Hot on the heels of the disappointing Acer switch 10 I bought this one. The Acer was an ok device but it felt sluggish and the keyboard had a nasty bug that it dropped the first character every time it woke up. I also hated the Acer keyboard layout.
To frame this review, I am working at finding a Windows replacement for my Android Asus TF701. That’s a tall order. The TF701 is an excellent device. Fast, instant on, great battery life, high resolution, very usable keyboard but it has one HUGE limitation. Android. Web sites that don’t display right, constantly getting the modile version of the site, no decent Microsoft Office solution, clumsy multi tasking, clumsy cut and paste as well as RDP issues etc left me wanting to return to Windows. The fact that I could live on Android as long as I did as my main device speaks volumes of either my patience or how far Android has come. And those that know me know the possibility of it being my patience is slim to none and slim left the building a long time ago :) Moving on …
Honestly I don’t need a Windows tablet. Windows actually sucks (IMHO) as a tablet OS. The OS itself is not great as a touch interface (outside of Metro) and the apps are even worse. Metro is awkward, and the onscreen keyboard could not have been implemented worse if they tried (and I am sure they did). What I really wanted was an Atom powered netbook with 2-4G of memory, an SSD and a touch screen, reasonably priced. Believe it or not one does not exist. And so I saw this one. It is very similarly designed to the Acer switch.
Intel Atom Processor Z3735F (2M Cache, up to 1.83 GHz)
64GB SSD (mine is a hynix hcg8e emmc)
10.1 inch 1920×1200 IPS Multitouch Display with Wacom active stylus digitizer
Broadcom AH691A-2×2 (802.11 a/b/g/n)
279.8 X 10.75 X 176.4 mm 437g
Port wise there is microHDMI, microSD, microUSB (for charging and USB OTG), full size USB 2.0 (according to the docs), 3.5mm audio jack, volume up/down, and a a windows key on the side of the display
The tablet itself is kind of square around the edges. Not sharp like the Acer Switch but square none the less. There is an almost rubber feet to the edges. The tablet feels solidly built in spite of being very plasticy.
The optional keyboard has no ports whatsoever and does not have a secondary battery. It’s a keyboard and a keyboard only. The keyboard has good feel and all the keys are where they belong, however as is common with Windows 8 machines the keyboard has delegated the standard PF keys to alternate functions and requires a FN key to be a PF key. Something I’d love to find a way to turn off. I prefer it the other way around.
It has a multi touch enabled touch pad. There are quick keys to disable the touchpad, yay! The tablet can be put forward or backwards to the keyboard to allow you to have a number of orientations. The hinge can be bent right back allowing the keyboard to be attached and facing the back of the tablet in what Dell call clamshell. The hinge itself is stiff. So stiff in fact that it flexes the connection between the tablet and keyboard to the point that the contacts between the keyboard/tablet would connect and disconnect. The bottom of the keyboard has a sharp rubber piece that works well at keeping the tablet in place on hard surfaces but is uncomfortable on the lap. So much so that it left impressions on my leg. If I was to keep the keyboard I’d find a way to remove these.
The latches that hold the keyboard in place have a click that locks it in place but all in all the feeling is not great. As great as the keyboard is to type on, it really is poorly designed. The tablet literally wobbles in the keyboard so much that it connects and disconnects from the tablet. I had the keyboard replaced under warranty and the next one was as bad or worse.
There are suppose to be LTE versions but if there are in the Canadian web site I can’t find them
The 64G SSD is reasonably quick at 66.2 and 81.6 MB/s (write/read), Vs 47/93 for the Acer Switch 10, and 25/46 for the Asus Vivotab Note 8.
As always the SSD provides quick start up and resume as well as good swapping. SSDs are the way to go!
The hi-res display is a huge step forward from the ubiquitous 1366×768 you see on so many other devices in this category. Puts the device a step above the crowd.
The charger is a standard micro USB with 5V 2A or 10 watts. One of the challenges with using a standard microUSB charger is slow charging. Convenience comes with a cost. This one charged the device 65% in a little over 4 hours for a projected full charge from dead in 6.4 hours.
Connected standy numbers are pretty good. In just under 10 hours it dropped 13% or 1.32%/hr with the keyboard connected and down 6% in just over 14 hours for 0.42% per hour. It compares well to past tablets but of course below Microsoft requirements which say “Connected Standby systems must drain less than 5% of system battery capacity over a 16-hour idle period” (0.3%/hr). Worked reasonably hard typing this article, general surfing etc the battery dropped 51% (on Win 10) in 3.5 hours which would project out to almost 6 hours battery life.
The microUSB charge port as mentioned above can be a USB OTG port for use as a second USB port. The full size USB port is indeed only USB 2 (as it says in the docs). I wish it was USB 3. The microHDMI port is (for me) a must.
Overall responsiveness of the system is excellent including exceptionally fast resume.
