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Windows Tablets Acer Iconia W700-6670 mini review

There are lots of tablet out there. I own a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus Android tablet and love it. Ultimate in portability and my travel companion any time I’m away from home. But most tablets have become an additional device. Not something that has replaced anything. iPads don’t really interest me, primarily because I HATE there content management system, better known to most as iTunes. I use an FTP/SFTP server to manage my content along with AndFTP and BotSync on android. Why would I want to connect my tablet (or phone for that matter) to a PC to add content (music, movies, pictures etc)?

Enter the Windows tablet. Now IMHO Microsoft have done the world a disservice. There are three types of Windows Tablets on the market today. Windows RT (that use phone like processors, think Snap Dragon etc) and Windows Pro Tablets that use either standard desktop processors (core i3 and i5) or less powerful (but better battery life) Atom processors. Now the brand Atom is not new. They were all the rage in netbooks. Anyone that owned one of these devices eventually ran into there many limitations. They sucked at multimedia, were limited in Ram and while they could run a lot of programs they did them poorly. According to CPU Benchmark the atom processors have the processing power of a Pentium III 🙂 A little more about the Atom processor. An interesting quote from that Wikipedia page: The performance of a single core Atom is about half that of a Pentium M of the same clock rate. For example, the Atom N270 (1.60 GHz) … deliver around 3300 MIPS and 2.1 GFLOPS in standard benchmarks,[25] compared to 7400 MIPS and 3.9 GFLOPS for the similarly clocked (1.73 GHz) Pentium M 740.[26].

This article does a great job of comparing the new Atom to the older Atom. The newer one has much faster video, and about 20% faster processor. Atom by the way runs only Windows 8 32bit, only support USB 2 (not 3), and is limited to 2G of memory.

Windows RT tablets do not run standard Windows programs. Frankly if I wanted a device that ran custom programs, and wouldn’t replace my desktop I would be reaching for Android. So I don’t really see the market segment for them. And the market is HUGELY confused by RT. I know I was.

Windows RT does not support flash, does not support Firefox, or chrome or other programs (out of the box). So compatibility with web sites is going to be a hit miss thing.

Windows 8 brought about the idea of Metro, a touch screen interface. Frankly on non touchscreen devices Metro is a nuisance. The idea of taking an interface that looks more at home and putting it on a laptop or a server perplexes me. But add a touch screen and Metro serves a purpose particularly for the less computer literate. Make it more approachable.

Enter the Microsoft Windows Surface Pro as well as others. Now this is an interesting concept. Now the idea of a Windows tablet isn’t new. Back in XP days there were a couple of them out there, but they predated the iPad and let’s face it the Apple invented this market and they went no where. A windows tablet has the possibility of doing it all. Replacing your laptop, replacing your desktop and maybe even replacing your tablet. A tall order.

I’ve briefly touched a Windows Surface Pro at a demo area. It’s an impressive device. It is heavier and thicker than any iPad or Android tablet. But the added functionality makes it worthwhile. IMHO. So what to look for? Well to start off focus on processor. If it’s not a core I3 or Core I5 you know it’s more than likely an RT (or a slow in the case of Atom) device with limited functionality and compatibility. Look for Bluetooth as you will use this to wirelessly connect a keyboard and mouse. Especially if you attach the device to an HDMI monitor. Speaking of which look for an HDMI connector so you can output to a big display. WIFI is a given. A microSD slot would come in handy for taking photos from your camera. At least 1 USB port preferably USB 3 would round out the compliment of ports. You need to for adding USB flash drives or a USB data stick.

