Hands on: Toshiba Encore 2 Write 8

Prefer pens? Swap your moleskin notebook for Toshiba's Encore 2 Write 8

Digital hand-writing is a neat concept, but its often bundled into devices that are extremely expensive. Not so with the Toshiba Encore 2 Write 8, a Windows tablet that packs an awesome stylus for $349.

Plenty of tablets have hit store shelves with a stylus in tow, but the quality of the experience has varied considerably – along with prices. Most systems suffer from either a mediocre stylus or a sky-high MSRP, and sometimes both.

Toshiba is trying to change that with its new Encore 2 Write 8. This 8-inch Windows tablet is powered by an Intel Atom quad-core processor and comes complete with stylus for only $349. That’s a smoking great deal, but does it result in a compromised device? Not if digital writing is what you want.

There are a few key elements that tie this Toshiba together. First is the stylus itself, which is actually quite advanced, providing 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity and active features for erasing and manipulating text. The tablet itself helps, too, as it weighs in at just eight-tenths of a pound.

What really cinches the deal, though, is the trio of software utilities. TruNote is essentially a virtual notepad that can port text input to other software, including Microsoft Office. TruCapture is a camera scan utility that can be used to capture text from physical media. And TruRecorder is an audio capture utility that can be helpful for transcribing or clarify audio.

The Encore 2’s digital writing experience punches above its price tag.

All of this may sound confusing, but in practice it works incredibly well. The stylus is intuitive, the software is easy to use and the tablet, being light, is easy to handle. Toshiba has effectively managed to take the writing experience I’d expect from a much more expensive device, like Microsoft’s Surface, and bring it down to an entry-level price point. That’s important. Using a Windows device for writing is useful, but also a bit of a niche, and throwing close to thousand dollars at a device with the capability doesn’t make sense for most people.

As a tablet, then, the Toshiba Encore 2 Write 8 works. But can it also serve as a laptop? Probably not. The company says a Bluetooth keyboard case will be available separately, but I didn’t have a chance to try it. Given that it’s a case, not a latching dock, I don’t have much hope the experience will be more than a stop-gap for moments when a keyboard is absolutely required.

Performance is questionable, as well. A quad-core Intel Atom with a base clock of 1.33GHz, flanked by just 2GB of RAM, provides the go, and a more powerful processor isn’t available. While I saw no problem in my time with the device, I know from experience that this combination can be overwhelmed when multiple applications or browser tabs are open.

Toshiba Encore 2 Write 8

There is a larger version of this tablet, the Encore 2 Write 10, which is essentially identical except for the screen which (of course) measures 10 inches diagonally. It doesn’t provide a boost in performance or a better keyboard solution, but it does cost $50 more, for a total of $399. That may mean the smaller device is the better deal, as its more accomplished at the task this device was designed to accomplish.

Toshiba caught me off guard with this device. While it’s a bit niche, it’s inexpensive enough to be affordable and offers a digital writing experience that punches above its weight. Students, small businesses and artists should give this Toshiba, which is available now, a shot.

Highs

  • Excellent stylus
  • Impressive handwriting utilities
  • Light, easy to handle
  • Affordable

Lows

  • No keyboard dock
  • Questionable performance
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