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 Microsoftâ€™s BUILD event this week and Iâ€™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. Iâ€™ve also upgraded an Ivy Bridge Ultrabook and an AMD Temash subnotebook, all with touch but itâ€™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 youâ€™re on a non-touch laptop and spend most of your time in Windows 8 desktop, donâ€™t bother with the upgrade yet as there are bugs but if youâ€™ve got an Acer Iconia W5 or one of the other supported Windows 8 tablets or hybrids and youâ€™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 canadian viagra for small screens. Changes include a new keyboard with gesture features, new Windowing for the Metro UI, layout changes (see right) and more. Hereâ€™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 youâ€™ll see something interesting. Firstly thereâ€™s no obvious consideration of PC evolution into the tablet market. Secondly, thereâ€™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.
Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m not saying that the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx is the best 11.6â€ tablet and I know thereâ€™s a huge difference between this and a pro-level Core-based tablet with Digitizer and handwriting input. I must also say that I havenâ€™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 itâ€™s fair to say that itâ€™s not going to be good enough for most people as a daily drive for office-type activites. For me, however, thereâ€™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. Iâ€™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.
Hereâ€™s how Iâ€™m using it right now (see image) because I havenâ€™t got the keyboard dock yet. That comes next week.
Hereâ€™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) itâ€™s refreshingly free of additional software.
As for performance, you shouldnâ€™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. Iâ€™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 itâ€™s pulling the full 1A available. This is the first time Iâ€™ve ever charged a PC from a smartphone power pack. You can also see Iâ€™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.
Iâ€™m not sure youâ€™d need this charger during a full day out though because battery life is as good as Iâ€™ve seen on the Acer W510. Iâ€™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 Iâ€™ve measured on Clovertrail before, youâ€™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. Itâ€™s Atom, as we know it. Itâ€™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. Youâ€™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 arenâ€™t stellar but itâ€™s acceptable, rugged, silent and efficient. 75MB max read, 33MB max write (sequential.) Oh, on noise â€“ there isnâ€™t any. No fan here!
Iâ€™ll leave it there for now and hand-over to you for questions. The keyboard dock will arrive some time next week and Iâ€™m really looking forward to that because if the keyboard is typical Lenovo style, Iâ€™m going to get on very well with it!
Hereâ€™s something very interesting. Up until now weâ€™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 itâ€™s coming stateside.
Thanks to guest poster Ef Jay (@efjay01) weâ€™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. Iâ€™ve been using it for over a month and here is my review.
Iâ€™m a big fan of portrait-mode thumbing as a keyboard input method. Iâ€™ve used it for over 2 years on my Galaxy Tab and itâ€™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 itâ€™s light weight and 16:9 format screen offers something close although itâ€™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.
Hereâ€™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. Iâ€™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.
Iâ€™ve been extremely impressed so far. Itâ€™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. â€˜Post-PCâ€™ 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 Iâ€™ve given up and bitten the bullet and bought one. The Acer W510, with 64GB and dock, will be with me soon and Iâ€™m excited to get right into the testing to find out what the platform is capable of.
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 itâ€™s CPU architecture) for many years but weâ€™ve been through Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 before the OS finally matured to support touch, pen and mouse computing. UMPCâ€™s wonâ€™t be coming soon but if the convertible Windows 8 devices do well, thereâ€™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.
As I tool a look at the MSI booth at CeBIT yesterday I couldnâ€™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 itâ€™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 wonâ€™t say anything about new products but theyâ€™re clearly thinking about this. In tact, I got the impression that theyâ€™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.
Itâ€™s a blast from 2011 to play with the Windpad again but I think that weâ€™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!
Many of us have downloaded the Windows 8 Developer Preview to give it a test run and I think it’s fair to say that the most exciting feature to test is the Windows 8 Metro UI. Focused on touch, app-snacking, consumption and entertainment it has been an interesting product to think about in terms of mobile computing; real mobile computing. Getting the balance of UI right for both on-the-go and bum-on-seat activities hasn’t been achieved by anyone yet. Windows 8 is the big hope for that in the future.