I tried repeatedly using the keyboard to get into the EFI bios only to discover the only way to do it was to use an external keyboard and press F2 (or press the power and volume down button. Booting from an external USB device also required an external keyboard and F12. Odd that the optional keyboard doesn’t get paid attention to.
The tablet has a Wacom digitizer. I tried my passive pens from my Samsung Notes and they were completely ignored. The pen Dell sells is an active stylus. I also tried an active pen from a Microsoft Surface 3 and it too was ignored. Eventually I gave in and bought the Dell pen and it works well feels nice in the hand is a very pleasant writing experience. At 10″ I am not going to be lugging the tablet around a whole lot to take notes when I have 8″ tablets but it is an option and I can see uses for it. Like students.
Overall software load is light which is great. The 64G SSD leaves lots of space (about 40G free). I was able to partition the hard drive and load Windows 10 32 bit preview. I had to manually load all the Windows 8 drivers from the Dell web site to get the system usable (touch screen didn’t work, video was jerky and numerous devices not detected etc). Win 10 runs well on this device and is a huge step forward from Win8. A lot of the clumsiness I always find with Win 8 is much improved on Win 10. I can’t wait to see the final version.
In the end, like the Acer Dell have failed to properly design the interface between to the keyboard and tablet. A shame really. It was a nice device. I contacted Dell and returned it for a full refund. If their design dept get’s a knock, their customer service get’s full marks!
I’ve been eyeing one of these for a while now. It allows you to add a remote display to a Windows or Android tablet (in theory) using an industry standard called Widi or Mircast. In Windows the display can be completely configured to shadow, replace or extend your existing display. In Android it is a mirroring of the display. The adapter is a little larger than a USB stick and has a USB jack on one end (for power) and an HDMI jack on the other end. If your TV has a USB jack then all you do is plug this in both ends and your done. If not then you will need a USB power adapter.
The adapter itself has a power LED on the end and that’s it. No switches nada. The adapter powers up and displays a nice little screen comes up to show you how to connect. And that’s about it. The info is really intended only for Windows.
Let’s talk about the best case I saw with this device. I only had it for a short period of time so could not do extensive testing. On my Asus T100 Atom powered Windows 8.1 tablet it saw the Microsoft display adapter, connected to it and I could configure Windows anyway I wanted to use the display. There were occasional digital corruptions and very slight lag but it was very usable. Even with the mouse. I did not get a chance to try movie playback so can not comment on it. There is a Windows Store app to support the adapter and update the firmware, but even when connected it kept saying it wasn’t connected so that was a bust. All in all if this was the only experience I had with the device I would have been impressed (other than the store app).
Sadly it was not … Next up I tried an Asus Vivotab Note 8 running Windows 8.1. Oddly the hardware is extremely similar to the T100. It would see the adapter, try and connect and then eventually give up. I tried about 5 times and of that once it connected. And when it did the orientation on the screen and the orientation on the tablet were off by 90 degrees? Odd. So all in all not great.
Next up I tried my Samsung Note 3 running Android 5.0. This looped and looped trying to connect before it gave up and never did work.
So all in all the device is interesting but still not ready for main stream. A whole lot better than the uber cheap one I bought on ebay a couple years ago, but still not worth the time. Bring on the HDMI cable! Another prod that if your tablet does not have an HMDI port of some kind your limited in options.
I recently bought a new Dell Inspiron 11 3147 for my daughter for university. This is another of these oddly designed units you can flip around and pretend it’s a tablet. It makes no attempt to recess the keys of the keyboard (unlike the Lenovo Yoga) so they are exposed ready to be abused when it’s in tablet mode. They do disable the keyboard at least when in this mode. And have intelligently added a Windows hard key onto the front of the screen. I can’t say I’m a fan (or even see a whole lot of point) of this tablet mode, but one can always choose to not use it so decided to not write this one off because it has this feature. What drew me to this device is a combination of good portability (size/weight) as well as reasonable power and battery life. As a university student there are times when one is not close to a power outlet. Let’s talk about specs:
Intel® Pentium® Processor N3540 (2M Cache, up to 2.66 GHz)
4GB Single Channel DDR3L 1600MHz (4GBx1) (which according to some YouTube videos can be upgraded to an 8G DIMM by removing the back of the unit)
500GB 5400 rpm SATA Hard Drive
11.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) Truelife LED-Backlit Touch Display with Wide Viewing Angle (IPS) touchscreen
43 WHr, 3-Cell Battery (integrated)
802.11bgn + Bluetooth 4.0, 2.4 GHz (looks like no 5GHZ)
Full size HDMI™ 1.4a, SD Card Reader, USB 3.0 (1), USB 2.0 (2), Security slot
Multi-Touchpad with integrated scrolling & gestures
Weighs 1.39kg and measures 19mm x 300mm x 201.5mm
Physically the design is clean and well thought out. The display bezel is small and the screen bright. The touch screen is responsive enough. The keyboard feels good and is easy to type on. The The touchpad is fine and detects taps just fine. As always I am not fond of touchpads (I prefer the old style IBM track sticks) but this is an industry wide decision so it is what it is. Obviously you can easily add a bluetooth or wireless mouse.
