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Windows 10 Build 10158 – Bigger steps needed for tablet users

This post is out of date before I’ve even posted it. As I was finalizing this post, build 10159 appeared and I’m downloading it now. We don’t know what’s in the latest build yet but it’s said to be significant. I’ll update this post with anything that’s affected here and write a new overview after I’ve looked at build 10159.

The ‘beta’ tags have been removed from Store, Music, Maps, Edge and other apps in Windows 10 preview release 10158 and the old Windows 8.1 versions have gone. There are visual tweaks, support for Hello where users have the required hardware and Quiet Hours is back. The Battery indicator shows remaining and time-to-charge figures, the Photos app has been updated and the (desktop) Snipping Tool has a new delay feature. Microsoft Wi-Fi is coming. But there’s little here for tablet users.

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An applications menu shortcut now appears above the Start Menu. Snipping Tool and Quiet Hours also shown.

An ‘all apps’ button has appeared above the Start button in Tablet Mode but the sidebar and taskbar are still there along with the ridiculous hamburger menu icon way up on the top left of the screen. At the very least this needs to be dropped down to the bottom left. The taskbar still needs to go. Take a look at how ugly the Kindle reading experience is. That taskbar!

Screenshot (7)

App stability is still not there on the Surface Pro 3 with Store, News and Mail all crashing on me in the first hours of testing. At one point I couldn’t even log in as the on-screen keyboard wouldn’t pop-up. I’ve also had a complete system failure.

The Microsoft Wi-Fi app teases a new global Wi-Fi subscription service. There isn’t much information now but there’s an FAQ available. This could be a Skype Wi-Fi re-branding job.

Microsoft WiFi FAQ

Microsoft WiFi FAQ

Microsoft WiFi app

Microsoft WiFi app

The other good news is that Surface 3 owners can now try Windows 10 starting with this build. Those3 of you with WIMboot devices (Most tablets with 16 GB storage) can also use this build.

Build 10159 testing will start as soon as it’s downloaded on my Surface Pro 3. (Currently it’s stuck at 0%.)

Bargain, high-end Lenovo Thinkpad 8 (refresh) performance looks great.

thinkpadThe Lenovo Thinkpad 8 was the only early 2014 Atom-based Windows 8 tablet that I didn’t do a deep-dive review on. It was, as it turned out, one of the best and with its 1920×1200 display and USB 3.0 quite unique. A recent update to the range saw the original Z3770 processor being replaced with a Z3795 CPU (1.59 Ghz – 2.39 Ghz) CPU, 4GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD and a true 64-bit Windows Pro build. The improvements in performance are easy to measure.

It’s got the processing power of a basic Microsoft Surface 3 but includes Windows Pro, more storage and more RAM. The LTE version of this, which I have here, makes it expensive though…unless you’ve just snapped one up in Europe for the incredible price of £240. Seriously, apart from the graphics power, this is a high-end Surface 3 squeezed into an 8.3-inch tablet weighing just 439 grams – 70% of the weight of a Surface 3.

Early testing with the latest Thinkpad 8

Early testing with the latest Thinkpad 8

£240 (inclusive tax – about $310 in the USA, pre-tax) is only an incredible price if this Thinkpad 8 works though so I’ve bought one and have starting testing.

So far everything is as expected. Having just completed a review of the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 I know what a Z3795 and 4 GB of RAM feels like and this feels just like it. It’s much smoother than your average Z3745 / 2 GB Windows 8 tablet and really takes it into productive territory. You CAN use this as a desktop. I’m using it as a mini desktop with a USB keyboard as I type this but I’ll be testing it out with a USB 3.0 DisplayLink docking station as soon as I get the chance. Of course there are limits but this Thinkpad 8 would probably serve as a good upgrade to most 3 years old desktop PCs!

One of the issues with these incredibly small fanless PCs is that there’s simply no room for airflow and that was the reason that the original Thinkpad 8 never really turned-in the performance scores that the Z3795 CPU was capable of. The Turbo Boost throttling was so harsh that you might have well been using a standard Z3740 CPU but this version is slightly different.

My first Cinebench R10 tests (64-bit) show a 50% multi-threaded CPU performance increase over the results that my buddies at Notebookcheckgot with the Z3770 / 2GB / 32-bit model in March 2014. Single-CPU scores are 40% up.

Cinebench R10 64-bit results are impressive.

Cinebench R10 64-bit results are impressive.

In Cinebench R10 CPU tests this little ultramobile beats the Atom X7-based Surface 3. In Cinebench R11.5 it equals the Surface 3 performance. GPU performance, however, is not nearly as good as the Surface 3 but it’s beating Z3740/Z3745 tablets by 10-20%. Turbo Boost performance has clearly been improved.

