The Pen-wars are hotting-up! Wacom have been a leading light in the area of digitizers and active pen input for a while but N-Trig are working hard on making up the difference. The DuoSense solution on the newly launched Intel Education Tablet includes advanced palm rejection and 256 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Unfortunately for us here at Windows-focused UMPCPortal this ruggedized 10-inch tablet is running Android but as with the 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Note Pro it gives us something to think about. If you’re creating specialized software for a specialized audience, does it matter what the OS is as long as the software matches the requirements of the user?
The Intel Education Tablet runs on Android* 4.2 and has kid-friendly features such as rubber bumpers on the sides making it easier for small hands to hold, a power button that resists accidental pushes and a stylus with a realistic pen-like grip. Powered by a dual-core Intel® Atom™ processor Z2520, the 10-inch tablet has front- and rear-facing cameras and optional 3G support, and provides an average 12 hours of battery life2 to keep up with student learning all through the day.
The press contact for N-Trig tells me that this new generation of their DuoSense technology can exceed that of a competitor in terms of “accuracy, pressure sensitivity, continuity, linearity and overall user experience” so naturally I’ve asked to be kept updated on upcoming products. DuoSense has already been seen on some Sony products and the Vaio Duo 13 we tested at Ultrabooknews was in general a pretty good experience.
Now that a few days have passed since Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 2 it’s time for me to give some thought to the product and its target market. Why? Because it confuses me.
The Surface Pro 2 is a productive tablet with a detachable keyboard but at 10-inches it’s not ideal for that. Maybe it’s more focused on all-day mobility? Oh wait, there’s a docking station so it’s both? But it’s damn expensive! Have Microsoft tried too hard to cover all bases and compromised on all of them? `Where exactly is Microsoft going with an expensive 10-incher and why haven’t they addressed the small screen tablet market with Surface?
Windows 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.
Microsoft have announced a focus on small Windows tablets, a Windows 8.1 preview download and have detailed changes for small screens. Changes include a new keyboard with gesture features, new Windowing for the Metro UI, layout changes (see right) and more. Here’s a few of the key features that have just been announced.
Take another look though, ignore some of the news articles riding on the back of the headline PR and you’ll see something interesting. Firstly there’s no obvious consideration of PC evolution into the tablet market. Secondly, there’s a huge opportunity opening up in the 8-13â€ segment. As tablet users start to prefer those smaller, cheaper tablet devices, more value and capability is needed in the larger screen segment.
The Acer Iconia Tab has been here for over a month now. Bought as a Clovertrail test device it has turned into a surprisingly usable and flexible ultra-mobile PC. The Acer W510 might be using the same Atom core as netbooks did but the package here is far more than that both in terms of computing and usage flexibility. Read on for the full review of the Acer Iconia W510 and a summary of where this ground-breaking style of smart and ultra mobile PC fits into the market.
I’ve never been a big fan of tablet PCs. A UMPC with 5-7â€ screen, yes but the classic tablet pc with digitizer and 11.6 or greater screen size was too awkward for me, Too heavy to hold in one hand, with poor battery life andÂ screen input limited to a pen with a focus on handwriting, was far from my idea of fun or productivity. The Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx, an 11.6â€ tablet PC is a completely different story however and is easily the best 11.6â€ tablet PC I’ve used, and that includes the original Samsung XE700, a well-crafted tablet PC with Core CPU and a digitizer. The Lenovo Ideatab runs Windows on an Intel Atom platform.
Now I’m not saying that the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx is the best 11.6â€ tablet and I know there’s a huge difference between this and a pro-level Core-based tablet with Digitizer and handwriting input. I must also say that I haven’t fully tested any of the new Core-based Win 8 tablets yet but the Lynx is working well for me and I feel it hits a very nice sweet-spot in the market. Weight, size, price, features, touch, OS. The Lynx is well-balanced and while it’s not going to be a winning consumer tablet, I bet it finds a lot of friends. The Lynx I have here is the 64GB/2GB model which is retailing in my locale for 55o Euro. I only picked it up yesterday but I’ve given it some serious testing over the last 24hrs.
The 11.6â€ tablet designÂ is very much a productivity-first design, especially when you can add a comfortable keyboard to the mix. At 635gm (1.4 pounds) it’s light enough to serve as a consumption device too though. In portrait mode it really feels like you’ve got the future of the newspaper in your hand. Seriously, if 11.6″ tablets hit 500gm I bet we’ll have another hot segment on our hands. This is the coffee-table tablet!
