Toshiba embraces pen-based computing with new Windows tablets, Portege hybrid

toshiba encore2 write

The 8-inch Encore 2 Write may be the lowest cost tablet we've seen with a Wacom support.

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Pen-based computing died a cold hard death once consumers embraced touch, but following on the moderate success of Microsoft’s Surface Pro line, Toshiba seems to think there may really be an appetite for pens again.

The problem, though, has been price. A Surface Pro 3 stripped bare will still set you back $800 and the unit really doesn’t hit its stride until you spend at least a grand for it, with $1,300 needed to make it a true gem.

toshiba encore2 pen Gordon Mah Ung

Toshiba’s TruPen uses Wacom-licensed technology to deliver 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Pen Is Mightier technology

Enter Toshiba’s new Encore 2 Write tablets. Available as a 10.1-inch tab for $400 or an 8-inch tab for $350, the Encore 2 Write tablet’s key differentiator in an ocean of Bay Trail M tablets will be the pens. And we’re not talking those cheap eraser nub capacitive touch pens you see ham-fisted tyro’s using on their iPads either. Toshiba’s TruPen uses Wacom-licensed digitizer and stylus technology with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Toshiba didn’t just throw a pen into the Encore 2 Write and call it a day though. The company said it put a lot of thought into making the tablets the ultimate note taking devices. Thus Toshiba created three Windows 8.1 Modern apps (remember those?) to help make the Encore 2 Write become what you want on the conference room table as your boss drones on for an hour.

toshiba encore2 write 8 10 Gordon Mah Ung

Toshiba’s new Encore 2 Write tablets come in 8-inch and 10-inch models using Intel’s Bay Trail M CPUs.

TruNote lets you jot down notes, draw, and make markups on photos and graphics.

TruCapture lets you use the tablet’s built-in 8MP camera to snap images of the useless stuff your boss jots down on the whiteboard during a meeting and then automatically straightens the image, corrects the perspective, exposure and sharpens it for use in TruNote. That’s where you can jot down comments such as “makes no sense!!!” “factually incorrect” or “how exactly did he become my boss?” on it.

Finally TruRecorder lets you record the meeting and automatically identifies each speaker and puts them on his or her own track so you can easily skip the part where your boss talks and jump to the section where your co-worker starts to snore so you can make her a ring-tone from it.

Both the 8-inch and 10.1-inch tablets use Atom CPUs, feature 2GB of RAM, and pack 64GB of storage. Additional storage can be added through the MicroSD slot. Both also support Micro HDMI and Micro USB 2.0. The tablets are also rated for roughly 11 hours of use on a charge and will be available soon after CES ends.

Portege gets updated too

Toshiba also went back to the drawing board for the pens that come with its Portege convertibles. The original Portege Z10t had a Wacom option, and for new Portege Z20t, Toshiba improves upon it by adding a backup pen

Anyone who actually uses a pen-based PC such as Surface Pro knows how easy is to lose the pen, but with the Portege Z20t, if you’ve removed the tablet from the keyboard and forgot your pen at your desk, you can pull a tiny backup pen out from the tablet and have your boss sign that expense report he’s been ducking for the last month.

toshiba portege z20t pens Gordon Mah Ung

Toshiba’s new Portege Z20T convertible features Wacom pens and cleverly tucks a backup pen into the tablet too.

That's far from the only change. The Z20t has also been updated with a Broadwell-based Core M processor, an M.2 SSD up to 512GB in size, and more importantly, a keyboard that isn’t so razor thin that it looks and feels unbalanced. (That’s something the Z10t seriously suffered from.)

When docked, you’d be hard pressed to tell that the Z20t is a convertible at all, and it’s sturdy enough that you can pick it up from the tablet side without fear of it flopping around. The keyboard dock now features a built-in battery too. In tablet mode, the Z20t gives you a respectable 9.1 hours of run time but docked, you’ll get a stupendous 17.5 hours, Toshiba claims. Taking advantage of the thicker dock, it now has a d-sub port for VGA output, Gigabit ethernet, and two USB 3.0 ports in the keyboard.

The Z20t starts at $1,400 and will be available this month.

toshiba canvio basics 2tb 2 Toshiba

This Toshiba Canvio features a 2TB drive but a slightly thicker version the company is announcing will pack in a new 3TB laptop hard drive.

Toshiba 3TB laptop drive quietly arrives 

In other notable CES news from Toshiba, the company is announcing a 3TB Canvio external USB 3.0 drive. Yawn right? No, don’t yawn. Even though 4TB USB 3.0 portable hard drives have been available for some time, those have used two 2TB drives in RAID or JBOD configurations to achieve that capacity. The 3TB Canvio will use a single new Toshiba 2.5-inch HDD to reach its capacity.

For laptop data pack rats, that means you should soon expect to see a significant increase in your ability to store all those pictures and Linux distros you’ve downloaded from the Internet.

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