Performance is not only about CPU performance of course which is why I’m really pleased to see good eMMC performance. Disk read and write speeds are up with the important 4K write speed being over 2X better. With the 4 GB RAM preventing any disk-swapping on high multitasking, multi-window and multi-tab operations there’s a feeling of real barrier-free computing here.

Improved eMMC performance

Improved eMMC performance

Battery life?

The only big question mark hanging over the updated Lenovo Thinkpad 8 is battery life. Most reviews for the Thinkpad 8 mark the tablet down on battery life despite it having a relatively large 21 Wh battery. Idle figures look good in my first tests but I noticed a couple of things. Firstly, the maximum screen brightness is good, but power-draining. It nearly doubles the background drain on the system. Secondly we’re dealing with a 1920 x 1200 screen here and that’s going to add to overall drain. There’s also the question of how some of the browsing tests were done because Chrome is notoriously power-hungry. If you want the best battery life you need to stick to Windows Store apps. Windows 10 could really improve the overall battery life on this Thinkpad.

With 100 GB free on the SSD, LTE connectivity and Windows 8 Pro there isn’t much more you could wish for here. It would have been nice to have seen a Micro USB 3.0 OTG cable included and NFC is always a bonus if you have a phone that can transfer images using Tap and Send but these are issues that most people can deal with. Maybe a non-Pro Windows option would have been good. Windows Pro add background tasks and removes the option of a free year of Office 365 …but ‘real’ Bitlocker with local key management and Bitlocker-to-go is always worth having.

The full 64-bit architechture is worth having too. Other Z-series Atom tablets always had the problem of having a 64-bit architecture with a 32-bit bootloader and it meant that using other operating systems was a problem. With this architecture is should be easier to run alternative operating systems such as Android and more traditional Linux builds.

My early tests confirm that if you are in Europe and you';re looking for a bargain on a high-end ultramobile PC you need to look at this model of the Thinkpad 8. It’s going to be good enough for 2015 and if Windows 10 Universal Applications take off, there’ll be a lot more in terms of finger-friendly, leading-edge apps to choose from.

Incredible offer on top-end Lenovo Thinkpad 8 in Europe – I just bought one.

Be quick because this is the best offer I think I’ve ever seen on an ultramobile PC.

Fully loaded Thinkpad 8 for £240

Fully loaded Thinkpad 8 for £240

Lenovo Thinkpad 8 tablets in the UK are all on offer now but there’s one incredible deal that I want to highlight. This is probably the most tricked-out ultramobile PC on the market and it’s on sale for £240.

UPDATE: Available across Europe Via Expansys, E.g. Germany.

The Lenovo Thinkpad 8 model 20BN0036UK_UK is currently  over 600 pounds at Lenovo UK. I just bought it for £240. I’m thinking about Windows 10 as I buy this.

Look carefully at these specs:

System: Windows 8.1 Pro
Processor: 1.59 GHz / Quad Core / Intel Bay Trail Quad Core Atom Z3795
Memory: Internal: 128 GB / RAM: 4 GB LPDDR3 / Slot type: microSD
Display: 8.3″ / Full HD IPS / Resolution: 1920 x 1200 pixels
Camera: 8 Mpixels / Flash: Yes / Front: 2 Mpixels / Video: 720p
Network: 4G: LTE
microSIM
Wireless: Bluetooth: 4.0 / Wifi: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n
Connection: Audio combo jack (headphone and mic) / MicroUSB 3.0 / Micro HDMI
Weight: 439 grams
Dimensions: 8.8 x 132 x 224.3 mm

So this is a Full HD, Windows 8.1 Pro tablet running the best Baytrail-T Atom there is, with 4GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD!!! Note that this is a full 64-bit Windows OS too.

I know this was launched on 2013 and I know that these price cuts mean that something new is coming but trust me – these specs are good enough for 2015 and 2016. Just get out there and buy this damn thing before it’s gone.

I’m not affiliated. It’s at Expansys UK

Update: Auch in Deutschland. Expansys.de

Dell Venue 11 Pro. Z3795 and 4GB makes all the difference. (Summary review.)

I’ve just completed a detailed review of the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130. This is the Atom-based version (there’s a Core-based version too) and it comes with 4GB of RAM, a full USB 3.0 port and the high-end, full 64-bit Z3795 CPU. The difference in usability between this and 2GB Z3745-style Windows 8 tablets was marked. Here’s a summary.

Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 Z3795-9356

Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 Z3795-9356

The Dell Venue range all have good screens with some of the blackest blacks in the Windows tablet market. The 5130 here has an impressively high max brightness too so the contrast is way over 1000:1. The 11. 8-inch 1920 x 1080 screen punches, but it’s also heavy and I found the 770 grams to be too heavy, especially as it’s a very wide tablet.

