John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Surface Pro 4 i5 mini review

I got a chance to play with a Surface Pro 4 Core i5 128G 4G, model 1724. I’ve always been interested int eh Surface’s but have never really found a place for them in my digital life. I’m taking a course right now and all the notes for the course are digital. The Surface is a PERFECT choice for this. I take the PDFs from the course and then send them to One Note. I can then highlight, clip and write my own notes, it’s perfect. The larger screen is awesome, battery life is enough, weight is acceptable and it really works well. I don’t bother with the keyboard in class, not enough room, so just rely on the touch screen and pen. The Core i5 processor (6300U) is so much better than the Quad Core Atom Surfaces for general use. I connect to WIFI and then Surf during class when I need to look into something quickly that the class is covering. The 4G of RAM is pretty much always full and on swap. 8G would be so much better, but it is what it is. This model was released in Oct 2015 so this is NOT a new model, they currently are on a Surface Pro 7.

Processor: Core i5 6300U
Display: 12.3 inch, 2736×1824 at 267 PPI
292.10mm x 201.42mm x 8.45mm

Chipset is an Intel Skylake and the embedded video controller is Intel HD520.

The SSD is a PCIE Samsung mzflv128hcgr that clocks in at Writing speed: 150 MByte/s, Reading speed: 378 MByte/s according to H2testw v1.4 which is exceptional for the age of this machine.

The weight is fine for carrying around, but to try and hold it and write at the same time would not be practical, it’s why I bought the Samsung Tab A 8″.

The pen response on Surfaces is really good and OneNote works best on Windows with all functions proper implemented.

Port wise this has a complete set:
Full-size USB 3.0, microSD card reader (tucked under the kick stand), 3.5mm headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, and Type Cover port. Charging is done by a proprietary charge port. If there’s anything missing it’s that they do not come with a Kensington lock port. An oversight that has always seemed bizarre to me given how portable (thus easily stolen) these are. Given the age of the machine, of course there’s also no USB-C, but since there is USB3 you can live ok without it.

These can be had on ebay for $400, compared to $849+taxes for the Surface Pro 7.

You really can’t beat a Surface for it’s pen, performance and the like. The Kickstand for me, is still, not comfortable enough to be used on my lap for any extended period of time. Given this is a Core, proper suspend is present (unlike the connected standby on an Atom which guarantees the battery is always dead) meaning you get reasonable standby times … ie days.

As always, Windows really does not handle touch well. Multi tasking is clumsy, the onscreen keyboard is Ok, but clumsy, Chrome doesn’t work perfectly (try and hit the close or open tabs, or even forward and back with a finger), the list just goes on.

Overall I like this machine but not a chance it could be my ONLY device.

February 14, 2020 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Lenovo Yoga L390 mini review

I got the chance to play with this laptop so I put it through it’s paces. I have to say, I’m impressed. With a list price starting from $1143.35 this isn’t a bargain laptop but for what your getting it’s not unreasonably priced IMHO. Personally, I’ve given up on the concept of a two in one Windows machine, Windows just sucks as a tablet without a keyboard/mouse. But the party trick that Yogas have up their sleeve is they come with a pen, and then can be bent around 180 degrees to allow to use them like a tablet. For my day to day use this is just so much better. Not that I am going to be lugging this around a wine tasting taking notes the way I can with my Samsung Tab A, but it’s nice to have the choice to use the pen if I want to.

The specific model I have to play with is 20NT0004US. It’s powered by a Core i5 8265U Quad core hyper threaded processor, 8G DDR4-2666 RAM, and an Intel 620 HD display adapter.

The unit can be max’d out at 32G and has two SODIMM slots with the 8G it ships with occupying one. Upgrading is a little tricky in that you have to remove the back of the laptop to get at it.

This display is 1920×1080 which is ok, and the screen is reasonably bright and vivid. The bezel around the screen is moderately large, particularly on the bottom. The screen is of course a touch screen, personally I can’t imagine buying a laptop today for Win 10 that isn’t a touch screen.

The keyboard as always with Lenovo is excellent, backlit and includes a nice big touchpad as well as the usual touchpoint that I love. It’s great to have both options. Like any corporate workhorse the unit includes a Kensington lock slot.

