John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Windows 8 tablets a rant

I’ve lived with a Windows 8 tablet for a while now and while there are new generations of tablets coming out, and Windows 8.1 is out now, little has changed. I’m reminded of back when Microsoft was faced with a dilemma with Windows Mobile back in 2003. They had come to realization that to be touch screen enabled, well more to the point finger friendly, they had to make a break from the past and do a total rewrite. The days of the stylus were dead. Long live the finger.

Fast forward to now and we seem to find ourselves in the exact same place and it seems Microsoft have not learned much from the past. The reality is this, Windows (at this point in time) is not a finger friendly environment. Step outside of the metro interface, and the Metro apps, and the finger is truly in need of a stylus or pen, or mouse. Go ahead and try it. While a touch screen is a natural evolution of Windows, and while I enjoy and will no longer live without a touch screen, one can not, with Windows in it’s current state, live without a keyboard and mouse. I dare you to try it. Navigate even within the operating system, not even mentioning the applications, without a keyboard and mouse (touch screen only). See how frustrating it is? And if you want an even more frustrating experience try and select some text (for copy and paste) on the screen with just a finger. See how many tries it takes you. Want a simple illustration? Let’s talk about the simple title bar which is everywhere in Windows.
You use it to close, maximize and minimize the Windows in any desktop screen or app. Now try and click one of those with your finger. Now try that on a small 8″ tablet. How did you make out?

The first generation Atoms are severely limited in processing power and memory. The newer generation of tablets has brought the ante up from dual core to quad core but did nothing to resolve the number one issue with Atom, a max memory of 2G. Next thing you know Windows is closing apps, closing browser tabs without asking or telling I might mention, all to preserve the limited anaemic amount of memory you have.

And Microsoft have done some truly stupid things with Windows 8. For example, on a device with a keyboard why am I am constantly faced with an onscreen keyboard. What raving lunatic would use an onscreen keyboard when a physical (or Bluetooth for that matter) keyboard is attached. The solution by the way is to disable the “Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel Service” in services for any computer not used as a tablet. But really do we need every user on the planet to figure this out themselves? Can’t you (Microsoft) figure that out yourselves? Are your programmers really this stupid? Did they actually use their own products? How about dynamically adjusting this based on whether a physical keyboard is or is not attached? Is this rocket science?

Personally speaking I jumped aboard the first generation Windows 8 Atom based tablets despite recommendations from friends to not do so (you were right Lance). I bought a Samsung XE500T dual core Atom powered Windows tablet for $700. At the time it seemed like the right choice. Fast forward to now and the same device is worth barely $300. In less than a year. The memory is a huge limitation, and the processor is a big limitation. I’ve abandoned the Windows tablet and gone back to a Windows 8 touchscreen laptop the Asus X202 with a core I3, and 4G of memory and it s a huge improvement. And over Christmas I had bought a Dell Venue 8 Pro on sale at Future Shop for $199. I took some time to contemplate the purchase and thought to myself this:
1) I already have the Samsung 11″ Windows tablet which I have come to figure out is not all that useful in touch screen only mode
2) No HDMI output which means I can’t use it at friends places, hotels etc to play movies
3) is still limited by 2G of memory
4) and does little more than I can already do with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Plus 7″ Android tablet
And promptly returned it unopened.

Now that said, I like Windows tablets. They can finally replace a desktop and aren’t just another device. Add them to a dock and you can have truly mobile functionality. But skip Atom. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out 2G of memory is going to be a limitation. Go with a Core I3 minimum. And set your expectations if you buy a tablet. Once you get outside Metro you are going to need a mouse and keyboard.

I find myself pondering, where is the king of touch in all this (Apple)? Why is it that none of the Macs have any form of touch screens?

Ok I feel better, do you? 🙂


March 4, 2014 - Posted by | Electronic gadget reviews

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