Yet Another Windows 8 Tablet Review

The Acer “Iconia W5“.

This is yet another Windows 8 tablet.  Like the previous tablet I reviewed, this tablet is an Atom based tablet.  Unlike the previous tablet, however, this seems like it is trying much harder to be a tablet.  Rather than an 11.6″ device that is much more like an introductory MacBook Air, this is a 10.1″ device, which is what many Google Android tablets are.

Unfortunately, this makes the device both a really, really small laptop, more akin to the old NetBooks that have gone the way of the dodo, and a not great tablet, as most of the 10.1″ Android tablets haven’t sold at all.

As a PC

This device also comes with a detachable keyboard, so you can snap it into the keyboard to use as a laptop, and disconnect when you want to use as a laptop.  And the design of the hinge you snap into is pretty good, yet it still has its problems.

Here is a picture of the tablet with it’s attached keyboard, when closed.

Iconia W5 attached to KB, closed

Iconia W5 attached to KB, closed

You can see the white piece on the top… this is the hinge that the display attaches to.

Here is the device with its KB, opened:

Iconia W5, attached to KB, Opened

Iconia W5, attached to KB, Opened

Like the Samsung tablet, this tablet has the same problem when trying to open it as a laptop – you cannot open it with one finger.  When you try, the hinge is very stiff, and the bottom of the device lifts off the table:

Lifts off the table when trying to open

Lifts off the table when trying to open

When attached to the keyboard, this device is much better than the Samsung, in that you can open the hinge much farther.  In fact, you can open it completely around, such that the keyboard tucks underneath to be used as a stand for the tablet.  This addresses one of the gripes I had with the Samsung, as you could only open it a limited distance.

While this tablet solves that problem, it has a similar problem – once you open it past a certain point, the hinge sits on the table, and lifts up the back feet, and the device slides on the table easier.  Additionally, past a certain angle, the device is too heavy for the keyboard and causes the keyboard to want to lift up.  You also cannot adjust the hinge with one hand – it is so stiff, that if you try to adjust it, you can’t – the whole device moves.

Get ready to tilt the display!

Get ready to tilt the display!

Oh Crap, I can't.

Oh Crap, I can’t.

Similar to the Samsung device, the hinge you snap into has a release button with mechanical interlocks.  Why is this?  Is this a Microsoft mandated thing?  Ugh.

Use this Release, or You will NOT PASS

Use this Release, or You will NOT PASS

However, the hinge itself is much more satisfying.  When you put the display in, it gives a satisfying “click” sound so you know it is attached, and it has no wobbly give to it like the Samsung.  You don’t have to push it into the receiver.  It slips in nicely (that’s what she said!).  Also, the home button is not covered up by the hinge, so you can still use it.

As for the device itself as a laptop, I have to say it is pretty weak.  In order to be 10.1″, the keyboard buttons are small.  Thus, this device suffers in the same way as a lot of netbooks – your hands are crammed too close together and you can’t use the keyboard effectively.  Additionally, the trackpad is mighty small.

Maybe the right size for Hobbits?

Maybe the right size for Hobbits?

A couple of notes about the trackpad.  It’s layout made no sense.  As you can see in the picture below, there is a line across the bottom of the trackpad, about 7/8 of the way down.  That implied to me that this was a “press here for the button action”, but you could use the button action well above that line – about 3/4 up it still worked.  But then above that, it didn’t and you would get no click.  I don’t know what Acer was trying to go for here, but I would say that whatever it was, it is a big, fat FAIL.  Sometimes I would press, and no button, other times I wouldn’t want to press, but did.

I don't know what this means, Acer.

I don’t know what this means, Acer.

I am seriously angered at PC manufacturers about this.  The mouse/trackpad and keyboard are incredibly important things to get right.  It is how people interact with your product, for Chrissakes!  Yet they just don’t seem to care.

As a Tablet

As a tablet, the device seemed pretty heavy.  It’s probably not unduly heavy, but it certainly wan’t light.

As an iPad user, I don’t like the widescreen aspect ration of it as a tablet.  When held in landscape, it just seems to fat and short.  When held in portrait, it just seems to tall.  It’s not nearly as ridiculously tall as the 11.6″ Samsung, but too tall for my tastes.  If you are coming from a 10.1″ Google tablet, this probably doesn’t bother you.  Here are some shots of it running the Kindle eReader

Kindle App - Landscape

Kindle App – Landscape

Kindle App - Portrait - Legal Docs, Anyone?

Kindle App – Portrait – Legal Docs, Anyone?

I would not be comfortable using this as an eReader given this look.  Books just aren’t this tall (portrait) nor wide (landscape), except for coffee table books.  And people don’t read coffee table books while in bed.

One note on the home button – it isn’t a button.  It is a flat, touch thing.  I don’t know if I like this or not.  Seems too easy to accidentally touch it.

That's not a button!

That’s not a button!

In general, I found the screen to be “OK”.  It, like the Samsung, had a lot of glare, and it also seemed very dim.  As an iPad user, this is not surprising, because Apple really does have the best display technologies.  The touchscreen seemed a little better than the Samsung, but not much.  It still had problems registering my swipes from the left (the alt-tab effect).

Conclusion

Yeah, still not thinking these Win8 devices that are tablets + laptops are worth a damn…

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