Is Atom good enough for the job of productivity? It depends on your definition of productivity but it’s fair to say that it’s not going to be good enough for most people as a daily drive for office-type activites. For me, however, there’s an exciting mix of capability here. As a blogger that writes, and writes, and edits sub-2MB images with the occasional YouTube video edit in 720p, this could really work for me, especially given the battery life and always-on capability. I’d add HSPDA for my ideal mobile blogging setup and a full-size SD card slot would be a dream but this could work out better than a 10â€ Windows 8 device. I can think of a lot more customers that would get good value out of the Lynx too, not least the long-distance traveler; Having Windows behind the entertaining Metro/Modern/Win 8 Store is perfect for that scenario.
Here’s how I’m using it right now (see image) because I haven’t got the keyboard dock yet. That comes next week.
Here’s a rundown of the device itself.
Screen. Bright, not incredibly punchy in terms of color but is IPS which is a must on a tablet. 1366×768 is OK for me but I know that many would expect more. For reading, there would be an advantage with 1600×900 of course.
Build. Strong. No flex. No creaks. Plastic back feels a bit cheap. One thing I must point out is that the edges are not smoothly chamfered which could have given the use a more comfortable experience. If the Lynx was any heavier it would have been a serious negative point.
Ports/features: No rear cam. Micro ports could be a pain (usb, hdmi, sd on the tablet.) Speakers are loud, not brilliant quality. Dual-array mic.Â There’s a micro-USB to USB converter included and you can plug in a micro-USB charger which seems strange considering it’s a host port. Check out the unboxing video, below,Â for a closer look at the ports.
Software: Apart from a Norton package (removed immediately) and a Sugar Sync service (Acer cloud sync) it’s refreshingly free of additional software.
As for performance, you shouldn’t expect much difference between Clovertrail tablets due to the high level of integration inside – due to Connected Standby requirements. (Always on.) The Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx does, however, beat the Acer W510 on PCMark7 purely because the eMMC write speeds are a little faster. On every other benchmark the two devices were almost exactly the same. The WiFi appears very slightly weaker on the Lynx which is a disappointment. It has the same Broadcom WiFi chipset as the Acer but I was hoping for better antenna design. In general the WiFi is relatively weak.
All Clovertrail Windows 8 tablets are always-on capable but this one has a nice little trick because the micro USB port on the underside can be used to charge the device. This also serves as the docking port so clearly the dock will charge the tablet whenever it is connected â€“ a battery-to-battery charging setup that wastes quite a bit of energy. I’ve just connected in a pocket USB charger which can deliver 1000mA and the device is just managing to charge at a very very slow rate. I doubt it’s pulling the full 1A available. This is the first time I’ve ever charged a PC from a smartphone power pack. You can also see I’m using a Bluetooth keyboard. Total cost was about 55 Euro for the charger and keyboard. The Lenovo Lynx keyboard costs 155 Euro! One other advantage to this charging setup is the extremely small and light charger which delivers 5.2V up to 2000ma, similar to some tablet chargers. I love this idea of Micro-USB charging.
I’m not sure you’d need this charger during a full day out though because battery life is as good as I’ve seen on the Acer W510. I’m sitting here typing with WiFi on, Bluetooth on and screen-on in about 2.5W of usage â€“ enough for about 10 hours typing from the tablet battery alone. Based on what I’ve measured on Clovertrail before, you’ll struggle to get less than 6hrs battery life from the tablet. Video playback with WiFi off should run for over 10hrs if I have my maths right.
A quick word on Clovertrail performance now. It’s Atom, as we know it. It’s not a powerful compute platform but it returns a full and accurate web experience faster than most Android tablets. The graphics performance has been pumped up a little over previous generatios too; I was surprised how smooth a game of Reckless Racing was from the Windows 8 store. Audio playback and video playback hardware is included along with accelerated video encode. You’ll get about 2X the render performance that you saw on Netbooks which brings short 720p clips into scope at around 1X real-time rendering.
The SSD is not a SATA drive on any of the Clovertrail tablets as Clovertrail only supports eMMC which is usually soldered-on just as it is on Android tablets and the iPad speeds aren’t stellar but it’s acceptable, rugged, silent and efficient. 75MB max read, 33MB max write (sequential.) Oh, on noise â€“ there isn’t any. No fan here!