Build quality is excellent and there’s really nothing you can call sub standard here. You’re getting a full Windows 8.1 Pro OS and an extensive set of BIOS options. If you’re concerned with security of data, and happy to be using Windows, this has everything you need except a 3G/4G module for location-tracking.

I only tested the tablet but there’s two keyboard options available for this so if you’re interested in something like the Surface 3 and don’t want the Type-Cover style keyboard, this is an option. Even the performance is up there with the Surface 3 and that was the really pleasing part of review. 4GB RAM and the extra CPU clock turn this from a ‘just enough’ Windows PC into a usable desktop PC. The USB 3.0 port is good too because you can just plug a USB 3.0 DisplayLink dock/adapter in and start working.

Perceived performance isn’t quite comparable to something like the Acer Switch 12 with Core M but I get the impression that it’s more to do with disk speed than CPU-related issues. The eMMC, while reasonably good among comparable tablets, just isn’t fast enough for many Windows tasks. The first hours after boot-up is torture as indexing, updates and anti-virus checks hog the system. You’ll find the updates stretch over days now that Windows 8.1 has been around for a while. Graphics performance isn’t that special although it’s noticeably better, again, than Baytrail-M tablets clocked at 1.33 Ghz. Windows Store gaming is fun and I got caught up with Drift Street Mania for at least an hour! There’s potential for a bit of video editing, perhaps even full HD editing because the Quick Sync silicon benefits from the higher clock. It’s half the speed of a Surface Pro 3 though so don’t get too excited about editing in the field.

Great standby battery life indicates a well-designed mainboard and overall the battery life was acceptable. You’ll probably get 10 hours of video playback on a flight (low-light) and if you take a spare battery you’ll be able to swap it in. Yes, the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 has a user-removable battery.

Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 with removable rear cover.

Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 with removable rear cover.

The Dell Venue 11 Pro is a really well-built tablet but it doesn’t have any consumer sparkle. It’s too heavy for consumers, too wide, has a limited app store, will be expensive with a keyboard and looks very boring. But it’s not meant for consumers. This is a tablet for road warriors that need security, flexibility, good battery life and a solid construction. A good range of accessories supplements the Pro branding.

There aren’t many devices that fit in the same class as the Dell Venue 11 Pro (5130) but one thing is for sure, the 2013-launched Z3000 series is nearing the end of its life and despite the good performance this product is going to ‘age’ quickly. The new Lenovo Thinkpad 10 (Atom X5 / X7) and the Surface 3 (Atom X7) are just two examples. To that end, look out for offers on the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 because it’s one of the best examples of an Atom Z3000-series tablet.

My full review of the Dell Venue 11 Pro 5130 is here. Datasheet here.

Help! The ceiling came down while I was writing.

I need your support to help UMPCPortal through 2015 and it into its 10th year of providing independently funded ultramobile PC information, reviews and news. This is a direct call for community support

ultramobile fanboy

Ultra Mobile Fanboy helps as much as he can!

UMPCPortal has been run by me since 2006. I love mobile computing and focus on quality news, reviews, how-to and opinion but this site is unsustainable in its current form. I’ve delayed this post for as long as I can but now it’s time to call on direct community support.

The problem is that because of my passion for deep-level content I didn’t pay enough attention to changes in the search-engine landscape, the ad-blocker effect, social media requirements, mobile UI requirements, headline trends, spam and hacks. Despite what Google say, writing good content that people want to read isn’t enough to support a full-time blogger, even if you’ve got an understanding, working wife. [Thanks Claudia!]

The ceiling has come down on us and we need to put a lot of effort in to build it up again, or I close up shop. I’m asking for your help in donations or content to avoid that. You can also become a Patreon and get a direct channel to me for product Q&A.




  Patreon
$2 per month and i’ll support you too!

 

The last month has been particularly tough. The pageview numbers have been terrible, the revenue laughable given the time I spend working on the site. Our product database works incredibly well in terms of eCPM but it’s 80% dependent on our search engine visibility. UMPCPortal was hit hard by the joint affects of a spammy hack (I’ve worked to resolve three separate hacks in the last 2 months,) a bug (I lost days to a strange issue that ultimately required a re-install of the back-end) and what could be a Google algorithm change. The falling revenues from in-article advertising thanks to ad-blockers isn’t helping either. UMPCPortal needs a ‘runway’ in order to take-off again. Please help build that runway.

Changes

UMPCPortal and it’s content is over 9 years old. There are over 5500 articles, 24000 gallery images and thousands of product pages so when the site needs to pivot quickly, as it does now, it can’t. In order to address the needs of the modern reader and the modern search engine we need to get rid of keywords like ‘WiBrain’ and ‘HTC Shift’ and ‘XPTE.’  We need to create content for the mobile audience. We need to improve the security and performance of our server. We need to be more active and responsive on popular social networks. We should have an app. We need to start covering ultramobile PC gaming!

