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Great WIndows 8 tablet at a budget
on December 7, 2012
Note that this review is actually for the 32gb, not 64gb version. (64gb just have more space obviously, though they do install a backup partition which wastes a lot of it back...so if you are savvy enough you might want to get rid of that and make your own recovery DVD/flash drive instead.)
Ok, used this Acer W510 tablet reasonably extensively throughout the weekend....here's my layman's impression of the tablet (not Win8....you can read about changes in the OS elsewhere). I'd imagine the other atom-based tablets have similar performance, etc. I've also upgraded this tablet to pro (using the build-in add feature support in Win8). So that I can get media center. This should have no impact on what I say other than yours won't have media center on it. Pro doesn't have anything that makes the OS faster (if anything, slower from the extra features.)
Note that this machine has all windows update applied to it. I'm betting without it it'll likely crash a lot more.
Looks well-built and solid. Chassis is definitely plastic but it doesn't look plastic-y. Choice of white-matt brim on front is a bit weird if you ask me, but it isn't bad. Back is painted silver, but not the type that attracts fingerprint, which is nice. Speaker is very loud for a tablet, though not high quality. Also in a very bad location, pretty much on lower left/right side where your hand normally would muffle it if you are holding it. Note that this thing is supposedly thinner and lighter than the newest ipad, though I think the wide-screen ratio makes it feel a bit heavier if held with one hand.
Whoever said the display is matt....nope, it's very shiny. Definitely glares in the sun, but looks nice and sharp. Resolution is 1366x768. It may not be retina-display level of DPI, but at regular-viewing distance, I think ppl would be hard-pressed to say the pixels are too big. Pictures look nice and sharp to me. Good enough viewing angle too to watch while laying flat on table.
Storage (note again mine is the 32gb version):
32gb in total, which as others have point out, OS takes up a chunk. ~10gb for OS plus some default apps excluding office. Office trial is like 2gb, which I uninstalled right away. Then there's ~2gb for virtual memory and 2gb for hibernation file, so that's around 14-15gb gone from the get go. For those that thinks the remaining 17gb isn't enough though, I tried my best to fill it with all the app that looks remotely decent in store, and I still have 3gb left. Just as a count, I installed:
- 6 productivity/connectivity apps (e.g. Lync, Skype)
- 7 video apps (e.g. Netflix, Hulu+, ABC player, youtube player.....)
- 4 music apps (e.g. iHeartRadio, Slacker, Shazam....)
- 5 shopping apps (e.g. newegg, ebay, amazon, digital folio)
- 10 drawing/photo apps (e.g. Autodesk Sketchbook, Fresh Paint, PhotoFUnia....)
- 6 cooking/food apps (e.g. Cookbook, Allrecipes, epicurious, Urbanspoon, FoodGraphic (3rd-party yelp)...)
- 28 news apps (e.g. WSJ, ABC news, NBC news, Fox news, New York Times, Stumbler, Wonderwall, engadget...)
- 7 book/reading apps (e.g.kindle, Kobo, wikipedia...)
- 19 games (just about every XBox Live game on it right now...including Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope, Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Space, Pinball FX2, Hydro Thunder Hurricane...)
- 10 miscellaneous apps (e.g. Evernote, Skitch, a calculator, a weird app that makes spa-ish nature sounds....)
So if you don't think there's enough space for more than a handful of apps....I think you'll be surprised how much you can fit.
For some additional ideas on how big some apps are (Win8 has a handy list showing app apps you installed and how big they are):
Biggest apps on my machine (usually games):
- Reckless Racing Ultimate - 569mb
- Hydro Thunder Hurricane - 462mb
- ilomilo plus - 393mb
- 4 Elements II Special Edition - 291mb
- Mail, CLander, People, and MEssaging - 237mb
Majority of apps tend to be more like 20mb each. e.g. most news, photo apps, drawing apps, etc. Only 15 apps out of my giant list above is bigger than 100mb. So, is 32gb good enough? I'd say it's at least a usable size. Don't forget you can store your docs / videos / etc. on the microSD card (though I haven't tested it....my card is on backorder.) This is also one area where this really shines for me over an ipad....being able to save stuff to file system, and having apps be able to acess the file system. On my ipod touch, it used to drive me nuts figuring out how to get proprietary files not supported on itune to apps I want to view a document/file in, since apps don't seem to share storage space. Now I can just save the files on the file system and have various apps be able to access it.
