New $199 Toshiba Windows tablet shows why Surface Mini isn’t needed

Encore 2 featured

Toshiba is showing Microsoft how to aggressively price a tablet. The company launched an 8-inch slate on Tuesday that has a quad-core Intel processor, high definition touchscreen and 10 hours of expected battery life. Oh, and it runs the full version of Microsoft Windows 8.1. A follow up to last year’s Windows slate, the Toshiba Encore 2 is precisely why Microsoft was wise to reportedly pull the Surface Mini from a launch event last week.

Toshiba Encore 2 front

For under $200, Toshiba has put together a compelling package in under a pound of weight and it didn’t have to resort to using a smartphone chip paired with Windows RT software to do so. Surely helping here is Microsoft’s recent decision to eliminate the Windows licensing fees for small tablets. Consumers, however, don’t care about the deals between Microsoft and its hardware partners. They want a good value and they’re likely to see it with the Encore 2, which will also be available in a $269 10-inch model when the tablets go on sale in July.

Both slates offer 1280 x 800 resolution screens, up to 64 GB of internal storage with optional expansion through a microSD card slot, and a micro USB port for accessories. Each has stereo speakers as well as dual cameras for video chatting and snapping pictures. The larger model also includes a micro HDMI port. You’ll also get the full Microsoft Office suite through an included one-year Office365 Personal subscription.

Encore 2 side

Considering I recently spent $299 for a similar product in the Dell Venue 8 Pro, you can see how aggressively priced these slates are. More importantly, however, the Encore 2 clearly shows that there’s no need for a Surface Mini that doesn’t run full Windows 8.1 software.

Microsoft would have to price such a device at $179 or even less to compete against products like the Encore 2. Even if it did meet that price, consumers would have to decide whether saving a few bucks is worth using a Windows computer that can’t run older Windows software. That’s the same choice consumers have faced since the original Surface with Windows RT arrived. And for a little extra cash, it has generally made more sense to buy an Intel Atom-based Windows 8.1 tablet or hybrid for more capabilities and similar battery life.

This post was updated on May 28 to correct information about the HDMI port. Initially it was reported that both models included it but it is only available on the 10-inch model.

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