Help me and I’ll answer your questions on Facebook

Chippy needs your help.

Chippy needs your help.

We’ve started already. Thousands of old article and gallery pages have been removed from search engines. Thousands more are going through the process. We’ve taken a look at our keyword and SEO landscape and have employed the SEO experts at Rheinwunder to help. We expect to dip in Q3 before we rise in Q4. Please help to build a bridge for UMPCPortal so we can reach Q4.




  Patreon
$2 per month and i’ll support you too!

I need to pull together $5K to carry out the changes listed below and I will only be able to do this with your support. Donate, share and link from your private blogs. Tell your friends about the product database on forums and social networks. Comment below. Donate content.

Please follow us on Facebookand Twitter.

In return for your support I will do this

  • Create mobile-friendly, ad-reduced article content. [DONE! Enjoy UMPCPortal articles on your smartphone now.]
  • Improve the speed at which we add new devices into the database. [DONE! We’ve added a second product database engineer and he’s great! Thanks Steve!]
  • Implement better product search, filter and sort tools. [DONE! See the product database summary and find your perfect mobile PC.]
  • Add headless (Mini PC) solutions to the database. [The back-end has been preparedand tested. If I reach $2K donations I will implement a full Mini PC database.]
  • Improve the mobile viewing experience for the product database.
  • Complete SEO audit and implement back-end and content changes to improve visibility in search engines.
  • Improve site security and stability (cut downtime)
  • Join me as a regular contributor on Patreon and I will be ultra-responsive with your ultramobile questions!

You can also help by buying products on Amazon through the product database. I’ll get a small percentage of any purchase you make.

Thousands of people visit this site every day but I need to treble my current figures to make this site sustainable.

I think we can do this. My SEO expert thinks we can do this too. A few dollars from regular visitors would be appreciated. If you’ve taken advice and had a successful purchase, think about donating a few dollars more.

Q3 2015 content focus.

Here’s what we’ll be focusing on in Q3.

  • Working on Windows 10 tablet PC content.
  • Preparing for attendance at IFA in September.
  • Tightening the keyword spread. It’s tempting to write about everything that interests me around mobile computing but I have to put some limits on that. The focus keywords could change after our SEO audit.
  • Creating another solar-powered ultramobile PC tour. (Sponsorship opportunity.)

Tech blogging is getting harder and I feel proud that this site has outlasted many others. The site isn’t making a loss but it’s not generating enough for a salary and certainly not enough for expansion.

umpcfanboy2




  Patreon
$2 per month and i’ll support you too!

Paid content?

No. I don’t feel comfortable putting up a paywall to regular articles. All i’m asking for is community support, and I know there’s a good community out there.

Advertise on UMPCPortal.

Finally, if you want to advertise here I’d love to cut out the middleman and do some direct ad sales. Back in 2008-2010 we had ultramobile pioneers Raon Digital as a major sponsor of the site and it worked well. A new banner sponsor for the product database would really help. I can deliver country-specific ads if you need, too.

Thanks! Suggestions?

Thanks for reading this. Thanks for reading UMPCPortal. If you have any suggestions, now is the time to let me know. Either in the comment section below or via a private message.

Comment.

You don’t have to donate. If you get this far, do me a favor. Give me a Yo! if you want to see UMPCPortal survive. Yo’s are power-ups! (Sharing this article helps too!)

Ainol Mini PC (with internal battery) First Look.

I’m just about to start reviewing the Ainol Mini PC, an Atom-based PC with an interesting feature. It has a battery included in the unit and because it supports Miracast it can run completely without wires.

WP_20150622_23_17_12_Pro

The Ainol Mini PC has triggered a few switches in my head as a solution for portable, secure computing or as an HTPC or presentation device. It’s silent, it’s compact and it can even charge a smartphone.. The embedded 13 Wh battery makes all the difference here and at $97 it’s looking like a bargain.

The Ainol Mini PC has been sent to me [free with no obligation to return] from Gearbestwhich is a Chinese retail web operation. I have no experience with Gearbest apart from the quick and painless (the PC got through customs without any extra charges) delivery. Their contact with me via email was with good English too. I’ll look further into their operation as I continue my review but let’s get back to the Ainol Mini PC for the rest of this article.

WP_20150622_20_43_25_Pro

You’ll be pleased to hear that this low-cost mini PC has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The Z3735F processor is one of the cheaper Atom Baytrail-M processors but it still offers interesting specifications and great video playback capability, Miracast support and TPM,  There’s two USB 2.0 ports (full-size, not USB 3.0) and a Mini HDMI port, micro SD slot and a headset port. There’s also a micro USB port.

