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Microsoft's assault on cheap Android tablets starts this week

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A $120 Windows tablet signals a new war

Microsoft promised cheaper Windows tablets with its "Windows 8.1 with Bing" option for manufacturers, and they’re now starting to arrive. Toshiba is one of the first to announce a 7-inch Windows tablet this week at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin, signalling a new price point for mainstream manufacturers to battle the cheap Android alternatives. The new Encore Mini is a 7-inch (1024 x 600) Windows 8.1 tablet running a quad-core Intel Atom processor with 16GB of internal storage and an SD slot if you need more space. It’s a pretty bare-bones machine, but it’s priced accordingly: it retails for just $119.99 and is available now.

Probably the cheapest, most bare-bones Windows 8.1 experience you can find

If you’re a Windows fan this is probably the smallest device capable of running a full version of Windows that we’ve seen thus far, but there’s a few drawbacks that come with that. There’s no Windows button on the Encore Mini, meaning you’ll need to swipe for the Charms bar to navigate around. The display also has extremely bad viewing angles when you’re navigating around, so you’re really getting what you pay for here. There’s also the issue of a full version of Windows running on such a small device, and with manufacturers now technically able to run Windows Phone at 7 inches it would make more sense for these types of devices to opt for Microsoft’s true mobile operating system in future.

Either way, get used to these cheap Windows tablets as they’re about to get a lot more common. Microsoft is arming its closest partners with free versions of Windows in order to battle with the increasing amount of cheap Android tablets that are flooding the market. Toshiba might be one of the first to hit such low price points, but HP is also planning to release 7- and 8-inch versions of its new "Stream" PC line for just $99 this holiday season, both running Windows. Others are bound to follow, all while Microsoft prepares to merge its Windows RT and Windows Phone operating system to better cater for small tablets, albeit ARM-based ones, that will arrive next year.

Acer's also announcing an 8-inch (1280 x 800 IPS) Iconia Tab 8 W with Windows 8.1 and one year of complimentary Microsoft Office 365 Personal. It features up to eight hours of battery in a 9.75-mm thick chassis weighing 0.8 pounds. It'll begin shipping in October starting at 149 euro, and to "Pan America" in November for $149.99.

Acer Iconia Tab 8 W

Nathan Ingraham contributed to this report.