I’ve got two PCs coming in for a full review over the next two weeks and I’m happy to take questions. The detachable Samsung Galaxy TabPro S will be with me in the next 24 hours and the Intel NUC kit with latest Core i5 and Iris Graphics is expected by the end of the week. Although these two PCs use the same CPU design, they are targeted at totally different use-cases.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
Surface Pro 4, Lenovo Miix 700, HP Spectre X2 even the iPad Pro. These tablets want to replace your laptop and I have no doubt that they can. You’ll need to make a few compromises over the laptop form factor but yes, they are powerful enough. Latest Core m5 and m7 CPUs are about where we were with Ultrabooks two generation ago so you’ll have no problem with most business-focused office work, basic video editing up to 1080p and the usual range of multitasking. I’ve tested all the above and I’m now about to test the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S which fits into this category. [I haven’t fully tested a Huawei Matepad yet so can’t comment on that.]
Up until now the Lenovo Miix 700 has been my favorite in this class although the Surface Pro 4 certainly outdoes all of them when it comes to long-term load performance. The advantage of a 15W TDP Core i5 shows up quickly.
In preparation for a full and detailed review for Notebookcheck that will take me over a week to complete I’ve checked out some of the detailed specifications. The Super AMOLED display is likely to be the highlight with infiniate contrast and the potential to boost low white-coverage (low APL) brightness in high ambient light situations. This could be the best outdoor tablet ever.
Indoors, the lack of keyboard backlight might be an issue and the fixed screen angles aren’t going to be great for lapping.
My key question is value. Why are Core m based 2-in-1s so expensive? The strategy of combining ‘Core’ marketing with higher prices seems to be the same as was done with ‘Ultrabook’ and high prices. I know it can help manufacturers get over the initial cost issues of designing and selling a new form-factor but we’ve dealt with this form factor for 3 years now. It’s time to cut the cost of Core m devices because they aren’t barrier-free for your average all-day multi-tasker. The Core m3 version with 4 GB of RAM is a silly 950 Euros in Europe now.
This Core i5 barebones kit also has a Skylake CPU inside but that’s about the only similarity to the TabPro S. The Intel Core i5-6260U comes with Intel Iris graphics and can be fitted with M.2 and 2.5 inch SATA storage and up to 32 GB of RAM. There’s a fan inside. This is a kit that has potential for gaming, video editing and all-day office working.
The main questions for many people with be ‘how noisy is it’ and ‘can it play games.’ Yes, you’ll be able to get some ‘low settings’ gaming done on this but where non-Iris graphics modules tend to support older and less graphics-intensive games the Iris versions can handle a little more. I’ll be doing some games testing so if you have any specific tests, let me know.
The NUC6i5SYH has already been through the Notebookcheck lab tests and it’s on its way to me now. Again the review will take about a week.
If you’ve got specific questions about either of these Skylake-based PCs, let me know in the comments below and I’ll take them into consideration.
Huawei just launched a product that’s got style, a thin bezel and fingerprint-unlock. There’s a USB port too.
I’m not talking about the Mate 8 that I’m testing right now I’m taking about the Huawei Matebook that just launched at MWC. It’s a 2-in-1 running Windows 10 on the latest Core M platform.
Huawei Matebook launched at MWC 2016
It’s actually a 12.9-inch tablet that starts at $699 (Core 3, 4 GB, 128 GB SSD) and you can add a keyboard that costs $129. A pen costs $59 and if you want to attach a monitor you’ll need an adapter. Huawei will sell you one for $89.
This fanless tablet has no stand and includes a 33.7 Wh battery, smaller in size to the battery in the Surface Pro 4, Lenovo Miix 700 and Spectre X2, all of which I’ve tested recently. It will certainly be powerful enough for office work, Minecraft and basic Full-HD video editing. The latest Skylake Core M platforms are truly as fast as a Surface Pro 3 for most tasks but don’t expect to reach the claimed 10-hours of battery life under normal conditions.
