Win 7 10” Tablet (from PandaWill) review

Posted by Rich Bilancia on Nov 16, 2010

closeThis post was published 3 years 10 months 2 days ago which may make its actuality or expire date not be valid anymore. This site is not responsible for any misunderstanding.

IMG_0561One of the best kept secrets about Windows is that it has natively supported a touch interface for about 8 years.  The very first version of the Windows Tablet PC was announced in November of 2002.  Now, eight years later, the original promise may about to be realized.

Since January of 2003, I’ve been using the Tablet PC platform as my exclusive traveling Windows PC device.  The Tablet PCs that I’ve owned have included:

Of course, I’ve also been carrying a mobile phone all that time in order to tether my tablets for internet access, but that’s a topic for another day. 

Each of my Tablet PCs have been pen-enabled, but starting with the ThinkPad X60 they have also been touch-enabled.  The ThinkPad X60 (which I still have and use) is resistive touch-enabled.  My HP TM2T is capacitive touch-enabled.  Accordingly, while waiting for the current flock of Windows 7 “touch tablets” I’ve become very familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of Windows 7 as a touch device platform.  In my not so humble opinion, the strengths of being able to run legacy Windows applications fully over shadow the few “touch” usability limits of Windows 7—especially when a pen/stylus is quickly accessible.  More on that thought later.

My all time favorite Tablet PC was the HP TC1100.  The form factor (10 inch screen with a removable keyboard) and relatively light weight (about 3 lbs.) made it ideal for me.  I’ve been looking for a comparable replacement ever since my HP TC1100 died.  When the ThinkPad X60 came along, I was intrigued with the added ability of a touch interface.  Unfortunately, the resistive-touch was more of an expensive novelty rather than an important feature.

I found the capacitive-touch enabled HP TM2T almost ideal for finger touch, but since I rarely use the keyboard, the size (1.18 inches thick) and weight (just over 4 lbs.) left much to be desired in a touch device.  I’ve been lusting for the HP Slate 500 since it was revealed in January at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.  Being able to add a Bluetooth keyboard to such a device for the rare occasion it was necessary made the device near perfect.

IMG_0561

So how does all of this compare with the Pandawill Win 7 10” Tablet that I’ve been using for the last few weeks?  My initial impressions of the Win 7 10” Tablet from PandaWill were positive.  I continue to be impressed, but not without some serious disappointments.  Here’s my video overview:

By the way, PandaWill.com has reduced the price of the device (about 3%) since last reported in my unboxing and my first look posts.

The Hardware:

Many Windows fans are looking for an iPad killer—a touch tablet that can also run legacy applications.  Window 7’s native interface is certainly not optimal for touch.  However, “touch” software layers provide comparable functionality to the iPad.  Without those software layers, getting Windows 7 to be better suited for a touch interface requires some customization.  Some of the things I’ve done in this regard include:

  • putting the Windows 7 “Start” button on top by dragging the taskbar to the left
  • increasing the default size of icons, buttons and other Windows objects

A good overview of the customizations in Windows 7 that are possible to facilitate a touch user interface can be found here.  The se changes can make a huge difference!

There are three [3] buttons, one [1] slide switch and one [1] rocker switch on the device.  They are and function as follows:

  • top left button – this is the power button.  It turns the unit on when it is off and puts the unit into sleep mode when the unit is on.
  • top right button – this button seems to function identically to the front “Windows” button as it simply functions as an alternative to pressing the Windows Start button.
  • front “Windows” button – an alternative to pressing the Windows Start button.
  • left side slide switch – turns the Bluetooth radio on and off when the unit is equipped with Bluetooth. 
  • top right rocker switch – the documentation says it controls both audio volume and screen brightness.  I found that it only controls screen brightness.  However, the right side of the toggle must be initially pressed to enter this mode.

A nice option would be a software utility to control and/or re-assign the hardware buttons for other uses.

I quickly inserted a 16GB microSDHC card in the upper right slot designed for such cards.  The slot and device worked just as I would have expected.  However, I did have some difficulty being able to fully depress the card into the slot sufficiently far enough for the card to hold in position.  Once I found the right technique to use (my fingernail) the card remained firmly in place.