The order was bought Mar 24th, shipped Mar 27th (3 days) and arrived Mar 31st (7 days). It was shipped from the US using Purolator.
Initial power on was smooth, once I figured out where the power button is. It is oddly placed on the front ride side of the base unit. Be sure and not hit it when in tablet mode. I would have preferred it on or near the keyboard but then I guess that too could have got hit. So it is what it is. Once initial Windows setup is done your onto patches and here comes a HUGE patience test. For a model that is brand new, and could not be that long from when it was produced it needed 86 Windows updates to be downloaded and installed. Sheesh. And one of the things I have always found is that Atom based processors (which this is in spite of naming) are REALLY slow on Windows update for some bizarre reason. To the point that it took over 5 hours from power on to patches installed. Holy crap. Dell really could have helped this process by having a more current image. But that said, this is not uncommon.
Outside of patches the N3540 seems like an ok processor. Giving a good trade off between power consumption and processing power. I would put this somewhere near an i3 (likely slightly below). There are lots of comparisons out there you can read to help you sort out what is best for you.
4G of memory is reasonable and as far as I am concerned a minimum. If it can be upgraded to 8 in the future all the better (not that I can confirm or deny that to be possible on the one I have until I take off the back).
The achilles heal of all PCs today is the hard drive. This one is no exception. At only 5400 RPM it is no speed demon. Why more companies do not offer the option of an SSD is beyond me. I would pay (as long as it was a reasonable price). SSDs are more durable (no moving parts), draw less power, generate less heat, have no such thing as seek time (making swapping a whole faster) and are faster than rotating media. The size of the hard drive for me is virtually irrelevant. I do not keep a lot on my local laptop drive anyway. And I need more I can always carry a USB stick. Speed wise it was quite surprising at 77.8MB/s write and 74.5 MB/s read. But the 5400 RPM does show itself more as the system gets busy and the seek time starts to come into play.
Industry wide 1366×768 is a very common resolution. This includes models from 11 inch to 15 and larger. At 135 pixels per inch on an 11 inch display and down to 100 pixels per inch for a 15.6 inch display (compared to 263 on an iPad) this is really becoming limiting. So this particular tablet does not set itself above the masses in ppi. The 768 can be quite limiting with some screens in Windows not fitting properly, and some web sites not fitting as well as one might hope. But all in all it is an adequate display.
As always with Windows 8.1 the onscreen keyboard is dumb as a stump and keeps popping up even with a physical keyboard present. The easiest solution is to disable the touch keyboard and hand writing panel service from the control panel services interface. Why Microsoft do not make it easier to disable the onscreen keyboard is beyond me.
This system is not entirely silent in that it does have a fan. And the area on the bottom side of the laptop where the processor is gets noticeably hot. Hot enough to be noticeable even through pants.
I was pushing the unit pretty hard doing installs and the battery went down 31% in under 2 hours giving it a projected battery life of only 4.5 hours. Not great for a machine in this category. The adapter for this is a whopping 19.5V * 3.34A or 65.13 watts. A typical tablet charger is around 18W. This charger took it from 52% to 79% in 35 mins. A projected full charge would occur in around 2.2 hours. Wow. Super fast charge. This is the benefit of using a proprietary barrel charger instead of a micro USB charger.
There’s only one LED on device (well one plus one for when the camera is on). It is in the front corner of the unit. Not easily seen.
All in all this is a good laptop. Nothing outstanding but a good work horse. For the price it’s a reasonable deal.
I’ve been eyeing one of these for a while now. If your going to monitor only one thing during exercise, monitoring the heart rate gives you a clear and concise picture of how much you pushed yourself. Average and even max heart rates are key. Seeing your heart rate while you work out can also be helpful. I’ve played with a number of methods on my Samsung Gear live and they have all been clumsy, and have huge effects on battery life. Couple that with the screen on my Samsung Gear Live being hard to read in bright sunlight. Thus my curiosity with this device.
I’ve owned a number of Garmin GPS devices and love them. They work well, are simple, priced reasonably and just work. My device of choice for mountain biking is a Garmin Foretrex 401 which I have had for years and would buy again if it broke tomorrow (let’s hope it doesn’t).
Garmin were pioneers in accepting a wireless tech called Ant+ to connect sensors like cadence, heart rate, foot pods and more. Happily my Samsung Note 3 also has Ant+ support, meaning my phone apps can benefit from these sensors too. And there is an interesting design point that Ant+ can connect to more than one device at a time. So an Ant+ heart rate monitor can connect to my Phone and GPS device at the same time!