As long as you stay in the win8 modern UI, everything's fast and snappy. Most apps I tried are performant enough. (More on that later.) You'd be surprised how decent a 2gb atom machine feels, mainly because OS knows to save state / kill apps for you if you are running low on memory, so that OS always feel snappy. But....as soon as you go into desktop mode, it reminds me of the old days of using a netbook. Everything's a little laggy, and it doesn't help how hard it is to click around with finger on the desktop. Will likely make you want to destroy the machine. If you want to use desktop extensively, this is not the machine for you. Works well if you only want desktop as a fallback though.
From a shutted down machine to seeing log-in screen - 10 sec. This includes the UEFI posting. (Note that this includes the win8 "cheat" that makes "cold" boot faster since it's not really cold. Some kernel stuff are safe. Just about no users will do a full cold boot anyway since you need command line. Sleep/wake is pretty much instantaneous.
For those wondering about video performance, it looks like GPU-video decoding is supported. I installed shark's codec and tried a variety of 720p/1080p video and have absolutely no problem. Granted I didn't do a super-thorough check of different file types (too much effort to look into each file and use gspot to tell what bitrate everything is. If only there's a sample video pack for this type of testing somewhere out there to download.) Any case, I throw some 720p mkv file (though dunno what's the video codec inside), some 1080p h264 mov, some 1080p wtv (media center) file, some 1080p rmvb, some DVDs mounted in ISO format, some 1080p avi....so far, everything's running smoothly.
On the other hand, no luck so far getting PowerDVD to work with some BD-5 rips. The program keeps erroring out about can't read the mounted image. Strange.
Non-game App Performance:
Tried all the apps above, the only one with noticeable issue are drawing apps. In particular, those with really cool brushes like Fresh Paint that lets you blend paint on the brush stroke over each other (kinda like ArtRage) lags a lot. Other apps were all fine.
Game is more of a hit-and-miss. I tested every game above for at least a level or two. Some games I'm amazed it even works, other I'm amazed it is laggy. Like, Hydro Thunder and pinball will run at a playable (but not great) framerate (15 fps I'd guess?), which is amazing for an atom / integrated chip, since they both looks 3d-intensive. On the other hand, can't understand how mah jong (the old matching tile game) and minesweeper can possibly feel slow. A few apps crashes outright (Adera, Gravity Guy, 4 Elements II. Fruit Ninja also crashes in end-round animation.) I'll assume it's the graphics driver's fault. So it seems like the graphic driver is surprisingly sufficient for casual touch games, if it doesn't crash. I think this is a good laptop if gaming is just something you'd like as an option. (i.e. if a game doesn't work you're not going to throw a tantrum.)
Hmmm.... over the weekend of extensive usage (pretty much bring it everywhere and show to everyone I run into), 1 touch-screen hang where I have to reboot to get touch back, and 2 audio bugs where I have to reboot to get audio back. I'm assuming both driver issues.
Very solid battery. I think it really is enough to survive a day of use without charge. Don't really feel like running a real battery test on it, but I don't think there'd be any complaints here.
Touch screen / audio driver dying is obviously annoying. Another annoying design I haven't found a workaround for is pressing the windows key also wakes the machine up.....really? Sometimes I'd wake it by mistake when carrying it around. Now I learn to carry it upside-down to avoid touching that button.
Is it worth it:
I'd say, if you are looking for a tablet where you plan to mainly stay in modern Win8 experience, but like having a fallback to desktop if necessary (and to get all those old video codecs...my main reason for getting this). And if gaming is a nicety rather than a requirement, you really can't beat this. (In my case, it was a Black Friday sales, which makes it a steal.)