What do we each want from a tablet or pad device? I’ve been struggling with how to answer that question for myself. If I can’t do so, how can I expect to answer it for you? That seems to be the dilemma we all face as the tablet/slate/MID selection with so many features and options increases and evolves. In order to set the record straight, here’s what I am looking for in a tablet/slate/MID device:
What I am looking for a device that can:
- browse the internet
- be used as an e-reader
- remote desktop into other Windows devices on my home network
- is ink enabled
- a large enough screen for my aging eyes
I currently have all this functionality with my HP TouchSmart tm2t Tablet PC. So why do I keep looking? Because I’d also like:
- a lighter, thinner form factor
- a bright display that can be used outdoors
As I noted in my unboxing posting of the X10 MID:
“Last month, late May 2010, Engadget.com had a posting about a 7 inch Windows CE v.6 tablet called the X10 MID priced at a mere $179.99. Having owned and used a Windows CE webpad (a Viewsonic Viewpad 100) several years ago, the Engadget.com posting piqued by interest and curiosity. I put my internet research skills (Google & Bing searching) to work and quickly learned that the device is being sold by China-based PandaWill.com.”
I also noted that the packaging clearly positions the device as a GPS unit rather than anything else. In fact, I later read in a forum posting describing the X10 MID as “a splendid GPS… [and] the only GPS that allows you to see and edit office documents, send email, surf the web and watching video content.” After spending the better part of a week with the X10 MID, I cannot come up with a better summary.
With that focus, here’s what I’ve learned about the X10 MID by using it.
The X10 MID feels good in your hands when you first pick it up and the build quality is better than what I would have expected for a device selling for under $200. When you first turn on the device, after waiting about 20 seconds a musical tone is heard followed by the touch user interface after another 10 seconds. The interface is intuitive and simple, hiding the native Windows CE 6 interface. As the Windows CE interface has never been optimized for a finger touch experience, the hiding is not a bad thing. On the other hand, hiding the Windows CE interface prevents the user from the core power of Windows CE.
The user interface is limited to 18 predetermined apps labeled as follows:
The main interface comprises two  touch panels that slide right and left along with all 18 apps in a scroll region at the bottom. Time of day is shown in digital display along the top bar. The battery indicator is shown on the right of the top bar along with shortcuts for the GPS radio and Wifi radio applications. There are six  desktop wallpapers that can selected by using the button on the top left of the screen. The desktop can be customize by:
- adding icons by dragging them from the scroll region at the bottom of the screen
- dragging & dropping icons around the desktop
- removing icons by dragging them into the waste basket
- choosing among six  desktop wallpapers by using the button on the top left of the screen
Additionally, there is a button on the left of the screen that accesses an alternative Talentech user interface for the 18 apps. I found no way to add applications to the user interface—more on adding applications to Windows CE later.
The PandaWill.com website shows the following product specifications for the X10 MID:
- 2 mini USB port, the one which named “OTG” is used to connect your pc
7″ TFT LCD touch screen, 800*480px
14.6mm, ultra slim and stylish design
Telechips 8901 720Mhz ARM 11 processor
256MB DDR2 RAM
Built-in 2GB NandFlash
TF(MicroSD) card extend up to 32GB
USB OTG 2.0 & USB Host 1.1
Built-in 3000mAh lithium battery for super-long standby, in-use time about 6 to 7 hrs
Built-1080P HD HDMI video output interface
Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint
Language: English, Chinese
Microsoft Windows CE 6.0 R3 operation system
High-tech of Flash UI supports easy, elegant and colorful sign to touch and control the interface
Full-format 1080P HD video decoding play, supports MPEG1,MPEG2,WMV9, MPEG4-SP, ASF, DIVX, H.263, H.264, RMVB, Mov, Mkv, TS, FLV
Music format: WMA,MP3,WAV,OOG,AAC,EAAC
Picture format: JPG，GIF，BMP，PNG
Email and Flash digital magazine function
Support Doc, PPT, Xls and more Office software and applications
Support Adobe Flash 8 and below play
Support MSN, QQ and other online chat software
Size: 187 x 115 x 15mm
Product weight: 359g
The retail box packaging shows the following:
Note the battery specifications inconsistency: online the battery is 3000mAh while the box says 1400mAh. While I did not disassemble the unit, I was able to find pictures by someone else that had. The pictures clearly show that the X10 MID has two separate  1500mAh batteries inside. I was also surprised to learn from the retail box that the X10 MID “Support[s] WCDMA 3G internet (external).” I can only assume that this is done by supporting a separately purchased USB device.