To say that this device is ugly is a cruel reality. It is definitely a purpose built design. The Polar ones are no better. The screen is a simple LCD display making it very easy to read and Garmin included back lighting for reading it in the dark. It is crisp and easy to read. This screen is one of the reasons it gets such good battery life. Garmin claim a year on a replaceable battery. Nice. Buttons are stiff and not the easiest to push. Impossible with any kind of glove. But the unit is waterproof so that’s the price you pay. Garmin chose to use a simple rubber watch band with a large clip as well as a locking mechanism on the loop that catches the end of the band. Why reinvent something that works. And like the rest of the watch, it’s purposeful. I don’t think the watch band is replaceable, or at least not easily.
The edges of the FR70 are all nice and round so that they don’t catch on shirt sleeves. Well done Garmin, learn from others mistakes (like fitbit).
The FR70 like other Garmins uses Ant+ to interface with sensors. It supports not just Garmin but other companies devices too. I was able to get my favorite Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor connected. It also supports foot pods (for running), and cadence sensors for (cycling). Pairing new devices was relatively simple. The menus are not the easiest thing to figure out and are deep, but the manual does help you through it.
Like my Foretrex the screens are completely configurable as to what shows on them and how many fields are on the screen. The device can be set to auto scroll through the pages of displays and you can configure how many screens each sport you set up can have. It’s a little clumsy to setup but once done is informative, simple and well done. Perfect so that when your exercising your not spending time and focus playing with your gadget. A tree will not move just because you took your eyes off the trail to see your heart rate! Go figure.
The FR70 saves all the data and then can use Ant+ to upload to Garmin connect. The Garmin connect portal is simple and easy to use with some ability to export the data as well as some ability to interconnect with other sites like Endomondo. At the end of an activity one of the things missing is a summary. So you will have to upload the data to get that. Unfortunate. Also unfortunate to be tied to computer (using a USB Ant stick) to do that. Ah but wait, your not. If your blessed with a phone with Ant+ built in (and I am, my Samsung Note 3 has it) you can use a paid app Ant Uploader that will interface with the FR70, take the data off and then upload it to Garmin connect, Strava, RunKeeper or SportTracks. Once the data is uploaded you get some nice graphs and stats. Min/Max/Avg etc. Unfortunately none of the official Garmin apps support the FR70 because they all connect over bluetooth not Ant +
Don’t go looking for GPS on this watch, there isn’t one. This is all about being a watch face and logger for Ant+ sensors (like heart rate/foot pod/cadence).
I don’t see a way to turn the display off, or turn the watch itself off for prolonged periods of lack of use (like seasonal use) that might preserve the battery. I also don’t see a way to find out the status of the battery. The manual does say that it warns you when it is low. The unit takes an inexpensive coin CR2032 battery. Replacing the battery seems to be reasonably easy, remove the four screws on the back and your done.
Add an ANT+ cadence and wheel sensor (which I just happen to have) and you can use this device as a cycling computer. It will track your speed, and distance based on the wheel. Which believe it or not is more accurate than a GPS anyway. Very cool.
The watch does have an alarm you can set but no chronometer functions (stopwatch or count down timer).
Oh and in case you didn’t know, cadence (in this context) is the rate of rotation of your bike crank.
That’s about it. The FR70 just works, is well designed, easy to use (once setup) and has some nice connectivity options.
I`ve played with streaming music players before and been underwhelmed. A colleague at work was raving about this one so I thought I`d give it a try. My train trip home has spotty cell reception. I like to snowboard and mountain bike which can also have spotty cell reception. So to say my expectations were low is a statement of the obvious … Captain Obvious to you … :) There are two levels of Rdio. Free and subscription at $9.99 a month. You can not do offline on the free and their are also commercials played every so often that you can not skip on the free version. You are also only allowed to skip so many songs. The price of free … I guess they are trying to make it annoying enough you buy the monthly subscription. Ya I’ll get right on that. And remember, a number of phone have built in FM radios anyway. But what irks me the most about apps like these are how dumb they are. Ok when the app starts up why not scan any content on my phone (optionally) and make suggestions? Or why not tell me about the song being played. Tell me some about the band, tell me their discography. Maybe let me buy their music. See the lyrics for the song. Something. Please give me some kind of intelligence to justify why I might run this app on a smart phone? All in all I was underwhelmed. A brief trip through a cell dead zone and playback stopped. No value add information. No suggestions of other bands I might like. On the positive side, uninstalling was quick and painless. Another poorly written basic music app … yawn.
Yup another Windows tablet to review! As usual some framing, I am coming off using my Asus Transformer TF701 Android tablet as my main device for the last 6 months. The transformer is a beautifully designed device (for the most part). Android as a main device has worked well and gets great battery life. I have run into a number of challenges using Android as my main device. Printing, using Office, limitations of OneNote on Android, websites that do not display right on Android (yes even when you request desktop mode), websites that flat out don’t work on Android (for example anything flash based, or requiring plugins), clumsy cut and paste, spell check which does not work on some web sites (like my blog) and poor RDP support (particularly on high res devices). The one thing about the transformer is I really hate the mechanism locking the keyboard to the tablet. It just does not feel good. So much so I found myself rarely using this device as a tablet. A shame really because it really is a good tablet. Light, thin, and powerful. Everything one could ask for. Asus really have a done a great job on it. The Windows version of this Transformer has a better locking mechanism, but still not great IMHO.