I’ll leave it there for now and hand-over to you for questions. The keyboard dock will arrive some time next week and I’m really looking forward to that because if the keyboard is typical Lenovo style, I’m going to get on very well with it!
Here’s something very interesting. Up until now we’ve only seen Clovertrail based tablets and docking stations. The LG H160 is a slider we spotted a while back when it was shown at a South Korean trade show. It is planned to be presented at CES this week which might mean it’s coming stateside.
Thanks to guest poster Ef Jay (@efjay01) we’ve got an owner review of the Asus Vivo Tab, the Clovertrail based Windows 8 Tablet.
The Asus Vivo Tab is another entrant in the Clovertrail-powered range of Windows 8 hybrid tablet devices designed to offer an experience that covers productivity use with â€œlegacyâ€ Windows 7 x86 programs and the new Modern style apps from the Windows store while offering the long battery life advantages of ARM devices. I’ve been using it for over a month and here is my review.
I’m a big fan of portrait-mode thumbing as a keyboard input method. I’ve used it for over 2 years on my Galaxy Tab and it’s been fast enough and easy enough that I’ve posted a large number of blog posts with it. The 10â€ Acer Iconia W510 with it’s light weight and 16:9 format screen offers something close although it’s not perfect. An 8.9â€ Windows 8 tablet might be the way forward due to smaller size and a potential sub 500gm / 1lb weight but for the time being, I’m prepared to accept this over the Galaxy Tab due to having the obvious advantage of having full Windows available if needed.
Here’s a video showing portrait-mode thumbing input that I made this afternoon. The video was made in a lower-quality 4:3 to test video editing on the Acer W510. Rendering speed for a 3.5Mbps output was 2X real-time which is acceptable for short videos. I’ll be testing Windows 8 video editing apps in the near future to see if I can find a process that is a bit easier on the finger too.
Intel CloverTrail is a truly ground-breaking PC platform and the Acer W510 appears, in my 48hrs with it, to offer great ways to enjoy the new features of the platform along with amazing value. At least it does in Europe where the tablet and docking station can be had for â‚¬499 inclusive tax. I have the â‚¬599 version here which includes 64GB of storage.
I’ve been extremely impressed so far. It’s light enough to use in portrait mode using thumb input, it has battery life that will last you a full 24hrs in consumption scenarios or you can get creative and plug the dock in and work, like I am now, for a good 8hrs non-stop. This is not an ARM-based Windows RT device, this isÂ PC. ‘Post-PC’ needs to be re-thought because the dynamic range of this PC takes it into more scenarios than any computing product before.
After weeks of trying to get hold of a CloverTrail tablet through product managers, PR companies and marketing teams I’ve given up and bitten the bullet and bought one. The Acer W510, with 64GB and dock, will be with me soon and I’m excited to get right into the testing to find out what the platform is capable of.
Reviewed by Osiris Many thanks to Osiris for the review which was sent to us a few days ago. Osiris is a Samsung ATIC SmartPC owner and has submitted this review as a guest post.
For the last decade I have had an on-going, on and off again, love-hate relationship with Windows based tablets. Some of these tablets have included and spanned hefty Windows XP tablets, tiny Vista based tablets right through to modern more effective Windows 7 tablets. Despite these varieties and many more shapes and sizes, typically over this time the same limits have persistently dogged these tablets; poor battery life, heavy weight, poor performance and high niche pricing. In many instances the latter two were forgivable; however trying to use a tablet for day to day, study or business purposes with the first two deficiencies makes it an uphill – and often – inconvenient battle. With the advent of Windows 8 another era of hope and optimism dawns over the Windows tablet landscape. Promises of light devices providing all day battery, choices of performance at all levels and a true windows experience in a mobile platform abound. I am familiar with these promises from almost every generation of Windows tablets since their inception, the question is could this year finally be the year it all comes true? The short answer is Yesâ€¦but we are still in an era of compromise, this goes for all tablets.Keep that in mind as I will speak more about that at the end although without further delay let’s get into looking at our first Atom clover trail based Windows 8 tablet, the Samsung Smart PC.