Note that the specifications on the retail box clearly indicate that the device supports, “E-book, flash playing and E-magazine.” I found no software on the X10 MID that could provide this capability nor could I install any from a 3rd party source.
As I mentioned above, the X10 MID feels good in your hands when you first pick it up. The build quality is better than what I would have expected for a device selling for under $200. Other than when in direct sunlight, the screen of the X10 mid is quite bright and readable. The touch screen is resistive touch requiring a stylus or fingernail for optimal response. However, the finger touch response is much better than earlier Windows CE devices. It is not nearly as good as the Nokia n900 resistive touch screen.
The following sockets/jacks/slots on the right side of the unit:
- USB – host
- USB – OTG
- mini HDMI
- microSDHC (TransFlash) slot
There is a single speaker on the back of the unit and two buttons on the back of the unit that took me some time to figure out.
The smaller is the power button: press and hold for a couple of seconds to turn it on, and press and hold for a couple of seconds to turn it off at which time a software dialog box appears which allows you to select “off” or “cancel.”
The second and larger button is used for selecting the task manager and/or the on screen keyboard. When pressed, this button displays a dialog box with two symbols: a screen and a pen. Touching the screen button opens the task manager.
Touching the pen button opens another dialog box with two phrases: “Open SIP” and “Close SIP” to display and close the on-screen keyboard respectively.
Also on the back is a soft reset button and the stylus with a slot for it.
There is no easy to remove battery cover. All access to the inside of the unit is done by removing the factory installation screws.
One other thing that I noticed is that the power supply tips on both the AC power adapter and the car power adapter are too long, leaving the tips extended about 1/8″ when either plug is firmly seated.
Additionally, others have posted elsewhere that the device may not have the 256 MB of RAM that is advertised. I confirmed that the X10 MID reports in “System Properties” 137,976 KB of system memory. That is more than 128 MB but less than 256 MB of RAM. Hmmm….
In an apparent attempt to minimize software customization for different languages and different international markets the manufacturer has built and implemented software applications omitting many of the meaningful word labels in the those applications. I found this creates difficulty in using these applications because the symbology is not readily apparent. This is especially true in the music and video player applications. I found it difficult to learn what the various symbol and button selections meant and did. A manual would have been very helpful here.
Three  Microsoft file format support applications come with the unit—these applications are called PlanMaker (for Excel files), TextMaker (for Word files) & SoftMaker Presentation (for PowerPoint files) from Germany-based SoftMaker Software. In my limited use and testing of these applications I found no significant shortcomings. The only thing the reader needs to know is that these application do not automatically come with the serial number. However, a serial number is provided by PandaWill.com by simply asking.
I chose to not try and configure the e-mail application SoftMaker Mail as it did not appear to support Microsoft Exchange synchronization. Accordingly, I cannot comment on its functionality or adequacy.
A very minor point: the GPS radio status application shows Chinese symbols on the opening screen.
A 7 inch screen for a GPS device is really nice and large compared to most portable GPS devices. It’s virtually the same size at the built-in navigation system in my 2008 Honda Accord. While the X10 MID screen is not perfect in full-sun outdoor conditions, it is quite nice and very acceptable in the semi-shade inside an automobile. I found the iGO 8 navigation software from naviextras.com to be surprising complete and easy to use. It is the same software used on the HP iPAQ 31x Travel Companion. It includes turn-by-turn audio directions in a choice of voices as well as several choices of 2D and 3D display.
Setting up the GPS software took a few tries. I needed to set the “Select Navigation Exe” by pointing to “\ResidentFlash3\iGO8\iGO8.exe” by first selecting the Orange and grey “X” shaped icon labeled “NavAppPath” on the second screen of the “TalenTech Demo” menu. You also need to take the time to properly setup all the options including the map set to use. In my case I needed to choose the U.S. state of Colorado from the primary map view by first selecting “Menu” then selecting “Find” and finally selecting “Find Address.”
I first tried to use the GPS from inside my home without success. One I placed the device in my car I was able to get a location fix. That first GPS location fix took a few minutes, but afterwards subsequent fixes were were quite quick. Thereafter I even was able to get an occasional GPS fix while indoors.
