After six months with the Surface Pro 3 I felt inspired to write a detailed review, and that says a lot about the product.
After six months with the Surface Pro 3 I felt inspired to write a detailed review, and that says a lot about the product.
I’ve got a Sony Vaio Pro 13 here thanks to Intel. It’s the lightest touch-enabled 13.3-inch Ultrabook there is and at 1KG / 2.2 pounds it beats all of the the 2-in-1 options. This isn’t a cheap subnotebook but it’s got enough power to be a desktop PC for most people.
In nearly all comparison cases, the ‘lower clocked’ Ultrabook is based on an Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) 1.3-1.8Ghz Core i3, i5 or i7 CPU and is being compared to a laptop running a standard mobile equivalent of 2.2-2.5Ghz. With Intel Turbo Boost some of the clock rates can go higher but it’s not important for the comparison.
What’s the difference?
The Acer Aspire S3 is just about the lowest cost route into sub 1.5kg (3.3lb) laptopping there is, at least if you want an unrestricted Core processing platform. The 1.6Ghz Core i5-based Aspire S3 with Turbo Boost to 2.3Ghz, a hybrid (fast boot, fast resume) 320GB drive, 13″ screen, ultra-fast resume and a good suite of full-size ports, including a full+size SDHC card port, is significantly cheaper than other Ultrabook and Ultrabook-like options. Over the next week I’ll be giving it the full suite of Ultrabooknews tests for you. You won’t find this detail anywhere else: Unboxing and overview, first impressions, battery power analysis, live review with Q&A and of course a full detailed review.
I’m loving it! The Samsung 900X1B is an 11.6â€ notebook running an Intel Core processor with a battery life of 5-6hrs in web-working scenarios. Sounds big and heavy right? It’s not. The price matches the productivity potential and it’s working well as a partner toÂ my 7â€ Galaxy Tab Android Tablet.
The Samsung 900X1B is part of the Series 9 range that includes a 13â€ version and it’s designed around the ‘Ultrabook’ principle of efficient, light and stylish. It’s been available for a few months now but in my opinion it’s one of the best 11.6â€ notebooks out there. It weighs 1.06KG, 2.33Lbs and has a dynamic range that excites me. From 2.8W screen-off idle to 31W video processing. This stylish bit of kit can handle a huge range of tasks.
Yes it’s a desktop device (althoughÂ I’veÂ done some one-handed action with it in the last 48hrs) and it’s not in the same category as an Ultra-Mobile, handheld PC device but given the lack of solutions in that area and the improvement in 7â€ tablet devices recently, this fits in as a perfect portable PC companion.
I want one. Although having said that I think the Core i3 version I have here isÂ unnecessarilyÂ constrained. Core i5 at 1.6Ghz with Intel Turbo Boost action would extend the dynamic range even further without major battery life penalties but, here in Europe, the 900X1B with Core i3 and 4GB RAM, 64GB storage is dropping in price quickly. It’s â‚¬880 right now. Very attractive and a lot of PC and quality engineering for the price. Matt screen, back-lit and high-quality keyboard, fast SSD, Gigabit Ethernet (via wobbly adaptor) and more.
OK let me stop now. If you’re interested, check out my first impressions, battery life test at Ultrabooknews.com and then join me on Sat 3rd Dec 2011 at 2100 CET (Your timezone details here.) for a live Q&A and review [I’ll be live here]. Those of you that were interested in high-end netbooks are going to love this. If the price is too high for you, just wait. This is the sort of 1KG laptop that will be $500 in a few years. Mark my words! Devices like this will totally displace the high-end netbook market.
Did you take a look at the Samsung 900X1B and think hmm, 1.3Ghz with no Turbo = Not good enough? Take another look because there’s a 1.6Ghz Core i5 (2467M) version on its way. You’ll get turbo goodness to 2.3Ghz with the Samsung NP-900X1B-A03
The Series 9, available in 11″ and 13″ matt screen sizes, is not strictly an Ultrabook due to lack of Intel Anti Theft core but apart from that, it’s a close match to the Asus UX21
On the minus side you have only 2GB of RAM and 64GB in the base version (we’re seeing a 4GB, 128GB version too) and if the SSD is the same as I tested in the 13″ version, it’s not as fast as the ASUS UX21 but it’s not a slow-coach either. On the plus-side you get a MicroSD slot (it’s a real shame this isn’t a full-size slot but it could be useful for storage expansion if it supports SDXC), an illuminated keyboard, the same weight as the UX21 and a matt screen. USB3.0 and USB2.0 slots are included along with a mini HDMI port. An adaptor is included for 10/100/1000 ethernet. The Bluetooth variant is 3.0+HS.
