Touchbook Owner Talks about Build Quality Issues.

Posted on 20 August 2009, Last updated on 11 March 2010 by

SteveNYC, a member of the forums here, received his Always Innovating Touchbook yesterday. He’s put some words and pics up via Twitter already but we’ve been in touch and he’s been kind enough to share some of his initial thoughts about the device. Steve owns a range of mobile devices so he knows what he’s looking for in a product. [All photos from SteveNYC]


To cut straight to the chase, Steve isn’t that happy with the device and has sent us a list of things he’s not happy about.

  • The device is top-heavy as it is, not including the magnets.   With the keyboard attached, you would not dare touch the screen without something behind the screen to support it.
  • The tablet is attached to the keyboard by two simple plastic slide locks, nothing more.  Very flimsy. Not spring loaded.
  • The top cover of the tablet portion, which houses all of the equipment, is held by a single plastic slide lock, also not spring loaded.  It makes the tablet locks seem well made in comparison.
  • The entire device flexes and creaks, especially the top of the case.  There are numerous small gaps and openings throughout the device.
  • The keyboard is very small.  All the necessary keys are there, but it feels smaller than my Dell Mini 9 keyboard and THAT’S a small keyboard.  Keep in mind the Mini 9 is a smaller device with a smaller screen.
  • The keyboard connector for the Tablet has two metal connectors but only one is used.  The other looks to be a dummy.  It fits into an open space in the tablet.  It has no purpose whatsoever.  It looks like they wanted it solely for symmetry. Update: This is a feature that allows the screen to be inserted either way round.
  • The touchpad is very, very difficult to move. I found myself using the edge of my nail sometimes or making grand sweeps with my finger.  That’s minor and will likely be resolved via software tweaking.  But the two buttons are small and recessed.
  • Touch screen responsiveness was poor.  This is not surprising given the early build of the software.  But it’s still poor.  It  feels very grainy.  It’s a soft touch digitizer for certain.  There was “bleeding” when I tried to write with the included stylus.  I expected that but it’s still disappointing.
  • Screen brightness was low.  I could find no way to increase or decrease brightness.  This will likely be resolvable with some software tweaks, but for now, it’s simply dim.
  • The whole device has the feel of a mock-up.

100_0676 100_0680 100_0687

I’ve also asked about the browsing speed and he says that it’s slow via the Firefox browser. Apparently the Fennec browser isn’t working for him.

In summary he says:

My issues with the device are not related to the software.  It’s beta software and AlwaysInnovating has been upfront about that from the start.  Considering it’s an ARM processor and not an Intel (lower performance, better battery life) I’m not too surprised.  This is the other side of the power/battery compromise that we’ve seen in a Netbook arena that has been all about the Intel Atom processor to date.  The software WILL improve.  The issue here is simply put… build quality, or lack thereof.

All in all, we’re not getting good vibes from Steve. He’s not the only one with a Touchbook out there though. ‘Adric’ has posted his first impressions.

Overall the hardware is pretty cool. The tablet itself has some weight to it and is not balanced by the weight of the keyboard, so it can tip.The software is labeled as beta and seem to be improving quickly. The community has started up today and looks promising.

There’s the top-heavy problem again and more indication that the software is far from ready. This sounds like Maemo from 3 years ago! The Touchbook is clearly not ready for consumers yet. For $399 you can’t expect miracles, especially from a new, small company but with so much competition out there consumers aren’t going to be rushing into the Touchbook if it’s only in a ‘hack-ready’ state. We’ll monitor the situation and bring you more reports over the next few weeks. We’ll also add articles to the Touchbook information page as we find them.

Thanks to SteveNYC for the feedback so far. You can find all of Steves photos in the gallery.

19 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    Touchbook Owner: Build Quality Issues. We’ve spoken to someone who isn’t happy with his Touchbook.

  2. Zathros says:

    two metal connectors but only one is used

    The display has these so you can reverse the display and fold it back on the keyboard with the screen face up (as shown in one of the early demo videos).