Size wise it’s 322 x 224.2 x 18.8 (mm) and weighs in at 3.44lbs. Some of the other Yogas are a little lighter.

Port wise this laptop is top notch and includes everything you could ever hope for.
• 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1** (one Always On)
• 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1** Type-C (Power Delivery, DisplayPort, Data transfer)
• HDMI 1.4
• 4-in-1 Micro SD card reader
• Mini RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (Full-sized adapter sold separately)
• standard 3.5mm Headphone/Microphone combination jack

For a device this thin, this is impressive with only the wired Ethernet requiring a proprietary dongle, which can be had quite inexpensively for $24.95, which is the same one from some of the Carbons.

The laptop comes with a PCI-e SSD (you can see it in the above image), and this is the fastest SSD I’ve seen to date. I reran the test to be sure I wasn’t missing something, I wasn’t, blazingly fast. This one was a Writing speed: 512 MByte/s Reading speed: 536 MByte/s, measured using H2TestW. This beats even the Surfacebook I previously tested. It’s a Samsung MZVLB256HAHQ-000L7.

The unit comes with an active pen. The pen slides into the bottom of the laptop and is charged in it’s happy home. By having it’s own home, it’s always with you, I love this design.

If your a corporate warrior your going to love your docking choices. The old days of having a proprietary dock per laptop are long gone, thankfully. These days USB-C is all the rage and is a fantastic evolution of the dock. By removing one cable, your ready to go. Everything connects through the USB-C port. I’ve been raving about USB-C and can’t wait until EVERYONE converts. Yo Apple Wake up and move the iPads/iPhones to USB-C, NOW damnit 🙂 You have lots of choices for USB-C docks, from cheap to … not cheap. I’ve got a simple one I bought off Amazon for $25 that just provides power, USB and HDMI and it works perfectly well.

If you want more functionality you can buy USB-C docks from just about anyone. Lenovo offers a couple including their 40A9 which retails for $231 on Amazon. This one uses displayport rather than HDMI, but with it you can drive three monitors (two external and the built in). Close the display and the internal shuts off and your using just the two externals. Switching from dock to undock while not instantaneous happens quick enough to be usable.

Overall, I have to say, I’m significantly impressed by this laptop. Super quick, super upgradeable, acceptable weight, acceptable price. Lenovo really got this one spot on!

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Tablet Pen comparison

You my regular readers know I’ve been on a bit of journey, exploring pen enabled tablets. I thought I’d take a moment and give you a summary of my findings. In my readings I’ve found it really hard to find reviewers that focus on the pen, and in reality that’s what makes these particular tablets stand out of the crowd (for me). Let’s just start with a table.

It’s worth noting a number of these criteria, if not all, are very subjective. And what’s important to you might not be important to me and vice versa. The place I am using the pen is 100% Microsoft One Note. If you used a different app you might get different results. The reality though is OneNote is cross platform (and Web enabled for that matter), I can’t think of another choice. The number in the brackets is a numerical rating of that criteria for that tablet.

What do the criteria mean (to me):
Feel in the hand: How much does the digital stylus feel like a real pen in the hand?
Button location: Bad button placement can make for a clumsy interaction with the pen as you keep hitting it. No buttons makes overall operations clumsy
Writing feel: As you write does it feel like your writing on paper with a pen?
Palm rejection: When you first place you palm on the screen does it think it’s a finger?
Scroll detection: When you lift up your hand and want to use your finger to scroll does it switch modes quickly/smoothly?
Errant lines: As your writing does there magically appear a line out of nowhere?
OneNote Functionality: The only place OneNote is 100% functionally implemented is Windows 10. Windows 10 S on the Go it slightly less well implemented, and Android and iOS are missing functions. Everything from convert writing to text, convert a graphic to text and templates (as some examples)
Pen battery life: Self explanatory
Ease of erase: Microsoft implemented an eraser on the top of the pen which is brilliant and super convenient.
Pen manufacturer: If you know the manufacturer of the pen, you MAY be able to use other companies pens on your tablet. This is the case with the Surface and Asus transformer being interchangeable.

