Think using Windows means being tied to a desktop PC at the office or lugging a laptop around? Think again. Advances in mobile processors means that Windows 8 runs well on small, lightweight tablets that are much easier to slide into a bag.
Toshiba has gone a step further still, cramming the full, desktop version of Windows 8.1 into an 8-inch tablet. The Encore has a 1,200x800-pixel display, a quad-core Intel Atom processor and comes with either 32GB of storage for £249 or 64GB for £299.
Both models come with microSD card slots and full versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 and are available now from Toshiba.
Design and build quality
With its chunky plastic casing, the Encore isn't the most beautiful tablet around. The stiff plastic has a scratchy texture that makes it feel considerably less luxurious than the metal iPad mini and at nearly 11mm thick, it's much fatter too. It's not exactly ugly, but its plain, functional design isn't eye-catching.
At 436g, it's not overly heavy and you certainly won't feel dragged down by it in your bag. It's comfortable enough to hold in one hand for a little while, but you'll probably want to use two if you're settling in for a movie.
There's not much flex in the back casing, and I couldn't find any loose panelling, so I'm fairly confident it can put up with being bumped around in your backpack as you go about your day. Your port selection includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB and micro-HDMI port for hooking the tablet up to a larger display.
The microSD card allows you to expand the on-board storage -- even with the 64GB model, you'll probably want to use this as the Windows 8.1 operating system takes up almost 20GB of storage. On the 32GB model, that really doesn't leave you with much space, so I suggest buying a fast 64GB card for your movies and music.
The Encore's 8-inch display has a 1,280x800-pixel resolution, which is a little disappointing considering the stonking 2048x1536-pixel resolution you'd find on the iPad mini. The affordable price of the Encore makes up for it to some extent, but I'd still like to have seen a Full HD display.
The display is reasonably sharp, with well-defined edges on the Windows 8 homescreen, and photos and video look adequate. Small text doesn't look anywhere near as good as it does on the iPad -- if you want to read lots of ebooks, a higher resolution screen would be a good upgrade.
It's not eye-searingly bright, but it was still usable under our office lights and it has decent colours and viewing angles. It's definitely not a show-stopping display, but it's at least good enough for social networking, YouTube clips and the odd spot of Breaking Bad on Netflix.
Windows 8 software
The Encore packs the full-fat version of Windows 8, rather than the stripped-down, tablet-specific version, Windows RT. Although they look almost identical, with full-fat Windows 8 on board, you can install any standard desktop PC software, such as Spotify, iTunes or VLC Media Player.
You're therefore not limited to downloading only what you can find in the Windows 8 app store -- good news, considering its shelves are still rather understocked. The downside, however, is that the relatively small screen makes using most desktop applications extremely difficult -- those little close and minimise buttons on windows are not easy to hit with your finger.
I installed Adobe Lightroom 4 and found the tiny sliders controlling brightness, colour balance or contrast almost impossible to hit first time. In Spotify too, I had to be extremely careful how I tapped in order to select the song I wanted. On multiple occasions I started playing the wrong song.
It comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 -- the whole version, not a trial -- which will be a welcome addition to any of you after a device for work use. Again though, using it by touch alone can be very tricky. If you want to use it for work, I recommend using an external mouse and keyboard.
Its problems aren't helped by the quad-core Intel processor. While it has more than enough power for apps downloaded from the app store -- both Riptide GP 2 and Asphalt 8 ran adequately, with frame rates only dropping in the more intense scenes -- it struggles when running regular desktop applications.
Lightroom 4 was slow to open, took an age to import a photo into its catalogue and was almost glacial when switching between the Library and Develop tabs. Even Spotify was slightly sluggish when navigating through my playlists. If you're hoping for powerful desktop performance in a much more portable size, the Encore is likely to be a let down. If, however, you just want it for Twitter, Facebook, email and Office, it'll cope fine.
The argument then is that if the tablet isn't really suitable for running desktop software, do you really need full Windows 8 rather than Windows RT? The answer is possibly no, but you do at least have the option of installing less demanding software or using VPNs for work if you need to, even if it doesn't provide the most enjoyable user experience.
Toshiba doesn't explicitly state what size battery sits inside that chunky body, but it does suggest that it can manage up to 7 hours of video playback from a single charge. Compared to the iPad mini's 14 hours (achieved by my US chums in their full review), it's not particularly impressive, but it's not the worst I've ever seen either.
As always though, these figures should be taken with a pinch of salt as they depend entirely on how you use your tablet. If you keep the screen brightness ramped to the max, with downloads and music going on in the background then you can expect the battery life to drain away very quickly.
Keep the brightness on a lower level and avoid demanding tasks like video streaming, photo editing or gaming and you shouldn't struggle too much to get a day of use out of it. If you're using it frequently throughout the day however, you'll probably want to charge it every night.
With its 8-inch display, the Toshiba Encore provides full Windows 8 in one of the most portable sizes you'll find and doesn't charge much for it. Its small size does make using desktop software a challenge though and its Intel processor doesn't provide enough power for more demanding tasks.
For basic office and social use, the Encore will do fine, but if you're hoping to replace your laptop with something much easier to carry, you're out of luck here.