Jane Fong is a South-Australian Speech Pathologist working in the area of paediatric rehabilitation. She’s also one of three winners in our recent Toshiba Encore competition. Jane has had her new 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet for over a week now and this is her road test experience…
My job involves provision of intensive therapy services to children who have acquired brain and/or spinal injuries. Therapy addresses the associated loss of function (physical and cognitive) following a major event such as neurosurgery to remove brain tumours, stroke (yes, they do occur in children – usually due to pre-existing malformation of blood vessels in the brain) and accidents. Sometimes I also encounter children with development delay, learning difficulties and physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy / muscular dystrophy.
With school aged children, much of my work involves working on language, literacy, cognitive abilities and communication to facilitate their eventual return to school and academic work. This is where technology / equipment such as laptops and tablets are often utilised and features such as physical access, portability / weight, touch screen, camera, software programs, applications, ease of magnifying the screen for visual access are considered.
Technology is imperative in my area of work given:
• Most children are tech savvy these days and access many gadgets in their lives and for school.
• The use of tablets and applications is common. Additional to internet access, it is an entertainment, movie, educational and communication tool in one. Importantly, smaller tablets are very portable.
• Some children with communication and physical disabilities are dependent on technology to communicate their needs (Also known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication or AAC). To put it simply, it is their voice! This involves pointing to pictures or typing words for voice output.
• On the AAC market, a tablet is one of the cheaper technology gadgets to access key features such multiple functions, portability, touch screen, variety of applications, camera and voice output. Currently, the iPad is the most popular tablet choice given the wider range of applications available for AAC.
• Often, children already have their own laptops or tablets which they may bring to therapy and school.
With Intel’s speedy fourth-gen Z3740 quad core processor, the Toshiba Encore provides up to 14 hours of battery life and weighs just 445g. Perfect to watch movies, check email, Skype and browse the Web on its 8-inch multi-touch HD display (1280×800; 16:10 aspect).
The Encore also ships with full Windows 8.1 and a full license version of Office Home and Student 2013 — connect a Bluetooth keyboard and you’ve got everything you need to survive the day.
That includes an 8-megapixel rear camera (2MP front), micro HDMI output, micro SD card slot and 64GB solid-state storage. (A 32GB version is also available).
Toshiba Encore: First Impressions
To keep up with where children are at with technology, I personally own a 3rd generation iPad and a Lenovo ThinkPad. At work, I use a Dell laptop.
I was particularly excited to road test the Toshiba Encore as an alternative to the iPad.
The small size, light weight (only 445g) and full Windows 8.1 install plus Home and Student 2013 Office suite particularly appealed to me as I often carried a laptop with me to access this software for therapy. Microsoft Word is useful for children who have difficulties keeping up with scribing due to physical difficulties with holding a pencil, mild visual issues and who need to be more effective with their written output.
Some of the children have to carry their laptop and textbooks from one class to another because they need it to access the school intranet and Microsoft Office for school work. This is particularly difficult if they have a physical disability, challenges with mobility and/or are dependent on mobility devices such as a wheelchair or walking stick. This is where I think a tablet such as the Toshiba Encore would be greatly beneficial.
The Toshiba tablet fitted easily into my sling bag and was easy to hold in one hand. It looks compact and solid and is not much thicker than an iPad. Most importantly, it has access ports for a Micro USB 2.0, micro SD card reader, Micro HDMI and earphones. I set out to get some of the accessories from the shops. I love how easy it is to connect an USB to the tablet for transfer and saving files/documents in the absence of internet access for SkyDrive. I also connected the tablet via the HDMI to my television to surf the internet and to view photos on the big screen. Very cool and great for people with visual issues!
At the time of writing this review, I was told that the Toshiba Encore is fairly new to Australia. I had to order screen protectors and covers specifically for it online if I needed the tablet to stand. Other shops did not have these.
I have not used Windows 8 before. However the set up was easy enough to figure out. A salesperson at an electronic shop described the Toshiba Encore as a notebook in a tablet and if I wanted to, I could also set up iTunes on it. I am impressed that this version of Microsoft Office has a predictive text option.
I can see it being very well used by some of my patients to improve their efficiencies with written work. (On the other hand, its generic use could lead to a future generation of children who cannot spell if they become over-reliant on this feature.)
Given that I already owned an iPad, it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn when looking at the responsiveness of the touch screen. The Toshiba Encore’s touch screen is less sensitive — enlarging specific bits of the screen, depending on where I am navigating and scrolling does not always occur easily, even with the use of a stylus. Magnification of the screen can also be application dependent. It is frustrating at times and using a mouse works best.
I was pleased with the clarity of the screen HD display, photo and video quality on the device for its price. The photo editing feature which came with the tablet was easy to use and does a good job. The sound quality was clear and adequate for Skype, music and watching videos. In therapy sessions, the portability of this device and video feature was great for videoing the child’s performance and providing immediate visual feedback to the child and family.
Starting the Toshiba Encore from standby is very quick (less than 300 milliseconds as stated), unlike switching on a laptop — another good reason for use in the classroom or work setting. It saves time and the battery lifespan is more than sufficient for my usage through the day. Having trialled the tablet with a patient, I can already see the benefits. It is easy enough to type quite effectively on the tablet keypad.
Transferring photos / files from other devices via the USB was speedy given that the tablet has an Intel 4th Generation Z3740 Quad Core Processor.
Should You Buy It?
Overall, I am impressed by what I am getting from the Toshiba Encore. For a retail price of $459, this tablet doubles as a very light notebook, has a full version of Windows 8.1, a sizable storage of 64GB and has a rather speedy processor. Sure, the responsiveness of the touch screen is at times annoying but that is easily managed using a small mouse.
The Toshiba Encore serves a different purpose from my iPad. For people out there looking at tablets, the iPad is still one to use if you want to access a large variety of applications. However for work and academic purposes, ease of connectivity to other devices, surfing the internet, portability and costs, the Toshiba Encore Tablet is more than sufficient.