REVIEW Toshiba Encore 8 and Windows 8 as a tablet OS

Discussion in 'Portable & Small Form Factor' started by spootmonkey, Jul 16, 2014.

  1. spootmonkey

    spootmonkey Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Messages:
    8,692
    Location:
    Prestonistan
    So I've just moved across the world by land with my partner, via five months and thirty thousand kilometres of backpacking in obscure places. We took a Google Nexus 7 tablet and an Acer 522 netbook with us. Along the way I became frustrated with the limitations of both: the restrictions of Android in terms of software and interacting with other devices, and the performance, size and weight of the netbook (plus charger and necessary after-market battery). Before we left I also sold my desktop (along with most of my worldly belongings), which I used for light gaming and big-screen-requiring office work, something I'd like to replicate at this end.

    So, in an attempt to address all of the above in one fell swoop, I've bought myself a Toshiba Encore 8. There are a few similar tablets available right now, from Dell, Asus, Acer and Lenovo, all varying slightly as far as features go and none offering everything (this review offers a good comparison chart). I chose 8" for portability and the Toshiba particularly because of its low price, HDMI out and 64GB internal storage. Otherwise, it's an x86 Windows 8 tablet with one of the new Bay Trail Atom chips, 2GB of rams, a 1280x800 screen, micro-USB 2.0 and a micro-SD slot.

    The tablet itself is pleasant enough. It's heavier and thicker than a comparable Android or iOS device, but still useable one-handed. Performance seems good. The screen is bright with wide viewing angles, but it's incredibly reflective so can be hard to use even near a window, and the automatic brightness is a bit odd in that it reacts to screen content as well as ambient light. The screen coating seems to provide more friction than I'm used to from the Nexus or various smart phones, which will take a little getting used to. The stereo speakers are decent, but they're both on one of the short edges, which makes zero sense for watching videos or most gaming. Lastly, there is a huge issue with all of the 8" jobs in that by default they can't charge and use USB for other purposes at the same time. There are workarounds of varying complexity for some, including the Toshiba, but not all.

    As far as Windows 8 goes, it's been a good experience on the whole. The metro/modern start screen works very well as a touch interface, and once you get used to the various gestures and shortcuts is quite efficient to use, though not having a persistent clock and battery meter on-screen is a very strange design choice. Being able to drop back to the desktop and use regular PC apps is great. I've installed Steam and gotten some games running, though you obviously need peripherals for most. You are forced to use the desktop on occasion though, for example for uninstalls and some Windows settings, which could have been avoided. There are a few more key limitations:

    - The keyboard is a bit problematic. Without switching into numpad mode you hold down the top row of letters to access numbers, but I haven't been able to reliably make this work, with it occasionally inputting both letter and number. Further, if you type too fast letters are dropped. These may be limitations with the Toshiba 5-point touch screen. The following however is not: as an Android phone owner I'm a convert to Swype-style typing. I've installed the TouchPal keyboard, which does the job, though it lacks a bit of polish (inconsistent auto-capitalisation and auto-spacing for example). Windows 8 doesn't seem to offer the full capacity to use custom keyboards though, so occasionally I wind up with both TouchPal and the stock job on screen at once. There is one tiny feature of both keyboards though which is great - a CTRL button. Easy, universal access to basic Windows functions like undo or select-all is a huge plus.

    - There is no way to easily close apps through touch. I know it's a smart mobile OS and can supposedly manage that sort of thing automatically, but even then I find it easier not having my app switcher cluttered with things I'm not using. Where you can swipe apps out of existence from the switcher in Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and there are methods in Windows 8 with a mouse, in touch mode you have to enter each app and manually swipe it off screen. Worse, this only works in landscape mode.

    - Web browsers. You might as well be stuck with IE. Firefox doesn't offer a mobile/touch mode. Chrome doesn't scale well to higher resolutions and/or small screens, with taskbar text becoming tiny. It would be unuseable on the 1080P Lenovo Thinkpad 8, for example. This isn't too bad as IE has a very polished touch interface, but you lose out on linking with your favoured desktop browser. Admittedly, I haven't tried Opera Mobile yet.

    - You can't pinch-zoom on the desktop, which is plain dumb.

    - You can't copy files from another PC onto it via USB cable. Conversely, you can of course use it as a USB host. It's a real PC, so that's life I guess.

    My verdict? Neither the hardware or software are quite up there with the competition. They're close enough though that I think the next generation will have it sorted, and in the meantime the advantages of carrying a full x86 desktop in your back pocket outweigh the negatives. If you don't need a new tablet though, it's probably not enough to warrant the switch. For what I wanted though, this combination is closer than anything else on the market and I'm very pleased with my purchase.




    Full disclosure: I typed this on the netbook, which I will continue to use for such purposes until I'm set up with desk, screen, mouse and keyboard for the tablet.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2014
  2. bart5986

    bart5986 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2006
    Messages:
    2,548
    Location:
    Brisbane
    I can use chrome easily on my Toshiba Encore...


    Didn't know about touchpal for Windows 8.. will give it a go
     
  3. OP
    OP
    spootmonkey

    spootmonkey Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Messages:
    8,692
    Location:
    Prestonistan
    Maybe my old man eyes are worse than I thought, unless you've found a setting to scale the interface up?
     
  4. OP
    OP
    spootmonkey

    spootmonkey Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Messages:
    8,692
    Location:
    Prestonistan
    Another strange oversight: no auto-wake/sleep when the screen is (un)covered.
     
  5. GENERALiDEA

    GENERALiDEA Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2011
    Messages:
    140
    Just re: Chrome. I'm not sure if it goes into chrome as well but I've currently set my desktop mode to be 125% zoom which makes the desktop mode a lot easier to use on the small screen and I believe it carries over into chrome. Alternatively, in chrome, as with all browsers, hold control and hit plus and it'll zoom your screen in and will continue to do so for all pages from then on I believe!

    As far as the keyboard goes, you have to hold down the applicable letter and then swype to the number and it gets the letters and numbers sorted pretty well for me even when i'm touch typing. I find the thing fantastic for typing documents up on whilst at work!

    I do agree however that it's annoying there's no task manager to close up the apps as they're finished with. But thanks for letting on about swyping them away to close them! Didn't even realise there was a rubbish way to close the apps apart from a pc reboot.
     
  6. OP
    OP
    spootmonkey

    spootmonkey Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Messages:
    8,692
    Location:
    Prestonistan
    Pages are fine, it's the interface I find annoyingly small. I'll try embiggening the desktop.

    I've narrowed it down to not working in password fields, I think, which is a pain when you have numerals in all of yours.
     
  7. Namheul

    Namheul Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2003
    Messages:
    1,683
    Location:
    Victoria
    You can swipe in from the left to show the open apps, then drag one down to the bottom of the screen in one action to close it.

    I find it works best if you don't hold your finger on the letter then choose the number, but rather just swipe directly up on the letter and it will select the number.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  8. OP
    OP
    spootmonkey

    spootmonkey Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2001
    Messages:
    8,692
    Location:
    Prestonistan
    Oh right, drag out then down. Not entirely intuitive, this OS.
     

Share This Page