So that prompted me to have a look at what was out there on Windows. So what I really wanted was a quad core atom (reasonable performance with good battery life), 2G RAM min (more in a bit), 64G drive, touch screen, HDMI out, and a decent keyboard. And preferably not too expensive. I really don’t care if it’s a tablet or not. I found a few that met most of my requirements, but I was shocked to find devices without touch screens in today’s day. WTF. Tigerdirect had this one on sale and the price was what I was willing to pay so I bought it. Up until recently Atom processors were limited to 2G RAM max. Intel quietly released a few Atom models that now support 4G! Some tablets are starting to hit the market with this new Atom but for now they are on the pricier side so fell off my radar pretty quick. Hopefully that will sort itself out soon.
Onto physicals. This is a tablet with a removable keyboard. Acer have done a great job on the interface between the two. They use a magnet to draw the two together along with a couple guiding posts. Separating the two is a reasonably easy feat, but it does take two hands. The magnets are strong enough to be able to hold the device by the tablet and the keyboard hangs on. All in all I like it and would be more likely to use it as a tablet on it’s own. Interestingly enough the tablet can be connected to the keyboard in either forward or reverse facing and the USB port still works. Oddly the keyboard/mouse only work in forward mode. Although, if the display was facing away from the keyboard your unlikely to use it anyway, so no big deal. The keyboard does not contain a second battery (as it does in the Asus transformer). I had read in some posts that the device feels top heavy and tips. I have not found that. In fact I found the transformer more tippy in spite of it having more weight in the keyboard (the second battery).
262 x 178 x 10.2 mm (tablet only) 1170g (including the keyboard)
Overall the tablet itself feels a bit boxy/clunky in the hand. The square edges are a little sharp in the hand. The weight does not feel too bad.
Button wise there is a power button, volume up/down and a windows key all on the right side of the tablet. I still would prefer the Windows key on the front of the tablet.
Port wise there’s a microSD, microUSB port (for USB OTG), microHDMI and the proprietary barrel charger on the tablet itself. The charger is 12V 1.5A for 18 watts. By comparison most tablets that use standard microUSB (which I prefer) have been limited to date at 5V 2A for 10 Watts. The cable on the proprietary charger is a bit on the short side for my liking.
On the keyboard there is a standard USB 2 port (which supports USB hard drives) and that’s it. I would have liked to have the charger on the keyboard so that I could use it like a dock but it is what it is. The keyboard has a reasonable feel to it but it has the usual crappy Acer layout which puts a slash too close to the enter key and the other slash too close to the shift key (and then makes a smaller shift key). While I won’t say I hate the layout, I don’t really like it either and it will take some getting use to. There is a glide point on the keyboard (which I hate and am clumsy with) but heh, it’s the way the industry mostly make them. The track point can quickly be turned off by a function key (yay thanks Acer!).
Spec wise the one I bought has a Quad core Atom Z3735F
2G of memory, and a 64G SSD. The 64G leaves a reasonable amount of storage left for your apps (around 40G). And you can add a microSD card that can be mapped into your drive space for use as program or content storage. Performance was good at 47MB/s write and 93MB/s read. Much quicker than my Vivotab Note at 25/46 MB.s. The drive arrived uncompressed and the recovery partition is on the drive (vs on a microSD card as it was for the Vivotab).
Screen resolution is 1280 x 800 which is low for Windows and below there min giving you the usual warning indicating things can (and will) be cut off. I can only hope Microsoft will wake up and embrace the tablet marketplace.
There are 8′ tablets with this resolution and given this is a 10″ there’s just no way to call this high resolution by today’s standards. My Transformer is 2560 x 1600 for reference at the same screen size. Nough said.
If you connect to the HDMI the default is to mirror the local screen and the resolution ends up being 1200×768. Changing over to HDMI only I was able to get full 1080p HD. Which is perfect if your going to use this device for media playback (XBMC/Kodi). And it nicely remembers your settings the next time you reconnect the monitor.
Oddly I had an issue with my one of my BT mice being extremely jerky on this tablet my other BT mouse was fine. No idea why. This same mouse (a Dell) works perfect on every other device I’ve tried it on.
I saw some odd behavior on the keyboard. The first key touched after a period of inactivity would be missed. Very bizarre. I called Acer and it is a known problem. They told me to take the tablet back to a restore point before March 10/2015, that a Windows update patch had broken it and Microsoft would be working on a fix. I restored back to the factory install and the issue was still there. So I contacted my retailer and returned it.
I did try a couple of capacitive pens. The thin tip was completely ignored. The fat one was detected and could be used, but doesn’t feel anything like a real pen. But that’s why devices with digitizers like my Asus Vivotab Note, and Samsung note family exist.