As someone that is looking for a comfortable and mobile 720p video editing solution, the Intel Quick-Sync Video component is one of the most exciting for me. It contains both decode and encoding hardware that can really help when converting or rendering a video. Although the demo you see below was done on a Samsung Series 9, it’s using the same 2nd-Generation Core platfom as Ultrabooks will.
Watch reports on the Samsung Series 7 Slate PC very carefully if you’re interested in Ultrabook performance because as mentioned before, it’s a Ultrabook without the keyboard. OK, it might not have a few of the Ultrabook features like Anti-Theft and WiDi but the processing platform is the same.
I had some hands-on with the Samsung Series 7 Slate PC at IFA last week and was impressed to see it blow through 100K in a CrystalMark test. That puts it at about 5X the score that a netbook would get and about 50% of the speed of the quad-core Intel Core 2 Q6600 2.4Ghz desktop I’m using right now. In summary, a very usable amount of processing, disk and memory speed that is unlikely to keep you waiting….and all in a platform that runs between about 6 and 25W of power usage. Amazing!
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.
The Windows Tablet PC reputation never really earned anything through the cheap netbook-based versions that hit the market over the last few years. Low power processors, lack of docking stations and capacitive touch layers that prevent anyone from taking advantage of the natural input features. The Samsung Series 7 slate should fix that!
It’s the first Sandy Bridge (2nd generation Core i5) tablet PC I’ve ever tried and wow, she flies. The digitiser works well and the slate will be delivered with a dock and keyboard as part of the package. It weighs less than a kilo and Samsung tell me it will return up to 7hrs battery life. Ok, lets take the 30% ‘marketing markup’ off that and call it 5hrs. That’s usable although I know from my work with Ultrabooks that you can easily get carried away and kill the battery in half that time.
I like it a lot, just like I like Ultrabooks a lot. They fit in nicely above consumer tablet and smartphone usage scenarios that are eating into the reasons you might buy a netbook and they truly negate the need for a desktop. This mobile/desktop usage scenario certainly helps to justify the price which, as can be expected, is going to around the same 1000-1100 â‚¬ or $ level as Ultrabooks.
There’s another Series 7 slate article over at Ultrabooknews.
[ Posted via the Galaxy Tab. Ultra-Mobile at IFA 2011. For more IFA coverage, follow me on Twitter. @Chippy ]
I’m typing this article on a 1.4Ghz Core i5 2357M device. It’s fast and efficient and representative of the type of performance that you’re going to get from Ultrabooks. It’s not quite the platform that the Asus UX21 will use when it launches though. On that you can expect one of the three new Sandy Bridge ULV (Ultra Low Voltage) CPUs that CNet highlighted today. There are two additional Core i3 parts I see too which brings the total to 8 CPU/GPUs, one of which is for embedded markets.
Many thanks to Jeff Kent (Mobile Barbarian) for sending us this detailed review of his Eee Slate EP121 from real-life business scenario perspective. Remember, this is a 2.6lb device containing a 12â€ screen and Core i5 processor. Not quite a handheld but in some respects, still an ultra mobile device.
I recently purchased the Asus Eee Slate EP121. As the term â€œslateâ€ indicates, the EP121 is a slate (as opposed to convertible) tablet. While slate tablets these days are multiplying like rabbits, the EP121 is a rarer bird:
There already are video reviews by professional bloggers whose video and picture taking skills far outstrip my amateurish efforts. One in particular is this review by MobileTechReview (â€œMTRâ€), which is the source of most of the pictures in this review, and also includes a very thorough 15:21 video (referred to as the â€œMTR Videoâ€). Even Microsoft has gotten into the act with promotional videos featuring the EP121. So instead I thought I would discuss the EP121 from my perspective as a user. So you have a context for my usage, before we get to the EP121, let me introduce myself.
Who I am
My name is Jeff Kent, though my students have affectionately (?) nicknamed me Genghis Khent, and one created my avatar shown here. I live in the Los Angeles area. I have dual careers. I am a Professor of Computer Science at a local community college. I also work at a law firm as an attorney and network administrator. Additionally, I teach computer programming classes online, both for my community college and also privately for a national consortium of community colleges. In my spare (?) time I have a blog, Mobile Barbarian, that is devoted to my favorite hobby (and expenditure of discretionary funds), mobile gadgets like phones and tablets. My wife, who also is a Professor of Computer Science but is not enthralled with gadgets, tolerates my hobby because, as my blog motto states, â€œMobile devices are cheaper and safer than mistresses.â€
However, mobile gadgets are a tool as well as a hobby. My job(s) duties require me to be always connected. I also am mobile, going from one job location or meeting to another. Hence, I need to be connected and do tasks when I am not tethered to my home or office base.