The Micro USB port is listed as a USB 3.0 port on the photocopied 2-page ‘manual’ but that’s not true. It’s a USB 2.0 port that requires an adaptor. I wasn’t able to charge the unit through this port, which is a real shame.

The Ainol Mini PC weighs 352 grams (0.77 pounds)

The Ainol Mini PC weighs 352 grams (0.77 pounds)

You can find Windows 8.1 tablet PCs with same size battery, the same total weight and with the included touchscreen for a similar price but you won’t get the three USB ports, separate charging port and the HDMI port included.

Notes:

  • Device charging is only possible when the unit is on or in standby. (Connected Standby / InstantGo is supported.)
  • A Chinese version of Windows 8.1 was activated without problems but even though the English language pack was installed there are still Chinese characters to be seen in some menus and input fields.
  • As with most low-cost Windows PCs it’s taking a long, long time to update, index and virus-check. Hours so far!
Despite the English language pack!

Despite the English language pack!

WP_20150622_20_42_27_Pro

The packaging is good an includes the HDMI cable, charger (US) and a basic English start-up guide.

Stay tuned for more testing and a full review of the Ainol Mini PC. This could turn out to be a really interesting ultramobile PC. I’m interested to hear your ideas about how this could be used. Advertising screens, data collection, snooping, home theater, presentations? Let me know in the comments below.

21.5 million hybrid ultramobile PC sales in 2015 – Gartner

Exciting news! Gartner is predicting that hybrid ultramobile PCs will be the fastest growing segment of the mobile PC market in 2015, will represent 12 percent of total mobile PC sales and is on target to reach 21.5 million device sales.

allumpcs.jpg

58 million units predicted sales in 2019 will represent an estimated 26% of the mobile PC market. The Ultramobile PC is here!

Gartner breaks the Hybrid Ultramobile PC market and figures down like this.

  • Hybrid ultramobile PCs: hybrids and tablets with screens of 10-14 inches.
  • 8 million: Ultramobile tablets (tablet-first devices including devices with keyboard add-ons like the Surface)
  • 13.5 million: Hybrid Ultramobiles (two-in-one detachable and convertible like the ASUS Transformer Book)

But why are the 2-in-1 devices, that have been around for a few years now, taking-off?

“The combination of portability, productivity and flexibility of touch and a keyboard in one device is attracting some notebook and tablet users to replace their devices with hybrid form factors,” said Ms. Tsai. “PC vendors are expanding into this segment with a value proposition to compete with Apple and Android-based tablet vendors. Sales of hybrid devices have not stopped growing since 2012, totaling 12.6 million units in 2014 and expected to reach 58 million units in 2019.” [source]

The combination of portability, productivity and flexibility of touch and keyboard was always there but the difference now is that it’s attractive in terms of style, power and price. Atom has matured well and Core M is doing a great job at providing high-power fanless experiences. With Atom X5 and X7 and the Skylake Core M due later this year things will only get better. The ASUS Transformer Book T100HA and the HP Pavilion 10 X2 with Cherry Trail CPUs are just a few examples of devices to watch out for.

Note that 7, 8 and 9-inch hybrid ultramobiles are not covered by the report which leads us to question where they fit in Gartners’ definition. Where does the Toshiba Satellite Click Mini fit?

10-inch 2-in-1 ultramobile PC market overview.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet reviews point to impressive flexibility.

The lightest 10-inch 2-in-1 comes in at just  772 grams (1.7 pounds) including the keyboard. There’s a high-brightness 2K resolution screen, the latest 8-core CPU, 3GB of RAM, it’s waterproof, can run Office, has disk encryption, and should last you all day long. It’s the Sony Xperia Z4 tablet, running Android. I looked at it while I was at MWC and I’m looking at it again now because the first set of reviews are very positive and the prices seem good. It sounds like the dream ultra-mobile PC.

P1220824

The all-in price for the Xperia Z4, keyboard and the LTE option is around €650 which is half the price of a Macbook which means if you aren’t expecting to edit videos while on-the-go and are only concerned with a small amount of keyboard use, the Xperia Z4 is defiantly one to take a look at. Here’s what I said about the keyboard in my first-impressions post.

While testing the keyboard I felt like I was back in the netbook years. It’s a little cramped compared when compared to even the $200 11.6-inch Windows and Chrome OS laptops. This isn’t an all-day keyboard but there’s a multi-touch, clickable touchpad and the quality seems good enough for emails, blog articles, note-taking and efficient use of social networks.

The Guardian are really happy with the keyboard. “It’s one of the best tablet keyboards I’ve ever used” says the reviewer but I’m not quite sure where their reference point is. If it’s good compared to some cheap add-on keyboards, then OK but it’s probably not one of the best if you bring some of the Windows 2-in-1 PCs into consideration.  Overall the review seem good and the summary fits: “when the tablet is combined with the keyboard, making a very capable and simple laptop replacement that is thinner, lighter and lasts longer on battery than most.”

