Toshiba Encore Mini

Toshiba's 7-inch Encore Mini could be the first $99 Windows tablet

The time when an inexpensive tablet had to run Android might be drawing to a close. Toshiba’s new 7-inch Encore Mini runs the full Windows 8.1 operating system and carries an MSRP of $120, but Toshiba expects the device to be discounted to $99 the moment it hits retail.

It’s a budget device, to be sure, with a quad-core Intel Atom Z3735G processor driving a TN touchscreen with resolution of just 1024x600 pixels. And users might have difficulty multi-tasking with Windows 8.1 being squeezed into just 1GB of memory and 16GB of storage. But it’s hard to argue with the price tag, especially when it comes with a one-year subscription to Office 365 and 1TB of cloud storage via Microsoft’s OneDrive.

Toshiba Encore Mini

Toshiba's 7-inch Encore Mini can be expanded to 128GB of storage with a microSD card. 

“We worked a lot with Microsoft’s engineering team to make sure the experience was a good one,” Toshiba product manager Carrie Cowan told me in a briefing last week. I’m sure Microsoft’s decision to eliminate Windows licensing fees on tablets smaller than 9 inches also helped Toshiba in its effort to make the Encore Mini so inexpensive (the tablet ships with Windows 8.1 with Bing).

Toshiba Encore Mini

The Encore Mini has a front webcam and a 2MP rear camera. 

Toshiba wisely built a microSD card slot into the diminutive tablet, so that it can be upgraded to 128GB of storage, but there’s no way to upgrade its memory.

The Encore Mini also has an 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter; Miracast support for wireless video streaming; and Bluetooth 4.0, so you can add a wireless keyboard (Cowan said Toshiba will introduce optional cases for the mini tablet, but probably won’t produce a custom keyboard).

The 0.43-inch tablet has a front webcam and a 2-megapixel rear camera for capturing digital photos and videos. It weighs 12.5 ounces.

Toshiba announced the Encore Mini at the IFA trade show in Berlin. The tablet should be available for sale now.

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