It’s interesting that a 12.9-inch Windows 10 tablet should launch at MWC and it’s interesting that Huawei, a company that has made a good name for itself in the smartphone market recently, should launch a Windows PC product. Isn’t it significant, however, that Huawei haven’t launched a Windows phone that can utilize Continuum?
How does a phone company position the pricing of a tablet PC? Huawei has chosen to go high-end here with a Core m5 version (8GB, 256GB) that costs more than the equivalent Lenovo Miix 700. It looks a lot slicker, yes, but that’s a huge price for a Core M-based PC. Are Huawei thinking of bundling and carrier deals here?
After testing a number of high-end devices recently, including gaming-capable PCs and the Surface Pro 4, it was a really interesting experience with the Toshiba Satelite Click 10 last week. Going from €1500 of Surface Pro 4 down to €399 of entry-level mobile 2-in-1, with the same total weight, highlighted just how much value you can get for your money…and what the differences are between high-end and low-end. My video review for Notebookcheck is embedded below in this article but I’ve also added thoughts about how the Click 10 compares with the ASUS Transformer Book T100HA (good power, storage options) and the Acer Switch 10E (a great budget 2-in-1.)
Latest pen. Tail eraser. 1024 levels of sensitivity.
Core processor is 50% faster than Macbook.
Up to 16 GB RAM and 1TB storage.
Magnetic pen storage on side of product.
Hold pen to activate Cortana
Interchangable pen tips.
Mechanical backlit type cover keyboard.
30% more power than Surface Pro 4
50% more powerful than a Macbook Air
Front-facing camera includes Windows Hello support.
A new Surface Pro Type Cover was lanuched. It has mechanical keys and a 40% bigger trackpad. Fingerprint reader included on the new keyboard (in the USA only.) The keyboard will work with the Surface Pro 3.
Lumia 950, 950XL.
As expected, Microsoft announced two new Lumia devices. Hexacore and Octacore processors from Qualcomm. 5.2-inch and 5.7 inch displays with USB-C, Pureview camera, 32GB storage, MicroSD, tripple RGB-flash.
2 antennas. “vast and some of the best on the planet.”
Starting at $549 (Lumia 950), $649 (Lumia 950 XL) available November.
There’s also a Microsoft Display Dock accessory with three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort.
Microsoft also announced new Windows 10 Store Universal Apps coming from Facebook, Instragram Facebook Messanger, CBS, Audible and Uber.
I’ve just ordered a Windows 10 2-in-1 with Atom X5-Z8500, 4 GB RAM, USB 3.1 / USB C and 64 GB storage for 379 Euro. (Amazon Germany.) That’s just under $350 in pre-tax USA pricing and having had some hands-on with the Transformer Book T100HA last week I’m confident that it’s a bargain 2-in-1 and that it will be very popular this quarter, unless I find some gotchas. The entry-level model with 32 GB storage and 2 GB RAM is being offered at just €309 – $280 (pre-19% tax conversion.) My T100HA will be here in 5-6 days and yes, there will be plenty of coverage here at UMPCPortal.
Update: The delivery estimate went from 5-6 days to infinity and I haven’t found an alternative retailer yet.
IFA 2015 has brought us a range of new and upgraded convertible PCs but the one that I’ve had at the top of my list for a while is the Acer Switch 11V which seems to offer just the right balance of features for a Core M 2-in-1. The problem is that Lenovo are launching the Miix 700 which might be an even better option because it uses the latest Core M generation. The Acer Switch 11V has taken so long to get to market that it’s still using the first generation. Acer might need to adjust some pricing on the 11V if they want to see it compete successfully.
Acer have done a reasonable job of keeping the looks and plastics from feeling cheap but the Switch 11V isn’t a style-statement. Inside you’ll find a ‘proper’ SSD connected via a SATA port. Speeds aren’t known at this stage but expect it to outperform something like the Surface 3. The performance of the Switch 11V can’t be determined by Core M model number because, as with all Core M builds, it depends on how well the Acer engineers have designed the internal airflow and heat-sinking. A full test will be needed to determine that.