Not only does Windows 8 introduce this interesting Metro UI and apps layer, it also approaches quick-startup and efficiency. In testing it over the last few weeks on four mobile devices, I’m not as positive as a was a month ago about the Metro UI although itâ€™s way better than anything Iâ€™ve experienced as an overlay on Windows before and ultimately, Iâ€™m enjoying its responsiveness, sharing sub-system, full-screen Explore browser and dynamic nature. There are some serious issues to talk about though.
The first is that while Metro works on low-resolution devices, the apps won’t because they require a minimum of 768 pixels vertically. For the side-by-side snap feature, you need 1366 pixels minimum width. There are also major issues when working in portrait mode â€“ something that isnâ€™t really supported at all. The resolution restriction seems crazy when you consider the cost and size of 1366×768 screens. I don’t see anyone producing that at 7″ and as it’s not compatible with 1024×600, 100 million netbooks users are going to be left out.
You might argue that we just need much higher resolution screens. I’ve tried Windows 8 on a 1280×800 screen at 5.8″ and yes, Metro apps work. Text might need a little enlargement here and there but it works. Some issues remain though. Touchscreens can’t be recessed otherwise itâ€™s not easy to find the magic swipe that expose the hidden menus on the right and bottom left corner. Forget resistive screens. That’s not such a big deal considering the level of capacitive and digitiser deployment and it’s also not much of an issue for the classic Windows UI either as that’s the one you’ll be using who you’re docked at your desk. The other issue comes with cost and battery drain. High resolution screens are expensive to produce, especially if you want one that’s readable outdoors. There’s also the power cost in terms of the display electronics and the graphics power needed to control it. Given that most people are more than happy with 200ppi, a higher density in a 7″ frame is counter-productive, at least for large-font Metro. People with perfect eyesight may disagree with 200ppi but I regard it as a good trade-off point for screen design.
Windows 8 Metro UI in Portrait Mode
It’s unfortunate that the developer preview is indicating that portrait mode isnâ€™t encouraged. All the apps in the preview fail to work efficiently in portrait mode despite that fact that in portrait mode you get the best split-screen keyboard experience and preservation of screen real estate.
I agree with those that say portrait is useless on a top-heavy device of 2lb or more but what about 2013, 2014 when 10â€ Windows 8 tablets could be under 1lb and when even the 7â€ form factor could be possible with a hi-res screen?
To demonstrate what I mean here, Iâ€™ve made a video showing the Windows 8 developer preview on an ExoPC in portrait and landcsape modes.
Prediction: 9 out of 10 commenters around the web will accuse the Samsung Series 7 Slate as being ridiculously over-priced. Personally I think its the best Tablet PC I’ve ever had my hands on and in my opinion it’s well worth the money that is being asked. Slate-now-available-for-pre-order-for-1349.html ">Liliputing have details.
In 2012 the Series 7 will mature with Windows 8 into one of the most multi-scenario high dynamic range computers there is. Clearly I’m not disguising the fact that I want one!
I probably don’t need to explain to you all why it’s so good but ill try and summarize anyway. First though I have to raise my hands and say that this isn’t a UMPC, by a long shot, although it’s lighter than many device we’ve covered here on Umpcportal.
5-20x the CPU processing power of an ARM based tablet. (depending on Turbo state) Around 5x the CPU performance of a single-core netbook. Dual touch/pen input layers Hardware video co/dec (it’s bloody fast at file conversion too!) Dock, Keyboard included Under 900gm
Most people would have no problem using this as a desktop PC. With Windows 8 I suspect that many will enjoy this as a tablet. Can you imagine how devices like this will mature in 2013. I estimate 700gm for even more processing power than this. We’re getting there, and interestingly, Atom is nowhere to be seen.
I’ll be testing the Series 7 later in the month and am really looking forward to the live review session. I hope you will join me.
You’ve seen the hands-on video and the blinding speeds of the CPU and disk of the Samsung Slate PCÂ but you still might be hungry for more. I am! Â The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC is a seriously impressive bit of engineering and proof that Core i5 can be designed into a chassis of under 900gm. The Slate PC will come with dock and keyboard for an estimated 1100 Euro entry-level price. It’s basically an Ultrabook without a keyboard but for many, this modular approach with attention to pen and finger touch details could be exactly what they’ve been looking for. I’m certainly taking a closer look at this one myself and hope to have a review device as soon as it’s available.