Acer Iconia W5 with Windows 8.1 Preview. How-To and Features.

Posted on 05 July 2013 by



W510 8.1Windows 8.1 Preview was announced and released at Microsoft’s BUILD event this week and I’ve been testing it on an Acer Iconia W5 Clovertrail based tablet similar to the W3, 8-inch devices that were given out to around 3000 people at the event. I’ve also upgraded an Ivy Bridge Ultrabook and an AMD Temash subnotebook, all with touch but it’s the tablets that get the most out of the changes in the upgrade. Keyboard changes, windowing changes, 3G connected standby support, new Windows 8 applications and a range of application upgrades. If you’re on a non-touch laptop and spend most of your time in Windows 8 desktop, don’t bother with the upgrade yet as there are bugs but if you’ve got an Acer Iconia W5 or one of the other supported Windows 8 tablets or hybrids and you’re not using it for production purposes I would definitely recommend upgrading.

Windows 8.1 Upgrade on the Acer Iconia W3

The process starts here if you’re upgrading a Windows 8 PC [link] where you need to download and install the bootstrap program.

8.1update

Following the install and reboot you’ll get a banner on-screen telling you to go to the Windows Store. If not, just open the Windows Store and you should see the upgrade application immediately.

8.1 update

 

8.1 update 28.1 update 3

On the Acer W510 it took about 2 hours to download, check, install, reboot and setup the system with Windows 8.1

Major Changes

Windows 8 remains Windows 8. There are no major changes to the user interface, to the ‘charms’ system or desktop and in some respects it’s a little disappointing given the launch and media coverage over the last week. There are important changes however.

Search has been changed to bring together results from Bing and results from your PC. Is it better? You be the judge. You can still hit the Windows key and start typing to match an application so at least that important function isn’t broken. For some online results there are nicely formatted results pages. In some cases the app-specific search results are not available using Windows-F (charms search) and you have to use a search feature from within an application. The Store is one example.

Microsoft have improved a lot of apps and added a set of new apps. The Store gets a big overhaul with categories and personal recommendations getting shortcuts under the original swipe-up menu.  Apps will now automatically update unless you are connected via a ‘metered’ connection.

Internet Explorer 11 is the latest browser in both Metro and desktop and it offers improvements that only the sharp-eyed user will notice. SkyDrive is now the default location for saving documents according to Microsoft’s marketing but it’s easy to choose another location. Clearly this is a move to get people using the drive and heading towards revenue-generating subscriptions for more storage. SkyDrive integration is slightly more prominent in the File Explorer too.

New applications include a calculator, alarm/stopwatch/countdown timer, new health and food apps, a scanner application and a ‘read it later’ style application which syncs across devices via the cloud. There’s a new Sound Recorder application.

Improvements in the Xbox Music app include setting up radio streaming stations. You get 10 hours of free music streaming per month (with ads.)  and you’re allowed to skip tracks, see the up-coming playlist, jump ahead in the playlist and, of course, buy tracks. The Xbox Music app works in connected standby so you can expect days of streaming on the Acer W510 without charging. (My estimate: 2-4days.)

One of the more useful improvements is to the on-screen keyboard which now allows long-press to access numeric characters and includes a space-bar gesture to select predicted words. In some cases it can be useful, in others it’s quicker to complete the word yourself and with the predictions appearing where the text is being entered and not where the keyboard is, you might find your eyes darting around a fair bit.

Internally there are some more important changes going on. Usefully for handheld Windows 8 devices there’s support for Connected Standby (AOAC / InstantGo) via a 3G interface meaning that you can now use Skype over 3G in connected standby mode. You can also answer calls directly from a lock screen. In effect, a Windows 8 PC with 3G data and Connected Standby can now be a phone.  There are other small improvements with CS too. There are more application ‘slots’ available in Connected Standby, for example.

Finally, the ‘Start’ button. In effect nothing much has changed but maybe it’s enough to shut up the moaning journalists. Rather than an invisible left and right-click area in the bottom left of the screen, there’s now a Windows logo. More important is the fact that the Modern UI with its re-sizable Windows can be set as a secondary view. The primary view can be set to a list of all applications. Sliding up and down between them is now a feature meaning that swiping application tiles up to select them is no longer supported. A (longer) press is required to activate a tile in order to move it or make changes to it. For this user, it’s a step back based on a lot of fuss and bother by bored journalists.

