A tablet with the power of a PC | Bangkok Post: tech

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A tablet with the power of a PC

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The Acer Iconia W700 shows us how a huge PC can be shrunk into tablet form and with Windows 8, and the line between tablets and laptops is thinner than ever. But is this tablet powerful enough to be your next PC? 

How powerful is it? We're talking about a 1.8-GHz Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB SSD storage, Intel HD 4000 GPU and a 4850 mAh battery. The rest of the specs include an 11.6-inch Full-HD, touchscreen display, 5(rear)/1.3(front) megapixel cameras, a micro-HDMI port and a full-size USB 3.0 port. These are laptop-grade specifications.

It is a tablet powerful enough to run Windows 8 64-bit and it lets you run Photoshop CS6, Office 2013, VLC, iTunes, Internet Explorer, Skype etc. at the same time, on the same screen.

Unlike a cut-down OS version for tablets that tampers with its features, you can do serious work on the W700 or even play classic PC games just for fun. Sadly, you can't put a lot of files in only 64GB of storage, unless, of course, you always connect to an external hard drive.

The display produces a 1920x1080 sharp and colourful picture. Watching a 1080p movie, The Dark Knight Rises was a great pleasure for me _ I could roll over in bed watching the movie without losing clarity because of its wide viewing angles. Unfortunately, the display doesn't do well in direct sunlight.

I tried Facebooking on a footpath and could not see my newsfeed. And since it is a Full-HD display, the icons and other items on Windows desktop become too small and difficult to target with a finger.

The quality of the 5-megapixel rear camera didn't meet my expectations. Still photos are too grainy and blurry for my tastes. Videos recorded at 1080p seem like they come from a poor VGA-quality camera while the video playback is as not smooth as it should be.

At over 900g, the Iconia W700 is heavy and thick for a tablet. The smaller 9.7-inch display iPad weighs a mere 652g. The W700 quickly becomes uncomfortable to hold for extended periods of time. Look on the bright side, it is pretty good for a daily workout.

Perhaps Acer realises this because they have bundled a docking station. And since typing a document using a touchscreen can quickly become frustrating, the dock lets you slide the tablet into a desktop-like position.

By docking the tablet, you will gain two more USB 3.0 ports which are very useful. It comes with a kickstand that can be inserted horizontally or vertically, allowing you to view the tablet in either portrait or landscape mode. Note: There is a rotation switch on the side that lets you choose whether you want auto rotation or not.

The W700's fan was noticeable throughout the test and it is quite silly to have fans in a tablet. Surprisingly, given its powerful hardware, the W700 was only slightly warm after continuous 5-hour movie playback (when the battery is completely drained).

Now for the software. The Windows 8 desktop mode looks almost identical to its predecessor but has no Start Menu. Microsoft has added a new finger-friendly User Interface (UI) called Live Tiles and here are some of the sequences you must remember in order to use it.

In Live Tiles UI, to close an open app, tap and drag it from the top of the screen to the bottom. To cycle through open apps, swipe your finger from the left side of the screen toward the centre, but if you happen to do this while keeping your finger on the app, it will open two apps in split-screen mode.

There is more. Swiping your finger from the right side of the screen launches a settings menu, from which you can return to the Live Tiles UI, search contents and adjust additional settings. Confusing, isn't it? Im confused too! Microsoft, you should simplify this.

You can add more apps to the Start Screen by downloading them from the Windows Store, the selection of apps is very limited when compared with Android or iOS or even traditional Windows. Note: You need a Windows Live account to use the store and some programmes show signs of tardiness and some require a lots of bug fix.

Here, Acer is proving to be ahead of the curve as this is one of the first devices to deliver the full Windows 8 experience on a tablet PC. However, if you're going to spend this much money on a Windows 8 device, you might be better off waiting for a future model. I would recommend it only as a secondary PC for travel or presentations.

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