This tablet covers off ONLY the pen use. There are of course other factors for your choice of tablet, reality is you may want to do something else with the tablet rather than it being a single function device. If one was to weigh this into the discussion the Surface Go would fare MUCH worse, it’s a VERY poor performer, as an example.

Here’s the link to the various reviews:
Asus Vivotab Note 8
Surface Go
Surface 3

Samsung Tab S3
iPad 9.7

June 25, 2019 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Microsoft Surface 3 (Take two)

I seem to find myself in the minority, someone who uses a pen on a tablet to take notes. I say this because of how few tablets support pens, and then how poorly designed the cases for these tablets are for use with the pen. Ever since my Vivotab Note 8 exceeded my patience (due to constant relibaility issues) I’ve been on a bit of a tour around old and new pen enabled tablets. Most recently the epic fail Surface Go, the close but no cigars iPad 9.7 and the also close but no cigars (for different reasons) Transformer mini. So I started navel gazing as to … ok now what? I re perused the existing market place, old and new, for things I hadn’t considered.

I briefly considered the new Apple mini now with pen support. And while this looks like it might be perfect in a lot of ways, size and weight, the price is astronomical. I’d be looking at the $699 cell edition remembering that iPads ONLY have GPS if you get the cell edition. Double checking it seems that the pen is lifted from the iPad 9.7 so some of the imperfections of the pen use in Onenote would likely carry over. And of course the ridiculous power management (or lack there of) of the Apple pencil … I’m also super disappointed that Apple did not use USB-C deciding to opt for the ubiquitous lightning connector making power delivery limit and video options more clumsy. Recently I saw two major announcements on upcoming (this fall) developments for the iPad. First is the addition of mouse support. Why it’s taken this long for Apple to do this is mind boggling. This will open up whole new use cases for the iPad. Of course we have to wait and see what typical Apple behavior we can expect, ie what iPads are included. And secondly, the iPad finally get’s it’s own OS. So this could have some impacts on my future decisions?

I found a brand spanking new tablet that looks perfect, the Samsung P200/P205 although for now it doesn’t seem to be in North America. It looks to be an 8″ tablet with S-Pen support and USB-C. I guess this one is a possibility in the future. Price doesn’t look horrible.

So then I thought … hmm what about the Surface 3 I previously played with? I gave up on it solely because of price. As consumers we are often left trying to find the balance between what something costs and what we are willing to pay for it. In fact the new iPad falls completely into that category? Hmmm So I had a look and found one on kiijii for $260 used including a keyboard (not that I want or need the keyboard). I already have a Surface pen so at least there’s no expense there. I did a quick look around and had trouble, as always, finding a decent case with a hand strap. I almost gave up, and then I remembered … I bought a
generic hand strap for 10″ tablets on Amazonand sure enough it fits!

When dealing with the Surface 3 always remember that there are two versions 2G RAM 64G SSD and 4G RAM 128G SSD (and a third if you include the LTE). The 4G of RAM is pretty important for Win 10. I also noted, this generation of Cherry trail processor and chipset are not supported on Win 8, so don’t even bother trying (I did and got nowhere fast).

Size wise, repeated from previous artricles:
350g 136x211x7.95 Asus Vivotab Note 8 (560g with the case I use)
478g 240×169.5×7.5 iPad 9.7 6th gen (840g with the case I use)
522g 245x175x8.3 Surface Go 744g with the type cover and 880g with the case I use and no type cover
622g 267x187x8.7mm Surface 3
530g 262x175x8.2 Transformer Mini 798g with keyboard

2048×1536 iPad
1800×1200 Surface Go
1920×1280 Surface 3
1280×800 Asus Transformer Mini (it shocks me that Asus STILL use displays this low res)
1280×800 Asus Vivotab Note 8
So even thought the Surface 3 is an older tablet the high res display is still quite competitive.

Processor wise the Surface 3 uses a Z8700 Vs the Z8350 of the Transformer mini. It’s noticeably faster. It just goes on the other side of the unacceptable line. This chart compares the two processors.

SSD Speeds are 36.8/88.8 MByte/s (Write/Read), good, but not great by todays standards.
WIFI 5G speeds are 346 Mbits/sec which is comparable to a full size laptop.

