25 Jan 2013
With Windows 8 out of the bag, touch computing has become 2013's hardware hot topic.
Looking to capitalise on the wave of interest, PC makers across the world are rushing out a new business-focused Microsoft-powered tablets.
This has seen the likes of Lenovo add touch capabilities to its ThinkPad series of devices and now HP follow suit, unveiling a fresh batch of touch entries into its Elite-series of devices.
However, of HP's new batch the most interesting is without a doubt its ElitePad 900 Windows 8 Pro tablet, which aims to use add-on covers to target pretty much every professional group and industry under the sun.
Eager to see how the ElitePad 900 handles, V3 visited HP at its London Showcase event to grab some hands on time with the tablet.
Design and build
As a standalone tablet the ElitePad 900 looks like most other Windows 8 tablets. The ElitePad has the same slightly curved look as many other devices currently on offer, featuring rounded edges and a grey aluminium chassis.
Also, like most other Windows 8 Pro tablets, it's a lot heavier than similarly sized Android and iOS tablets, weighing a hefty 680g despite measuring in at a reasonable 178x261x9.2mm.
However, this is to be expected considering the fact the ElitePad is running a full version of Windows 8 Pro and using powerful Intel hardware as opposed to lighter Qualcomm and Nvidia mobile tech.
In terms of ports the tablet section of the ElitePad features charge, two USB, sim and MicroSD inputs.
For those looking for more connectivity, HP's unveiled a host of expansion jackets for the ElitePad, each being designed to customise it for use within a specific industry.
These include everything from a rubberised outer case designed to protect it when being used in more hazardous conditions, like a building site, to a folding keyboard cover similar to the clip on keyboards seen on Asus' Transformer series of devices.
At the event, we had the chance to see the ElitePad's "Expansion Cover". Living up to its name, the cover expands the number of ports on the ElitePad, adding two USB ports, an SD card expansion slot and an HDMI output. The jacket comes in two pieces and is designed so that the tablet slides into the larger body, with the top clipping on to hold it in place.
Given the lack of ports on the main tablet section the jackets will prove a must for most business users - a fact that could prove a blessing and curse. While the jackets make the tablet very versatile, there's currently no word on how much they're going to cost.
The ElitePad comes with a 10.1in 1280x800 resolution display. In terms of performance this means the ElitePad's display isn't anywhere near as crisp or dazzling as the displays seen on non-Windows tablets, like the Nexus 10 and new iPad.
However, during our hands with the ElitePad we still found the display more than usable, with it boasting surprisingly good viewing angles and proving more than crisp enough for general day-to-day tasks.
Aside from this, the only issue we had with the device's screen during our brief hands on was that it only boasts five, not 10-point multi-touch capabilities.
This meant that when typing using the ElitePad's onscreen keyboard we occasionally noticed a slight delay in response - though the spokesman on hand assured us that this was only an issue with pre-production demo units and has been fixed on the release retail versions. We'll make sure we test that claim.
As well as Windows 8 Pro's core security features HP's loaded the ElitePad with its own Client Security Manager software. This includes a number of useful packages like its Credential Manager, Password Manager and Device Access Manager.
While this won't be of interest to everyone, the services will prove a boon to network managers making it far easier for businesses to safely connect and manage the device when running it on the corporate network.
The ElitePad 900 features the full version of Windows 8 Pro, running on Intel's x86-based architecture.
The machine we had our hands on with was powered by a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2720 CPU and boasted 2GB of RAM.
During our hands on with the ElitePad we didn't get the chance to really put the device through its paces or run full benchmarks.
However, in the limited tasks we undertook, we found the ElitePad was fairly nippy and we're looking forward to getting the chance to really push the device come our full review.
Camera and Storage
The ElitePad 900 packs an 8MP rear-facing and along with a front-facing unit which HP has yet to provide the specs for. During our hands on we didn't get a real chance to test either the rear or front-facing cameras.
HP's loaded the ElitePad 900 with 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded using the inbuilt micro-SD card slot.
From our brief time with the device, our opening impressions of the HP ElitePad 900 are positive. Thanks to its Smart Jacket offering, the ElitePad could prove one of the most versatile options for businesses.
