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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.
t300-chi
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.
tp_onelink_pro_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.
lenovo-laptop-convertible-thinkpad-yoga-12-black-tablet-mode-8
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.
lenovo-laptop-convertible-thinkpad-yoga-12-black-keyboard-in-detail-14

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.
cleanupcleanup-2

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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)…

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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!

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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 โ€“ 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.

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

T300 Chi review

This is an early release of my review, put out for a bud that wanted to hear my thoughts. I will update once I’ve lived with it for a while.

After I bought a T100 Chi I got a shot at a refurb T300 Chi (I will refer to it as the T300 from here in to save typing, but be aware there is a T300 (non chi)). The regular price is 999 and I scooped it from nMicroVip for $569. At 999 I wouldn’t consider it but at 569 it is a real contender. After getting my Asus Vivotab note fixed a pen portable device was less important so I can now choose a larger screen. The one on the T300 is 12.2 Vs 10.1 inch on the T100, and the size increase is surprisingly noticeable. The T300 feels more rectangular. Asus stretched the size of the keys on the keyboard rather than reorganize them into a more normal orientation. The one I got is an English/French keyboard (unfortunately). The keys on the T300 are for the most part in exactly the same spot as the T100. With the exception of enter and the shift keys are larger on the T300 the keyboard is the same as the T100 (albeit bigger keys). The keyboard really does feel very good. It is a lot more rigid than that of the T100 (something I complained about on the T100). The track point however does not seem to be a multi point and lacks gestures. Even slide two fingers down as a page up/down doesn’t work. Very odd. The spacing and magnets of the T100/T300 are not compatible (meaning you can not put the T100 on the T300s dock. They actually magnetically repel each other. Another odd choice. But how many people are going to own a T100 and a T300 anyway so this is a who cares …

Like the T100 the connection between the dock and the tablet is magnets (ie no physical lock) and Bluetooth. So no connector to wear out as it did on the T100TA. If the T300’s dock is as good as the T100 I get weeks out of a charge. And the keyboard can be used while charging.

Comparing the two:
T300 – 12.2 Vs 10.1
T300 720g Vs 570g (without the keyboard The T300 is 1430g with the keyboard). The weight difference on the lap is quite noticeable. Not to say the T300 is heavy but it isn’t light either.

T300 317 x 191 x 16 mm) with keyboard 0.28 without
T100 265 x 174.5 x 7.2 / Dock – 265 x 174.5 x 13.2

Screen resolution is 2560×1440 which is terrific! The high resolution screen does have a downside, buttons to click are smaller in some cases then they ought to be making it harder to use as a touch screen. Sadly the on screen keyboard does not scale down well in cases like this, still taking a large part of the useable space.

Processor wise the T300 is a HUGE step forward from the T100. I have lived with anemic processors and memory for quite a while now. All in the interest of weight, size, heat and battery life. This was a compromise I was willing to make. The T300 uses a Core M processor, specifically a 5Y10C. The processor is a dual core, hyper thread enabled processor. The T100 is a quad core atom. Windows updates, app store installs all are noticeably faster on the Core M Vs the atom. A place where the atom really is dog slow. The speed of the Core M is quite good and quite noticeably faster than the Atom. Everything just moves. The Core M by the way is entirely passively cooled (ie no fan) so is a totally silent system. And since the dock is nothing more than a Bluetooth keyboard it is completely cool. The whole unit is a bit tippy given the top heavy tablet. Asus could have added a second battery into the keyboard dock or some dead weight to balance it out but they did not. The Core M also includes all instructions sets (while the Atom is limited). The Core M is really in a different class. CPUBoss does a good job of comparing. There are a number of architectural compromises that were made with the Atom that creates bottle necks, from what I can see the Core M does not suffer from there. For example on the T100 Chi I was only able to get 50MB/s off of a 122MB/s USB 3 flash drive. On the T300 I get full speed USB 3 (so got the 122mb/s the drive is capable of). This is especially important if you are going to try and use a USB 3 docking station with video and USB 3 ports. The T300 Chi could be used in this mode (while the T100 would be more limited).
cpu

Another area the T300 is head and shoulders above the T100 is memory. The T300 I bought comes with 8G while the T100 caps out at 2G. This additional memory just makes things smoother and opens up a number of possibilities including running VMs (possible because the Core M support virtualization, something the atom doesn’t but with only 2G of memory wasn’t happening anyway). Speed wise the memory interface according to Intel goes up to 25.6GB/s Vs 17 on the atom.

For all the nauseating levels of detail checkout the Intel product sheet for the 5Y10 and the Atom 3775.

Another architectural limitation of the Atom is that the SSD is what is called an eMMC. On the T100 this clocked in at 32MB/s write and 78.5MB/s read (which is competitive in this space). The T300 uses a Sandisk integrated SSD, an i110 128G. It clocks in at 177MB/s write and 175MB/s read according to H2TestW. This speed difference is a pretty noticeable boost. The Core M could have supported an even faster drive if Asus had wanted to. Everything is about choices and compromises. As they say in Mad Max speed is just a question of cost. How fast you want to go is just a matter of how much you wanna spend!

The charger on the T300 has gone back to a proprietary barrel charger pumping out 19V 1.75A or a whopping 33 watts. Compare this to the T100 5V 2A 10 watts.