For more details on changes, see the Microsoft guide. (PDF)

 

In Action with the Acer Iconia W5

It’s important that I tell you the most significant changes first and that means  I have to tell you that the Acer W510 with Windows 8.1 Preview is buggy. In fact on all three Windows 8.1 systems I’ve tested over 3 days I’ve seen application problems with File Explorer, Camera, Pictures, SkyDrive and even a system crash. DO NOT USE WINDOWS 8.1 ON YOUR MAIN SYSTEM. I may be looking to roll-back to Windows 8 after my testing is complete. Let’s assume that all the bugs will get ironed out before launch though…


Update: It seems the libraries on upgraded systems get corrupted which means some apps. After deleting and recreating the libraries Music and Bilder (Pictures.) The image below shows a German OS. Open a File Explorer  (Windows-Key + E) and right-click in the left column. You should see an option to show the libraries (if they are not already there.)

manage library

Right click on a library and if you see an error you’ll have to delete the library, create a new one and set the content type. In the image below you can see a new library being set up. It’s set to be a Music library and will get picked up by music apps.

new library

By re-creating the important libraries I have fixed problems with Xbox and Pictures on the Acer Iconia W510.


…continued.

The new apps, the new browser and the app improvements (including portrait mode support in many cases) are very welcome on the Acer W5. The OSK improvement is a real advantage for small-screen Windows devices and having more tile size options is great. The photo editor is very useful and really helps to clean up images before sharing to apps and services via the charm bar.

Being able to access the camera and other apps from the lock screen without having to enter a password is going to be very useful on the small Windows tablets. There’s power, space and support now for some interesting photography-focused products. The updates in the Xbox music app bring interesting streaming radio possibilities.

Internally the changes pave the way for more mobile Windows 8 devices. Connected Standby (InstantGo) over 3G and more ‘slots’ will allow a more advanced standby system.

Combine the internal changes with the UI and app changes and it’s a great step forward for Windows 8 handheld devices.

On the down-side I’m still missing a better notification system (one with viewable history) and it would have been nice to see a ‘kiosk’ mode where Windows 8 desktop could be frozen to leave just the Metro apps running. Google support for calendar sync is still not there (although mail, contacts, chat are supported) and of course, official apps from many major service providers although A Facebook app is said to be coming.

For an overview of some of the features, some thoughts and some demonstrations, see the video below.

Update 1: It’s possible that Intel Quick Sync (Intel Media SDK) is broken in some cases. E.g. Video rendering on Cyberlink Power Director isn’t working on one of my upgraded devices.

Note: There’s no easy way to roll-back Windows 8.1 upgrades so please take an image of your system before testing.

13 Comments For This Post

  1. James Lost says:

    Good piece, thanks. I’ve been waiting a long time for a 7″/8″ Windows tablet with decent battery life; my primary purpose is as a single-hand ebook reader with Text-to-Speech using a voice only available on x86.

    The Iconia W3 is tempting, but I will hold out for a little while to see the competition. I wonder about aspect ratio, and if a tablet with 4:3 screen will turn up. 16:10 will probably do fine, since I expect the 8.1 update makes my intended use even more possible improved text reflow.

  2. James says:

    Well, it’s only a preview and they mentioned it wouldn’t work on all systems. So having bugs and other random issues isn’t surprising.

    While I’d have to disagree that there are no significant changes to the UI… There may be no single major changes but there are accumulative changes that together add up to a significantly different experience from what Windows 8 allowed.

    Take the desktop… with 8.1, you can now choose to boot directly to the desktop, the Start Button at the very least makes it easier to find and know where to click versus the hidden hot corner they used before, and the option to use the desktop wallpaper for the Start Screen or All Apps Menu makes the transition much less jarring…

    More significantly for many is you can now get to the Shutdown and Reboot options from the Start Button, just right click the start button for the power user menu and scroll to the Shutdown options… more than anything else that users have complained about Windows 8 was how shutdown/reboot commands were no longer as easy to access.