This is especially true considering the tablet sections modest cost. With prices starting at £484 (including VAT) the tablet is just £80 more than Microsoft's Surface RT. Yet despite the minor price fluctuation the tablet offers businesses a host of benefits, the largest of which is the use of Windows 8 Pro.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the HP ElitePad 900.
10 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: Samsung unveiled its Windows 8-powered Series 7 Chronos alongside its new Ultra ultrabook at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Sunday.
Running Windows 8 standard and featuring a touchscreen, Samsung touted the Chronos as proof it was capable of making laptops oozing with business appeal.
Design and build
The Chronos' most striking feature is its bare metal chassis and ample dimensions, with it measuring in at 376x249x20.9mm.
This meant that while the Chronos feels very sturdy, with its aluminium chassis giving the impression it could withstand the odd heavy whack, it's also fairly heavy, even when compared to other devices in its size bracket. For this reason, the Chronos is more a desktop replacement than portable device and won't be suitable for execs expecting to rack up the air miles.
Its large backlit keyboard does have advantages though. Testing the Chronos, we were pleased with the keyboard, with it proving very responsive and pleasant to type on.
Additionally, the Chronos' size has let Samsung load it with a slew of ports. These include two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0, and individual HDMI and VGA ports. On its top, the Chronos also features a 720p integrated camera for video calling.
Samsung's loaded the Chronos with a 15.6in Full HD display. Boasting the increasingly common 10-point touch functionality, we found the display suitably eye-pleasing and responsive, recognising and enacting our touch inputs instantaneously.
The only issue we noticed with the Chronos' screen was that it could be prone to glare when it caught the light at a certain angle - though this could be more to do with the insanely bright lights Samsung had on its show floor and might not be an issue when using the Chronos in normal conditions.
Power-wise the Chronos sits in the middle of Samsung's laptop range, packing an AMD Radeon HD 8870M Graphics chip with 2GB GDDR5 Graphic Memory on board that is complemented by an Intel Core i7 processor.
While we didn't get the chance to fully run the Chronos through its paces during our hands on, we were pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it ran. Testing the Chronos using the slew of pre-installed apps on it we found the device could easily handle multi-tasking and most general tasks.
We're looking forward to seeing how the Chronos performs when challenged with more intensive tasks come our full review.
Samsung claims the Chronos will boast an eight-hour battery life off one charge. We didn't get the chance to test Samsung's claim during our hands on, but if true this should mean the Chronos will last a full working day off one charge.
However, given the device's large size, we're not sure how often users will find themselves using the Chronos on the go, away from a power station.
There's currently no official word on the Chronos price or release date. However given its middling specifications, we're guessing the Chronos will come with a similarly middling price tag. If our guess is right, then while its large size and weight make it unsuitable for prolonged mobile use the Chronos could be a solid choice for users looking for a desktop replacement.
Check back with V3 later in the year for a full review of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos.
09 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: The Helix is one of many new ThinkPads to be unveiled by Lenovo at the 2013, Consumer Electronics (CES) show. However, being the company's first tablet-come-laptop hybrid it is debatably the most interesting.
Taking on the likes of the Microsoft Surface and Samsung Ativ-series of hybrids, the Helix seeks to offer businesses an all-in-one tablet that also acts as an ultrabook.
Having beaten the rush to get our hands on the tablet, if our opening impressions are anything to go by, Lenovo may have actually managed to achieve its goal.
Design and build
At first glance the Helix has a lot more in common with its ThinkPad predecessors than other convertible laptops.
The Helix design is unashamedly barebones, featuring the same minimalist black, hard edged plastic design synonymous with all ThinkPad devices.
It's only when you open it up and look up close that you realise the Helix is actually a convertible, spotting the rather unsubtle left hand switch that when popped separates the 21mm tablet section from its dock.
Playing with the Helix we were fairly impressed by the hinge mechanism's builds quality. Despite being made of plastic the connecting section felt sturdy.
Popping the tablet in and out of the dock a few times we felt suitably reassured the section wouldn't break after prolonged use. The same was true of the Helix main tablet section, with it feeling fairly robust.
Our only qualm with the device is that it feels slightly heavier than many other convertible devices weighing a hefty 835g.
The Helix comes loaded with an 11.6in Full HD 1920x1080 pixels, 10-point multi-touch screen. During our opening tests we found that looks very nice, boasting great viewing angles, colour and brightness levels.
