Tablet Wars: All Hail the New Tablet Contender Windows 8

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Hardware, Internet/Telco, Software, Tablet Computing

Or oh hell another tablet contender

Melbourne Australia
8 March 2013
by Loren

Asus Windows8 ME400 – Review

Asus ME400C

The Name Game: Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 RT
When Windows unveiled the naming strategy for windows tablet, IT folks from around the world sighed. We knew this was a bad idea, and confusing at best. If respected and knowledgeable IT journalists knew this was bad and confusing, what were the poor consumer going to do.

Politically, Microsoft decided to make their own flagship devices so partners like Asus and others were a bit on the back foot.

The result would be a dead WindowsRT, and a confused public and retailer. To this day I cannot find a single retailer in Australia that knows which device they have that is WindowsRT vs Windows 8 RT, vs Windows 8. I add the Windows 8 RT as many have sold devices labeled as such as well as Windows RT (no 8). THis is before you ever compare and look at reviewing a device.

The review:  Asus ME400C- Imagine taking your average laptop or good netbook, running Windows8 (yes the real version), add an average touchscreen to it and throw the keyboard away. What you have left is this new (and perhaps all) Windows8 tablets. Yes you can then add back a keyboard and yes you can add an OSK (on screen keyboard), but it is what it is.

So Windows8 in tablet form is a total failure, emmm, not quite yet boy blunder.

Unlike Apple, – the iPad was re-imagined to not have these problems it offered pages that get re-sized, and the OSK is intuitive.I will try to not make this a total whinge-fest promise, but I am aggravated. As you can tell from the photo I am tablet agnostic. I have 2x iPad2, (kids) 1x Nexus 7 (in my Jeep), 1 x iPad mini (mainly for streaming TV from PC to Apple TV with AirVideo Server Software) a Nexus 10 for everyday use (as well as various PCs/Macs/smartphones/phablets).
Living in a Microsoft World – I live in the hope of the golden chalice. Affordable powerful able to do everything I need, good video,  the versatility of Android, the steadfastness and it just works aspect of the iOS of iPad (but tired of that interface). For those living in at least a partially influenced Microsoft world crave a device that is well, like removing the keyboard form a good (adequate) windows laptop, but still working well.
I say this as they all have their strengths and weaknesses. However now having an iPad mini, I see no benefit in the larger iPad form factor (but that is just me). Within the plethora of strengths and weaknesses (enough to spend a week on the SWOT analysis alone), there are gaps.
Flash Surfing– For the avid online surfer, it is unfortunately impossible to easily avoid flash. The horse that will just not die (and go to Europe to be dispersed evenly among us otherwise normally safe beef-eaters), was not supposed to live this long, Steve Jobs announced its passing, years ago, and HTML5 was one of the daggers that was supposed to save us all has not happened.This means that we can tweak our Android devices until the cows come home  all we like,  or even Jailbreak our iPads, so they will show that video we want to see, but it is just not user friendly.

For goodness sake we are days away from the 3rd  anniversary of the launch of the iPad1, and a perfect device has not met us yet. I do not think I ask much, a tablet that has a good selection of apps, business software and good interaction, and watch anything a browser has to offer easily.

asusme400cvivotabsmart64gb01_thumb.jpg
Asus ME400C VivoTab Smart 64G

Microsoft on launching Windows8 has got it pretty right despite themselves and their partners. Being in Technology Product Management for decades, I can never imagine a worse managed launch and ongoing debacle then Windows8 has thrust upon the masses. So bad it continues at this moment with no sign of stopping the blood-letting, and already killing their own products before they almost even launch.

When Windows 8 began their seemed Lewis Carol like visions, what-ever made them to want to offer an under developed, under resourced product like Windows 8 RT, defies logic. Making things worse there are a bevy of Windows 8 RT in the marketplace, making even the seasoned Pro, have over examine the products to determine their OS.

So is the case with the new Windows ASUS ME400C. Before I knew much about the device, it was already in the stores here in Australia alongside its non-touch laptop, and android tablet brethren. However what version of Windows 8 is on it? I looked at the device I could not tell, I looked at the box I could not tell. I ran the device it was not obvious (in stores they are locked down so you cannot just type system. I asked the friendly (sometimes staff). When I had to explain what Windows 8 RT was I knew I was not likely going to get an informed answer. Low and behold I went into one shop and they knew what Windows RT was but had no idea which device was which. A bit of research later we are at this point.

The ASUS ME400C – screams to be early adopter in so many ways, and is buggy. I guess in some ways I and the market have been waiting years for this though. An affordable tablet running the latest (and full) Windows OS and needing no key board, or mouse to make it work. However, the transition of windows8 from a PC or laptop is not flawless in tablet form as mentioned

It might be the form factor or a Windows 8 issue, I cannot tell, but is a great early attempt at a full-fledged Windows 8 tablet specifically for the $500 price tag.