I ran 1.5 hours of Kodi doing movie playback through HDMI (with the on board screen off) and the battery went down by 16%. Extrapolating means a whopping 9 hours of battery life. Kodi playback was relatively smooth, but I did notice it was jerky as an email was coming in and being processed. Sadly I can’t imagine how you could control that other than getting rid of the mail configuration in the Metro mail app so it does not run in the background.
Like all devices in this category it uses a power management scheme called connected standby to keep the device updated in the background. With the keyboard attached I saw 15% decrease in battery life over 12 hours or 1.25% per hour. The tablet only drew 12% in almost 16 hours or 0.8% per hour. By comparison, my Vivotab Note drew 0.5% per hour. Microsoft requirements are “Connected Standby systems must drain less than 5% of system battery capacity over a 16-hour idle period” (0.3%/hr). So higher than it should be, but I am sure it varies depending on how many accounts you have syncd how many background apps etc. And of course since it is %/hr adding a bigger battery (as the Vivotab Note has) helps skirt the issue.
The battery charged 73% in just under 2 hours so a pretty impressive charge time. The benefit of using a proprietary charger. A standard microUSB would like take 3-4 hours.
It’s worth noting that there is no onboard wired ethernet. Not a surprise really but notable if you were going to use this device as a media streamer. You could add a USB ethernet adapter but you would be limited by USB 2 data rates.
In spite of having a faster hard drive, this tablet just seemed laggy. In the end, the keyboard issue did it in and back to the store it went. I have no idea why these devices are on the market as long as this issue persists. I guess some people, don’t notice, or don’t mind. For me it was maddening. One of the reasons I bought this device was the keyboard. So for this to not work is just not going to cut it.
It’s been a bit since BlackBerry introduced anything new (the Classic wasn’t new enough for me to be even remotely interested). I updated my Q10 to 10.3 so I had seen most of what was new (from a software point of view) that was brought out in the passport. Some of the newer features have yet to officially hit the Q10. A friend of mine, Lance, got a passport and offered to let me play so I jumped at it (yes I have friends! Who knew:)).
There are two things that make this device unique. Size/shape and the keyboard.
Let’s start with Size/Shape. The Passport is the size of, well a passport. Which is big for a phone, but not a whole lot bigger when you compare it to say a Samsung Note (which admittedly is a large phone).
128 x 90.3 x 9.3mm 196g (Passport)
79.2 x 151.2 x 8.3mm 168g (Note 3)
As you can see in the pic the Passport is a little wider than the note 3 but much shorter.
Button/port wise there’s Volume Up/Down, Mute, Lock (for Power On/Off) and a microUSB port. The Power button is on the very top of the device making it quite a reach. Lots of things on a phone this big require two hands and while Samsung have made an effort to allow some one handed on screen keyboards blackberry has not. There is no HDMI port on this one so if that was something you used on the Q/Z be aware of this. The microUSB 2.0 port is for charging as well as USB OTG. I plugged in a keyboard/mouse and USB flash drive (formatted as fat32) all of which worked.
The display 1440 x 1440 resolution 4.5″ diagonal Vs the Note 3 at 1080×1920. As you can see the display is square as it is on the Q10. This does present some challenges for apps that are use to rectangular screens. The display itself is bright, vivid and crisp. As always font size can be easily adjusted to your tastes.
The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with 2.2GHz Quad-Core CPUs (MSM8974-AA) which makes everything zippy. Couple this with the well designed real time operating system QNX and you get a smooth instantaneous feel that is unrivalled off of an iPhone.
Memory 3 GB RAM, and 32 GB Flash which can be upgraded via the microUSB slot.
The back of the phone does not come off, and the battery is not removable. Behind a small removable flap is the microSD slot as well as the nanoSIM slot. That’s right nano. So you will likely need a new SIM card if you are not coming from an iPhone. Very few phones use nano.
The battery is 3450mAH integrated non-removable battery with BB claiming up to 14 hours GSM talk time. I didn’t get much of a chance to play with the battery life of the device but it seemed quite good.
The phone sports Bluetooth 4.0 and Android has been updated to include support for it so you can use things like BT4 heart rate monitors and the like. Google Play services is still missing so apps like Google maps etc that are dependent on it will either not work right or flat out crash. Android wear would not run at all meaning using Android Wear smartwatches is not going to happen.
Ah the keyboard … Blackberry have been known for their keyboards, and that is one of the things that would attract someone to this device. But to call this keyboard different would be an understatement. The keys are rectangular in shape rather than square. There are only characters on the physical keyboard with punctuation, numbers etc all showing up on an onscreen keyboard above the physical keyboard.
The space bar seems almost recessed and I found I had to make an effort to get it. The enter is so far down that I found myself really stretching my thumb to get it. The buttons themselves just don’t feel as crisp as the Q10s, which is excellent by the way. The keyboard include a sensor and you can use it to scroll up and down pages. All in all, while I think I could get use to it, it would definitely take some time.