Testing the screen we found the Helix was pleasantly responsive, with it easily picking up and responding to every swipe and poke we threw at it.
Another added boon for artistic users, is the inclusion of a Wacom stylus, that sits neatly in the Helix's top edge.
While we didn't have time to do anything but use the stylus to make a few quick doodles, we were impressed with how well it worked.
Using Photoshop Elements, we found the Helix was able to pick up on even minor variations in pressure and angle and are fairly certain it could be used for digital painting and design purposes.
Performance and price
The Helix is designed to offer users ultrabook-level performance with the top-end version coming loaded with an Intel Core i7 processor 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. However, for this, users will have to shell out a massive $1,500.
For those shopping on a budget Lenovo's also confirmed the Helix will be available in Intel i3 and i5 versions, though there is still no official word on how much these lower specced versions will cost.
Overall our opening impressions of the Helix are positive. However, costing over $700 more than other cheaper convertible laptop-tablet hybrids, we're unsure whether the Helix will be able to attract anyone but the wealthiest of users.
08 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: Samsung initially announced its plans to use Windows 8 to increase its presence in the enterprise space in October 2012, when it unveiled its Ativ series of convertible tablet-laptop hybrids.
Following up its opening salvo, Samsung unveiled its Series 7 Ultra ultrabook at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday.
Eager to get a look at the device, V3 wrestled past the crowds at Samsung's CES booth and took a hands on look at the Ultra to see how it measures up to its more established Lenovo, HP and Dell-built competition.
Design and build
The first thing that strikes you about the Ultra is its unashamedly ultrabook design, featuring the telltale polished aluminium chassis that has become synonymous with with the title.
With its familiar brushed metal finish, the Samsung Series 7 Ultra looks sleek and stylish and feels fairly solidly built.
It also looks to be extremely travel friendly, measuring just 18.9mm thick and weighing a modest 1.65kg.
Underneath its shiny metal exterior, the Ultra packs a surprisingly large backlit keyboard. But during our tests we found the keyboard, though usable and responsive, did feel slightly less well built than the rest of the device. The keys had a disconcerting spongy feel when pressed.
The Ultra sports a surprising number of ports, despite its diminutive size, packing a single USB 3.0 port, a pair of USB 2.0 connectors, HDMI, mini VGA and HP/MIC options.
Another added boon for business users is the inclusion of a 720p HD camera, which when tested was more than adequate for video calling.
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra packs a 13.3in Full HD 1920 x 1080, 1080p, 10-point multi-touch screen.
Using the device we found the screen was suitably responsive, recognising our pinch, zoom and swipe commands instantly, making navigating its Windows 8 Pro operating system an absolute joy.
The Ultra we tested was powered by an Intel Core i7 processor though there is also an Intel Core i5 model is to launch too.
Testing the i7 version we were pleased how well Ultra handled, with programmes loading blazingly fast. We're looking forward to pushing the Ultra further and seeing how it handles more intensive tasks come our full review.
Samsung claims the Ultra will boast an eight-hour battery life. If true this will be another strong selling point for the Ultra, adding to its "use on the go" travel friendly appeal.
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra offers great performance - although a critical point, as ever will be price, a key bit of information Samsung's chosen to keep quiet about.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Samsung Series 7 Ultra.
05 Dec 2012
FRANKFURT: HP's "one more thing" moment at its annual Discover event on Wednesday turned out to be the unveiling of another Windows 8 device, this time the tablet/laptop hybrid EliteBook Revolve.
The device, as the name suggests, features a swivel screen that can be laid down on top of the laptop's keyboard to turn it into a standard tablet device, akin to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. HP is betting that users' need for the functionality of a keyboard and the ease of use of a touchscreen is set to grow.
The firm's vice president of design Stacy Wolff had shown off the device on stage, touting the importance of visually alluring products and a thin design. Certainly in our brief hands on with the device - locked to a display stand - it had both those elements.
It was light enough to seem that you'd be happy to carry it around all day in a bag and use as and when necessary while it had a nice simple but clean design, not that dissimilar to an Apple MacBook.
The swivel function seemed easy to use, making it quick and efficient to turn the device into a tablet at a moment's notice, and remaining thin enough to be functional and portable.
Annoyingly, for an unknown reason, the device on display was not touch-enabled, despite the device being set to have his capability when it launches in March next year, in the US at least.