Just how long have we been waiting for a low-power productive computing platform and an operation system built to go with it? Atom has been around (largely unchanged in it’s CPU architecture) for many years but we’ve been through Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 before the OS finally matured to support touch, pen and mouse computing. UMPC’s won’t be coming soon but if the convertible Windows 8 devices do well, there’s a chance that the screen-sizes will drop.
Last week at IDF I took a look at a few of the convertibles and spent a lot of time learning about the platform and analyzing what could be possible.
I’ve done some tests on the Kupa X11 and just like they say, it’s possible to use it for up to 10 hours on battery. It’s impressive but what about getting things done on the Kupa X11? You can have all the battery life in the world but if you can’t use the device, it’s worth nothing.
To test the real-world value of the Kupa X11 in terms of ‘getting things done’ I’ve swapped out my Ultrabook-desktop for the Kupa X11 today and as you can see in the image, I’ve connected an external monitor, keyboard and mouse.
The Kupa X11 runs a single-core 1.5Ghz Intel Atom CPU. It’s about as slow as it gets from Intel but you have to remember we’re talking about a CPU that can go in a phone here! Under Windows 7, the architecture required (USB, PCI, ACPI, display and more) means that you don’t quote get smartphone-like battery life but it’s quite impressive. You also get the advantages of being able to hit the ground running with a very flexible and productive operating system.
Average power usage as I type this, with Chrome (3 tabs), LiveWriter, Live Gallery and perfmon windows running, is 6.3W which is 6-7hrs of usage. I’m using ‘high performance mode’ but the CPU is still down-stepping to try and save power where it can. The Kupa X11 is silent.
This is not a desktop experience I’d like to have every day but I’m getting stuff done and Windows is providing me with all the facilities I need to get to work. Apart from a failed Bluetooth file transfer from a mobile phone, everything has worked smoothly. From plugging in the monitor to connecting a phone via USB to editing this article in the WordPress web interface.
The Kupa as a standalone tablet PC
Unplugging the monitor and working on the Kupa as a standalone PC is a slightly different experience. The 1366×768 resolution helps but font sizes need to be pushed up a bit and that reduces the advantage of the high resolution but here I am, with exactly the same applications running, an average power drain of 5.7W and a touchscreen in front of me that, given the right operating system (I’m talking about Windows 8) could be quite compelling, mobile and productive. Typing away with a few web apps running I’m seeing over 7hrs of battery life.
The question is, could this be better?
1.5Ghz Atom, even when coupled with 2GB of RAM and an SSD, isn’t a fluid experience in Windows 7 and it’s not going to be better in Windows 8 desktop.Â For my basic Web and typing requirements here it works well once all the apps are up and running but it’s not going to be good enough for, say, a lengthy session of image editing, a 500MB unzip, or some heavy spreadsheet work. Is it going to be good enough for Windows 8 metro though? If it is, the Kupa can then be used in far more scenarios. I suggest it needs to lose 20% of its weight and tidy itself up a bit to become competitive in a mainstream market but as it stands, this 10â€ tablet is going to be a pretty flexible device for pro-mobile types and that’s exactly where Kupa are aiming this. With 3G and a fingerprint reader, it really does embody the requirements of a pro UMPC. Flexible, mobile, productive.
Now thatÂ I’veÂ done some testing with Windows 7, it’s time to load-up Windows 8. Stay tuned.
(The Kupa X11 has been silent through this hour of testing. Screen brightness was set to half.)
As I tool a look at the MSI booth at CeBIT yesterday I couldn’t stop myself from getting a little hands-on with the Windpad 110W. AMD Fusion-based and equiped with a nice optical mouse pointer and full SD card slot it’s a tablet design that could rally benefit from the next-gen OS and platforms.
The MSI rep nods and smiles and I talk about 1366×768 and Windows 8, as we discuss the reason for having a mouse pointer in a 1KG tablet and how Windows 8 + Clover Trail W with a fast SSD could really bring usable low-cost productive tablets to end-users.
MSI won’t say anything about new products but they’re clearly thinking about this. In tact, I got the impression that they’re more interested in Windows tablets than in Ultrabooks which they tell me are not going to be broguth to the market until they have taken a longer term look at the Ultrabook market.
It’s a blast from 2011 to play with the Windpad again but I think that we’re going to see more of this later this year. Tablets, convertibles and, my favorite, the detachable Atom-powered Win8/Android screen and Intel Core-driven keyboard base station, all in under 1.5KG!