I visited my local futureshop and found three companies. First the Microsoft Surface Pro (the Surface without the Pro is the RT one). The keyboard and power connector are pulled into the device by magnets. Similar to the Apple MacBooks. The keyboard detaches easily leaving you with the tablet. The base model is $899, keyboard is another $129. The base model comes with a 64G SSD drive. You need to be aware that this 64G is also occupied by the OS. Another reason why an SD slot and a USB port are very helpful. You can go up to a 128G model for another $100. It comes with a pen that can be used to navigate as well as to doodle, take notes etc. It’s a proper digitizer so it should be pretty accurate but I didn’t play with it. Not sure what the hand writing recognition is like either. It has a USB port, microHDMI port, microSD slot. The device is well laid out and has a bright and vivid screen. The keyboard includes a glide point and attaches securely to the tablet. There’s a stand on the back to prop up the device, albeit at one angle. All in all this is a beautiful design. The device is slick, responsive and nice to hold. It’s a little on the heavy side and not ultraportable but very nice and would be a perfect travel companion. The only physical difference I could see between the Surface and the Surface pro was the addition of vents out the top of the tablet to cool the Core i5 processor. It’s silent, but I’m not sure if there is a fan in it that might come on if needed.

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The second is a Acer Iconia W700. This device first caught my eye at $749 including a keyboard for the 64G model. I checked and after the OS is loaded there’s about 34G free. It’s powered by a Core I3 processor on the lower end model. The core i3 ought to give you better battery life and less heat. There is an upper model that is $849 that has a Core i5 processor. The unit has a USB port as well as a microHDMI port but no uSD slot. A miss for sure. It does have bluetooth and WIFI. The design is good with a little more of a metalic feel to it than the surface pro. It’s a bit heavier. It comes with a bluetooth kayboard that has a slot than when the tablet is inserted into the case it sits in. It’s not the most rigid of designs but it seems like it would work. The nice case would make it easy to carry too. All in all I like this unit. At $150+$129 (it includes a keyboard, the MS does not) less than the MS it’s a much more attractive price point. Futureshop had it on sale at $699 which is when I first saw it. The screen is bright and vivid and again seemed very responsive. There is no pen available for this device so if that’s something you may use then this device is out. The keyboard does not have a glide point so you may need to add a mouse.

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The last one Futureshop had was a Samsung Ativ 700T. This device is thinner than the other two. Looking a lot more like a traditional tablet, albeit a bit heavier. It comes with 128G of storage and comes in at a whopping price of $1299 but includes both a keyboard and a pen. Once again there’s a digitizer so the pen should be fairly usable, if that’s something you would use. It comes with a USB port, microHDMI port, Core i5 processor, and a miroSD slot. The keyboard is more firmly attached to the tablet and reminded me more of the Asus Transformer approach and includes a glide point. With the keyboard attached this looks more like a traditional notebook. Pop it out and it looks more like a traditional tablet. The keyboard includes the power cable as well as USB ports. The only miss for this being the perfect dock would be the fact that the HDMI port is on the tablet instead of the base. I can’t say a lot more about this device because they didn’t have one to play with but spec wise it looks impressive and even exciting. Although I have to say the price was really up there. In touching this device I think Samsung have out done Microsoft. It`s much more of a all round desktop functional equivalent.

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There are a couple things that positively shock me about this market segment right now. First and foremost is the small number of devices/players out there to choose from. Where are market leaders like IBM, HP, ASUS? And this leads to the second, the price. With little competition the premium over a laptop is staggering. A comparable laptop with touch would be around $499 and would have more expandability, albeit less portable. Even to the cheapest that’s a $250 or 50% premium. And lastly I am totally shocked right now there are no models with integrated cell radios for data? This particular one seems bizarre to me.

Update: I did find an Atom based Samsung 500T with an integrated AT&T LTE radio in it. But still have not seen a Core I3 or i5 based one.

I think these devices are the most exciting thing to hit the PC market place in a long time. It’s been very stagnant. I will eventually buy one of these form factor devices. I really do like it. The question right now is one of … when. It’s early days, the Surface Pro has only been on the market since Feb.

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April 7, 2013 - Posted by | Electronic gadget reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] been researching these Atom powered Windows 8 tablets for a bit now. I last posted about the new Windows tablets and discovered the Atom category of tablets I didn’t even know existed. It’s really […]

    Pingback by Samsung XE500t Atom Powered Windows 8 Tablet review « John Galea's Blog | May 1, 2013 | Reply


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