The driver appeared to be missing when we did some quick spec checks via the control panel, so we weren't able to test out Windows 8 in all its touch-enabled glory which was a shame. But we used the mouse pad when in laptop mode, and it all seemed to run smoothly.
The device we were playing with had an Intel Core i3 1.8GHz processor and so was fast to use, switching between apps effortlessly, while it also had 8GB of RAM and was running a 64-bit version of Windows 8.
Clearly these are some decent specs and HP is no doubt hoping it can lure enterprise customers plumping for Windows 8, as it seeks to regain its position as the number one PC vendor, at least in the enterprise market, despite competition from the iPad and other rivals.
We didn't have enough time to form a definitive opinion on the device but certainly the crowds standing around were keen to have a play and the ease everyone seemed to have turning it from a laptop to a tablet and back again that we saw suggested it could prove popular.
We'll aim to have a full review presently.
With Windows 8 now available, PC manufacturers will be hoping to see improved sales in the coming months after disappointing figures over recent quarters, mostly as firms and consumers awaited the launch of Microsoft's new platform.
Another firm that has plenty riding on this is Intel, which has thrown its weight behind the ultrabook category of devices now entering the market as it aims to boost sales of Windows device, and Windows 8 gives it another opportunity to do just that.
So it was no surprise that the firm held an event in central London on Tuesday showing off a raft of products from its partners such as Lenovo, Dell and Acer running the platform.
V3 popped along to have a look to try out some of the devices on show.
Certainly all the devices had something to recommend them, whether the novel combinations of display options such as the Lenovo Yoga (below) with four different viewing stances: laptop, tablet, ‘tent' or as a single screen, with the keyboard used as the stand at the back.
The device itself was nice to use, with a good quality keyboard and the system responsive to both touch and mouse-based inputs.
We also had a chance to see the new Windows 8 version of the Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook (below). The device has been on the market for a while running Windows 7 and secured a four-star review when we looked at it last year.
Now it's been updated with a touchscreen system so it can run Windows 8 in full and is certainly one of the nicest looking devices on display, with a compact 13.3in screen and weighing a lightweight 1.35kg.
However, if we're talking lightweight then we should probably mention the NEC Lavie Z Ultrabook (pictured below).
Although this isn't available in the UK at present and doesn't run Windows 8 either, the device is hugely popular in Japan for one key reason; its weight. It's just 875g.
The weight of devices is always something touted by manufacturers and usually it worth nothing more than a "yes it's quite light" comment but the NEC device was probably the lightest laptop device we've ever seen; there are paperback books that are heavier.
While it's not set to come to the UK - a shame - it's a good indication of how light laptops could still become. With the portability of tablets often touted as a selling point over laptops devices like this undermine that argument to some degree.
Lastly, no product showcase would be complete without something from Dell, so Intel had brought along the Dell XPS 12 which has a rather nifty rotating screen that can be swivelled within its casing to work as either a tablet or a laptop.
This mean it can also be propped up in the "tent" style akin to the Lenovo Yoga, as pictured below.
Overall, then, it's clear there's no lack of interesting, novel and quality devices from numerous manufacturers on offer for Windows 8, with Intel's technology an integral part of that.
Whether consumers take to the new system and this helps boost flagging sales, though, is another matter.
For those wanting a Windows 8 tablet/laptop hybrid device, it's going to feel like Christmas has come early in the next few weeks as a slew of devices from firms including HP, Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Asus and Fujitsu hit the market.
One of these devices from Fujitsu is the Stylistic Q702. First announced in July, the device is set to be available in the first couple of weeks after Windows 8 is unveiled, and V3 had a chance to see the unit in action at the IP Expo event on Thursday.
Obviously, any device offering itself up as a tablet in any form must face inevitable comparisons with the iPad, but the inclusion of the docking station with an in-built keyboard also sets the device apart from Apple, with competition on this front coming from its traditional rivals noted above.
The device as a unit weighs 850g, and so felt light but sturdy in the hand when we had a play, certainly no less comfortable than the iPad. The 11.6in screen is notably larger than Apple's tablets and gave the Windows 8 system plenty of opportunity to shine.
This was helped by the high-definition display, with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels, which was crisp and sharp. While those with hawk-like eyes may spot a loss of quality compared with Apple's Retina Display, it was adequate enough to us.