Since I bought refurb I am not sure if the cables I got were the ones Asus shipped or not, but what I got was a standard USB 2 OTG cable. Testing revealed it slowed the USB 3 interface down significantly (down to 35MB/s Vs 122 MB/s the USB flash drive I was testing was capable of). Fortunately I had my own USB 3 OTG cable to get around this issue and they are cheap. It’s worth purchasing and a MUST if your going to use a USB docking station. It also came with a micro USB to micro USB cable long enough to go from the tablet to the dock, allowing you to charge the dock from the tablet or both at the same time. Something that was missing from the T100. Thanks Asus! The cable does not allow you to use the dock as a USB device however so in an environment like a plane where Bluetooth is not allowed, you will be without a keyboard. Seems to be something Asus didn’t think of.

There was no pen included. I have seen some reviewers comment about it coming with one. Not sure if this is decided country by country or not. The pen is compatible with the Acer active stylus or the Dell Venue 8 pen, so I would guess a Synaptics. The pen works the same as on these other devices. It is a little slow to start doing palm rejection and then once the pen gets close enough it is fine. It leads to errors, some frustration and misclicks. It’s not horrible but by no means anywhere near as good as the Waacom based pens (or the one on the Surface). Compared with the T100 and the Dell Venue 8 pro I would say the palm rejection on the T300 Chi is actually the worst ๐Ÿ˜ฆ In doing some reading I found out lots of people are complaining about the palm rejection in Windows 10 where I did my testing. It seems to be different/worse than in Windows 8. There is a crude by effective work around to the issue. If you wear a glove on the hand you write with it totally eliminates the issue.

Port wise there is a proprietary charge port, a micro USB 3 port (for USB OTG, does not charge from this), a micro HDMI port (yay), and a standard 3.5mm head phone jack. There is a micro SD slot oddly located on the bottom of the tablet. It is accessible with the dock on it but it is in such an odd spot I had to looking for it. As with pretty much every tablet I’ve played with the micro SD slot is limited to around 25 MB/s (likely a USB 2 connection internally). So don’t go out spending money on super fast micro SD cards because this tablet will not use it.

For some odd reason the recovery partition which is usually 4G is a whopping 15G. So of the 128G, it starts out at 102G and with everything up ends up with 84G free. Lots of space but worth noting. Once you have created a recovery drive you can delete the recovery partition and recover 15G if needed. 128G really is a comfortable size for an SSD for my use. Honestly, anything 64 and above is.

The T300 is only the second device I have seen that comes with hibernation enabled. Very nice. As always it is missing from the start menu but can easily be added.
hibernate
Once in hibernate the system consumes no power so can stay indefinitely, but coming out of hibernate takes a bit so you only want to have it go into hibernate when needed. Asus had it set to go into hibernate after 2 hours on power or battery. Why you would bother with hibernate when on power (much slower to boot) is beyond me, so I turned that off.

This tablet supports hibernate, sleep, and hybrid sleep. Hybrid sleep is turned off by default. From sleep it took about 1-2 seconds to come on, and from hybrid sleep 2-4 seconds. I’d never heard of hybrid sleep this article explained it (sort of).

This tablet does not support connected standby which on Atom allows the computer to do notifications when new mail comes in while the computer is in sleep. This same connected standby without hibernation can lead to dead batteries. I’ve always preferred the old style standby anyway. It’s worth noting a few implications of not having connected standby. Mail/calendar are not kept up to date constantly. They are updated only once the device is woken up. The device will NOT wake up from a bluetooth keyboard button press.

This system woke from hibernate in about 10 seconds which is pretty quick. Likely attributed to the fast SSD. Given the system supports old style standby which can last somewhere between days to weeks I am not sure I see a point in using hibernate on this machine.

Asus were super focused on the weight and thinness of this device. So much so you see people comparing it to iPads. The trade off on this is battery life. In about 3 hours of use writing this article, web browsing, some installing and the like the battery went from 100% to 38%. That would project the battery life to be about 4.8 hours. Not as bad as I had read but nowhere near as good as Atom which on the T100 was about 8 hours. This is the price you pay for the power of the Core M on a super thin tablet. The performance difference between the Atom/Core M as well as the 2G Vs 8G is really quite noticeable, though I must say … Battery size on the T300 despite being a 12.2 inch tablet is roughly the same size as on the 10 inch T100, 31000 (Vs 29000) mWh.

The tablet went from 35% back up to 95% in 1.5 hours which projects to a full charge in 1.5 hours. This is stunning in comparison to 7 hours on the T100. Clearly the high wattage charger is doing wonders to reduce charge time and justify the proprietary charger.

I had a chance to try this tablet with an Lenovo ThinkPad 3 dock. The tablet was able to drive three monitors. I didn’t live on it for long but it seemed to work just fine. Theoretically you could support a fourth but I wasn’t able to try that.

Of all of the tablets I have played with of late the T300 Chi is by far the most stable/reliable device I’ve used. Yes including the surface. Inevitably other devices would fail to wake up, blue screen or need a reboot to fix an issue. In over a month since using the T300 it has done this only once and it was the Bluetooth keyboard failing to connect that needed the reboot. Even the WIFI is rock solid. Impressive.

I tried to load Ubuntu 15 on my T100/T100 Chi and got nowhere. Asus decided to put only a 32 bit UEFI on the tablets in spite of it being a 64 bit processor. Even getting around that Ubuntu install hung, so I never got Ubuntu on the T100/T100 Chi. The T300 on the other hand loaded Ubuntu well. Shockingly in fact. The touch screen worked, and Ubuntu even has a crude on screen keyboard (no auto correct or word prediction). The on screen once tailored works reasonably well. The main stumbling block I ran into using Ubuntu on the T300 is I could never get the keyboard/mouse of the T300 dock to connect. Kinda a key thing. That and after using it for a short period the touch screen entirely stopped working. Odd.