As in the past connected standby even with WIFI disabled for connected standby varies wildly, I saw numbers from 1.8 to 1.3% per hour, well above the Microsoft specs of less than 1% per hour. This does not bode well for standby times which would be a little over two days. The only saviour would be to enable hibernate after a number of hours but this takes start up time from seconds in connected standby to 25 seconds from hibernate. Time from power off is around 30 seconds. Both are long when these are your only options to keep the battery from being always dead.

The default charger included is 5.2V 2.5A so 13W. This can charge the surface from dead in a little over 3 hours with the charge rate dropping off after 80%. I’m not sure I see any possibilities for quicker charge times, I tried a Qualcom Quick charge and it did no better.

Pen wise the surface’s have always been some of the best. So for now I think the Surface 3 is going to be my tablet of choice.

June 18, 2019 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Surface book mini review

I got a chance to briefly play with a Surface book (version 1). It really is a very different beast then other devices in the market. The unit consists of a “clipboard” and a base. I had originally thought of the clipboard like a Surface, but that’s not accurate. The clipboard has absolutely no ports on it. It does not have a kickstand to hold it. The power cable cable be used in the center of the unit without the base but honestly it just feels like your doing something odd … Personally I’ve tried unsuccessfully to use Windows 8 and 10 as standalone tablets (without a keyboard) and in the end been so underwhelmed by the experience as to be disenfranchised from the concept of a Windows tablet. The biggest let down being the keyboard.

There’s a battery in the base unit as well as one in the clipboard:
Surface Book total 69.0 Wh, 9,187 mAh, 7.5 V 12 hours
— clipboard 18.0 Wh 2,387 mAh, 7.5 V 3 hours (referred to in Windows as Battery 1)
— base 51.0 Wh 6,800 mAh, 7.5 V 9 hours (referred to in Windows as Battery 2)

With the stock charger which is 40W, the unit from dead takes over 5 hours to charge. Sheesh. There apparently is a 102W charger that MAY speed up the charge time for an additional $129, even the Microsoft store could not confirm if this would (or would not) speed up the charging.

As you can see the bulk of the battery is in the base. In terms of ports there are 2xUSB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, mini headphone/mic combo jack and ALL of these are on the base. As mentioned above the clipboard has none, zero, zip nada.

The placement of keys on the base is quite good and most things are where they ought to be with the exception of the home/end, page up/dn and insert which are oddly places on the PF keys. Being an old keyboard hound I use the PF keys so stick the Fn on which allows me to work more naturally but ends up clumsily on those out of place keys. Feel of the keyboard is not bad but there is very little travel to the keys. The glide point works well, probably one of the better ones.

I’m a hater when it comes to glidepoints, but I have to say, this is one of the best most sensitive glide points I’ve encountered. Even the right mouse button works properly on this glidepoint. VERY usable. I could live with this one!

The mechanism that joins the clipboard/base is a magnetic one that you lock and unlock by a button on the keyboard. The connection between the two feels super firm and the hing mechanism is one of the best I’ve encountered. The display is held nicely in place at the angle you choose. Really quite impressive. It still bounces around as you peck at the screen but still …


The big rub on a device like this is that a lot of money has been spent on allowing you to detach the clipboard. But by having no kickstand, and no ports your really not going to do this a lot so what’s the point? You might as well have a laptop.

The overall specs for this device are:
• Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 3GHz with Turbo Boost)
• Graphics: Intel HD graphics 520; Nvidia GeForce graphics (1GB GDDR5 high-speed memory)
• RAM: 8GB
• Screen: 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 (267 ppi) PixelSense Display
• Storage: 256GB PCIe3.0 SSD
• Ports: All on base2 x USB 3.0 , mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, mini headphone/mic combo jack
• Connectivity: 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
• Weight: 3.48 pounds (1.58kg)
• Size: 12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.90 (W x D x H) (312 x 232 x 13-22.8 mm)

The display resolution is outstanding and probably one of the best in the business. It’s bright, and crisp. It’s of course a touchscreen with a digitizer for the usual surface pen. The display aspect ration of 3:2 works well for all but movies in which case your looking at some letter box black around the movie. When you turn the device to use with the pen I can see why they call it a clipboard cause that’s what it feels like. It’s not the easiest thing to hold and it’s reasonably heavy so your unlikely to be walking around with it all day …

The pen as always with Surface works well. The end of the pen acts as an eraser, a thought that never crossed Apple’s mind on the Apple pencil. Why Apple didn’t learn from other people’s experiences is beyond me, but that’s typical Apple, reinvent the wheel … I do digress.

