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5/28/2014
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Toshiba Windows Tablets: Priced Right?

Toshiba's new mobile devices range from a $199 Windows 8.1 tablet for budget shoppers to powerful hybrid two-in-one laptops aimed at pros.

8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Toshiba announced new Windows devices Tuesday that run the gamut from a $199 tablet to premium two-in-one hybrids aimed at professionals. The cheapest models run the recently announced Windows with Bing and foreshadow the flood of low-cost Windows 8.1 devices expected at next month's Computex tradeshow. The pricier models speak to device makers' attempts to refine their hybrid designs, most of which have failed to catch on so far.

Windows tablets were initially expensive but have grown more affordable over time. Toshiba's new eight-inch Encore 2 pushes that trend further. Equipped with the full version of Windows 8.1, including access to desktop apps, the tablet is slightly cheaper than Dell's Venue 8 Pro, which pushed Windows to lower prices and smaller screens when it launched last year.

Toshiba's Encore 2
Toshiba's Encore 2

The Encore 2 has a quad-core Intel Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It's only 0.38 inches thick and weighs 0.81 pounds. It features a 1,280 x 800-pixel screen, a main rear-facing 5-MP camera, a front-facing 1.2-MP camera, and a microSD card slot for up to 128 GB of expanded storage. Toshiba claims battery life of around 10 hours.

[How do Toshiba's new devices compare to Microsoft's Surface? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Visual Tour.]

The Encore 2 is also available in a 10-inch model that adds not only more screen, but also an HDMI port. It starts at $269, although a model with twice as much RAM and storage will be available for $60 more. Toshiba will also offer a keyboard accessory for laptop use. The devices will be available in July and will include a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal.

The Encore 2 runs Windows with Bing, which was announced this month. It requires OEMs to set Bing as Internet Explorer's default search engine and to bundle certain Microsoft services, such as promotional Office 365 subscriptions. In exchange for using this version of Windows, manufacturers get reduced, possibly even free, license fees. Microsoft presumably hopes to address competition from low-cost Android and Chrome devices and to replace license fees with services revenue. Users are free to change Internet Explorer's settings to another search engine.

This year, Microsoft announced that Windows licenses would be free on smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than nine inches. Windows with Bing gives OEMs more flexibility to offer devices with larger screens at budget prices. In a complementary move, Microsoft also recently relaxed its Windows hardware requirements, which now demand only 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage.

Toshiba also announced several pricier devices. The Satellite Click 2 is a detachable two-in-one PC with a detachable 13.3-inch, 1,366 x 768-pixel screen and 500-GB hard drive. It runs on a quad-core Intel Pentium processor and will be available in late June for $586.99.

Satellite Click 2 Pro
Satellite Click 2 Pro

Intended for greater productivity needs and deeper wallets, the Satellite Click 2 Pro steps up to an Intel Core processor and offers up to 8 GB of RAM. Like the Satellite Click 2, the Pro model is a tablet that can snap on to a laptop base. It is only 0.78 inches thick when in laptop mode, and it boasts a full HD 13.3-inch screen; an SSD up to 256 GB; and Micro USB 2.0, Micro HDMI, and microSD slots. Its keyboard base includes two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port. The Satellite Click 2 Pro will be available in June for $1,028.99. Toshiba also will offer a version with a premium keyboard that will include a second battery and 500 GB of additional storage. That one will run $1,279.99.

Toshiba rounded out its Windows announcements with the Satellite Radius, a premium laptop with a 15.6-inch full-HD touchscreen, up to 8 GB of RAM, up to 1 TB of storage, and up to an i7 Intel Core processor. Its key feature is a flexible "flip-and-fold" design that allows the screen to be repositioned for different uses.

The Satellite Radius features a flexible display designed for different needs.
The Satellite Radius features a flexible display designed for different needs.

Touchscreen laptops haven't proved popular. Steve Jobs, among others, have argued that semi-horizontal touch input, such as one applies to a tablet, is natural, whereas vertical input, as clamshell designs generally encourage, is less appealing. Microsoft is currently looking to address this difficulty with the Surface Pro 3's flexible kickstand. Toshiba's new laptop is a different take on the same problem that broadly resembles Lenovo's Yoga line of touchscreen PCs.

The Satellite Radius will be available in July, starting in a Core i5 configuration for $925.99.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2014 | 9:12:27 AM
Re: Offline
I hear you! And I agree that screen time needs to be balanced with page time for kids who can read on their own. But for younger ones strapped into a carseat for a long drive, this offers an oppotunity to play Sesame Street or give them an educational game.
wharfrat70
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wharfrat70,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/5/2014 | 8:35:10 AM
Re: Offline
I know - wouldn't it be crazy if those kids had to - I don't know - read a book or something, without a screen?
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2014 | 7:57:45 PM
Encore 2 8-inch
A friend of mine asked me to shop around for a tablet at the $200 range. I believe the Encore 2 (8") is a real contender.

Probably is better to wait and check what other new tablets are coming, as Michael said. We'll see if they can beat the Encore 2 at this price, with a full version of Windows 8.1.

Unlikely tho. Specially considering that the Encore comes from a major brand, like Toshiba.

And, but the way, you can put plenty of mp4 (1080 or 720) movies in a 32 GB storage. No need for an external sd drive. Well, @ least not for me.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/28/2014 | 4:10:29 PM
Re: Offline
Good point, Lorna.


We'll have to see how the Encore 2 runs. If it's as zippy as Dell's 8-inch tablet, Toshiba might have a winner. Then again, a bunch of new tablets are coming in the next few weeks. Some even better cost-to-performance prospects could hit the market.

I'm not as impressed by the pricing on the upstream models. The Click 2 Pro seems a bit pricey considering the specs.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
5/28/2014 | 10:27:10 AM
Offline
I think expansion slots are an underrated tablet feature - plenty of flights still lack wi-fi. At $199 and with the ability to bring along some movies on external SD drives, that will be tempting for parents facing long flights or car rides this summer.
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