Techradarseem to like the keyboard, even if it’s just to use it as a stand! Like the Guardian they’re impressed with the screen and the weight and summarise by calling it the “one true alternative to the iPad.” But what about laptops? Techradar have some detail in their review about Sony’s user interface. (It’s not stock Android 5.)

Alphr  talks about the keyboard with respect to a Surface 3 keyboard and it’s here that I feel we’re getting nearer to a useful opinion for ultra-mobile PC fans. “…the keyboard falls a long, long way short of the refinement offered by Microsoft’s Type Cover.” If you’ve used the Type Cover you’ll know that it itself isn’t excatly a shining example of productive keyboards. Alphr managed to get 12 hours video playback from the tablet.

All specifications, videos and links to more information on the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet are in our database.

Nicole Scott (Mobilegeeks.com) with the Xperia Z4 Tablet.

Nicole Scott (Mobilegeeks.com) with the Xperia Z4 Tablet.

You can see all 10-inch detachables in this live list here.

Early reviews are unanimous in calling the Xperia Z4 tablet a true competitor to the iPad Air 2 which is also heading towards productivity. Meanwhile Windows 10 products like the Transformer Book T100HA and new HP Pavilion 10 X2 are coming so it’s going to be a really interesting Q4 this year.  I’ll do my best to pull a three-way review and live session together later in the year when IOS 9 and Windows 10 are in the market. Meanwhile, let’s have a chat about the three operating systems.

[P.S. Does anyone want me to switch to Disqus commenting here? Would it be easier? Update: This site has just been migrated over to Disqus.]

Acer Aspire ES1-111 / E11 Windows 10 install (Build 10130 + drivers)

I’ve just completed a Windows 10 install on the low-cost Acer ES1-111M (AKA E11) laptop, my favorite fanless, lightweight, $200 laptop. Everything is working but you’ll need to grab some drivers from Acer to make sure it all works.

WP_20150614_23_42_47_Rich

I installed from a USB stick as I did with the Acer Iconia W4 but accidentally booted from the USB stick and wiped everything out with a fresh install thinking it was an upgrade. Thank goodness that everything is now working, including camera and the Synaptics touchpad which appears to have been an issue for others.

This is my first laptop-based Windows 10 install (Microsoft Surface Pro 3, Intel NUC and Acer Iconia Tab W4 are the other devices I’m testing) so it will give me my first insight into how the desktop mode works on a small-screen laptop. The Aspire ES1-111M doesn’t have a touchscreen, comes with 32GB eMMC (soldered) and 2GB RAM (in a slot.) I’ve installed an Intel 7260 WiFi-N card which is more compatible than the stock WiFi card (Marvell or Broadcom depending on the model variant you buy.) This little laptop comes with a full size SD card slot, full-size USB 3.0 + USB 2.0 port, a full-size HDMI port and a Gigabit Ethernet port so if you’re hacking around building Linux-based routers or HTPCs, the ES1-111M is a great choice. It’s silent too!

More info on the Acer Aspire ES1 here including specifications, my deep-dive video and lots of links. [More info here]

My preview-review of Windows 10 with an 8-inch tablet is here.

16.2 GB of the 32 GB (29 GB formatted) eMMC is available after the Windows 10 (10130 ISO) install and a first round of updates. There’s no recovery partition so save a recovery image as soon as you have a stable build, especially if you wiped the Windows 8 recovery partition like I did.

Windows 10 install was problem-free (build 10130) but the touchpad wasn’t working. You’ll need to connect a mouse to complete the install. The Synaptics touchpad driver on Acer’s site didn’t help so I started working through the drivers for the ES1 that I found through the Acer Germany website. (Note that the Edge browser doesn’t work with their download page. I used Chrome.)

The important drivers are available here from the Acer Germany website. (I had problems with the Acer US website.)

Use these Acer ES1-111M drivers for WIndows 10 build 10130

Use these Acer ES1-111M drivers for WIndows 10 build 10130

Download the Chipset, DPTF, IO Drivers, MBI and TXE drivers. After installing these drivers there were no problems listed in the Device Manager and the touchpad was working.

[If Acer removes the drivers I’ve uploaded a zip file of the drivers I used here.  Later builds of the Windows 10 preview might not need these drivers.]

Note that the Chipset driver took minutes to start up and while I was waiting, thinking it wasn’t working, I used compatibility mode to run the setup.exe file several times. Eventually two install windows popped up so I don’t know whether it just took a long time or whether compatibility mode worked.  Try running the setup file as normal and waiting 5 minutes. If you don’t see an install windows, try compatibility mode. (Right-click on Setup and choose Troubleshoot Compatibility.)

