tablets more than a passing glance. We'll reserve our final judgement until we get our hands on some review units.