One of the new features in 10.3 is called BlackBerry blend. It gives you remote access to your email, bbm, text messages (the hub basically) as well as your calendar, contacts and files. All through an app you load on your PC or Mac. There is no web portal for it. It can be accessed over the cell, wifi or USB connection. And you can control where you do and do not want it. I like the feature. A number of phone companies are moving in this direction.
Blackberry still have not added the idea of a priority inbox. They have a priority hub but that is only a viewing filter. I wish they would add the ability to notify only on the priority hub. That way you only get notified for the “important” people. Sorry if your not in the category :)
The platform has continued to evolve and Android compatibility is excellent. With the recent release adding support for Bluetooth 4.0 a number of my road blocks to using a BlackBerry for me have been removed. The sole remaining one being Android Wear. Play services can not come fast enough. Would I buy this unit myself? I have to say I really found the new keyboard clumsy. I wouldn’t be rushing out. I found the odd dimensions clumsy in the hand, and found myself reaching for the edges of the screen. Even more so than on my Note 3.
I’ve played with a few Windows tablets. Playing with a Windows tablet is like speaking with your ex-wife. Takes about 2 minutes to remind yourself why you hate it :) And if there is anywhere Windows does not play well, it’s on a small low res device like this. I’m getting ahead of myself.
This tablet is in on the low end side of Windows tablets. I don’t think there is lower. A few of my colleagues have purchased these, and every one of them have returned them. I got briefly to play with one before it got returned, and thus this mini review. The images are pretty crappy quality, sorry about that :(
Physically the device is uber small and portable, albeit a bit on the thicker side.
192.78 x 110.74 x 9.90 mm 353.8 g
211 x 136 x 7.95 mm 350kg (For my Samsung Note 8)
221 x 132 x 10 mm 0.36 kg (For my Asus Vivotab Note 8)
The battery and uSD slot are behind a removable (flimsy) back of the tablet. Odd that the uSD slot is not on the side. Removing the back is like removing the back of a phone, but much bigger. It’s easy enough to get off.
Port wise it has a standard microUSB charger (always nice), a standard 3.5mm audio jack and that’s about it. No HDMI, not surprising given the size of the device.
The local drive is a 32G but curiously HP chose to turn compression on the drive meaning you’ve got some space left over. Shockingly 20G free! I suspect HP has left some of Windows out and kept the bloatware to a minimum. My Asus Vivotab Note has 8G free, so quite a difference.
The recovery partition is on the drive chewing up a bit of the space:
Speed of the local drive is pretty good at 38MB/s write and 70 MB/s read. This is faster than my Asus Vivotab Note (25/46 MB/s).
The cameras are particularly low res at 2Mp/0.3Mp. I don’t remember the last time I saw one that low.
The screen is 1280×800 and is an adequate display for a low end tablet. Not the brightest, not the sharpest. This is not an uncommon resolution for these smaller tablets (and even some 10″). As an example of how poorly Microsoft have embraced tablets you get greeted by this lovely warning that your resolution is below the recommended min:
And there are times when dialog boxes are cut off. Sometimes you can rotate the screen to find the hidden ok/apply, other times your just sitting scratching your head wondering ok now what.
The processor is a quad core atom Z3735 running at 1.3GHZ. The processor itself is willing if the specs on the rest of the tablet weren’t limiting it, particularly low memory.
Battery life on the tablet is not great, there are lots of posts discussing it. I didn’t have the tablet long enough to run any detailed numbers.
My colleague did manage to install Windows 10 on the device. There are posts out there for how to do it. He had a bear of a time putting the original install back, partly because he wiped out the recovery partition in the process. The performance and overall buggyness of Windows 10 showed itself significantly on this device. Windows 10 still has a ways to go. Probably why it is not due to hit the market until the end of thsi year. Let’s hope Microsoft are busy addressing limitations of using Windows on a tablet, as well as fixing obvious misses like the pathetic onscreen keyboard with no spell check, auto correct or next word prediction. The new start menu on Windows 10 is definitely a step forward.
Overall the performance of the device was not as bad as I was expecting. The 1G of ram is a HUGE limit. The 32G drive with compression leaves a reasonable amount of space. So is it worth the small $$s they are asking for it? I am not sure, but using a 7″ Windows tablet is going to be an interesting act of patience testing :)
The speed of an SD card (or micro SD) is defined by it’s class. Each class means 1MB/s. The fastest class is a class 10 card meaning 10 MB/s. I recently started to notice UHS (stands for Ultra High Speed) on some of the cards with advertised speeds well above 10MB/s and was curious so I did a bit of reading. As usual Wikipedia has an article on it. UHS extends speeds well beyond class 10. So I got my hands on a Kingston Ultimate 64GB (Class 10 UHS-I) microSDXC Card, Up to 90MB/s read, 45MB/s write (SDCA10/64GB) when a friend Lance bought one to put it through it’s paces. This card will present itself as a normal Class 10 card to any system that does not support UHS. In this case you will get speeds close to 10 MB/s. So let’s try it out on some of my gadgets.