The fact that WIFI is done using MIO I can only imagine will present some speed limitations but I didn’t have a chance to test that out. The adapter is a marvell adapter which seems like an odd choice for such an expensive device. I would have expected Intel, I can only imagine it’s to do with the fact it’s MIO.

There is no wired NIC … You could have a docking station with one …

At 3.48 pounds this is a bruiser. The weight and solidness of this unit is super noticeable. The magnesium used in the build of the unit provides a sturdy, durable, quality feel, but the cost is a BIG weight. If you choose to use the clipboard it likely won’t be for long. I take notes digitally and there is not a chance I would carry this thing around in anything but an office environment for short periods of time.

There is no Kensington lock recepitcal on either so I guess they figure you won’t leave it alone for long. Surely you can’t live without it at your side at all times? This is particularly odd given the price and potential use in a corporate environment.

Plugging and unplugging the external display worked well once I told it my preferences.

The camera like most tablets lacks a flash of any kind. Not a biggie but worth noting.

The video conferencing camera has been designed with Windows hello in mind so you can use facial recognition to unlock the tablet. And this works surprisingly well, fast and convenient.

The SSD is a Samsung mzflv256hchp-000mv and it delivers speeds of 277MB/s write and 464MB/s reads. For reference the Asus T300 Chi I last tested got 177MB/s write and 175MB/s read according to H2TestW. This is quite impressively quick. There’s an old line from Max max … Speeds just a question of cost … how fast would you like to go 🙂

Memory wise it comes with 8G of DDR3 RAM, memory is not upgradeable (I believe).

All in all this is a pretty amazing machine with an astronomical price. Now would I put my cash down on it? Nope not a chance, but I will miss it …


March 14, 2019 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Ubuntu 15.10 review

Every now and then I get an itch to see just how far Linux has come. Ubuntu IMHO is the most consumer friendly of the Linux distributions. Like any fringe OS figuring out what of the hardware you have will not be supported is the first lesson you will learn. I often don’t want to commit my main machine to Unbuntu, and opt for some variation on multi boot. And thus the time burning begins. I have a variety of laptops/tablets in the house I can experiment with and live without so I start with them. A number of them are Atom based tablets (Asus T100, T100 Chi, Vivotab Note, Dell Venue 8 etc). You quickly learn (well not so quickly) that this is not going to go anywhere without a lot of work. And even if you manage to exert an untold amount of patience you will then figure out what isn’t supported. The T100 for example it turns out is a 64 bit processor that only supports 32 bit UEFI. Thanks Asus for that time waste. Got around that only to have the install hand on both the T100 and T100 chi.

So gave that up. I have a brand spanking new Asus T300 Chi based on a mobile CoreM processor so I thought let’s give that a go. Onto the next hurdle. First I tried dual boot. Well Ubuntu’s boot loader that allows you to choose whether you want to boot Ubuntu or Windows does not support Bluetooth keyboards (well daaaa) so after a bit of futzing I discovered the volume up and down are up and down arrow and the windows key is the enter. After a short period of time for some odd reason the touch screen totally stopped working. So I put Windows back on (from a Clonezilla backup).

Next up I decided to try and put Ubuntu on a USB key. The original install went well but as soon as the update happened it modified the boot loader on the hard drive of the machine. And with only one USB port it became challenging quickly. And having a tablet with a USB key dangling is not exactly convenient.

So I decided the best path was to go all in. So I wiped my T300 Chi and installed 64 bit Ubuntu. UEFI recognized the USB key once secure boot was turned off and the installation went well. You will need a USB hub, usb key, usb keyboard and usb mouse for the install. The WIFI adapter was recognized during the install which allowed me to install updates as it installed. Pretty much everything worked out of the box, audio, video, WIFI, touch screen and even suspend resume. This is one of the most seamless installs of Ubuntu on a laptop (let alone a tablet ever). The coreM based chipset has been well implemented in Ubuntu. Quite surprising really. The sole hold out oddly is the bluetooth enabled keyboard/trackpoint (dock). It sees it, tries to connect it, fails. Ubuntu does not recognize it as a keyboard.
Oddly my bluetooth Lenovo keyboard with touch point works perfectly.

