If you want to capture all the information from a meeting, class or lecture, there’s no better tool than Toshiba’s Encore 2 Write.
The Encore 2 Write features an active stylus for accurate scribbling, but the magic is in a unique set of bundled apps: TruNote mimics Microsoft’s OneNote but performs very accurate handwriting recognition on the entire documents, TruCapture OCRs images captured using the unit’s 5MP camera, and TruRecorder splits audio recordings into timelines for each orator to facilitate.
Price and design
The $349 10-inch, 1280×800 Encore 2 Write WT10PE-A that I looked at is a light (about 1.25 pounds), Atom Z3735F-based tablet with 2GB of memory and a 64GB eMMC SSD. The rear camera is 5MP and the Webcam 1.2MP. The Wi-Fi is 802.11 a/b/g/n and there’s Bluetooth 4.0 on board. It’s easy to hold, easy on the eye, and of course, comes with the aforementioned active stylus monikered “TruPen.” The TruPen is one of the nicer styluses I’ve seen, with a cap that protects the nib when it’s not in use.
The TruPen makes use of Wacom’s ActiveES, which unlike that company’s traditional pressure sensitive tablets, uses the pen to relay location, pressure and other information. Just in case you were wondering “Why not use your finger?” You can, but a stylus allows you to fit far more in the same amount of space and with considerably less hand movement. And the pressure sensitivity is great for mimicking real drawing tools with apps that support it.
As Windows tablets are ostensibly business oriented, you might want to opt for the Surface-like $109 Bluetooth keyboard/case. I wish there was a kickstand so I could use the Encore 2 Write with one of my existing Bluetooth keyboards. Small sigh.
Apps and note-taking
The Encore 2 Write/Tru-app experience as envisioned by Toshiba is that you take notes and scribble using the TruPen within TruNote; capture whiteboards and the like with the camera within TruCapture; and record any verbal discussions or orations with TruRecorder. You then process the notes and images into text and the audio into individual conversational threads after the fact. Meetings, lectures, classes… Never miss a thing. Sweet.
However, having lived through the handwriting recognition wars and disappointments back in the day, I was duly skeptical about TruNote. Well, strap two wire hangers to my head and call me an antenna—the bad old days are no more. I opened a text file created from one of my notes in the bundled TruNote application and every last thing I scribbled was accurately translated. No mistakes. Color me impressed. Scribbling then having your entire document recognized post facto is a far smoother experience that entering info piecemeal with Windows 8.1 pen entry grid.
On the other hand, the OCR of photos in the TruCapture app was just okay. It recognized text fairly well, but it doesn’t recreate documents with images, specific fonts, etc. as Adobe Acrobat and Nuance’s OmniPage attempt to do, often succeeding. TruCapture is useful, it’s just simply limited in scope. Also, while the camera is great for taking photos of whiteboards, blackboard, billboards and the like, it was difficult getting a document page in focus and to get an 8.5 by 11 page entirely in frame. You need to hold the tablet steady, a good foot away. It’s not impossible, but not easy.
Toshiba bundles another very useful business app—TruRecorder. It’s an audio recorder that divvies up audio captures according to who was speaking. Theoretically, the time you could save when looking for a specific quote is substantial. However, the processing wasn’t as accurate as I would’ve wished in my tests. This was perhaps due to ambient noise and the two female participants sounding much the same, but they were still mistaken for myself. And no, I don’t sound like a girl.
While I found the note-taking, image/audio capturing and processing very handy, where I really had a blast with the Encore 2 Write was with what styli are traditionally very good at—drawing. You can’t really appreciate a program such as Microsoft’s Fresh Paint until you employ an active stylus. I’m no artist, but I managed some pretty decent drawings by my woeful standards.
The Encore 2 Write is only a mediocre performer, which is the normal for anything Atom-based with a slow SSD. It functions fine as a tablet, but there is a slight lag opening programs so don’t expect wonders when it comes to large databases, spreadsheets, video rendering, etc.
PC Mark 8 rated the Encore 2 Write at 1489 in the Work test and 881 in the Creative test. With 3DMark it was fine with Ice Storm Extreme and its Web-grade graphics, but nothing more taxing. The eMMC SSD scored 97MBps reading and 47MBps writing large files in CrystalDiskMark. That’s quite slow, but this is a tablet and PC Mark also measured the run time at approximately 7 hours, 22 minutes. Not bad at all. 1080p movie playback was quite good as well, but the sound emanating from the speakers was a tad distorted at anything above minimum levels.
With accurate stylus input, and the apps Toshiba bundles, the Encore 2 Write turned out to be a far more useful tool than I’d expected. Until Microsoft adds whole-document handwriting recognition to OneNote instead of just OCR, it should remain the avatar for live information capture.
I heartily recommend it over the regular Encore 2, which is just another Windows tablet, albeit a very affordable one.
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