Asus Vivotab Note 8 R/W speeds
For reference a class 10 card 9.4/10.3 MB/s
UHS Kingston 18.2/18.1
So clearly it supports UHS but there is a bottle neck. Who knows how the SD card interface was designed but that sounds like a bottle neck inside the system, unrelated to the card itself. Now that said, it’s still almost twice the speed of a class 10 card.
MobileLite G3 USB card reader
Plugged into USB 2 26.6/23.9
Plugged into USB 3 72.1/60.4
Samsung Note 3
For reference a class 4 card 29.6/4.2
Samsung note 8
UHS speeds 13/10
So that’s class 10 speeds with no improvement at all
A nice little speed boost.
So as you can see, results may vary. So if you are buying one of these, don’t pay a huge premium for the added speed unless you know for sure you are going to get anything from your specific device. I never did get speeds as high as Kingston spec’d it at.
A little off the beaten path of my usual tech blog posts, this time around I thought I would blog about snowboard bindings. When I learned to snowboard over 10 years ago I tried a bunch of different snowboard bindings on rental. If you decide to learn it’s the best way to go before spending cash. In this time I had some really bad experiences. Everything from bindings icing, to bindings letting go on the lift (that was an amusing face plant … NOT). And I came to appreciate the bindings from a company called Flow. They have a rear entry binding that does not involve the usual sit on the frigging snow and do up some ratchets. I loved them so much when my kid decided to try snowboarding it was flows all the way!
Over 10 years in, countless wipe outs, smashing into trees, trips to here and there I decided this winter was the time to replace my ageing bindings. Surely they’ve only gotten better? Last year I replaced my boots with a pair of K2 and they were a HUGE step forward in convenience and control I can only dream for something just as much of a step forward.
So I decided to try the new Flow Fuse Hybrid binding. It’s a cross between a a standard rear entry flow and a ratchet binding. The old saying jack of all trades master of none comes to mind. While the binding has a great cam based system that lifts the top of the binding when you pull down the rear entry to make it easier to get your foot in, the lock out system on the ratchets which is integral to using the rear entry is poorly designed. It is easily hit unlocking the binding waiting for you to put any pressure on the top of the binding and the whole settings for binding is lost. Your left on the hill starting again with a fresh set of bindings to set the tightness in the cold. It’s maddening. I tried for weeks to accommodate these as they were a step forward in so many ways. But could not find a way to live with these bindings. The only solution I saw was to put a cable tie around the lock to insure it never came unlocked. It never was a problem once in the binding, it was all around the time while your foot was out of the binding. On the lift for example. All in all it was an abysmal failure IMHO and I gave up and took it back.
My retailer Corbetts was amazingly supportive. They did not give me a hard time at all. They had heard from a few other customers the same concerns. So they offered up the lower end Flow Flite binding. This has a much better locking system and makes no attempt to act as a ratchet binding as the hybrid did.
Now if this were a happy story that would be the end. Sadly it is not. Flow have created a spring system that flips the back of the binding back up on this binding that makes getting into the back of the binding an act only a contortionist might accomplish. You need to hold the back of the lock out in place, hold the back of the binding in place, slide your foot in, all the while sliding on the snow, and then snap it in place. For me it was almost impossible. And getting the foot out was equally challenging. Again hold the lock, hold the binding and slide your foot out. I was only able to endure this one for a week and gave up. Back to Corbetts I go :(
Low and behold, three bindings later I have one that is almost as good as my 12 year old Flows! The binding has a clever mechanism that when you pull the back down to get out the top of the binding pops up to make it easier to get your foot in and out. It takes two clips (the back of the binding and one on the side) to secure the binding Vs the one on the flow that only required one, but it’s still a huge step forward from the two I tried above. Woohoo, I have a binding I can now live with. It doesn’t get reset when kicked and works well. I put cable ties to lock the setting of the toe part of the binding since that will never get adjusted anyway. One less thing to come loose and reset it’s setting. Time will tell if the GNU is as durable as my old Flows, but at least my time on the snow is not being ruined by frustrations with poorly designed bindings. I do find the narrower strap on the top of the foot is more uncomfortable in comparison to the older flow, but at least I can live with the binding. I can only hope Flow wake up and realize they broke something that was near perfect. In trying to make it better they ruined it :( Waaaaa.
Thanks for listening, now we can return to our regularly scheduled tech updates :)
- Dell Venue 10 Pro review
- Microsoft Wireless display adapter mini review
- Dell Inspiron 11 laptop review
- Garmin FR70
- Rdio Android app mini review
- Acer Switch 10 review
- Blackberry Passport mini Review
- HP Stream 7″ Windows tablet mini review
- UHS SD/uSD cards
- Flow snowboard bindings
- Fitbit Flex review
- Android Wear 5.02 update