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]

touchbook1

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.

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