Toshiba wants you to leave your notepad at home. The company's new Encore 2 Write is a sleek Windows 8 tablet with a stylus and a pressure-sensitive display. It's fine-tuned for taking notes and drawing charts and diagrams right on the screen, and it comes in two sizes: a 10.1-inch model and a compact 8-inch version. We went hands-on with both devices.
The pen that's included with the Encore 2 Write is no dinky stylus. It's a substantial pen that's easy to grip and includes two buttons on the side that can be remapped for a variety of functions. Unfortunately, there's no space in which to stow the pen when you're done writing on either tablet, but that's the trade-off for such a slim design. On both models, however, you can slide the pen's clip into a small slot on the edge.
So what makes these tablets special, when there are third-party styluses available for just about every tablet on the market? The difference is the included Wacom digitizer technology, which provides pressure sensitivity for the displays on both models. In other words, the tablets can detect how hard you're pressing with the pen, allowing you to easily vary the line width and darkness of your marks — just as you can with a real ink pen. This makes a huge difference in how natural and precise it feels to write on the screens, and only a handful of Windows tablets, including Microsoft's pricey Surface Pro slates, have this technology. Using a standard capacitive stylus on an iPad, which lacks a pressure-sensing screen, feels limited and cumbersome by comparison.
Toshiba also included a few handy pen applications to complement the stylus technology. Those apps include TruNote, which lets you mark up documents, PDFs and images, and can also convert handwriting into text. Another function lets you highlight words in a document to quickly search for it on the Web. The app felt snappy and easy to use, with big, touch-friendly menus.
Pen aside, the tablet also comes with an app called TruRecorder, which lets you record audio and then isolate and tag individual speakers to better hear a single voice. That could really come in handy for business meetings. So could TruCapture, which can automatically straighten photos of whiteboards or presentations so you can read the text better. You can even import TruCapture photos into TruNote to stay organized.
The 10.1- and 8-inch models both come with zippy Intel Atom Bay Trail processors with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, plus a microSD card slot for expanded storage. Another perk for business users is a free one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal.
Both Encore 2 Write slates are available now, starting at $349 for the 8-inch model and $399 for the 10.1-inch version.