I liked the keyboard but the trackpad needs longer term testing before it can be evaluated.
A 28 Wh battery inside the Acer Switch 11V is a little small when you compare it to the 41 Wh of the Lenovo Miix 700 and that’s going to really affect battery life. If you’re looking for an all-day battery-powered mobile PC solution the Switch 11V isn’t it.
Take a look at the video to get a good overview of the Acer Aspire Switch 11V.
The ASUS Transformer Book T100 gets a good upgrade with the T100HA. Atom X5 and a 4GB RAM option move it into more serious territory and USB-C is going to be helpful but there’s little change in the working fascia. Will ASUS be able to get away with a 1280 x 800 screen in 2016? Check out the video below.
The Toshiba Satellite Click 10 follows in the footsteps of the Click 9, the unique netbook-style 2-in-1 with the big battery life. Like the Click 9 the Click 10 has a battery in both the tablet and keyboard but by keeping the weight down to 1.1 KG Toshiba have created the best battery:KG ratio in the 10-inch dockable tablet market. How’s the rest of this ultramobile PC though?
The Acer Aspire Switch 10V takes the new 11V design and shrinks it down a little to make an overall improvement on the original Switch 10. There’s an Atom X5 (Z8300) on the inside along with a Full HD screen. Hands-on video at the base of this article.
The best travel PC is lightweight, productive, connected and needs to be efficient, relatively rugged and easy to charge. If you’re looking for a travel, adventure, camping, hiking or off-the-grid PC, you’ll need to read this post.
Travel PC Requirements
The requirements for a travel PC aren’t difficult to meet but there’s a lot to consider. Travelers are mostly concerned with blogs, emails, image editing, social networking, flexible connectivity and maybe a bit of video editing and a lot of this can be done on a phone or tablet but if you want to get some extended writing, image management or basic video editing done efficiently you still need that keyboard and trackpad in the classic table-top clamshell format. Getting the format right is half the challenge with a travel PC but you’ll also need to think about your charging options, budget and a few other important aspects.
Let’s assume that travelers will have a smartphone and that the PC solution won’t be used for photography, location services (maps, check-in, navigation) or always-on services like WhatsApp, Facebook Chat and Skype. As for power and connectivity I’m going to assume the worst – 48 hours without charging and no WiFi connectivity. In reality most are going to come across mains power and a WiFi hotspot without problems but let’s assume your out in the wild somewhere.
If you want to see the proposed solutions, scroll down for my top 6 travel PC choices.
Price is not only a personal budget issue but an issue where there’s a risk of loss or theft. Travelling is a sure way to reduce physical security and although you might be insured, you’ll need to buy a replacement before you get any insurance money. The good news is that you can buy a mobile 2-in-1 solution for under $300. (LTE-capable solutions are well under €400 in Europe.) There are two reasons you might want to spend a bit more than $300. The first is storage. 64 GB systems aren’t that expensive (add around $50) but high-speed 128 GB SSD solutions start at around $500. The second reason is processing power and that’s something you might be interested in if you’re going to edit full HD videos. It is possible to do that on a low-end solution but you’ll need to choose the right application, manage your storage and have patience. If you can drop to 1280 x 720 for videos (fine for most people on YouTube, Facebook) then it makes it a little easier on the PC. Remember that full HD videos will take a long time to upload and will use a lot of data. Budget limit: $500 including taxes.
Form-factor: Given that we want a tabletop or lap solution with a solid keyboard and adjustable screen angle we’re restricted to laptops or 2-in-1 PCs with an adjustable hinge. 2-in-1 PC solutions have grown to be popular in recent years and their mobile focus means there are some interesting options available with LTE, GPS and very small volume and weight. They also come with touchscreens which can be handy when in lay-back mode. Separate tablets with Bluetooth keyboards aren’t recommended because of dead batteries, lack of screen protection, separate tablet stand and set-up time but if you think you can organize yourself around that then you’ll find more options. Think single-unit, single battery for the best experience.