    Other significant changes include the Windows Store with the elimination of the only up to 5 computer install limit. So you can now buy once and install on whatever computer you own.

    Along with other changes, like opening up new API’s to developers that they were previously denied, gift card support brought to 41 markets to reduce the reliance on credit cards, Alipay support for China, availability in over 200 countries, accepting developer submission from 191 countries, average review and certification time reduced to 2.2 days, 80% revenue goes to developers, and now allowing the submission of M rated games.

    Never mind the face lift they gave the Store…

    While, they’re also working on Modern UI versions of Office apps and finally starting to leverage their XBox franchise with games like Halo: Spartan Assault coming to all versions of W8 and WP8.

    So, we can start expecting a lot more from the Store and Modern UI apps…

    While the changes may not seem significant in any one area but altogether it’s looking like they did a pretty good overhaul… though, there’s still plenty they can still improve but at least this is just the first of what they said will be a annual update for Windows 8.

    So we can expect things to change even more by the end of next year!

  3. James says:

    @James Lost – By the time 8.1 officially gets released (Sept/Oct), we’ll only be a month or two from seeing the first next gen ATOM Bay Trail devices start coming out with at least 2x the performance of what’s offered now for much more bang for your buck…

    And, we’re more likely to see a larger selection of device designs with Bay Trail than we’d likely see from the present Clover Trail… Though, you may have to wait until early next year for most of them to come out…

  4. James Lost says:

    Thanks for the advice. The arrive of Bay Trail has been on my mind. It’s an exciting time for those interested in small form factor devices running full Windows, but it also feels like an awkward and limited market. Outside of Modern UI, the experience can become tiresome.

    This review is particularly damning:

    “Once it’s installed, however, W3 users are likely to realize that a free copy of Office isn’t such a great bonus, given that almost no effort has been made to adapt it to the tablet environment. Office’s touch controls are inadequate for small screens, and you’ll need fingertips like needles to access some of the menu options. While you can use pinch-to-zoom to increase the size of the text you’re typing, other menus and controls always remain the same size – and here they’re positively puny.”

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/10/review_acer_iconia_w3_tablet

    All this makes me feel reluctant to wait too long to buy; for I genuinely fear the entire range of small tablets being discontinued and driven to a landfill somewhere.

    The Iconia W3, for what it’s level of quality; still has enough power for my intended use, and has decent battery-life.

  5. James Lost says:

    Correction:

    The Iconia W3, for whatever it’s level of build quality; still has enough power for my intended use, and has decent battery-life.

  6. James says:

    @James Lost, some reviewers like to get ahead of themselves… Like ignoring or missing the reveal that happened along with the 8.1 Preview release was that Modern UI versions of Office are coming as well!

    They already demonstrated Outlook for RT and other Office apps will be coming later…

    It never ceases to amaze me how attitudes have changed from just a couple years ago when UMPC devices were still popular and people made due on 5″-7″ devices running Windows XP and working on Office, etc.

    Chippy, even managed his site from a UMPC managing to fix problems, etc without resorting to a full PC…

    Yet now, with an OS with actual touch optimization support it suddenly becomes such a terrible experience… but to each their own… Working on a small device will always involve compromise and it just varies what compromises people are willing to live with…

    While people also seem to forget that these devices can just be docked to be used in different form factors… Either as a hybrid to become a impromptu laptop or with a external setup to convert the device into a impromptu desktop and thus not everything has to be done in just one form factor…

    I wouldn’t worry about small tablets being discontinued, the market pressure is there for sub 10″ devices and it’s actually now that such small PC devices are making a comeback from the previous UMPC days… It has been years since we’ve seen such small PC options but Bay Trail not only improves performance but should allow them to squeeze x86 into even smaller devices without the normal price penalty…

    So we should actually start seeing more such devices in the future… besides, the Acer W3 won’t just disappear in a few months…

  7. Martin says:

    Does 8.1 allow you to disable going into Connected Standby when the screen is off to let desktop software run? When the desktop software finishes then it can go into Connected Standby like how it used to work with regular suspend. For example, these desktop software will disable suspend and when it finishes it’ll re-enable suspend.