The movie player
As you can see in the video that I needed to”prop up” the device for filming, no kickstand is included with the device. Not all digital formats can be played on the device. The retail box clearly limits the compatible formats. As I mentioned above, the video software application is not very user friendly, but it does work. When you watch the video you will notice occasional stutters during video playback. However, I did not the stuttering to be excessive nor annoying—others may.
The audio player
Like the movie player, the audio player presents some “ease of use” challenges.” By default, audio files play in mono through the single player in the back of the X10 MID. However, when ear buds are connected to the jack full stereo is heard. I found no jerkiness or stuttering when using the audio player application.
The internet browser
The browser included with the X10 MID appears to be a skinned implementation of the standard Windows CE Internet Explorer. Over WiFi, the browser renders reasonably quickly for pages that are not graphics intense. In other words, it renders those sites with considerable graphics content quite slowly. The MSN home page rendered in less than 15 seconds including the time for the browser to start. Overall, the X10 MID browser experience is better than the experience on either a Kindle or a Nook, but not nearly as good as I would have preferred. I generally prefer SkyFire for browsing with Windows CE as it will play integrated Flash content and is generally quite speedy. However, as I’ve mentioned before installing third party apps is rarely possible.
In spite of the indication on the retail packaging to the contrary, no eBook reader comes installed on the X10 MID. Since the manufacturer of the X10 MID chose to prohibit software installations though either ActiveSync (WMDC on Vista and Windows 7) or *.cab files getting an eBook reader to work on the device can be somewhat problematic. I was unable to get my preferred eBook reader, the Windows CE version of Microsoft Reader, running. However, I was able to get the uBook reader working because it is distributed in a single *.exe Windows CE executable file.
I truly find it amazing that Microsoft’s own eBook reader, cannot be installed on an implementation of their own Windows CE operating system.
Windows CE Professional comes with a native Windows CE remote desktop client. Unfortunately, the stripped down version of Windows CE on the X10 MID does not. Fortunately I was able to find a client from a third party that runs on the X10 MID. By simply copying the executable and two associated DLLs to the X10 MID, I was able to easily and straightforwardly gain remote desktop access to all the other computers on my home network.
Efforts at the PandaWill Forum
Windows CE is clearly a doubled-edged sword for the X10 MID. Windows CE is not by itself a finger-touch OS. As a result, the manufacturers have tried to hide the core of the OS. That has severely limited the ability to add 3rd party Windows CE applications to the X10 MID. PandaWill.com sponsors and supports a internet forum, or discussion group at PandaWillForum.com. The participants there are anxious to expand the capabilities and functionality of the X10 MID. These discussions include:
- gaining access to the core Windows CE user interface
- installing MioPocket as a supplemental user interface
- installing 3rd party Windows CE applications
So far few of the efforts have met with substantial success, but if you’re interested in the X10 MID following the discussions in the forum will be beneficial.
- Price – only $179.99 including international airmail shipping
- Hardware: screen is bright & responsive to touch
- Works well as a car GPS
- Plays music and video stored on MicroSDHC (TransFlash) memory card
- Built-in Internet Explorer works as expected (requires a stylus)
- Significantly limited Windows CE 6.0 OS implementation
- No way to do a full hard reset to factory configuration
- No way to install 3rd party applications
- No built-in eBook reader
- The initial GPS “lock-in” can take a long time
- No portrait mode.
- The unit does not charge by the USB connection
- The power supply tip is the same size as the earbud plug, making it too easy to incorrectly plug in the correct device.
- No manual is included but one is available for download
- The downloadable manual refers to a “Battery charge LED” that does not exist
- No microphone for Skype (if it could be installed)
- No longer comes with webcam
- no included mini-HDMI cable
In other words, if all you’re after is an “out of the box” GPS that can see and edit office documents, send email, surf the web, listen to digital audio and watch digital video then the MID X10 is worth considering. You certainly can’t beat the price.
Back to my original personal list of my wants for a tablet/slate—with the X10 MID I can:
- browse the internet
- have a screen large enough for my aging eyes
- remote desktop into other Windows devices on my home network
but unfortunately, I cannot:
- use the X10 MID as an e-reader
- ink on the device
Personally, I’d prefer a full Windows CE professional version without the Talentech user interface as long as I could install my own Windows CE applications to suit my personal needs and achieve everything on my personal want list.