Operating System: In order to be as flexible as possible with on and offline working , local media management (photos, video) and flexible connectivity the Windows operating system is recommended and is the main focus for the solutions listed below. Android is an option in the price bracket but you won’t find many suitable Android solutions with the right form-factor. Chromebooks aren’t good for travelling due to limited image management, offline video editing and limited offline app experience. The iPad can be considered if you’re already in that ecosystem but there are limits with connectivity that might catch you out if you’re looking to transfer images or edit video from another device. Apple laptops fall outside our $500 budget.
Size and Weight: Under 1.4 KG total. Target: 1 KG (2.2 pounds.) The weight should include long battery life, keyboard and flexible connectivity options. The screen should be 9-inches or more in size and the resolution can be 1200 x 800 or more. Lower resolutions are usually more efficient on battery but larger resolutions provide more flexibility with multiple application windows.
Charging: A huge advantage for travelers has been the introduction of micro-USB charging on PCs. It brings a choice of hundreds of power packs and solar solutions that can directly charge the PC. The power-packs are generally small and cheap and replacements are easily available. USB charging in PCs often supports multiple levels of charging speed so trickle charging could help to squeeze the last from a USB power pack. Micro USB charging and good quality USB power pack with more than 2A output capability is highly recommended. With the right solution you’ll be able to use the travel PC for 20+ hours without a charge which can take you through 2 days or more.
Storage: The storage size on the PC depends on your media creation style. If you’re planning to offload 60 FPS full-HD videos onto the PC then you’ll need 128 GB storage or more but remember that you can get that in low-cost USB-connected SSD drives and SD cards. You can also consider online storage for when you have enough data connectivity available. Low-cost Windows solutions often come with 32 GB of storage which is enough to get you going but can get tight after app installations, updates and other downloads. Windows 8.1 (and Windows 10) will allow you to use an SD card for storage so if you want to keep your costs down then go for this route. Note that Windows 10 upgrades will reduce available disk storage. Clean up old files and always disable OneDrive folder synchronization to preserve space.
Internet Connectivity will depend on the availability of public WiFi, security and privacy requirements. In some countries, such as Germany, it’s difficult to find free public WiFi. In others it’s not. The quality and security of the connections may vary though so unless you’re planning to travel through multiple countries in a day, 3G/4G connectivity is a must. The cellular modem doesn’t need to be on the travel PC but it can be helpful if it is because you can buy a local SIM card for data and continue to use your smartphone SIM for voice / SMS connectivity. A 3G/4G battery-powered router is also an option and can be an advantage in low-quality reception areas as it can be positioned outdoors while used over WiFi indoors. The disadvantage is that you’re using both WiFi and cellular data which increases power usage.
Processor: Given the important need for micro USB charging there’s a big limitation when it comes to processor choice, at least on PCs. In general, the only PCs that include micro USB charging are based around an Intel Atom Z3000-series, X5 or X7 series CPU. Fortunately there is enough processing power in this processor range for all the document, social media, image editing and even video editing that most people need to do. It won’t be desktop-PC-fast and it won’t support a vast amount of multi-tasking but it will be enough and it’s a trade-off that has to be made when travelling. In the future we should see Core M-based solutions that will have USB-C connections. The new Acer Aspire Switch 11V comes close.
Security: Low cost Windows solutions have a lot of security options but they need to be set up well before starting. Ideally you’ll have a Windows solution with free Bitlocker file encryption but some of the very low-cost Windows 8 tablet solutions don’t have this so be careful if you want to store sensitive data. Enable SeucureBoot and enable the BIOS boot password as a minimum.
Acer Aspire Switch 10E
ASUS Transformer Book T100HA
ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi
ASUS Transformer Book T100
HP Pavilion X2 10 n030ng
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2
The Acer Aspire Switch 10 (2014) was considered but the battery capacity on it is so low (22 Wh) that it’s probably not worth considering. 3G and Full HD versions could be available at very low-cost though so if you see an offer, it might be worth it.