Where the device definitely sets itself apart, though, is in the ability to switch from a standard tablet device to laptop by inserting it into a keyboard dock.
Adding it to the keyboard was nice and easy, easily 'clicking' into the two hinges that are used to hold it in place - one of which is snapped below showing the docking system.
Fujitsu told us it's already in discussions with corporate customers who see benefits from using a hybrid device on Windows 8 and it's certainly understandable that for many firms a hybrid represents a clear benefit instead of either a laptop or tablet.
The ability to carry around the tablet for on-site work, snap pictures and jot down notes using the input pen is clearly a lot easier than using a normal laptop device, but with the ability to then add a keyboard, you retain the benefits of a normal input method.
The keyboard itself was easy to use, with a nice tactile key input and well-spaced keys.
Using the Windows 8 platform on the device felt fine. While people who've never used the platform may find it confusing at first it's pretty intuitive once you get used to it, and should only take the average user a few minutes to figure the basics out.
For those all at sea, though, the device still offers the classic Windows layout, although jumping into that only serves to make the new Windows 8 look even better when compared to its drab corporate ancestors.
Inside, the specifications are fairly meaty, as you'd expect as this is the firm's high-end device in the Windows 8 portfolio it's bringing to market.
This means it can be powered by either an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, and packs 256GB of SSD storage and 4GB of RAM.
It also boasts nine hours of battery life although obviously we can't verify yet if these claims hold true in real-life tests.
Another area where the device sets itself apart from the iPad is the inclusion of several input ports within the keyboard frame of the device, including an HDMI slot, a memory card slot, a LAN port and a VGA port (below).
The LAN port means that it can be connected to corporate networks directly, rather than relying solely on a 3G connection or Wi-Fi, like the iPad and other more consumer-focused tablets on the market.
The Stylistic Q702 can access mobile data networks, though, as it features a dedicated SIM slot in the tablet. This will include compatibility with 4G networks set to be available in the UK as it can access 800MHz, 1800MHZ and 2.6GHz frequencies.
The tablet also features a number of its own input buttons, including volume controls and screen brightness along the edge, so the user can easily alter these elements as they wish when on-the-move, as you can see below running along the edge of the device.
Clearly Fujitsu won't have it all its own way in the Windows 8 tablet market when the platform is made available with so many rivals lining up to offer similar propositions. But based on what we saw, the firm certainly has a compelling offering to compete with.
We'll have a full review of the Stylistic Q702 once it's launched next month, so check back then for more insights.
20 Sep 2012
Dell unveiled a handful of new business systems on Wednesday that will ship with Windows 8 when Microsoft's next-generation platform becomes available.
All three are based on the latest Intel processors, and include features designed to appeal to business buyers, such as extensions to Intel's vPro technology adding support for capabilities such as remote Bios updates and remote power management.
The Latitude 10 tablet (below) is a 10.1in slate-mode device running Intel's upcoming Clover Trail Atom chip.
10.1in (1,366x768) display with Corning Gorilla Glass, 2GB memory, up to 128GB SSD, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband, 2-cell (30Whr) or four-cell (60Whr) removable battery, full-size USB 2.0 port, SD Card slot, mini-HDMI output, 725g weight.
The Latitude 6430u (below) is Dell's first business-focused ultrabook. It has a 14in display and processor options up to the 3.2GHz Core i7-3667U.
However, it does not have a touch-screen as standard, despite being designed for Windows 8 (Windows 7 will also be an option on this system).
Third generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, up to 8GB memory, up to 256GB SSD storage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and optional mobile broadband, three-cell or six-cell removable battery options, 1.69kg weight.
Completing the trio is the Optiplex 9010 all-in-one desktop (below), which has a 23in display with optional touchscreen capability, and an articulating stand providing flexibility in the height and angle as to how the screen can be positioned.
This also features the latest Intel 3rd generation Core processors, plus a choice of the older 2nd generation chips, and provides access to the memory and hard disk for maintenance, Dell said.
Up to quad-core i7 chips, up to 16GB memory, hard drive options including 1TB hard drive or 128GB SSD, DVD-Rom, DVD-RW or Blu-Ray optical drives, 1 x half mini-PCIe expansion slot, gigabit Ethernet, optional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
All three are due to be available when Windows 8 launches on 26 October.