 

As on Windows 8, I have some issues with the touchpad locking up, regularly, but I’ll need to check internal hardware and screws because I’ve taken the ES1 apart many, many times.

WP_20150613_00_23_45_Rich

Testing will continue with a look at battery life, performance and other features but here’s the status so far. (Updating.)

Windows 10 tests on the Acer Aspire ES1-111M

Working: Gigabit Ethernet, webcam, touchpad, brightness, audio, Bluetooth (some issues in this build though), WiFI (Intel Wireless-N 7260 upgrade – works well), HDMI (extended display), keyboard.

Working with additional install: Microphone / Cortana: Install the Realtek audio driver from the Acer drivers site and make sure the Microphone Boost is set to +20.0 dB

Your feedback on Windows 10 is always welcome. Have you tested it? What do you think of the UI, the features? My preview review of Windows 10 is here.

Windows 10 on Tablets. Preview review.

Windows 8.1 on tablets was a good experience. The Metro/RT system was modern, efficient, touch-friendly and apart from a lack of high quality apps, it was the best OS available for flexible and productive ultra-mobile PC usage. The problem was that Windows 8 got a bad reputation for being too much of a change for desktop users. Windows 10 is designed to change that but it’s by no means a desktop-first OS. It’s the first operating system and user interface ever that spans phone, tablet and desktop with the ability to run a single executable application on all platforms without any changes. It allows Windows 8-style Metro apps to float all over the desktop and it brings a notifications system to the desktop. It might feel like a desktop OS to desktop users but it’s further away from the Windows Desktop than Windows ever was. For tablet users there’s more mobile and tablet goodness in Windows 10 than in Windows 8.

I’ve used build 10130 for a week and although there are still a lot of bugs, it’s stable and mature enough to be used for tablet testing and to get a feel for whether the features and new user-interface are better or worse than before.  I’ve covered the Windows 10 install process for an Intel Atom-based tablet in another post so now it’s time for me to focus on Windows 10 user interface, core features and a few notable Universal Apps from a tablet-users perspective.

Screenshot (3)

 

Great additions to Windows 8

Assuming Windows 10 is going to be stable then I can confirm that it’s a better OS architecture with a richer feature-set than Windows 8 for tablet users. Ignore the UI for a moment and think about the notifications center, one-touch hotspot, Universal Applications, advanced touch-and-pen friendly browser, a new core app suite, turn-by-turn navigation, improvements in casting and streaming, Office for tablets, finger-free authentication, simple battery saver mode, offline maps, improved data-usage monitoring, battery usage monitoring, much improved app store experience, and Cortana – a way for you to interact with your PC with voice. There’s also a major push for new tablet-focused apps in the Windows Store which includes support for adaptive interfaces (Continuum), new inking APIs and lots of support for turning IOS and Android apps into Windows Store apps.

It’s exciting and I’m extremely happy to be testing Windows 10 on three different devices right now. I’ve got it (build 10130) running on a Mini PC (Intel NUC), an 8-inch tablet (Acer W4) and the one I’m using right now, the Surface Pro 3.  Floating Universal Apps is the real bonus of Windows 10 in desktop mode and it could be that Windows 7 users start adopting them without even realizing that they’re effectively Windows 8 Store apps. If this adoption happens on a large enough scale then you’ll see apps being ported into the Store from left, right and center. That’s exactly what Microsoft needs. It will help tablets and touchscreen PCs too.

User Interface

As with any new operating system it’s the user interface you see before anything else and from a Windows 7-user perspective I think Microsoft have done enough for it to be accepted. The Start menu is back and the notifications center is a great addition but I haven’t dived too deeply into the desktop yet. It’s working, I’m floating Store apps around across two screens (Displaylink USB adaptors are supported in this build) and I’m happy!

My focus here is on Windows 10 Tablet Mode and tablet experience and you’ll find a short overview of some of the issues and advantages in the video I’ve embedded below. Windows 8 tablet users will find it different and there are definitely some issues here that might not get fixed before July 29th.

Screenshot (5)

Windows 10 Tablet-mode issues

The permanent tablet-mode bottom taskbar is ugly, takes unnecessary space and needs to be auto-hidden as it can be on the desktop.  The top-left-positioned ‘burger’ menu is a difficult way to access new applications and swiping actions from the left and right are completely changed. I’m not sure if these actions are better or worse yet because I grew to like the charm bar on Windows 8. The File Explorer listed in the tablet mode menu system is still an old Windows Desktop app and you’ll still see some classic desktop apps as you search for some of the missing settings. Oh yes,  Windows 10 is also a bit ugly.

'burger'drop-down.

‘burger’drop-down and permanent tablet-mode taskbar.

There are things on my wishlist that haven’t been implemented and I don’t expect them to appear now.  ‘Stay on top’ should be an option for all floating Universal Apps,  I really want the ability to completely turn off desktop and not just hide it (for security and efficiency) and what happened to the ability to mute notifications and implement quiet hours?