    Also, does 8.1 allow devices to automatically connect to WiFi access points when they come into range during Connected Standby? Windows 8 seems to only connect to WiFi when it goes out of Connected Standby.

    I didn’t know Connected Standby wasn’t already supported when connected via WWAN. I assume it doesn’t have the same problems as with WiFi where it will automatically reconnect if the connection is lost or jumping between towers during Connected Standby.

  8. Pogo says:

    Ya, are the issues with Connected Stanby fixed?

    Is NFS support back for at least one non-enterprise retail version?

    Can I modify network profiles and locations without opening a command prompt like in Windows 7?

    Does the on-screen keyboard have up/down arrows? Can I press cttl-tab on it? How about alt and F keys?

  9. animatio says:

    i said it with XP, then with Vista/Seven on netbooks and tablets. if somebody is complaining about to tiny standard menus and icons in desktop mode, these users only show their incompetence in configuring windows legacy mode. do first your homework end if still necessary, complain later.
    that microsoft and device producers/vendors even after almost 14 years still are not willing to adapt configurations specifically to a distinct device is another shame of this industry.

  10. me says:

    If you’re talking about changing the DPI then that’s not a good solution. At least not good enough for a lot of people. Okay, not good enough for me. Dialogs with cut off text, windows going beyond the screen size (worse when they’re non-resizable windows like during software installation), text size seems to differ depending on the app or what kind of text it is (ie. menu bar, title bar, text within the app, etc.) and other issues. It feels like I’m using some hacked together OS.

    It’s good that Microsoft is trying to move towards resolution independence. It may not help much with software that’s not getting updated anymore but software that are still being maintained will definitely improve from Microsoft’s changes and vendors specifically accounting for high resolution or small screens.

  11. Joe says:

    Hey Chippy, I’m a big fan off all your videos and website. Sorry for the off topic comment but I’m going to be a freshman in college and I’ve been researching windows 8 tablet convertibles because of their long battery life and low prices. I was wondering if you could tell which tablet convertible is better suited for productivity and note taking or just better in general. The Acer Iconia W510 or the Lenovo Lynx? and if you have any other suggestions for windows 8 tablet convertibles that are great for note taking and productivity and around $500 tell me. Thank you, please respond!

    Chippy Reply:

    It’s tough to recommend a Clovertrail tablet for productivity. For typing and basic Web services they suffice though. The W510 has a small keyboard and the Lynx has a poor keyboard. The Ativ 500t has a reasonable keyboard and digitizer which could be useful for you. Otherwise I would recommend something like a low-cost ultrabook for much more processing power.

  12. Conrad says:

    Hi Chippy, I enjoy reading your posts, and I am hoping that you can give me some advice on my Acer W500. I recently upgraded this device from Windows 8 Pro to Windows 8.1 preview and I am having two issues which I can not resolve. I’ll start with the more serious one, this tablet works great in tablet mode, however it’s quite buggy in desktop mode. While in desktop mode when I try to launch any office app or windows explorer, they usually open in reduced sized window and I am unable to maximize the window. In fact when I try touching the screen in one area to do a specific function, it responds by doing another function (screen calibration seems off). I’ve tried adjusting screen resolution, but the only thing that works is to restart the device. Sometimes I have to do this several times before it corrects itself. Once I have corrected the window scaling issue, if I am able to keep the device in sleep mode everything works like a charm. The problem comes back again when I have to restart due to battery drainage. Which can be often on this particular device, as it runs off of the AMD C-50 processor. The other issue is minor and it maybe linked to the first one; the problem is screen rotation. The tablet will only operate in landscape mode. I tried downloading and reinstalling the G-Sensor driver from Acer’s website, but it’s still not working. Since it worked when windows 8 was installed, I’m guessing that Acer hasn’t upgraded the driver for windows 8.1. I look forward to any advice that you can offer me.

    Thank you,
    Conrad

  13. Guenther says:

    Hi Chippy,
    is it possible for to test the Acer w510 with Windows 8.1 and Miracast?
    Great, when i will be able to send the Display with Miracast to an TV or Beamer.
    Thank you,
    Guenther

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