The list includes three versions of the ASUS Transformer Book T100. The original version is tried and tested and the last models, still available, have 500 GB HDD options (not in consideration here) , 3G and Z3775 CPUs which offer a little bit more processing power than the original versions. The T100 Chi offers a slightly lighter weight, slimmer design and all versions come with the Z3775 CPU. Prices are higher than the original T100. The new ASUS T100HA has the latest Intel Atom X5 and would be an interesting one to test but that’s not the aim here. Besides, it’s not available to buy yet. (Expected in September.)
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10 has an interesting design because the keyboard is wireless which enables some interesting usage scenarios. For example, the keyboard on the lap and the tablet positioned nearer the eyes. I’ve used this setup on the Asus Switch 12 and it’s really useful but beware that the keyboard needs to be charged separately but the charge should last for 2 months. Having a separate Bluetooth keyboard could be handy when traveling. Pair it with a smartphone and you’ve got your self a tiny workstation for emergency use but the magnetic hinge design will need care and reviewers report that it can slip apart from the tablet. A case might be needed for the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2. The 35.5 Wh battery is the biggest while the total weight is the lowest. As a tablet it’s going to be easy to hold in portrait mode because of the battery bulge. The CPU power is on the low end of the scale here and there’s a Full HD screen which offers more working space but takes more GPU power to drive. There’s a low-cost LTE-capable version of the Yoga Tablet 2 available which also includes GPS. That could be useful with the offline maps and navigation features in Windows 10 if you find yourself without a phone.
The low-cost Acer Aspire Switch 10E is impressive. [I reviewed it for another publication recently.] The keyboard and screen are good quality and it seems to be very efficient. The only disadvantage is the cheap plastic that it’s built from. It looks and feels cheap but it’s grippy and doesn’t show fingerprints however.
Finally there’s the new HP Pavilion X2 10 2015 model which was supposed to launch with Intel Atom X5 and Windows 10. It’s available in shops now at the same price as the Switch 10E but with a Z3736F CPU and not the promised Atom X5. Like the Switch 10E it also has a good screen and keyboard but it looks a lot better than the Switch 10E. [I had some hands-on with the new model] It’s a solid contender there could be a problem with USB-C charging. (There’s a dedicated charger shown in this video but it’s possible that you could buy a USB 2.0 – USB-C adapter and charge from a standard USB port.)
Top 6 travel PCs by Chippy.
The Acer Aspire Switch 10E is my current #1 choice. I’ve done extensive testing on it and found it to be great value for the money although the WiFi module is a little weak which won’t help in crowded hotspots or hotels. The keyboard is solid and the screen is great. Today at Amazon it on offer for just $239. Details here.
I need to do some more keyboard testing with the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 but if it suits me it would jump to #1. The flexibility in keyboard use cases, large battery capacity, low eight, low-cost LTE / GPS version and high-resolution screen make it the most exciting prospect here. It’s a little more expensive than the T100, Switch and Pavilion options but not when you consider the LTE version available for just €369 in Europe (after taxes.)
If the ASUS Transformer Book T100HA was available I’d be adventurous and go for it because of the CPU, GPU and slight efficiency advantages of the new Atom X5 processor. Pricing isn’t known at the moment and there’s also a need for a few in-depth reviews. The USB-C port is a potential issue but it looks like there’s a separate micro USB port that’s used for charging.
A Z3775, 64 GB version of the original ASUS Transformer Book T100 would be the most sensible choice in the list. With more space for storage and a bit more CPU power it edges ahead of some of the others. It’s a big seller, easily available and there’s a huge community of T100 users out there that can help if there are problems. Steer clear of the 500 GB hard drive option if you’re traveling. (Use a USB SSD, SD cards and online storage.)
The HP Pavilion X2 10 falls down the list because it has a dedicated USB-C charger (USB -> USB-C charging might be possible with an adapter) and it hasn’t been reviewed yet. There’s a €279 offer on it in a shop just 2km from where I’m typing this so I’m tempted to go and pick one up.