The touch screen works largely as a mouse pointer but is supported by some apps. You can’t do zoom but scroll works on things like Chrome.

Performance on the T300 chi is very good. Smooth and responsive.

First up I loaded 64 bit Chrome from the Google website. It went in smoothly and insures that all your browsing experience is consistent across your all your machines. For me this is key. I could use Firefox which comes preinstalled but prefer Chrome. That way my bookmarks etc are come with me.

Second up from the Ubuntu Software center (USC) Kodi is there. Yay. Another key for me. I used the Kodi from the USC and had mixed results. I noticed starting a video, stopping a video and skipping through a video was all noticeably slower than on Windows. Some MP4s would not play at all. Odd given I have an older machine running KodiUbuntu flawlessly. So I loaded up Kodi from the web site and that seemed to solve the issues.

Ubuntu includes preinstalled an office suite called Libre.

Being able to RDP to Windows servers in the house is also key. I loaded up KRDC and it also works well. It properly supports right mouse button and all.

Performance is good but battery life is much worse than on Windows. On Windows I get about 4.8 hours, on Ubuntu I project about 3. I get As mentioned earlier suspend/resume works.

The onscreen keyboard is basic but can be resized to any dimensions you wish. Once configured it works fine but no auto correct and no word prediction.

There is no auto rotate on the screen and no auto brightness.

The T300 supports a pen, and the pen under Ubuntu is supported as a select tool. Using an app like pencil you can use the pen to draw.

The number one issue with Ubuntu is that, like Windows 8, Ubuntu eliminated the start menu. WTF. They depend on you remembering the name of an app you installed and then the use the search to find it. How exactly is that touch or tablet friendly? Really?

Ubuntu saw my network printer, added it on install but wouldn’t print to it. A common issue with Linux.

I went next onto another distribution of Ubuntu called Mint. Curiously the T300 bluetooth keyboard was seen perfectly. But I couldn’t find a decent RDP client so this was a drop dead item for me. Mint added back the start menu. A nice distro.

So all in all I am impressed with Ubuntu on my T300.

January 15, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Lenovo Yoga 12 review

It was new laptop time at work and I got this one. So you get a new review! The specs on this system are pretty stellar. Core i7 5600U, 8G memory, 256G SSD. The exact model is a 20DL 003AUS.

Physically the device weighs 3.48 lb and is 12.4 x 8.7 x 0.7″.

Specs for the SSD (from LiteOn): Model Name LCH-256V2S Buffer 256MB DDR3 Sequential Read Speed Up to 520 MB/s Sequential Write Speed Up to 290 MB/s,
Random Read Speed (IOPS 4KB)1 Up to 82,500
Random Write Speed (IOPS 4KB)1 Up to 72,500

I was able to get 113MB/s write and 290MB/s read (using H2TestW). This is one of the fastest drives I’ve seen to date.

The USB ports are USB 3 and the speeds out of it confirm that. I was able to get 154MB/s out of a USB 3 flash drive. (USB 2 would cap out around 20 MB/s). This is super important if your going to use a USB dock for example. Speaking of dock Lenovo designed a dock specifically for this tablet they call ThinkPad OneLink Pro dock. This dock is very different from a generic USB dock you commonly see. It has an extra wide connector and comes with a power cable as well. The cable rather than simply being USB 3 extends the PCI bus (I’m guessing) out to the dock. There are two video connectors: 1 display port and one DVI along with a converter to from DVI standard SVGA. These two displays then hang odd of the main video controller (rather than showing up as a separate USB video adapter. Similarly the ethernet is also not just USB 3 device, it too hangs off the PCI bus. There’s also a USB 3 hub with 4 USB 3 ports and two USB 2 ports. Lastly there is a second audio adapter with a 3.5mm standard audio plug. Lenovo spent a lot of time designing this dock. Architecturally it is VERY different than a generic dock.

Of course there is always also the generic USB 3 dock Lenovo sells also. It is worth noting there is no docking connector. So these two docks are your only choices.