The screen is bright and uniform.  I found no dead pixels or defects of any kind.  Apple got it right with a 10" screen, this device comes close to the Apple iPad ideal.  However, the screen proportion is 6×9 (perfect for watching HD videos, but not much else).  I prefer the 3×4 proportion of the iPad which is perfect for book reading.

The capacitive touch worked as expected although I found it at times to be somewhat unresponsive compared to my HP TM2T.  I suspect that at least some of the difference can be attributed to a slower processor and limited RAM on the Win 7 10” Tablet as the difference is most noticeable upon system startup.

Speaking of system startup, I found the boot time to be quite good.  It takes about 15 seconds to get through the extended BIOS and another 45 seconds to get through the login and to the desktop. I quickly got in the habit of sleeping or hibernating the unit in order to have a quicker “on” time.

One of the reasons that this review took so long to complete was that Pandawill was unable to help me get Bluetooth working on the device.  The product page on PandaWill.com shows that Bluetooth is an option.  I was told that the evaluation unit had a Bluetooth radio, but was unable to find the hardware device in Windows or get it working.  The left side switch is supposed to enable/disable the Bluetooth radio (the top rightmost LED indicates so), but Windows never recognizes any device.  See pictures below.

IMG_0565

IMG_0567

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If you need either a VGA port or a hard-wired RJ-14 Ethernet port, the Win 7 10” Tablet comes with a very unusual adapter.  The adapter provides each of these above connectors, and works by plugging the adapter into the HDMI port on the side of the unit (see pictures below).  It may be a bit awkward, but it works.

IMG_0563

IMG_0564

The power supply is "auto-switching" but the provided cord is not USA standard.as I reported earlier.  You can get a USA power cord at your local Radio Shack if you do not already have a spare handy.

The battery is sealed inside the unit.  There does not appear to be a way to change the battery.

The Software:

As I’ve already mentioned, my biggest disappointment with the device is the lack of a licensed version of Windows 7.  The device shipped with Windows 7 Ultimate installed, but it is not a legal copy.  When I asked my contact at Pandawill about the lack of a Windows 7 license, I was told, “…[devices] made in China [that] use the Windows system and the problem which you talk about exists exactly.”  Hmmm….

IMG_0569

The Windows 7 experience performance ratings are:

  • 2.3 – processor
  • 4.5 – memory (RAM)
  • 2.7 – graphics
  • 2.0 – gaming graphics
  • 5.9 – primary hard disk
  • 2.0 – overall base score

Other than the Bluetooth mentioned above, only one utility is provided.  That utility, “GlobeTrotter Connect,” manages 3G SIM cards.  Interestingly, I was unable to get a SIM card to stay in the slot.  It kept spring back out.  Accordingly, I was unable to test 3G with the Win 7 10” Tablet.

No separate "touch" software layer is included.  However, two such applications worth considering for addition to this device are:

  • Thinix Touch available here, and
  • mirabyte FrontFace available here

Since the device comes with an internet webcam, speakers and a microphone port, while I did not test it, Skype should be fully supported.  In addition, any of the following eBook and magazine readers should work flawlessly:

  • Kindle for PC
  • nook for PC
  • Sony eReader
  • Microsoft reader
  • Zinio

Comparison with other Windows 7 devices:

The day that the HP Slate 500 was officially announced, I received a different Win 7 10” Tablet from PandaWill.com.  Since that time three [3] weeks ago, I’ve used the Win 7 10” Tablet daily. 

The Slate 500 can now be ordered at hp.com.  Additionally several other  Windows 7 tablets have recently been announced including the Viewsonic ViewPad 10.  The unique feature of the ViewPad 10 is the dual boot capability to the old Android v1.6.  Otherwise, the Pandawill Win 7 10” Tablet has virtually identical specs to the ViewPad 10.  The following table shows all those comparisons.