OneDrive filesystem integration seems to be broken in build 10130.

I note that the camera isn’t working on the Acer Iconia Tab W4 in this build.

Security and privacy

Windows Hello login authentication in shown in the system settings but it’s not yet enabled. If you’ve got an Intel RealSense camera in your laptop or tablet you’ll be able to use face recognition soon. Expect other options to appear here over time. Free Bitlocker for tablets is carried over.

Windows Defender is baked into the tablet settings now and I note that Microsoft will re-enabled Defender after a while if you choose to turn it off. That’s good, despite the relatively poor quality of Defender.

There are a large number of privacy settings but Windows 10 settings menu brings them all together under one privacy tab. Location, camera, microphone, speech, inking, typing, account, contacts, calendar, messaging , radios and other device access can all be controlled and most of them on a system and app-level basis. I like what Microsoft have done here but i’m not 100% sure if these settings apply to all applications including desktop applications which, if run as admin, could bypass these privacy settings. I’ll do more research here.

In general you’ll get a more secure, more efficient Windows experience if you stay within the Store apps but there’s no easy way to tell what is and isn’t being controlled by the ‘RT’ subsystem and what’s operating outside it. Again, i’d like to see a ‘disable desktop operations’ option on Windows 10 as a screen-on variant of connected standby.

On connected standby I note that you can now disable CS/InstantGo from having network access. There’s no easy way to disable CS/InstantGo.

Efficiency

I’ve completed a suite of battery drain measurements on the Surface Pro 3 and compared them with the results I had under Windows 8 and it looks comparable. I saw a slight increase in video playback battery drain but that could be due to un-optimized video or audio drivers. I also saw a decrease in browsing battery drain when using Edge. Compared to Chrome it looks to be 20% more efficient when browsing mixed media and over 50% more efficient when watching YouTube videos. Chrome was always bad at efficient YouTube playback though so this was expected.

There’s a new battery saver switch in the settings which turns off all background access for apps. This was possible in Windows 8 too but it was difficult to find. You can also disable notifications in battery saver mode and set it to automatically enable at a certain battery level.

The improved per-app battery usage reporting is nice to see but the definition of the figures isn’t clear enough. There’s no graph of battery life history either.

Powercfg reports show that connected standby is not working well on the Acer Iconia Tab W4 yet although I haven’t tested standby with WiFi disabled.

 

Edge browser annotations in Reader mode.

Edge browser annotations in Reader mode.

Edge browser

I’ll dive a bit more deeply into this in another post but so far the new browser looks good and performs well on sites that work. In tests against Chrome it rendered just as quickly, beat it on a Sunspider test and lagged only slightly on Octane and Peacekeeper tests.

I experienced one crash during testing and a number of problems with websites – Google Plus and Google Music being two examples.

Reader mode, a feature already included in the IE app in Windows 8, has been enhanced for Edge and the fact that you can annotate in this mode is going to be great for students. The reading list feature is good too although I’m a bit confused at the moment as to whether it saves pages for offline use and whether it syncs with the Reading List app and then across devices that use it.

Bookmarking works relatively well but it didn’t sync across my two devices and password saving is somehow disabled on my build.

GPS, offline maps, 3G

One of the nice features of the Acer Iconia W4 is that it has GNSS (GPS) and 3G which makes it interesting when it comes to traveling. The new Microsoft Maps app for Windows 10 now has offline map capability and can do turn-by-turn voice-led instructions. Traffic information and speed warnings are also included which makes an 8-inch Windows tablet way more useful in the car than it used to be…as long as you have GPS/GNSS. Not many tablets do but expect to see a higher percentage including it as Maps and Cortana relay on it.

I’m happy to report that 3G is working, also in InstantGo mode (standby), and the hotspot feature is easy to set up.

Windows maps turn-by-turn feature.  Windows 10 Hotspot

After just a week of testing Windows 10 on tablets I’m happy to report that there’s a lot of added value over what was available in Windows 8 and that, even if the UI issues don’t get fixed, you should still consider Windows 10 as a flexible mobile computing solution. More important than the UI issues are the stability issues and it’s important that Microsoft have that at the top of their priority list. No doubt there’ll be a big fuss and a number of articles from people complaining about the UI but from what I’ve seen, Windows 10 is going to be a worthwhile upgrade for tablets as long as driver support is 100%.  If Universal Apps start rolling-in then the experience will get even better over time.

I’ve fed back my thoughts to Microsoft via the Uservoice platform and I hope you do to.

Video: Windows 10 on an 8-inch tablet.

Note: Build 10130 does not work on Surface 3 due to lack of support for features in Atom X7. Microsoft have confirmed that this will be fixed.

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