With a focus on mobile computing I attended my 6th Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. I wasn’t just there to look at products though because my focus was on assessing trends and trying to work out how those trends might impact the pro-mobile computing market that we cover here. Here’s a list of take-aways and notes from Barcelona.
At a pre-MWC event yesterday evening I got a look at the updated HP Elitepad 1000 G2. It’s now running Baytrail-T (Z3795), comes with a 64-Bit version of Windows and has 4GB of RAM. There’s also, as before, a great selection of sleeves and a dock that now includes USB3.0
Temash is AMD’s new computing platform aimed at Windows 8 tablets. Recently they teased some interesting docking functionality in which you could dock a Temash tablet onto a keyboard for a 40% processing power boost which is an idea that we’d love to see explored in the computing industry. Chippy has been on the show-floor of Mobile World Congress 2013 this week and got to check out Temash prototypes at the AMD booth.
I’ve finally had good hands-on time with every Clovertrail tablet, hybrid and convertible out there today. There are only 11 so it wasn’t too difficult but it’s a good position to be in. Which one is the best? Which one has the best docking keyboard? Which one is the best value? Which on is the best for YOU?
At MWC this week I took videos of the final seven Clovertrail-based Windows tablets and the results are below. I’ve outlined the targe customers and put some thoughts down about what’s the best Clovertrail Windows 8 tablet or hybrid.
There’s no question that the Acer W510 is now stable enough, has huge amounts of battery power and is portable enough to be a real advantage for a mobile blogger but is it good enough in other departments, namely CPU, storage and keyboard? Can this 1300gm dockable do the business?
The Acer W510 is an Intel Clovertrail-based tablet with docking keyboard and battery. Not only is the tablet very efficient at running Windows 8 but there’s a total of 60Wh of battery in total, equivalent to a good 6-cell on a netbook. That’s a huge amount for such a small device and combined with super efficiency and Connected Standby is means there should be absolutely no need for a power cable during a 16hours period of working â€“ typical for the sort of trade-show working I’m thinking of next week at MWC in Barcelona.
But is it comfortable enough? Under the pressure of having to get videos and blog posts out as soon as possible is the keyboard and CPU combination â€“ a borderline one at the best of times â€“ going to cause me to, well, lose productiity? Or is the portability and battery life going to be worth the potentially longer video rendering times, the raised stress levels when typing and the annoyance at applications that don’t start up immediately. The Wi-Fi isn’t professional-grade either!
There are other things to think about too.
Ethernet â€“ You want to be able to connect via cable to get those videos up as quickly as possible. Solution â€“ USB Ethernet cable. I’m using it right now!
3G â€“ Built-in 3G would be really good. The W511 has it but I really can’t afford to trade-up right now. The good old MiFi unit, tied to a battery pack, will have to do 3G duties.
Cam â€“ Forget using a cam on any tablet for good quality YouTube videos. There’s no zoom, no stabilisation and generally very poor optics. Even my Nokia 808 isn’t good enough. You need mechanical stabilisation if you want to shoot products in low-light so I’ll be using my tried and tested Panasonic FZ150 bridge camera. It’s been fantastic over the last year or so.
SD card slot â€“ An SD card slot is a must-have for all my PCs but the W510 doesn’t have one. It has a Micro-SD slot but that’s not going to help with the 16GB SD card I’ve got in the FZ150. The only answer is a USB SD card adaptor, and the mini USB cable adaptor that was supplied with the Acer W510. There’s room for problems here so I’ll take the USB cable for the camera too.
Storage â€“ I’ve got some clearing up to do. 20Gb free space should be enough though as I don’t archive original video footage once it’s uploaded to YouTube.
Is there a better solution than the ASUS W510? Ye I believe there is in the 11.6â€ Clovertrail devices that have docking keyboard with additional battery capacity. The HP Envy x2 and ASUS Vivo Tab Smart are are two on my list but I haven’t got either of those so the W510 it is.
Here’s the software pack I need.
Twitter client â€“ Tweetro+
Basic photo management and editing â€“ Live Gallery
Video editing â€“ Power Director 10 (with a tailored 720 profile)
At the end of the day though I’m here to test, to learn and to tell you what works and what doesn’t. I plan to work a full day tomorrow with the W510 and then make a final decision on whether it should be my MWC reporting PC.
Update: After a few hours going hard with the keyboard I’ve decided the W510 isn’t working out. Not only does the mousepad have the well-know hardware issue but I’m getting occasional repeated keys. Every praragraph or so one of the keysÂ charactersÂ will repeat on the screen between 10 and 20 times! The Acer W510 needs to go back but the good news is that I had some luck exchanging the Samsung ATIV 500T today. I upgraded to 3G too. This is the device i’ll be testing all day tomorrow. Already I know that the keyboard and mouse (which includes multitouch gestures) is way more comfortable than the W510. In fact it’s pretty much exactly the same keyboard as you get on a Samsung Series5 Ultrabook. I get on really well with that keyboard so fingers crossed. More on my Samsung ATIV 500T testing here.Â
There’s an interesting story developing out of an investor call that Microsoft held yesterday.
We’ve discussed 7-inch Windows 8 tablets before, confirmed they are technically possible, analysed the market forÂ them and we came out positive but it takes more than just a small set of potential customers to make a product. Microsoft say they’re â€œset upâ€ for 7â€ Tablets so it’s really up to the manufacturers now. 7-inch Windows 8 Tablets could be on the way.