Comparison to the Viewsonic Viewpad 10

  PandaWill Win 7 Tablet ViewPad 10
Processor 1.67GHz Intel Atom N455 1.66GHz Intel Pine Trail-M N455
Graphics processor Intel NM10 Express Intel NM10
OS Win 7 Ultimate - UNLICENSED Win 7 Home Premium
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n
Wired Ethernet 10/100 with included adapter none
VGA port with included adapter yes, mini-VGA
HDMI out yes no
Bluetooth optional v2.0 yes
Display 10.1" WSGA 1024×600 10" LED 1024×600
MultiTouch Capacitive – 2 point Capacitive
RAM 1GB DDR 1GB DDR3
Storage 16GB SSD 16GB SSD
memory card slot microSDHC microSDHC
Front facing webcam 1.3 MP 1.3 MP
Rear facing camera none available none available
USB 2 slots 2 slots
folio case none available none available
Battery  3600 Mah Li-Polymer 3200mAh
Dock none available none available
Penabled no no
Weight 1.97 lbs 1.84 lbs.
dimensions 10.5"w x .75"d x 6.8"h 10.8"w x .57"d x 6.7"
display brightness button yes no
Auto-rotate screen (G-sensor) yes yes
audio volume toggle button no no
"Home" button no yes
Headphone jack yes yes
Integrated microphone yes yes
integrated speakers yes yes
Cntl+Alt+Delete key no by holding down the power button
WAN Sim card slot optional $50 extra  
 Price 

US $ 534.99

 £ 449.00 

Comparison to the HP Slate 500

As I reported earlier, the Pandawill Win 7 10” tablet also compares favorably with the HP Slate 500.


PandaWill Win 7 Tab HP Slate 500
Processor 1.67GHz Intel Atom N455 1.86GHz Intel Atom Z540
Graphics processor Intel NM10 Express Intel GMA 500
OS Win 7 Ultimate – UNLICENSED Win 7 Professional
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n
Wired Ethernet 10/100 with included adapter none
VGA port with included adapter none
HDMI out yes yes
Bluetooth optional v2.0 v3.0
Display 10.1" WSGA 1024×600 8.9" WSVGA 1024×600
MultiTouch Capacitive – 2 point Capacitive
RAM 1GB DDR 2GB DDR2
Storage 16GB SSD 64GB SSD
memory card slot microSDHC SD/SDHC
Front facing webcam 1.3 MP VGA 
Rear facing camera none available 3 MP
USB 2 slots 1 slot
folio case none available included
Battery  3600 Mah 2 cell 30WHr
Dock none available included
Penabled no with N-trig digitizer
Weight 1.97 lbs 1.5 lbs
dimensions 10.5"w x .75"d x 6.8"h 9.21"w x .58"d x 5.91" h
display brightness button yes none
Auto-rotate screen (G-sensor) yes yes
audio volume toggle button no yes
"Home" button no yes
Headphone jack yes yes
Integrated microphone yes yes
integrated speakers yes yes
Cntl+Alt+Delete key no yes
WAN Sim card slot optional $40 extra no
 Price                        US $534.99               US $799.00

Other comparable devices

The Pandawill Win 7 10” Tablet also compares favorably to the TEGA v2 Multi-touch Tablet PC and the CTL 2goPad SL10.

Conclusion:

Pros:

  • Capacitive-touch implementation of Windows 7 Ultimate
  • Reasonably priced
  • full 10” display
  • full selection of connectivity ports
  • Immediately available

Cons:

  • Includes unlicensed copy of Windows 7
  • Bluetooth is optional and not standard
  • no dedicated Cntl-Alt-Delete button
  • no stylus/pen
  • no United States power cable included
  • small SSD drive (16GB standard)
  • limited RAM (1GB standard)
  • non-removable battery

According to a recent posting at engadget.com, “Yes, the HP Slate 500 is officially backordered, less than a month after its enterprising debut, and Hewlett-Packard claims it’s because of ‘extraordinary demand…..’”  Along with the fact that the Viewsonic ViewPad 10 is not yet available, the Pandawill Win 7 may be worth your consideration—at least if you can deal with its shortcomings.

The two versions of the Pandawill Win 7 10” Tablet can be found for purchase here (3G capable) and here (no 3G).

Rich Bilancia (55 Posts) - Website | Twitter | Facebook


Rich, a former IT executive and managerial accountant, is enjoying retirement in northern Colorado. He remains an active civic volunteer and a passionate technologist.

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