The T300 being used in two different physical layouts (a tablet and a laptop) means finding a case a bit of a challenge. And having to remove the case to use it as a laptop and put it back on to use it as a tablet is clumsy and inconvenient. So much so it impeded my use of the device as a tablet. I first bought a ASUS T300 Chi Case – MoKo Slim-Fit Multi-angle Folio Cover Case from Amazon. I like the case and it worked the way I like a case to work as a tablet but was too tight to quickly and easily remove it. When I tried to use the T300 as a laptop with the case still on the weight of the case made it way too tippy to be usable. So scratch that idea.
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Next up I decided to try ASUS T300 Chi Case – MoKo Ultra Slim Lightweight Smart-shell Stand Cover Case again from Amazon. This worked out a whole lot better. With the case on the bottom part of the tablet that makes connection with the keyboard is exposed making it possible to still dock the tablet. The laptop will not close with the case on the tablet however I found a simple solution to the issue. I put velco on the bottom of the tablet side of the case and on the outside of the flap. Now when the case is attached and I am docked the flap comes around the back and stays in place. The weight added is not enough to make the laptop unstable and the laptop can easily be closed. Slip the tablet out of the dock unleash the Velcro and you have a case for both uses. I put two pieces of Velcro about 1/4 in on both side of the tablet. I had tried it in the middle but it got in the way of comfortably carrying the device. So all in it solved my issue.
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So in the end do I like it? I do. The big bright screen is amazing. Performance is wonderful. Pen is acceptable for occasional use. The low battery life is offset by fast recharge times. The keyboard is wonderful despite the poor touch point. I like the Bluetooth dock (no issues with mechanical connections, Vs trade off of having to charge a second device). All things considered, I would have to say the T300 Chi is the best two in one device I have used to date, including the Surface 3, and will become my main computer in the house.

December 12, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | 2 Comments

Microsoft Surface 3 review

Hot on the heels of the T100 Chi review (I will refer to the T100 Chi as just the Chi from here on) I did I decided in spite of some of my reservations with the Surface to go ahead and grab one. It was on Black Friday sale for $140 off. Now even with that discount the surface is no bargoon. But I have heard so many people rant (pros and non pros alike) about the surface that I decided to try for myself. Now buying it and keeping it are two different things. The reality is that at $639 Vs $419 that I paid for the T100 Chi it has be better enough for me to justify it in my mind. And that by the way is WITHOUT a keyboard on the Surface (Vs with on the Chi). Which is another $150. But honestly, while I like the thinness and convenience of having the Surface’s type cover I am not sure I like the the feel of the keyboard. I guess I can make up my mind on that later. At $150 it is not a cheap keyboard. And of course I have my Lenovo Bluetooth keyboard that I love anyway …

My use case is for a general use tablet, used primarily on my lap, along with digital note taking using a stylus on the go, out and about. So a dual use device.

Say anything you want, but the physicals on the Surface really are a thing of beauty. The screen is bright and crisp. The materials all feel top quality.

Out of the box the Surface came with Windows 10. A first for me. The Chi had to be upgraded from Windows 8. The Surface also on first boot asked about setting up a PIN. Something that makes using a Windows tablet a whole lot more convenient. Why this has not come up at setup on any other device is a mystery and easy to setup anyways but none the less …

Weight wise the Surface weighs in at 622g (Vs 570 for the Chi). Not as light as other tablets but that is the price of having a solid well made tablet. Magnesium is heavier than plastic ๐Ÿ™‚

Thickness is 8.7mm (Vs 7.2mm on the Chi). The edges are angled Vs round. The added thickness and weight are noticeable.

The surface’s screen is 10.8″ (Vs 10.1 for the Chi). Of course this unique size means none of the universal 10 inch tablet cases fit. Resolution is 1920×1280 (Vs 1920×1200 for the T100 Chi). I applaud Microsoft (and Asus) for making a higher resolution device. So many others are not … This really is a VERY good screen for the market. I am at the point where this is something that is a decision maker for me (screen resolution).

Jack wise the tablet comes with a microUSB charging port (which also can function as USB OTG), a full size USB 3 port (yay!), a display port (pooh, I would have WAY preferred an HDMI port) and a standard 3.5mm audio jack. There is a dock you can get for it that adds ports and makes it even more convenient. There is a power button on the top of the unit that is very well designed and easy to press, probably one of the better ones on the market. It’s a small thing but makes it a whole lot less irritating than pressing the button a couple times before the darn thing powers on (which happens sometimes on my T100). There is no physical Windows key, instead there is a soft key on the front of the screen which for me is WAY better anyway. A much better choice.

The power adapter on this one is different than other Surfaces, it is a standard microUSB rated at 5.2V 2.5A or 13W. The positive is that it is not a proprietary adapter, you can use a normal cell phone charger with it. The negative is you are limited in the current that could be used to charge the device faster. It does have a nice light to show you it is charging but the light does not change color once fully charged. The tablet went from 57% to 93% in 1 hr 52 mins which would extrapolate out to 5.2 hours to charge from dead (down from 7.1 on the Chi).

The mini display port can be converted to HDMI (including audio) or VGA or DVI with converters which are sold inexpensively on Amazon ($10-20). I bought a VicTsing (that’s the brand name) off of Amazon for $14. It has both HDMI out as well as VGA. Both work fine, but I decided to try both at the same time. Oops bad idea. It consistently crashed the Surface :=(
download
The HDMI by the way did include the audio, and muted the speakers on the tablet so it worked perfectly. Amazon also have smaller ones with just HDMI (or just VGA) as well. It is one more dongle to carry around, but your not carrying around a USB OTG cable so I guess it’s a wash ๐Ÿ™‚ There are a number of what are called MST hubs that can take the single mini display port and drive two monitors (such as a Startech MSTMDP122DP). The Surface apparently supports up to three.

The tablet is sold with 2G Ram/64G SSD or 4G Ram/128G SSD. The one I bought is 4G/128 and was $139 more than the 2G/64. I could care less about the extra SSD but the RAM was important to me.

The SSD on it gets 33.5MB/s write and 66.7MB/s read (Vs 32/78 for the Chi). So very similar. I had hoped this would be an area Microsoft would have spent some cash on to justify the elevated price and given the tablet a performance edge. Sadly … not. This is a rare area where the surface is a me too product.

The kickstand is a throwback to past surfaces in that it is not infinitely adjustable. Behind the kickstand is the microSD slot, which you could easily miss if you didn’t know it was there. The kickstand works well on hard surfaces but really was never made for your lap. I have to say I was surprised the kickstand did not bother me on my lap as much as I thought it would.

One of the big pluses of the Surface is the pen. The Surface 3 pen is $49. The newer pen for the Surface 4 is compatible with the Surface 3, but is a lot more expensive, $79. It includes new functionality within OneNote including an eraser on the top of the pen and programmable buttons. This is now the third generation of pen for the surface and it keeps getting better. Microsoft keep evolving it nicely. The Surface 4 pen now includes a light when pairing (so you know its doing something), can be twisted at the top to turn it off (brilliant) and the button on the top has more functionality. Why this can’t be achieved through software on the older pens is beyond me, but none the less, the button on the top when pressed and rubbed acts as an eraser, single push the button and OneNote (metro version) is launched, double click it and the you get a screen clipping tool. All very nice. The button on the side of the pen is now a lot more recessed. This is good and bad. First of all it’s much less common to push it by accident but it is also harder to find/press when you really want it. And there are no longer two buttons on the pen (as there is on the surface 3 pen) there is only one. The pen tip can easily be replaced and their are three different pen tip sizes that come along in the box. There is no argument the pen on the Surface is the best in the business. If you have to have a pen this is the one to have. But given that others come pretty close, is it enough to justify the premium extracted for this device (and the pen itself)? That’s up to you to decide. Considering how most of the other vendors leave you on a magical (or frustrating) quest to find a pen for your tablet and replacement parts, Microsoft embrace the tech of the stylus! Interestingly, of the few people I know with Surfaces, a number of them rarely if ever use the pen ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

On the T100 Chi the USB 3 port seemed to be limited and capped out at 50MB/s. On the Surface no such burden, I managed 123MB/s out of a USB flash stick (limited by the speed of the flash stick) that gets about the same on other computers. This is important if you are going to use a docking station (for video and the like) or want to add a hub etc. Sadly the microSD slot is still limited. On the card capable of 48 MB/s I only get 29 MB/s. Same was true on the Chi.

I went to download Chrome and Google wanted to load the 32 bit version. Being the bright light bulb I am I decided to go with the 64 bit version since the Surface is running 64 bit Windows. Sadly 64 bit chrome ran like a dog, was jittery and scrolling was a throw back to days past. Uninstalled 64 bit and went back to 32 bit and all is now well with the world. This was going to be a show stopper. I use Chrome all the time on all my devices.

The Surface does not have a built in GPS so you can not use it as an in car GPS. Frankly the 10″ is too big anyway so no big loss there. The T100s don’t have one either btw …

The Surface is the first device I have seen that had hibernate set by default. It was set to 6 hours. Why this isn’t the default for all Windows tablets is a mystery to me. Leave your tablet in connected standby mode and eventually it will be dead. Why not use hibernate for long periods of inactivity? Hibernate is still not an option on the power drop down but can easily be added.

In 6 hours in connected standby the battery went down 9% or 1.5%/hr. The T100 chi was better at 1% per hour.

I’d love to have a laundry list of things I don’t like about the Surface. if price was not an option than this review would be dead easy. But who doesn’t have more things to buy than money will pay for? Places to go, things to see, wine to be drunk, food to be eaten … The Surface is an amazing device. Probably one of the best Windows tablets to date, even without the stellar pen. Performance is good, display is excellent, reliability is above average. Lets do a comparison with the T100 Chi:

Physicals:
Well this one goes to the T100 Chi. With it’s included great keyboard, infinite angles for the display, thinner and lighter form factor T100 Chi is hands down the winner. And it’s lighter too. Since the Chi is more of a standard size my universal 10″ cases also work. So I would need to buy a case just for the Surface, yet another expense

Processor:
The Surface wins this one with the Cherry trail supporting 4G of memory and faster than the Bay Trail in the T100. But in reality the performance difference even comparing 2G Vs 4G of Ram is not night and day.

Display/SSD:
A wash. So similar as to be identical.

Jacks/ports:
Connecting to the outside world is important. The Surface gets the nod for having a full size USB 3 and not limited in speed. The T100 Chi gets the nod for including HDMI but a $20 adapter renders this moot.

Pen:
The pen on the t100 chi is fine, but just does not compete in the same league as the surface. The palm rejection on the T100 is definitely more hokey than on the surface. And the run around I got from Asus about the pen, the hours burned researching what pen actually worked, and how good it was is really a complete waste of consumers time (frankly any sane person would have given up). Asus really need to learn better customer support while they still have customers like me to kick about …

Cost:
Well this one is also dead easy, hands down winner is the Chi. For the Surface even at the reduced price it was $599 + $79 pen (the Chi’s was $49) + $150 keyboard (included on the Chi) + $15 display port to HDMI converted $20 (Vs $5 USB OTG cable for the Chi). Sheesh.

And now the conundrum, I surely don’t need both the T100 Chi (as well as my older T100 TA) as well as the Surface. What to do …

December 3, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Asus T100 Chi review

I’ve had an Asus T100TA for a little over 6 months now. I love it. The battery life is excellent, speed is good enough, it’s light, powers on quickly and is completely silent. It’s a constant companion on my lap and is comfortable there. That said all has not been perfect. I bought a refurb’d model and from the start the space bar has been problematic. The connector between the keyboard and tablet has gotten worse and worse over time. This is a common theme. I had issues with the Dell Venue 10, Acer switch 10 amongst others.

To help clarify the previous generation was a T100TA, this one is the T100 Chi, and the recently announced model is the T100HA. The names are so similar even I confuse them. I will mention all three throughout the post (for comparison purposes).

So I started to look for a replacement. There aren’t a lot that I haven’t already played with and had issues with. Couple that with the fact that I had to give up on my Asus Vivotab Note 8 after constant reliability issues with the pen and I started looking. If I could find one tablet that would allow me to take digital notes (with a pen) as well as be my main laptop that would be a big win. The Surface 3 is an enticing device with a stellar pen, good performance and great battery life. But I have a REALLY hard time swallowing the price. Add to that it doesn’t have HDMI (without buying a $50 converter) doesn’t include a keyboard or pen at an already elevated price, and I hate the kickstand. How is that sharp edge EVER going to be comfortable on my lap? Am I the only one that uses a laptop on, oh I don’t know, MY LAP?

ASUS-Transformer-Book-Chi-CES-2015

So onto the T100CHI. It is a nice improvement in specs over it’s predecessor, mostly incremental. Build quality wise it’s a nice step up, well sort of (more to come on that topic). It feels much more solid with aluminium on the tablet itself. The biggest change is they have moved the connection from the keyboard and tablet to bluetooth and used magnets to hold the two together, no more mechanical latch or release button. Just grab and yank. Oddly the newer T100HA has gone back to a mechanical connection? Can you say WAFFLE.

It’s amazing how a company can be both brilliant and daft at the same time. Poor follow through on an idea. Here’s what I mean. Given the keyboard is bluetooth it has to be charged. There is no direct connect between the keyboard and tablet even when docked (which could have been easily done). So you need to manually charge the keyboard from the tablet. Asus only provide one cable/charger to charge both the keyboard and tablet? Duh. I tried taking a USB OTG cable from the USB 3 port (more about this in a bit) and wrapping it around to the keyboard and it works so Asus could have easily provided a cable to do that, but they didn’t. They were at least bright enough to insure you can use the keyboard even while it’s being charged. Yay. And the micro USB ports for the tablet and keyboard are right on top of each other so you better make sure you get the right one or next day you will wake up to a well charged keyboard and low or dead tablet (yes I did it once). I bought a micro USB to micro USB cable off of Amazon and sure enough it works perfectly to charge the keyboard from the tablet. Again no idea what Asus didn’t include one.

Asus brilliantly included both a micro USB 2 and micro USB 3 port on the tablet. What this means is you can have the tablet connected to a USB device (like a keyboard/mouse) a monitor and be charging at the same time. But here is the oops side, Asus do not include a USB 2 or 3 OTG cable so out of the box the tablet cannot connect to ANYTHING USB. Now I knew this so bought a USB 3 OTG cable (and had a USB 2 OTG). This seems like a silly over sight. And with a USB 3 port it means Asus could have used this as a charger (which would have been faster) but this is a tease in that the USB 3 port is ONLY a OTG port. A crying shame. And while the USB 3 port is faster than the USB 2 it seems to be severely reduced in speed. I took a USB flash drive that measures 124MB/s on another machine and it only got 50MB/s on this tablet. This same drive would be around 20MB/s on USB 2. (My older T100 got 127MB/s). I tried more than one USB 3 OTG cables and never got any better than that. Not sure why this is, but this is a pretty big bottle neck for what USB 3 ought to be capable of. And the aluminum near the connectors seems like it will be easily scratched/damaged while trying to get the fidgety USB 2/3 ports plugged into. On the positive side Asus use a standard 2A micro USB charger so your not tied to a proprietary charger.

The micro SD slot also seems to be limited in speed. Connected to the USB 3 port and a USB reader my 48MB/s gets 44MB/s while plugged into the micro SD slot the card only get 24MB/s.

As mentioned above the tablet itself is much better built than the older T100, more solid with aluminum rather than plastic. But the design team that did the keyboard must not have got the memo because they went the opposite direction. It is not even as rigid as the old T100s keyboard. Pick the tablet up by the corner of the keyboard and it groans and creaks like your going to break it. And it’s a act of blind faith that it’s not going to break and both your tablet and keyboard end up on the floor (not that it has happened). On the lap the keyboard flexes noticeably but is solid enough on a hard surface. The juxtaposition in quality level and feel between the keyboard and tablet are really quite pronounced.

The tablet can be put on the keyboard forwards and backwards allowing a variety of different positions. And I love the infinitely selectable angles you can put the tablet at to minimize glare/reflection. Another issue with the silly kickstand on the Surface.

The keyboard itself powers on somewhat slowly giving a nice blinking blue light while it connects. Patience is rewarded when it starts working. Asus have not been too aggressive in power management on the keyboard and it doesn’t go to sleep quickly which given how slow it is to connect is welcome. The keyboard itself is fine, cramped for big hands, but the keys for the most part are in the right places and gives reasonable feedback. I hate trackpads but this one is not too bad. The hinge is quite stiff and opening it can be a little challenging. Asus has included an app to tell you the power level of the keyboard along with a notification as it gets close to low. A nice touch. Unfortunately there is no back lighting on the keyboard. The keyboard like some bluetooth keyboards does suffer from random repeating keys. Battery life on the dock is quite good. After my first week it still shows 85%. With nothing in the dock it is cool, quiet and reasonably light.

The tablet does not have a GPS so can not be used as a navigation device. It also does not have flash so the cameras can not be used in the dark. Both are not uncommon in tablets and the previous T100s also did not have either.

I used the tablet for about 4.5 hours for general use (surfing and the like) and the battery went down to 58% so an approximate battery life of just under 8 hours. It charged from 58% to 72% in an hour for an approximate charge time of 7.1 hours. On standby the left the tablet for 5 hours and it only went down 5% which would translate into a standby life of 100 hours. The active battery life “seems” worse than the previous T100 but still pretty good. If your going to be away from your tablet for a while the best choice is to put the tablet into Airplane mode. That cuts off Microsofts silly connected standby and extends the battery life MASSIVELY. After 18 hours it was down a mere 5%. It’s a shame Microsoft have not used this as a way or preserving battery when the device is not used for a while.

Oddly Microsoft do not enable hibernate by default This post shows how to add hibernate to the start menu power options and this post shows how to add hibernate after a period of time. But realize that waking up from hibernate is not an instant thing, think 30-40 seconds so you will not want to enter hibernate too quickly. Also hibernate chews up space on your SSD equal to the size of your memory (so 2GB on the T100 Chi). Waking up from hibernate requires a push and hold for a couple seconds of the power key. Oddly there is no flashing light to indicate the tablet is in hibernate. It will not wake from hibernate by pressing a key on the keyboard.

The other item I toyed with for saving battery was using a scheduled command to put the WIFI card to sleep at a time of day when it is often not used (such as when your at work) using commands
netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=enabled
netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=disabled

With a combination of the above tweaks you can easily get a couple days out of the battery.

The 64G drive speed clocks in at 32MB/s write and 78.5 read which is a nice improvement from 25/40 on the old T100.

The display resolution is 1900×1200 which is a HUGE improvement compared to the anemic 1366×768 on the previous T100. Why Microsoft still grant logo certification for a device that even in Win 8 days is well below MS’s min standards is beyond me. And oddly the even newer T100HA has gone back to 1280×800. I just don’t get it.

Processor wise it goes from a Z3740 at 1.33GHZ to a Z3725 at 1.46GHZ so a teeny tiny boost.

Ram is 2G which is fine for this category of device, and is the max this processor can support anyway. The newer T100HA now uses the Cherry Trail (vs Baytrail this one uses) which is faster and supports up to 4G of Ram.

Media wise Kodi runs well on it, even streaming over the WIFI.

And now onto the pen. It was one of the reasons I decided to choose the T100 Chi over the newer T100HA. Well first up Asus seems to have obsoleted the pen they had for this device which turns out to be Asus part number Asus 90NB07G0-P000I0, well in Canada at least. The US web site still seems to have it up but I don’t see a way to buy it. I mistakenly followed a thread on Transformer Forums and bought what I though was the pen from Asus Canada, it turned out it was not and does not work on the T100 Chi. (DO NOT BUY TAICHI Stylus Pen 04190-00030000 it does not work with the T100 Chi). And ASUS happily refunded my money minus a shipping charge and restocking charge :(. The correct Asus part number appears to be Asus 90NB07G0-P000I0 (appears because I wasn’t able to buy one and confirm it). In my mind this is VERY poor customer and product support from Asus.

Let’s start with some basics. There are a number of makers of the digitizers in the tablets that work with the stylus, and they are not compatible. This means sometimes a pen is unique to a tablet. or it can be difficult to figure out what pen works with what tablet (outside of the one from the manufacturer, if you can get it from them). The players in this space are Wacom (in my mind the pioneers in this space). My Samsung Note 8 and Asus Vivotab Note 8 both use passive Wacom pens. (Passive meaning there is no battery in the pen). The surface 2 used a Wacom with a battery in it to power the buttons.

Synaptics which I believe are used in tablets like the Dell Venue 8 as well as this T100 Chi (Synaptics 7508).

N-Trig which are used in the new surface 3 and 4.

I had a Dell active pen from my Venue 10 Pro but that one doesn’t work. Nor does the pen from my Asus Vivotab note. Both were to be expected (as not working).

In doing reading I had hints that the Dell pen from the Venue 8 (Dell 750-AAGN) as well as the Acer DNF-01561 were both reported as working. So I bought the Acer. It was referred to as only Acer Aspire Active Stylus.
en-INTL-L-Acer-Stylus-OPT-DHF-01561-mnco
The pen feels quite good in the hand albeit a little heavy. Has a nice pocket clip but no cap. The pen works way better than I expected and can easily be used to do hand writing. The pen can not be used without the battery so if it dies in the middle of use your dead in the water. You won’t get any warning about the battery getting low before it flat out dies and no way to tell the state of the battery. You may want to carry a spare if it’s important that your pen works. The pen tip does not seem to be replaceable. The buttons are easy to press and in a bit of an awkward place. The palm detection is a little hokey. Before it sees the pen it totally does not do palm rejection at all. As you get close it slips into palm rejection mode allowing you to start writing. It seems to stay in this mode until it detects a finger touch (for example to slide the screen up). Hand writing is good, albeit a bit jittery. There can be a slight delay in when it starts detecting the writing. It is not perfect, and not as good as the Wacom on the Asus Vivotab Note 8. Whether it is good enough is up to you to decide/figure out.

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 10.

So all in all I like the T100 Chi. The pen which I took a chance on works fine (although I still prefer the passive Wacom). At almost 1/2 the price of the Surface it is a good device. I am sure the Surface is a better device but is it 100% better? A surface would cost $639 for similar specs + $150 for the keyboard so $789 Vs a list of $549, but I got the T100 Chi on sale for $419.

November 24, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Toshiba write 2 review (WT8PE-B)

I`ve been taking notes digitally for quite a while now and love it. Rather than have a ton of scribbled paper you have it in a form that`s easy to find, can be searchable and is just so much more convenient. I use Microsoft One note which has cross platform (Windows/Android/web etc) meaning your notes are available anywhere any time. Sadly there are so many parts of OneNote that are not implemented in the Android version of the product meaning the experience is the best on a Windows tablet. For over a year I have struggled with an Asus Vivotab Note. It has turned out to be 100% unreliable and Asus can`t seem to (or won’t) fix the issue. It has left me high and dry with no ability to take notes at an event. So this prompted me to have another look around at what might be out there to do this (accurately take digital notes with a pen). I stumbled upon this one on a list of pen enabled tablets.

There are a lot of reviews out there for this device and one of the first things they comment on is that the physicals of the device are uninspiring. Nothing bad, nothing good, just another 8 inch tablet. And I have to say I agree. Now that is not a bad thing, it is light enough, good size, good thickness. The bezel like most Windows tablets is on the larger size.

Port wise the device has a standard micro USB 2 port (for charging, and USB OTG), a standard headphone jack, and a microSD slot. There is no HDMI port. The charging is good and bad. At least they didn`t use a proprietary port, but the cost of that is slow charge times. Fortunately battery life is quite good.

Spec wise its an Atom Z3735 with 2G ram and a 64G SSD. And performance is pretty much what you would expect from this combination which is fine.

The display is an underwhelming 1280×800 and is the weakest link being very low res. That said it is bright enough and crisp enough for what I want. So this falls into the good enough category and not a whole lot more.

Out of the box it came with Windows 8.1 which required 161 updates and most of the evening to install. Typical for these tablets. But shocking to me was that I bought this from the Microsoft store and Win 10 was not installed on it. Moving on …

And now onto what makes this tablet unique … the pen.
image544
The pen is an active pen requiring a AAA battery. Oddly there is no indication of which way to put the battery in, no instructions on whether you need to pair it, nada to guide you at all. Fortunately it seems to just work. It is not compatible with the passive pen from my Asus VivoTab Note, or Samsung note. And is also not compatible with the Surface pen. Replacement pens should you loose yours are not easily had. I could only find them on the Toshiba US site at $49US.

The pen has a clip on it which leads you to believe it is for a shirt pocket, but the clip is so loose as to be easily lost if that is what it is for. But then my bud Lance looks at it and figures out it is designed to be slid into a slot on the bottom of the tablet. This was so not obvious to me (and again no instructions).
toshiba-encore-2-write-10-pen-attach-point_slideshow_main
It actually fits ok but could be easily hit/caught and thus potentially broken or lost. But all in all it actually does work ok. A dedicated bay for the pen would have been nice but given the thickness of the tablet I get why there isn`t one.

They have provided a cap on the end of the pen that protects the nib, and goes on the other end of the pen for storage. The end of the pen does not act as an eraser as my last one did. I am hoping at some point I don`t forget that and scratch the screen ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The pen has two buttons on it that do various things depending on the app. The overall feel of the pen for me is not great. It`s too slippery. I will likely end up putting some form of rubber grip on it. Overall the writing experience is quite good with little to no noticeable lag inside one note. A nice improvement over my Samsung Note 8 (on Android).

The tablet has front and back camera but as usual no flash. Common for tablets.

The power button is extremely close to the edge of the screen making it difficult to use generic cases that latch onto the side of the tablet. There are lots of inexpensive cases available for it on Amazon, although not exactly the kind I like. But then I am picky when it comes to cases.

The unit includes a GPS so with the addition of Navmi can act as a in car GPS.

All in all the tablet does what it is suppose to. The pen is fine and works well. And I was already to press save when I encountered a really bad catch. Turns out Microsoft brought a US model into Canada. Toshiba Canada will not support and will not sell accessories for the tablet. So loose the stylus or wear out the tip of the stylus and you have a $400 boat anchor. Absolutely unbelievable. So back to the store it is going. I will return it. A crying shame it’s a good tablet.

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment

Windows 10 is here

Windows 10 is finally here. I played with the technical previews for Win 10 but found enough issues I couldn’t make it my primary device. July 29th came around (the release date for Win 10) and went and my machine had not downloaded Win 10 yet. You first “reserve your copy” then are supposed to be informed that it has been downloaded and is ready for you. I got impatient and downloaded it myself. You download a media creator tool (you have to get the right version of the media creator tool depending on what you are running it on, a 32 or 64 bit machine, oddly if you download the wrong one you don’t get a nice clear error message so that wasted a bit of my time), then say whether you want to download an ISO or make a USB bootable drive. I downloaded the ISO to start assuming I could then convert the ISO to a USB drive but that failed and would not let me boot to it. So I went ahead and allowed the tool to download the USB image. Once I had the USB image I had two choices, I could use the USB to upgrade my machine in which case the licensing is taken care of. Microsoft are giving away the Win 10 upgrade for now. The second choice is to boot off the USB drive and do a clean install. The clean install can then be used to create a dual boot with your existing Win 8. All you need is a partition large enough to hold win 10. I did this at first expecting windows to pick up the hardware key from Win 8. It didn’t. It asked for a key at install time (which I just said skip) and then kept wanting to activate. I probably should have tried to manually activate but I didn’t so at this point I don’t know if it eventually would have needed a new key or what. I checked my tablet and box and there was no key for Win 8 anywhere so eventually if I didn’t solve this I would to shell out for a Win 8 license. After about a day of looking for show stoppers I was impressed enough to go ahead and give up on dual boot and go ahead and upgrade Win 8. On my second tablet I just went ahead and did the upgrade. On my 32G Asus Vivotab Note 8 which start with 9G free using the USB Win 10 I was able to upgrade it in a little over an hour. After which there was 4G free ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Microsoft have been IMHO slow to embrace tablets. Win 8 really was limited in how well it handled tablets, ie touch only devices (no keyboard/mouse). To remedy this issue Microsoft have introduced a new “Tablet Mode”. Tablet mode has been only half assed implemented in my humble opinion. Even on a tablet you find yourself needing to switch out of tablet mode frequently. And while it is quick to go in and out of tablet mode, it isn’t instantaneous (but I would admit to nitpicking on that). Start up any kind of an install of a normal windows application and you find yourself wondering where the install box went to. Well slip out of tablet mode and low and behold there is the install box waiting for you to press next. Microsoft have also been really dumb in that they have not given you a Metro file explorer. I only recently discovered you can pin to start My Computer (or any other drive short cut) allowing you to from a Metro tiled interface to have access to file explorer. Why this isn’t a default setup is beyond me. In tablet mode and using Edge (Microsoft’s new web browser) and low and behold you finally have an on screen keyboard that predicts what your typing. Slide out of tablet mode and levoila the prediction is gone. Maddening. In tablet mode there no longer is a shortcut to the desktop, meaning the only way to get back to the desktop is to turn tablet mode off (yet again).

Microsoft STILL has not included a tile to show the battery life on your device. You can see a small battery guage down in the tray but that is so small as to be virtually useless.

If you have a desktop, or a convertible with the keyboard attached you won’t be spending a whole lot of time in tablet mode. It just isn’t useful. And the on screen keyboard still pops up when a physical keyboard (or bluetooth keyboard) is attached. Fortunately it goes away quickly once you start typing.

The Metro interface is still full screen and prominent in tablet mode, but sufficiently depreciated in desktop mode. The interface is a little different now in that the apps are listed up and down instead of side to side.

In desktop mode low and behold there is the old start menu. And the Metro apps and tiles now show up on the start menu just like any other app. The gestures we learned in Win 8 from either side of the screen now do different things, so time to learn again and only work in tablet mode. And the start menu is rather small and not finger friendly (and I have small fingers) in tablet mode.
Tech-Preview_Start-menu

There now is a back button similar to Android and it works nicely.

The one thing that is most irritating with Win 10 is how differently it behave in Tablet mode from desktop mode. You get use to one and have to remember which mode you are in to remember which way to do something.

Some of the menu selection items in desktop mode have been nicely increased in size to make them more finger friendly, a good start.

After the install was complete I had to uninstall a bunch of apps Microsoft decided I needed. Bloatware. This is irritating …

The new Calendar, People and mail apps now fully support Google. Yay!

I had almost no issues with the new Edge browser Microsoft has included. I had a problem with cellartracker which worked perfect in Internet explorer on Win 8 but did not see the Dymo label printer plug in. Fortunately Internet explorer is actually still in Windows 10, although it is hidden. From within edge you can select settings and open with Internet explorer. Not sure why Microsoft have hidden internet explorer. I do find edge noticeably slower than chrome.

All in all most of the compatibility issues I encountered on the preview are gone. Older Metro apps for the most part work fine. I had issues with a few (Amazon Kindle and 7 Little words) not properly adjusting to full screen in tablet mode. Taking it out of tablet mode seemed to resolve the issue.

Win 10 is a good step forward. Microsoft still have a ton of work to do before a Windows tablet is less clumsy, but I have to say, all in all this is a good start. If you haven’t upgraded yet, I’m not sure I see a reason not to. But if I were you I would make sure I have created a USB recovery key so at least you can get back to Win 8 if you need to.

Update (8/19/2015): On my Asus VivoTab Note 8 Windows 10 has been a disaster. The pen stopped working, required numerous reboots to get working, OneNote 2013 wouldn’t let me bring up the on screen keyboard when in full screen mode, numerous crashes etc. And to top it off it seems Microsoft didn’t think about palm detection and the task bar kept getting selected when I started to write. So back to Win 8 I went. It was a painless downgrade. Microsoft did (smartly) ask question as to why I was going back.
recovery

My Asus Transformer T100 however is working quite well on Win 10.

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Windows tablets | Leave a comment