Screen resolution is 1900×1080 which is good but not excellent compared to others.

Jack wise the unit includes 2 USB ports, a mini HDMI port (no display port, an odd choice for what is more likely a corporate device), a power/docking port (see above),an SD slot (not microSD) and that’s it. There is no wired ethernet so for a corporate environment you will likely need to purchase a docking station which then allows an ethernet as well as an external monitor. There is one that does it all in one connection to the laptop called a OneLink.

The unit includes a stellar Waacom (passive) pen for taking notes. Wow, very nice, and probably one of the best in the business. The Surface’s pen is great but it does require a battery. Likely a large percentage of the population will never use (or even notice) that this even has a pen.

The Yogas party trick is that the screen on the laptop can be bent right around so that you can use it like a tablet.
In this mode the keyboard is exposed and where you hand is trying to grab the machine. Lenovo were smart in that they disabled the keyboard/track pad etc when in this mode. They also raise a small outline to make the keys less exposed. But in the end your hand still feels odd holding the tablet this way.

The SD slot got 40MB/s out of a 48MB/s card. One of the fastest I have seen on any of the devices tested to date, and the only one not limiting. I’m not sure if the Sd slot is a possible boot device (most devices are not).

The keyboard and trackpoint are a thing of beauty on this laptop, as expected out of ThinkPads. For those so inclined there is also a glide point. I love the trackpoint, hate all glidepoints. The glidepoint is multi touch and includes the ability to page up and down. The keyboard is backlit. All in all well done!

The power switch is located on the side towards the front and can be all too easily hit by accident. Fortunately you have to push and hold it to do anything, but still … One of the few bad things I can say about this laptop.

The unit does not have a GPS so can not be used as a navigation device. Not a big loss given the size/weight.

The battery on the tablet is a healthy 49 WH.

There is a fan on the unit so it is not silent. The opening for the air is small so the sound from the tablet is noticeable.

This unit does not support connected standby. So all the usual limitations with this exist (no notifications while in standby, device has to catch up once woken up etc). But on the positive side it can remain in standby for days to weeks.

Now to say the price on this puppy isn’t cheap is an understatement of epic proportion. Think like $2000. A very impressive capable device if you can swallow the price!

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Dell Venue 8 quick review

Ok, now before you think, WTF isn’t that an old tablet? Well yes genius it is 🙂 Since my Asus Vivotab Note 8 isn’t reliable, and since the Toshiba Write 8 wasn’t supported in Canada I found myself back looking for a pen enabled 8 inch tablet. The Venue 8’s pen experience got really slammed when it hit the market as attrocious so I never considered it. But, my experience with the T100 Chi left me with, while not perfect, a good enough pen experience for taking digital notes. The Dell Venue 8 uses the same digitizer (Synaptics 7500) and pen as the T100 Chi, so I bought a used Venue off of kijiji super cheap to play.

Spec wise this is pretty typical for a device of this vintage. 32G SSD, 2G ram, Atom Z3740 Quad core processor, 1280×800 (yawn) display. There is no GPS in this device so you can’t use it for in car navigation. A shame given that Navmi is quite usable on Windows.

Other than the lack of GPS and the digitizer the tablet is so similar as the Vivotab note as to be identical. As always on 32G of SSD you end up with about 11G free (including a 4.7G recovery partition and 2G taken for the hibernate file). It always amuses me that Windows allocates a hibernate file wasting 2G of a 32G drive and then disables hibernate by default. By the time all current patches are done your down to about 2G free. Windows keeps lots of backup files to undo patches. 32G really is a minimal size.

Using the disk cleanup delete unnecessary files, then clicking on Cleanup system files, you get to see how much Windows update files are using. These are to be able to uninstall a patch. On my tablet (the screenshot is not from the tablet) it was just shy of 800M.

powercfg /h off turns off and deletes the hibernation file freeing up 2G. For some reason on the Dell hibernation isn’t enabled (on Win 8 anyway) and all the tricks I’ve used in the past to reenable it don’t work.

The battery is 4100maH in the Venue.

Charging as always is dead slow. I look forward to buying a newer tablet and having fast charge like I do on my S5. The microUSB port acts as charging as well as USB OTG. There is no microHDMI port. Thankfully there is a microSD port.