The ASUS Transformer T100 CHI is a strange beast. A high-resolution screen and high-end Z3775 CPU could help productivity and the design is sweet, but it’s expensive. Separate keyboard and tablet charging might be a problem although a single charge of the keyboard should last for a few weeks.
Where’s the Surface 3?
At $499 the Surface 3 just gets in under the $500 budget limit, without a keyboard, which would take it up to about $600. The Surface 3 is a great travel PC with a high quality screen, high-end Atom X7 CPU and good battery life. It can be charged via micro USB and fulfills every need apart from price. Using the Surface 3 on a lap is a bit awkward but possible. The keyboard is backlit. At double the price of an Acer Aspire Switch 10E it’s not great value but if you can stretch that far with your budget it’s the highest-quality choice out there and might be the best choice if you’re thinking of doing some video editing.
Android travel PC.
You won’t find an Android 2-in-1 with a fixed-hinge keyboard for under $500. The interesting Xperia Z4 tablet (also available with LTE) is up above $600 with the keyboard and although the Lenovo Yoga 2 10 tablet with Android is cheap and light it doesn’t come with the keyboard. The outgoing ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C could be an option if you can find it. The Galaxy Note Pro 12-inch tablet is an interesting option with the optional Samsung keyboard case but like the Xperia Z4 tablet it comes in above our $500 budget.
My pick of the Android options would be the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10 with the dedicated Bluetooth keyboard dock/case which you should be able to pick up for around $400 The dock has a fixed-angle tablet stand but when I tested the solution briefly at IFA last year I was quite impressed.
The lightest travel PC.
A full PC for $300 in under 1KG is impressive but what if you need to cut more from the weight and size? You’ll need to sacrifice screen size but it’s possible with a range of 8-inch Windows tablet PCs that are out there. One of the most interesting, and one that is available with hard cases, is the new HP Pro 8 608 with Bluetooth keyboard case. Forget ‘cheap’ with this but it’s really interesting solution that weighs around 500 grams (with keyboard case) and is one of the cheapest mobile solutions with WiFi AC. Also available if you can find it is an outgoing Lenovo Thinkpad 8 model. There are 50 or more low-cost Windows 8 tablet options available between $100 and $200 but a few stand out of the crowd. The HP Stream 8 comes with a cellular modem and free data for under $200 (also available with roaming data in Europe) but only has 1GB of RAM so you have to be really careful not to run too many apps at the same time. You can get a tailored keyboard case for it too but then you’ve just doubled the weight of the solution. If you’re happy with a folio case then products like the current HP Pavilion X2 10 (under 1KG with keyboard) and the Lenovo Mix 3 10 (very lightweight with folio case) are worth looking at.
A touchscreen detachable for $220! Amazon have an offer on the Acer Aspire Switch 10 right now, just as the Switch 10E is feeding into retail channels. I’m testing one of those right now and wondering why you would buy one when the original Switch 10, a device I’ve also tested in-depth, is available for such a good price. You can even get the 64 GB version for $270. Amazon also have global shipping available on this product.
Acer Aspire Switch 10 on offer at Amazon.com
One thing you’ll need to do is to think about Windows 10 before you buy. There have been some successes and some issues reported by existing Switch 10 users when upgrading to Windows 10 but if you’re not worried about Windows 10 then the Switch 10 is immediately a good deal for this price.
The screen is a 1280 x 800 resolution model but still has wide viewing angles. 32 GB storage is enough for a good range of Windows Store applications and this tablet will also give you HDMI output, supports Miracast and comes with a one-year Office 365 license.
Battery life is in the 5 – 6 hours range for ‘WiFi-on Web’ and there’s a reasonably good keyboard. Some users have ha issues with the trackpad but I didn’t experience it in my testing. Overall it’s a good package.
Average rating at Amazon is 3.8 out of 5 stars with 385 reviews. It’s been a popular buy and it’s been the #1 product in the database for months. (Currently #2 in our popularity Top 10)