The usual suspects got their Surface Pro 4 devices before anyone else and have been allowed to publish their reviews. I think you can skip many of them to be honest but one stands out. No, it’s not my review (I was 6 months behind the curve with my Surface Pro 3 review,) it’s the Anandtech review. It’s jam-packed with good information.
The Vaio Z Canvas 12 is an amazing bit of engineering. It’s a 1.2 KG / 2.66 pound tablet with stand and keyboard cover which doesn’t sound like anything different…until you learn that this beast will run a K-series quad-core 47 W Haswell processor. Holy smoking tablets Batman!
I bought a Thinkpad 8 last week. Why? This high-end Windows 8 tablet with LTE and 4GB got an update to the Z3795 CPU, has much improved performance over the original and was retailing in the UK for an absolute bargain price. Since I bought it I’ve done a lot of testing and a lot of travelling with it. I’ve also treated it to a hard case and a USB 3.0 OTG adaptor which says a lot about how I plan to use it.
This post is out of date before I’ve even posted it. As I was finalizing this post, build 10159 appeared and I’m downloading it now. We don’t know what’s in the latest build yet but it’s said to be significant. I’ll update this post with anything that’s affected here and write a new overview after I’ve looked at build 10159.
The ‘beta’ tags have been removed from Store, Music, Maps, Edge and other apps in Windows 10 preview release 10158 and the old Windows 8.1 versions have gone. There are visual tweaks, support for Hello where users have the required hardware and Quiet Hours is back. The Battery indicator shows remaining and time-to-charge figures, the Photos app has been updated and the (desktop) Snipping Tool has a new delay feature. Microsoft Wi-Fi is coming. But there’s little here for tablet users.
Microsoft has set a date for Windows 10 updates. The free upgrades for Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs will be available on July 29th.
Windows 10 is coming on July 29th 2015
Microsoft is currently testing pre-release version 10130 as an insider preview but this announcement could mean that the next pre-release version will take it to ‘beta’ with no further feature changes. Cortana, Windows Hello and the Edge browser are just a few of the new features but major UI changes will also play a big part in whether users choose to upgrade.
There are questions, too, about which PCs in the mobile sector will actually be able to run Windows 10 as many of the tablets and low-end 2-in-1 PCs have small solid-state disks with some of them even having a locked Windows 8 restore partition. A WIndows 10 install is going to be difficult on devices with these restrictions which cover nearly all of the recent Windows 8.1 tablets. Expect manufacturers to capitalise on that limitation, and the new Intel Atom X5, as we move through Computex this week. [ASUS Transformer Book T100 HA has already been announced.]
Device not eligible for the free upgrade will need a license which, according to leaks, could cost $109 for a ‘home’ version.
Microsoft is aiming to have 1 billion Windows 10 devices (PCs, smartphones, Xbox) within a 3-year timeframe and combined with a push for Universal Applications is aiming to solve the critical problems of app store economics and quality.
For a look at a recent build of Windows 10 on an 8 inch tablet, take a look at the video below (via TheDigitalLifestyle) which shows the Toshiba Encore running Windows 10 release 10130. Microsoft’s release notes for this version can be found here.
Among the many well-presented and informative sessions at BUILD last week was one on pen and touch input, DirectInk and APIs in Windows 10 that will improve the experience, reduce latency and make it easier for developers to add ‘ink’ capabilities to Windows 10 applications. With around 15 million pen-enabled devices in customers hands and increase in the number of pen-enabled tablets available it currently represents a niche opportunity for developers but with these changes in Windows 10, Microsoft’s acquisition of N-Trig and the low-cost Surface 3 the opportunity could grow significantly.
Everyone that has reviewed the Surface 3 so far has been fairly confident that it can be a laptop replacement. Actually it can’t until you buy the keyboard for it but in terms of performance it’s not bad. The issue is that the previous generation Atom arent that much slower. If you look closely at the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows version) you’ll see a product that makes the Surface 3 look way overpriced.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows
I’m using the Yoga Tablet 2 as the Surface 3 comparison for a number of reasons. It’s got a 1920×1200 10.1-inch (not 10.8-inch) IPS screen, a stand (continuously variable) and it weighs 629 grams which is just 7 grams more than the Surface 3. There’s 2 GB of RAM inside and a 1.3-1.8Ghz Baytrail-T processor. The battery is a huge 34 Wh which is 25% bigger than that in the Surface 3. Storage is small at 32GB (compared to 64Gb and much more usable space on the Surface 3.) The port choice is comparable although there’s only one micro-USB 2.0 port. It doesn’t have AC WiFi, it’s only a 32 bit version of Windows and there’s no digitizer layer.