Qualcomm gave us an update on Mirasol this morning. If you remember, Mirasol is a daylight-readable (transflective) display technology with color. The screen refresh rate and colour depth isn’t that good for video and photo experiences but for reading, it’s getting better every time I see it.
Power-saving, daylight readable and now with touch and sidelight. Here’s an video in which I give you an update about timescales for mass production. (Expect products in 2013.)
We just had a demo, the first, of Qualcomm’s next generation Snapdragon platform, the APQ 8064 which contains four Krait Cores running up to 1.5Ghz. There’s a new graphics module coming too and that’s based around an Adreno 320.
I’m heading to Barcelona today to attend Mobile World Congress where I expect to be bombarded with phone, smartphone, tablet, app, operating systems and telecom news but this year I’m going with a specific focus. I’ll be looking for more evidence of crossover from the traditional mobile world – platforms, operating systems and software – into the world of general computing.
Intel have kindly invited me along to take a look at their Android smartphone ecosystem (along with Appup and Ultrabook information) and I should be seeing devices close-up on Monday but that doesn’t mean I won’t be taking a look at the competition. I’ll be looking for next-generation platforms from the ARM ecosystem too. With ARM Cortex A15 designs and Qualcomm’s ARM V7-based Krait core we’ve reached a point where processing power per Mhz moves beyond what Intel Atom is currently offering. I’ll also be on the lookout for designs that take the mobile platform into the desktop space, modular designs too.Â It will be interesting to see software that also does the job of bridging mobile and desktop usage. The Google Chrome Beta for Android ICS is one such example of software crossing over.
I’ll be looking closely at the Android OS too. It’s no longer exclusive to the ARM architecture so it will be interesting to get a feel for whether Intel’s work on optimizing the OS for their mobile platform has given it an advantage. I wonder if there’s an X86 optimised version of the app yet.
Finally ill be on the lookout for news from the Microsoft camp.
I’ll also be getting as much hands-on with tablets as I can during the show and as usual, bringing you news, video, images and information as it happens. Ben and the rest of the team are also tracking the news and will he bringing you information and round-ups on Carrypad.
Stay tuned to Carrypad and the Carrypad twitter channel and for some behind-the-scenes info you cam follow me, Chippy, on my twitter channel. Keep an eye on the database to because we’ll be updating it with new products during the show.
You know what you want in an Ultra Mobile Computing solution. You want a rich spectrum of quality desktop applications with security, flexibility and processing power wrapped up into a handheld device. Unfortunately, after a busy CES, your options remain limited.
Computing at CES this year was all about Ultrabooks and Ice Cream Sandwich and while both of these topics are interesting, neither of the sectors produced anything that can be used today as a handheld PC.
Android devices continue to be crippled by low-quality and restricted software despite some amazing hardware solutions. The ASUS transformer Prime shows what can be done but is the same disappointment as the ‘smartbook’ devices I was testing in 2010. Just try using the Web Browser for a suite of web-based apps, try to write an article in the web-based WordPress back-end or try to book a flight. It’s actually quite embarrassing to see how little the software has moved on. Look for an office suite, a set of security tools, audio and video tools and a good quality image library and editing suite. It seems the only thing the Android ecosystem is working on today is gaming and that’s largely because of the attention that Nvidia have managed to drum up for the Tegra platform.
The fact is that the number of Android tablets out there doesn’t translate into any sort of business-case for porting and developing quality apps. Why bother investing $200K in a high-quality application port for a 7â€ or 10â€ screen when the market is an estimated 20 million customers and the average app purchase cost is under $4. The risk is not worth taking.
What the Android market needs is a huge boost in numbers. Fortunately, the Kindle Fire and the newly announced Asus Eee Pad MeMo with Android 4.0 operating system and a price of $250 could help. Although the Kindle Fire only runs V2.x Android software the chances are that newer versions of the Amazon product will get an upgrade and boost the ICS customer base. The Eee Pad MeMo at $250 speaks for itself. By the end of 2012 I estimate there will be well over 50 million Android tablets in the market and the numbers will be accelerating. At that point it makes sense to sit down with your developers and talk about an Android tablet application, albeit for a 2013 launch.
As I look across the other platforms and operating systems, I don’t see any major solutions rising up. The iPad continues to dominate mobile productivity apps but the form factor and operating system flexibility are limiting. The current Windows/Oaktrail pairing is disappointing too in terms of both battery life and performance.
Intel held up the next-gen 32nm, re-architected ‘Clover Trail’ Windows tablet platform at CES which could provide the best chance of a quality handheld Windows experience and with Windows 8, this is probably the one to watch out for. Clover Trail is due in the second half of the year.
Cedar Trail netbooks and tablets provide an intermediate solution though and with the EeePC X101CH coming in cheap and light, it might be something to look at more closely but if you’re really looking for a handheld solution, I just can’t give you any news right now.
We’re at Mobile World Congress next month and at CeBIT in March so with Windows 8 looming, there’s a chance that UMPCPortal will come alive again. In the meantime, I can only advise buying a 7â€ Android 4.0 tablet and experimenting as soon as you can. While it can be frustrating for productivity, there’s a whole lot of good stuff that can still be done and I’m still not going anywhere without my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Paired with an Ultrabook, it’s a great solution.