  3. Stephen Feger says:

    Damn. You’re right. Don’t I feel like the fool. I knew that too. Argghh.

    Well, you can take that off the list of issues I had. That one makes sense.

  4. johnkzin says:

    That’s rather disappointing. You’d think they’d have at last balanced the device’s weight for use in netbook mode. But, creaky cracked build quality of the tablet is a very bad sign.

    They’ve waited until late enough in the year that, at this point, I pretty much have to wait and see if the Apple 10″ tablet rumors come true in October.

  5. turn_self_off says:

    i think i read that a recent tweak for the mousepad software also improved the touchscreen, meaning that the touchscreen acts like a very large mousepad…

  6. Stephen Feger says:

    Very true with regard to the tweak for the mouse and touchscreen. That’s why I indicated on both points that those were likely to be resolved through software updates. @ripperdesigns on Twitter has been working nonstop on this. He has already addresses the initial difficulties with the WiFi WPA mode as well as the date/time issue and the sensitivity issues on the mouse and touchscreen.

    Like I said, I have no doubt that the software will improve.

  7. serwei says:

    Hmmm I think the Smart Q7 is better than. Budget savings are passed on to the consumer.

  8. turn_self_off says:

    not sure they are comparable, as the internal usb ports and cortex cpu makes for a very flexible product…

  9. Christoph Derndorfer says:

    @mebner Looks good on paper but the first user reports aren’t too encouraging when it comes to things like build quality

  10. Free Gadget says:

    Ta for the information, very usefull

  11. Britman says:

    nice write up, any chance of some video footage?

  12. bkos says:

    Is there a touchbook community-site (forum)?

  13. bkos says:

  14. Bap11 says:

    I can live with software glitches because, eventually, they will be resolved.
    Design issues are another story, however. Imagine typing on the TB, and the whole thing tips over. Now, honestly, how useful is that? And the other design issues that SteveNYC are not minor ones.

    Just imagine if the TB ever makes it to retail stores and customers start playing with it. The flaws will be immediately apparent. I can now see why Always Innovating is marketing this thing the way they are – online because they’ll never sell these if consumers get to try it first. And their 15 day return policy barely gives the online user enough time to use it.

  15. johnkzin says:

    some of the hardware issues might get fixed in the second production run … but I agree, software issues are much more forgiveable/tolerable than hardware ones. Especially right now, when the software is pretty much considered to be beta.

    It’s rather disappointing to see so many obvious hardware design issues with the first production run.

  16. ProDigit says:

    You talk about an ARM processor, and the device being slow;
    Is there any significant battery gain to take note of, or should we go with the Atom which has on average between 4 and 6 hours of battery on a netbook system?

    I’ve always been interested in ARM for it’s energy efficiency, but not at the cost of crippled performance.
    The ARM powered device IS a powered by a single core, and probably sub 1Ghz processor.

    If I don’t see close to 8 hours (or more) of real life battery life under use, I’d say they need to at least chop 1/3rd off of the price of the device.

    It may not be possible manufacture wise, but for the end user (consumer) it would not pay off, buying this device over another that would completely outperform it!

  17. scythe says:

    Could you take the magnets off the back of the screen and put them on the bottom of the keyboard when using it as a netbook? It seems like that would help the balance issue significantly.

  18. Stephen Feger says:

    @BlaqueSaber Best answer to your question is it lists all my original comments. Most especially the back cover.

  19. Alter'Nathan says:

    The one shipped to me had a “small splitting issue” with the lower bevel. I judge it would have broken eventually with continued use, but AI and I will never know due to the fact that mine was STOLEN BY FEDEX when I returned to AI.

    Overall I also agree with the writer that the build quality is flimsy and the “Touch” screen is far from responsive, couple that with an inadequate touch pad and it peformed poorly in the human to machine category.

    On the plus side are its instant on ( no waiting for a boot up) and simple wifi configuration and long battery life.

    The AI’s touch book needs to work some of the bugs out,but I do believe they have something that consumers will want.

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