In the USA there’s about $180 price difference. In Europe, where the Surface 3 is more expensive and the Yoga Tablet 2 is cheaper you’ll save yourself €250 and you’ll get the Bluetooth keyboard thrown in for the €349 total price saving around €380 over a base Surface 3 and keyboard. Half the price!
I do agree that the Surface 3 is unique and that nothing directly compares to it but if you’re looking at the entry-level model of the Surface 3 and are not interested in the digitizer then the Yoga Tablet 2 is the better value product.
I love the Yoga Tablet 2. The design is great, the screen pops and the keyboard is good (I had hands-on at MWC and CeBIT) and I like the battery hump because it’s a great way to hold the device. I’ve ordered it twice, and cancelled the order twice. I’m really close to buying one now just to compare in detail to the Surface 3 but you can see all the detail you need in this Notebookcheck review and I’m probably just looking for an excuse to buy it.
The other reason I won’t buy it now is because you’re going to see newer Atom X7 and X5-based tablets soon. While I don’t see much CPU and disk performance increases on a clock-for-clock basis we have to remember that the 14nm process used on the X5 and X7 frees up some Turbo Boost headroom. The Surface 3 can Turbo Boost to 2.4 Ghz meaning that Web activities are going to be noticeably quicker than on the classic 1.8 Ghz Atom Z3000-series. 4GB RAM is probably also worth waiting for…unless you need it now in which case there’s only one choice. The Surface 3 is unique when it comes to RAM and storage options and the excellent accessory range. Maybe we should stop comparing it to anything and just hope that it stimulates OEMs to launch a good range of competitors later this year.
I’ve read a number of first impressions posts today that show the Microsoft Surface 3 (Intel Atom X7, Windows 8.1) has gone out to reviewers in the USA. A few more pieces of the puzzle have been slotted into place and there’s now a huge race to get the first full review out. Don’t expect the first reviews to be too in-depth (battery life tests might have to be added later!) but do expect some performance results and thoughts on-screen and keyboard. We’re also looking out for the Surface 3 eMMC SSD speed test results but in the meantime, at least we have the first performance test results and the battery capacity.
Bill Gates must be so happy today. The Microsoft Surface 3 has just launched with an Intel Atom X7 quad-core at $499 and with it, the TabletPC has reached a new landmark.
The Surface 3 takes the design of the successful Surface Pro 3 and squeezes it down into a 10.8 screen form factor and a 622 gram weight. This fanless Windows 8.1 (with free Windows 10 upgrade) tablet PC is also offering to do-it-all with the optional backlit Type Cover keyboard. I think you’ll see a bunch of cheaper options during 2015 but, like the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 is going to be an item that has quality on its side.
An LTE option is available ($100 more) and you can pick up 4GB and 128GB storage options too. There’s also a USB 3.0 connector and USB 2.0 (micro for charging and data) so you’ve got mobile power and connectivity options too. There’s no USB-C port.
The storage will be eMMC based (Atom X7 doesn’t support SATA) so you won’t get the fast speeds of the SSD on the Surface Pro 3. It’s going to be fast enough for daily consumption use, but you never know the limits until you run the tests. The other missing data-point is the Surface 3 battery size in Wh. ’10 hours’ video playback isn’t really much to go on but I’ll guess at 35Wh and 7 hrs browsing at this stage given what I know about the platform and its predecessor.
The stand has three positions (not like the Surface Pro 3) and the screen resolution is 1920 x 1280 (3:2 ratio) which should help it in the hands. The Surface 3 is just 8.2 mm thick.
Microsoft Surface 3 comes with one year of Office 365 and 1TB of OneDrive storage.
One has to assume that Microsoft are going to offer bundles with the dedicated Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen in the future but for now you’re looking at a minimum of around $650 for that set-up and that means it’s not really a cheap option, especially if you think you might need (you probably will) 4GB of RAM. That option adds another $100 to the price.
There’s also the question of Cherry Trail performance. Microsoft have chosen a high-end version of the X7 and with the right eMMC storage it shouldn’t be slow to respond but you won’t be running desktop games on this and video editing/rendering is not exactly going to be barrier-free.