The charger is the ubiquitous 5V 2A 10W …

The 32G SSD clocks in around 32MB/s write, 71MB/s read, compared to 25/46 on the Vivotab, so quite good.

The pen on the Dell (I have a first gen Dell Active stylus) is not bad. I have read nothing but bad things about it but really it is ok. Dell had some issues early on and it got a really bad rep on the net. I guess a lot of that stink has not gone away. The pen is not perfect, and not as good as the Vivotab Note 8 but good. It works the same was as the T100, palm rejection does not start until the pen gets close to the screen. And there is a slight delay to when the pen starts writing at first. If your use to a Surface you will hate it. But as always keep price in mind, this is not an $800-100 tablet. By the way, one of the things that helps is to move the task bar from the default bottom (which just happens to be where your palm rests) to the top. It avoids accidentally starting the clock, onscreen keyboard etc. But you will need to change your sync settings otherwise all your machines will end up with the task bar on top 🙂 The Dell Active Stylus and the Acer Active Stylus are so similar I am pretty sure they are the same pen. I really wish the pens had an on/off switch to preserve the precious power of the pricey AAAA battery.

In doing some reading I found out lots of people are complaining about the palm rejection in Windows 10. It seems to be different/worse than in Windows 8. My testing was on Windows 8. So for now I will be leaving this tablet on Windows 8.

As a reminder, always remember one of the first things you ought to do is to create a USB Win 8/10 recovery drive. It allows you to get the system back to factory settings in the event something goes horribly wrong.

As is common on all these tablets the microSD slot is limited to 20MB/s so don’t bother rushing out to buy an uber fast card.

Also as usual the tablet has no flash for either the front or rear cameras.

So all in all the Dell Venue 8 is pretty much as expected (other than the disappointing lack of GPS)…


December 17, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Aukey 5 port desktop charger (mini review)

If your like me you have a selection of devices which need charging. I have a collection of chargers and a AC splitter to keep everything charged. So this device looked like it might be a solution. The device has 1 Qualcomm Certified Quick Charge 2.0 12V/1.5A 9V/2A 5V/2A port and 4 5V 2A ports. It has it’s own built in power adapter all in a compact package. The AC cable on it is a bit short. About the only thing I would complain about the unit. It included an 20AWG 3.3FT Quick Charge Cable. I’ve had issues with some of my devices being picky about chargers, so I tried a bunch of my devices. It worked perfectly with my Asus t100T, T100 Chi, Vivotab Note 8, Dell Venue 8 Pro, BlackBerry Q10, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPad mini 2 and Samsung S5. Basically it worked perfectly on everything … Not much else to say. It is one of the most flexible chargers I’ve encountered. And with all five ports humming it didn’t even get hot!


December 15, 2015 Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10, Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Lenovo USB 3 dock (mini review)

I got a chance to play with a Lenovo USB 3 docking station. It is quite an interesting product. The specific part number is A33970. The dock includes a single USB 3 connection in and in turn gives you a number of devices from the dock:
1) USB Audio
2) USB 1G ethernet
3) USB display adapter that supports two monitors. Resolutions on each up to 1920×1200 (I think)
4) USB 3 Hub

A simple 25MB driver installs everything you need.

From a port point of view it gives you (from the Lenovo web site):
5x USB 3.0 – 1 provides always-on mobile device charging
1x DVI-D
1x DVI-I
1x Gigabit Ethernet
1x Stereo/Mic Combo Port

With two video ports on this dock, the laptop display and potentially a fourth on the laptop/tablet for video out you could potentially get 4 monitors on one tablet/laptop.

The device makes it super convenient to connect and disconnect your laptop from all your desktop accessories. It has pretty much everything you need. There is also one that is a bit cheaper than has only one video port. While this device could be used on USB there is no way the USB video would be able to keep up.

I played with this device with my Asus T300 as well as my Lenovo Yoga 12. I had no issues with either but I did find it sometimes took a reboot for all the devices to work perfectly again (for example the video to restore itself). I didn’t live on the T300 for long but performance seemed fine. I do notice the occasional flicker but that is being super picky.

All in all a neat product with lots of potential for limited price.


December 15, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment