I have given up waiting on the Microsoft Surface Pro and my preferred device, the new Kupa X15 slate which is due in April and jumped in and bought the Samsung Series 7 slate tablet device (model XE700T1C-A02AU) with Windows 8 and docking keyboard.
These devices possibly have what it takes to replace all your computers and iPads for most people and combine them into one light, compact device which all the family can use but still give you the full power of a desktop computer – well almost.
These devices bring to portable computing what the Olympus OM-D E-M5 bought to the compact camera world – at last all the pieces being in place to reduce compromises to a tolerable level.
I have owned a Toshiba tablet PC for years but the touch interface was clunky due to the software and also because you could not use your fingers like you can on an iPad, plus it was heavy and took ages to boot up.
I own an Apple iPad but although light, fast to boot and nice interface, it is compromise city when it comes to most computing needs for many reasons which I won’t go into here, and it is unlikely these issues will be resolved in the near future – it is unlikely I will ever buy another, although the small size of the iPad Mini may have its niche use.
What do we get with the Samsung Series 7 slate?
- Windows 8 Home 64bit
- almost full Windows capabilities
- fast boot up
- backup to Microsoft’s SkyDrive
- multiple users as with any Windows machine (yes Apple, unlike your iPad, I can have multiple user accounts)
- supports most Windows software that has worked since Windows XP
- supports new “Metro” apps designed for touch screen use, and these are quite nice although much more limited in variety when compared with iOS apps and you need to access these from the Microsoft “store”
- new search feature is very powerful and fast
- new “Charms” functionality is quite useful once you get used to it
- can log on using a PIN instead of a Windows password – but unlike iOS, no mechanism to automatically delete the device after 10 failed attempts to log on – something I would like!
- a very nice, although a little too wide, touch screen 11.6″ FHD LED Display (1920 x 1080) which is awesome to play videos, display photos, and use “Metro” apps
- Intel® i5 3317U (1.70 GHz, 3 MB L3 Cache) processor with Ivy Bridge chipset and Intel® HD Graphics 4000 processor
- 4Gb DDR3 RAM
- 128Gb SDD drive with over 90Gb free with Windows 8 64bit Home version pre-installed
- USB 3.0 port which is critical as this then allows rapid use of external drives for accessing your 1Tb of photos
- microSD card reader – I wish they used SD card for compatibility with cameras, but I bought a USB 3.0 card reader to get around this, and it is very fast indeed
- micro HDMI video out port
- most importantly, a high quality dockable keyboard with mouse trackpad (this also adds 2 extra USB 2.0 ports – perhaps handy if you need to use a wired network access for work environments – just buy a USB network adapter)
- Bluetooth v4.0 so you can add a bluetooth mouse (this is critical for me for serious work as I hate laptop keyboard trackpads)
- WiFi a/b/g/n and WiDi support
- SIM card
- 2.0 megapixel Webcam (front), 5.0 megapixel Webcam (rear)
- headphone/mic port
- rotation lock button
- S pen for using like a Wacom device
- Ambient Light Sensor
- Accelerometer Sensor
- Compass Sensor
- Gyro Sensor
- some nice Samsung apps
- hardware BIOS support for Absolute Data’s remote device wiping and location services although this requires an annual subscription fee – but probably worth it if you have sensitive details on the device such as your account passwords, family photos, etc
- all this an it is only 304 x 189.4 x 11.9mm (11.97″ x 7.46″ x 0.47″) and weighs only 0.888Kg (1.96lbs)
- does not support hardware encryption technologies and does not come with BitLocker so you may wish to rely upon Truecrypt although this excellent free open source software does not fully support Windows 8 as yet – the main issue with using Truecrypt volumes is that in Windows 8, Microsoft has decided somehow that when you use apps it doesn’t need to really close them down fully and release file access – Truecrypt will then ask you if you wish to force file access to be released when you wish to dismount the Truecrypt drive – this seems to be OK.
- probably not powerful enough for the serious gamers out there but for everything else such as full Office use, programming suites, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc it should be fine
- Windows 8 metro mail app does not support POP mail accounts – you will need to do a workaround such as use a gmail account to access your POP mail account – see here
- metro apps generally only have access to the user’s libraries – documents, pictures, videos but click on the desktop app and immediately you are back into normal Windows 7-like desktop app interface albeit without the Start button, but Samsung do supply an app to simulate this.
- desktop apps designed for Windows 7 and earlier generally are not well suited to use without a keyboard and mouse as the font and clickable spaces are too small for your finger but there are several workarounds:
- use a keyboard and mouse +/- external screen
- use the magnifying option – just press Windows button + volume button to activate and the whole screen is magnified which is very handy (you do need to activate this function in Settings)
- use the S pen as a touch device
- metro photo app is nice for viewing and sharing photos in your pictures folder but cannot access photos elsewhere on your drive – however the Windows desktop app Photo Gallery is actually very nice to use for this purpose
- the 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen is not well suited for most desktop application tasks as there is not much height to play with
- in desktop mode, consider moving the taskbar to the left side instead of the bottom to give more room, and set it to autohide – although autohide does not always seem to result in it being hidden which is a problem with maximised apps
- the 11″ 16:9 screen is a bit heavy and stressful on your left arm when holding it for long periods
- the keyboard docking is a little temperamental and my version seems to need a bit of encouragement to get contact between the device and keyboard contacts
- Samsung advise that the device should be turned off when ever docking or undocking the keyboard
- 128Gb drive is a touch small, but thankfully the microSD card reader and USB 3.0 port allow various mechanisms to provide much more storage which is rapidly accessible, and perhaps more secure as it is not left on the device – sure beats what is possible with the Apple iPad!
- no network port – you will need to buy a USB network device if you need this
- seems to be issues with app store – updating 31 apps seems to have stalled as still running after 24hrs and it just says “downloading” without obvious progress despite a reboot .. the only way I managed to fix this is to run this app from Microsoft which analyses your system and repairs it – http://download.microsoft.com/download/F/2/4/F24D0C03-4181-4E5B-A23B-5C3A6B5974E3/apps.diagcab
Conclusion thus far:
So far, I have been very impressed with both Windows 8 and the Samsung device, perhaps because I had prepared myself to really hate Windows 8 given all the bad press and how Microsoft is essentially forcing users to change the way they are used to doing things.
I have managed to install all my legacy Windows software I need including MS Office, and Embarcadero’s Delphi XE programming tool.
Fortunately, you can resort to Windows 7 way of doing things for most functions.
Unless Apple radically re-architecture iOS I cannot see much future for the Apple iPad now that devices such as these will service both the desktop user’s needs as well as the traveller’s portable device needs and provide rapid access to external USB drives.
I think there will be a place for a smaller version of this device to allow longer single hand holding capability, preferably in 4:3 format instead of 16:9 to take the leverage strain off your arm.