If you want LTE you’ll need to budget for that ($699 with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage.) and you’ll have to wait until mid June in the USA. That’s 2.5 months away and a lot can happen in that time. Adding the pen and keyboard will take you up to over $850.
The Surface Pro 3 has proven to be an incredibly versatile device and the ingredients seem to be there for the Surface 3 to be even better in the mobility department but at 10.8-inches the Surface 3 is a tablet-first device and won’t be as productive as the Surface Pro 3 with the keyboard. We all know the compromises that come with a 10-inch screen / keyboard.
If you add in a bit of discounting and look at the Surface 3 as a mobile tabletPC then it makes more sense. The weight is right, the battery life could be right and there’s bound to be a good community that builds around it.
Let us know your thoughts below. Were you hoping for an even smaller Surface? Waiting for a Surface Pro 3-M (with Core M) or are you waiting for a Surface Pro 4 with Broadwell-U?
I’m testing a new 10-inch detachable. The MSI S100 is one of a number of products in this expanding class and at $299 with a 10-inch screen and running an Atom CPU this MSI S100 is typical. The specifications might sound a bit netbook-y but these 2-in-1’s offer much more than the classic netbook. They’re more powerful, lighter and have longer battery life. There’s a touchscreen, smooth full HD platback and battery life that we could only dream of back in the day. There’s one problem that didn’t get solved though because the keyboards and screens are still too small for everyday productivity use. As there are low-priced options in the 11.6-laptop category now it leaves the 10-inch detachables to focus on mobility and tablet usage and it turns out to be an ideal combination for many scenarios from sofa-buddy to travelling-buddy.
MSI S100 10-inch detachable tablet and keyboard-case.
The ASUS Transformer Book T100 was one of the first successful devices in this category and it was a popular choice all the way from November 2013 through 2014. Versions included models with an extra hard drive, CPU variants, reduced RAM and various colours. There were even models selling with Windows 8.1 Pro which shows how wide the customer-base is. Prices for a 32GB/2GB T100 are well under $300 now but at CES in January ASUS launched a new model with a Full HD display, USB 3.0, faster processor and a slimmer design. It will slot in above the existing T100 and pricing will start at $399. Meanwhile at the other end of the scale there are 10-inch Windows tablets with keyboard cases for under $200.
The T100 wasn’t the first 10-inch detachable – I’ve been a very happy owner of an early Acer W510 since 2012. It came with a keyboard that included an extra battery so as a video playback device it was superb and it still does duty on long journeys the car. I also have the Lenovo Miix 2 10 and as it came with Office 2013 it gets used for school homework via an HDMI-connected screen and USB-connected keyboard and mouse. The keyboard that comes with the Miix 10 isn’t good though. The MSI S100 that I’m reviewing for Notebookcheck is a better option for typing than the Miix 2 10 and the pricing on the 64GB version is under $300 making it very attractive.
Other options in the space include the Acer Switch 10, the HP Pavilion X2 10 (which is on offer at Amazon USA now for under $250) and the uniquely-designed full-HD one with a big 35Wh battery – the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10. You’ll also find low-cost options under less well-known brands.
What can you do with a 10-inch detachable?
It’s a tablet, first, and when it only weighs 1.2lb it’s OK to hold for extended periods, to play accelerometer-driven games and to waste time watching YouTube videos or browsing the uch-improved Windows Store. The keyboard (sometimes with case) brings in a ‘stand’ mode and that great for seat-back videos. The Atom platforms inside these tablets all have no problem with 1080p videos, even at high bitrates. As a ‘newspaper’ or book the tablet weights are still a little heavy but they do make great sofa-buddies. And of course there’s the keyboard itself which introduces a traditional method of input and mouse control. Some of the keyboards are even good enough for long sessions of typing.
When it comes to work you’ll want to be sure that you only buy a product with 2 GB of RAM. 1 GB RAM might be enough for a good demonstration, some benchmarks or working on Windows Store apps but it’s not good enough for extended use, even with multiple tabs under Chrome. As for storage, 32GB is manageable but you’ll need to do your housekeeping. I can’t recommend 16GB of storage for any use cases at all.
If you’re looking at Microsoft Office usage, which is certainly possible, then try to ensure that the SSD speeds are good. The important figure to watch out for in reviews is the 4K write speed. Anything around 8-10 MB/s is good. Anything under 4Mb/s should be avoided for Office usage. Rotating hard disks are not recommended.
The Lenovo Miix 2 10 has a slightly more powerful processor (like the new ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi) than some of the other models in the low-cost 10-inch range and having switched between the Miix 2 10 and tablets using the lower-powered processor I can say that there’s a noticeable difference. The SSD on the Miix 2 is good too but that keyboard prevents me from recommending it as the best all-round solution in this category.
One of the big considerations for 2015 is Windows 10 and the boost it will bring to the Microsoft Store. Universal apps that run across a unified phone and PC store are going to change the way developers look at the platform and Microsoft will give it a big boost with a new range of included apps that include Office. These apps are likely to be more optimised than their desktop cousins and touch will be available as a ‘first-class’ input method. We expect to see a new range of exciting apps appearing through 2015 that will add to the, already improved, choice in the Microsoft Store.
For content creators there are definitely limits to the current Atom-based tablets. You’ll be able to run up a desktop video editing app but the experience won’t be very smooth. Simple 720p editing via something like Movie Creator Beta or Movie Edit Touch 2 which should be enough for social sharing. Simple photo editing is also no problem along with photo management and of course, creating documents, blogs, spreadsheets and presentations is always possible either with supplied Office software or with online offerings like Google docs. If you’re into more demanding creative apps, take a look at the Core-M range of mobile PC solutions.
Music library management is best done online due to space limitations and both Google and Microsoft offer ‘lockers’ for your music. Free storage often comes with the product and Office 356 licences come with 1 year of 1TB upload capability.
Windows Store gaming is getting better.
Casual gaming on Windows 8 is akin to what you’ll find on a smartphone but slightly more immersive due to the larger screen size. It’s nothing compared to desktop gaming with the latest 3D graphical games of course but there’s a lot of fun to be had. You’ll see a wide range in the Windows Store now. Starting with word games like the evergreen Wordament is no problem. Jetpack Joyride, a casual run-and-jump game is smooth on these low-end processors and if you’ve got yourself a 64GB SSD there’s enough space for a suite of the more detailed games. It’s not impossible to play some desktop games although the choice is going to be very restricted. Minecraft isn’t much fun and WoW only works on low settings, if you can find the space to install it. [Install WoW with an external SSD – Video]
Security and privacy are an important consideration and Windows 8.1 offers a range of security and privacy features. We always advise people to add the HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger extensions to the Chrome browser and if possible add a power-on password via the BIOS. We also advise the use of a Microsoft account because on some devices it enables disk encryption. It also provides online password management, 2-stage authentication, login location-tracking and more. For a full review of the Windows 8 tablet security features, see this detailed analysis.
Battery life is important and those of you thinking about the 2-3 hours we used to get out of a 1KG netbook are going to be surprised. You’ll get about 5 hours of working time, 7 hours of light usage, from most of the 1.1-1.2 pound tablets out there. The HP Pavilion X2 10, one of the cheapest, has a 35Wh battery that might even get you up to 9 hours in some cases and don’t forget that they all support Connected Standby so you can run Windows Store apps in the background while the tablet is off. That’s 15 hours or more of music streaming or Skype standby. Versions with 3G should even allow you to use a Skype-in number for phone connectivity.
With prices on these low-cost 2-in-1 Windows tablets coming down every week and with more products filling the market there’s an incredibly rich mobile PC sector growing here. 10-inch 2-in-1’s are the perfect companion for out-of-office periods when productivity might be required but where entertainment and social networking, photos, videos and gaming are the number 1 thought. The quality and number of apps in the Windows Store has improved greatly and in some cases you’re buying an app that works across both phone and PCs. That feature is going to become even more prominent as Windows 10 for phones and PCs nears and as Universal apps create ecosystem for phone, tablet, laptop and desktop.
These new 2-in-1 PCs might be priced like netbooks and have specifications that sound like netbooks but they aren’t anything like them. The product and operating system has matured and there’s a lot of exciting flexibility and mobility across work, play and communications scenarios.
So what’s my favourite 10-inch 2-in-1 right now? The HP Pavilion X2 10 has to be the best value at its current $240 price but the ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi has to be the most desirable. With the higher-power processor, USB 3.0, full HD display and amazing design, it just might be worth the higher price. I should have some more hands-on with it soon and my finger is already hovering over the pre-order button at Amazon Germany.