But this isn’t a review of me, but instead of the EP121. So let’s get to it!
Why a Windows 7 tablet?
Particularly for business users — and I’m one — there are mission-critical Windows applications that have no iOS or Android equivalent. For example, wearing my attorney hat, I heavily rely on software like CaseMap, which creates a database of a case’s facts, issues and documents, and TextMap for storing, indexing and searching deposition transcripts. There’s nothing I’ve found for iOS or Android that would fill their role. Additionally, even if some iOS or Android equivalent existed, there would be an issue of converting from one application’s format to the other.
There’s also the matter of digital ink. While tablet these days seems to equal touch, I’ve always regarded digital inking as the essence of what makes a tablet a tablet. I cringe at the over-use of the term â€œkiller appâ€, but OneNote is a killer app for business.
An active digitizer makes a big difference in inking. Windows 7 tablets commonly have active digitizers. The EP121 is no exception, with an active digitizer in addition to a capacitive touch screen.
By contrast, on my iPad 2, which has no active digitizer, inking feels more like drawing, if not finger-painting. Ditto with Android, except for the HTC Flyer, which does have an active digitizer, albeit N-trig, not the Wacom digitizer (which I regard as superior) on the EP121.
But is a good tablet experience possible on Windows?
OK, I’ve justified the need for a Windows 7 tablet. But I still want the touch to be as smooth and responsive as possible. No offence to our canine friends, but performance on a Windows 7 Tablet PC can be a dog.
Indeed, much has been written that touch is not as smooth and responsive on Windows 7 as it is on other operating systems that are tablet-optimized (iOS, Android Honeycomb). Yes, Windows 7 is fundamentally a desktop, mouse and keyboard OS. Consequently, the touch experience may not be as good as with a tablet-optimized OS. But need it be bad? I think not. In this regard, the MTR review comments:
â€œ[T]he bigger problem is Windows’ somewhat unearned reputation for being a poor tablet platformâ€¦It hasn’t helped that several small manufacturers (generally Asian companies whose products arrive here online or through importers) went with underpowered Intel Atom CPUs and screens that are too small to work well with Windows.â€ (Emphasis added).
I think this comment hits the proverbial nail on the head. So let’s see how the EP121 addresses these two critical issues.
Brute force uber alles
I’ve owned other Windows 7 slates, once upon a time the Motion LS 800, later the Viliv X70, more recently the HP Slate 500. The latter two have an Atom processor, and either 1 GB (X 70) or 2 GB (Slate 500) of RAM. Unfortunately, not enough processor muscle. Often I’d have to wait a not insubstantial amount of seconds for an operation to complete. Worse, sometimes the tablet would freeze, requiring a reboot.
This waiting and freezing is at least an inconvenience. Sometimes it’s more than that. The interruption can disrupt the flow of a business meeting and make you look like you don’t have your act together. Worse is when this happens in court before Judges who — how shall I say this — are not renowned for their patience. Indeed, reliability in Court became such a concern that I had paper backups of everything, which sort of defeats the purpose of bringing the tablet.
Brute force usually solves such problems. So it is here.
The processor is a ULV (ultra-low voltage) Core i5 470UM. It’s Intel’s currently latest and greatest ULV processor. It’s quite powerful. Per Intel, its clock speed is 1.33GHz, with Turbo Boost 1.86GHz, and has 2 cores and 4 threads with 3MB cache. So from the standpoint of brute force, mission accomplished.
However, it’s not a Sandy Bridge ULV, as these are just coming available. The difference is not power, but battery life, an issue (and problem) discussed later.
The EP121’s 4GB of DDR3-800 RAM also is plenty of brute force. Theoretically the processor (and the 64 bit OS) can support 8GB, but there’s only 1 SODIMM slot, and I don’t believe any 8GB sticks are yet available (and even if they were you’d probably have to mortgage your house to buy them). Nevertheless, 4GB is plenty.
The 64GB SSD is large enough and fast enough. Per the MTR review, the SSD is of SanDisk manufacture with a mSATA form factor, looking like a mini-PCI card. Of course, the SSD could be upgraded to one of the larger, speedier ones becoming available (but see my comments later regarding upgrading).
The bottom line is I haven’t experienced on the EP121 the hiccups I’ve experienced on lesser-powered Windows 7 devices. This is very important in settings like Court where reliability is not a matter of convenience but instead mission critical.