For the last couple of weeks I have been using a Windows 7 based slate from Acer (Acer Iconia W500). My intention with the slate was to write notes, write blog posts, edit documents and work as a quick- and easy-to-use computer. I’m writting quite a lot so the docking station (actually it is just a dockable keyboard) was important for me. Many slates does not provide this opportunity. The W500 got a 10.1″ multi-touch screen (4 simultanious touches) and is born with Windows 7 home edition.
Earlier this week I did a review of an iPad 2. This post will focus on a review of my experience of the Acer Iconia W500 with docking station.
Windows 7 is the key advantage and key disadvantage of this slate. Windows 7 is my primary OS, I think it is an amazing OS and many critics agree with me. However in this scenario it got one big problem: the UI is designed for mouse and keyboard input – not fingers!
With the touchpack for Windows 7 installed you will get some great features for use with touch screens but it will never compensate for the fumbling when you try to open an application located in the startmenu. The menu items are not very high and with an average sized finger you are most likely to hit two items at a time.
As it is a full Windows 7 running on the slate I can install all the programs I can possible dream of – on the 32GB available. I started by upgrading the browser to Internet Explorer 9 and installing Windows Live Writer (I truly love that program!). Most document editing is done using Office Web Apps in the browser so I do not need to install Office or anything like it. If you have not tried out Office Web Apps yet you should really consider trying them out – and it is free!
Wireless and 3G
W500 got build-in WIFI but not 3G (you need to get the W501 for that). It is fast on the wireless and it works without any issues. I look forward to test the build-in 3G on the W501. My Lenovo T410S got build-in 3G and it takes about 10-15 seconds before it is available – I really hope that it works better on the slates (not that I could see any reasons why it should). If it turns out to be an issue I hope that it will be fixed in Windows 8.
A touch-friendly layer
From what I have seen so far about Windows 8 it looks like it will take care of some of the touch issues that Windows 7 is suffering under. A more fluid and touchable UI. My guess is that we will see a beta of Windows 8 in September 2011 (during BUILD) and a final release in end of 2012.
I can not wait until the end of 2012 to do Windows applications targeting slates. To compensate for this I have developed a simple WPF application to work as a “touch-friendly-layer” on top of Windows 7. The application only works as an application launcher and is really simple – but it gives the end-user a much better experience. I’m thinking about putting it on CodePlex…
The integrated marketplace in IOS makes it easy to access and install thousands of apps. The need is a bit different here since you are running a full OS and can install all the programs you wish. However I still see the point in the marketplace and I guess there will be a marketplace for apps with Windows 8.
So far Apple have had a great succes with iPad – it is cool hardware and it is easy to use. The software got some flaws but all-in-all it is a fine piece of hardware. ALL (and I really mean ALL) Windows based slates fails on cool-factor of the hardware – it looks like crap! Sorry Dell, Acer and Asus but you are a decade behind on this! Yes, I’m aware that it is a mobile OS running on iPad and a full OS running on the Windows based slates – but come on. The slates do not need to look like something invented by engineers – let them be cool and appealing. Based on what I have seen Samsung deliever in laptops lately I hope they will join the Windows slate market soon.
The performance of the W500 is pretty good – it can not be compared with my Lenovo T410S with 8GB RAM, but it does a decent job. The docking station (keyboard) works pretty good but looks like crap and have a tendency of falling (the screen is too heavy for the keyboard).
When I turn the device off it goes to sleep mode. When I turn it back on it is ready to use and responds to touches within a second.
With my home made touch-friendly layer I actually get the job done with the W500 slate. Hence I have ordered two Acer Iconia W501 with built-in 3G as part of a project running for the next six months. There are still some issues Windows 8 will fix but all-in-all I’m satisfied. Still it looks nothing like an iPad :) If Apple decided to put a full OS on the iPad most of the Windows 7 based slates would have a really hard time.