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Toshiba Encore 2 Write 10 review – hands on

a Wacom-developed stylus gives Toshiba's Encore 2 Write 10 tablet a boost when it comes to note-taking

Windows 8 tablets and digitiser stylus pens haven’t exactly gone hand in hand; unless you pay big money for a Surface Pro, it was difficult to find an affordable device that could detect pressure and respond instantly to pen inputs. Toshiba wants to change that with the Encore 2 Write, a pair of Windows 8.1 tablets bundled with digitisers built in partnership with stylus specialists Wacom. We got the chance to put pen to (digital) paper at Toshiba’s CES stand earlier today, in order to bring you some first impressions of the larger 10in model.

Finished in Satin Gold, the Encore 2 Write 10 is fairly attractive for a tablet aimed more at business than home users. It’s primarily designed to be affordable, but that doesn’t mean Toshiba has sacrificed styling; it’s only 9mm thick and the protective bumper around the edge of the device provides a nice contrast with the screen bezels. It only weighs 557g too, which is important as it makes it comfortable to use in one hand while you grip the bundled stylus in the other.

It’s the stylus that’s the highlight of both models; it responds instantly, with the pen marking the screen just like a real pen rather than lagging behind it as we’ve experienced with other tablets. We flicked the pen across the screen but couldn’t catch it out; it’s really very fast. It will be interesting to see whether artists can take advantage of the pressure detection, as there are few other stylus-equipped tablets out there at this price capable of running Photoshop.

Connectivity is reasonable for a 10in Windows tablet, although we would have preferred to see a full-size USB port rather than the single microUSB on the side of the device. You also get a micro HDMI video output, 3.2mm audio jack and a microSD slot compatible with 128GB cards. You may want to use that purely for adding more local storage, as the 32GB capacity doesn’t take the Windows installaton into account; when you take the Encore 2 Write out of the box, you’ll barely have 20GB left for your files.

Both Encore 2 Write models use Intel Atom Z3735F processors, paired with 2GB of memory and 32GB of onboard storage, which is enough to run Windows 8.1 relatively smoothly – as long as you stick to a few open programs at once, and avoid having hundreds of web browser tabs on the go at the same time. You won’t be running any intensive programs on this, although it will comfortably play Full HD video files, run office applications, and of course take notes. In addition to Toshiba’s own TruNote program, the Encore 2 Write includes a full year of Microsoft Office 365 Personal, which in itself is a £60 saving over buying a subscription separately.

Toshiba expects the 10in Encore 2 Write to last around eight and a half hours on a full charge, which is reasonable enough for a Windows tablet. We’ll have to wait until we get one in for review to see how long it lasts in our video rundown test, though.

We weren’t expecting great things from the display, seeing as the Encore 2 Write was built for users on a budget, and based purely on specifications alone it appears we were justified. The 10.1in screen has a lowly 1,280×800 resolution, so you’ll struggle to run two programs side-by-side, but it was at least bright and legible, with minimal light reflections – even under the harsh lights of the CES show floor. We’ll withold final judgment until we can put it through our screen calibration tests.

The 8-megapixel rear camera supports TruCapture, Toshiba’s custom-built OCR and note-taking technology which detects whiteboards, documents and projections, cropping and correcting the colours for best legibility. Printed words are digitised for pasting into other applications and searchable, making it easier to follow up on a batch of notes hours or days after a meeting. Unfortunately this feature wasn’t working on the pre-production prototype on show at Toshiba’s CES booth, so we’ll just have to wait until we get a final review unit to see how it well it works. There’s also a 1.2-megapixel front webcam, although this is purely for video conferencing.

Having only spent a short time with the Encore 2 Write, it’s impossible to say whether the improved digitiser will make enough of a difference to users to justify buying it over competing Android models like Samsung’s Galaxy Note, but for anyone after a Windows machine capable of keeping up with stylus inputs it looks promising. 

Both Encore 2 Write models should be going on sale in the UK and Europe later this Spring, and although we’re still waiting for official prices, we’re expecting the 10in model seen here to be much more affordable than other Windows 8 tablets equipped with a digitiser stylus. We’ll be sure to give the tablet a full review as soon as we get our hands on a final retail model.

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