Not Tablet Ready – One thing Android and better yet Apple do, is scroll to fit the appropriate videos or websites. Even typing in my name to Gmail, was not an easy exercise. I could not scroll, even when I turned the tablet. Even something as simple as trying to run a bandwidth speed test on a website was hard. Worse still is a problem the ASUS has with videos. If you go from portrait to landscape or visa verse sometimes the video will not render back. Sometimes even the UI itself has this problem. I am not sure if it is the Power VR SGX545 Graphics or what exactly. There lays the biggest challenge. Is it a form factor, is it the device or is it Windows 8. I cannot tell yet.

Other challenges, I have had multiple problems from getting my Wi-Fi set up, and have to spend 2 days trying to activate (yet able to get online and get updates,) so I am likely to have to phone in for activation.

Not a big deal for me, but one that means I have to spend days getting it set-up properly before possibly having to return it.

Other issues – When not at 75% charge, the screen with dims slightly at different intervals, when playing videos. I have checked power settings and changed all those first of course. The device came with Netflix, which is annoying as it does not work without IP spoofing in Australia.

Good News: The size of the tablet is almost identical to devices like the Samsung 10.1 Tablet / Nexus 10, allowing you to use accessories like the Bluetooth Folio Keyboard Case. The keyboard offers great versatility and gives you that keyboard back a dedicated version is also available that does fit a bit better.

Unfortunately like a PC when you add a wireless keyboard you can equally you the OSK it doesn’t care and worse doesn’t act any different.

I believe the mostly likely scenario will be tweaking the Windows8 tablets, with better browsers or even a better UI enhancements to allow it to do the many things everyone expects. Otherwise Windows8 will die in tablet form.

Some niceties  – with a microSD card on board the device is useful though it is unfortunate you cannot connect it to another PC using the microUSB cable, I will work on that hack next. The sound is as tinny as you would expect form a netbook. At 1,366×768 it is far from the quality of other devices on the market so is average at best. The tablet tested has 64GM onboard storage, 32gb Asus cloud storage as well. The camera is a healthy 8MP/2MP and Bluetooth 4 is on board with WLAN 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 Ghz. It comes in Red, White and Black, though here in Australia it is harder to find anything other than black so far.

Splitting with the Atom– I promised myself I would never own another Atom processor device, however, this one is not as sluggish as previous Atom model devices and actually nippy in cases (video aside). It is the refresh rate of the shared graphics that I think with the I will say average CPU that is the culprit here.  Note: If I understand the Intel blurb the CPU in this ‘new’ device is end of life already.

SummaryThe ASUS ME400C  is a comprise on a grand scale. As the 5th generation of tablets looms,  this is an affordable at $500-600 device. An attractive selling point for one of the 1st Windows 8 Tablets (with the real Windows 8), though, its design feels a bit clunky between the ACER 500 that ran early versions of Android Gingerbread, and the Asus Nexus 7. Far from BAD, but not uber great (our demands our hire than they would have been 12 months ago.

However, this is kind of a compliment in the world of compromises in terms of what has been out there before for Windows OS previously. Weighing in at 580g, it is 12% lighter than the non-LTE version of the iPad4 at 652g, and only 6% heavier than the new nexus 10 at 603g.

However the CPU is way under spec, even an i3 CPU offers a 300% increase overall (per Intel Atom vs the Intel i3 CPU 

Like other devices, you actually need to spend some time with the device, if launched a year ago it would be 8/10, but in today’s market, compared to other devices, it is at best a 5/10.

What else- Making things better – Firstly to run this tablet effectively, you need to do some tweaking  to make it usable  something most consumers will not do. Also if I said to you I was going to sell you a PC with an Atom CPU and you knew what is was historically , you would laugh, cry, run or punch me. This needs a real CPU even an i3. My suggestion is wait for an i5 or i7.

In the modern day, average performance and great battery life, will lose out for many when offered better quality, faster performance  and average battery life.

Another consideration is running you Android apps on the windows 8 device. Bluestacks has brought out a VM that allows you to do just that and is customer made for the Win 8 OS & device.

Even better would be a dual boot Android ICS / Win 8 device running an i5 or i7, offering the best of both worlds (coming soon)

Key Features

  • Intel Atom Z2760 Processor
  • 1.6Ghz Burst to 1.8Ghz Processor Speed
  • LPDDR2 2GB RAM
  • 64GB HDD
  • Power VR SGX545 Graphics
  • 10.1″ IPS with Soda Lime 1366 x 768 Screen Resolution
  • 8MP Rear Camera

Comparable Devices 

Nexus 10 $500 16GB but the best screen out there)
iPad 4 – $539 (16GB vs 64GB (32Usable)

 

 

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