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1/1/2013
09:31 PM
George Ou
George Ou
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Windows 8 Tablet Launch #Fail

Microsoft Windows tablets, in spite of a superior Intel processor, suffer from hardware and software problems — and are overpriced. The PC industry seems to have a misguided notion that it doesn't need to compete on specs and price with the iPad 4 and Nexus 10. It's shocking that Microsoft spent three years producing an antiquated overpriced product such as the Surface while Apple and Google, including their partners, are producing superior products in 6-month cycles.

Six months ago I extolled the virtue of Win8 tablets; and today I have to eat crow. From overpriced hardware to buggy drivers and half-designed Operating System (OS), I could not have imagined worse execution by Microsoft, Intel and the OEMs at a worse time.

While I was pessimistic about the Windows 8 launch because Microsoft forced the Metro touch interface on non-touch devices, I held out hope for the new touch and battery optimized tablets running Windows 8. This wasn't the Windows-incompatible Windows RT OS but the full Windows 8 experience running on Intel's new breed of Atom "Clover Trail" processors that can compete with ARM based processors on battery life while dominating CPU performance (benchmarks here). But the launch of Windows 8 tablets has so far failed miserably and it was doomed from the start by Microsoft.

Instead of treating Windows 8 tablets running on Intel's latest chip as its savior, Microsoft inexplicably decided to back the slower and less energy-efficient ARM based Tegra 3 processor for its flagship Surface product. All the advertising and media attention went to Surface and ARM based Windows RT tablets so the public barely knew anything about Windows 8 tablets. To make things worse, most of the 20 OEM Windows 8 Tablet designs were delayed two months after the Windows 8 and Surface launch because of driver and firmware bugs. It seemed as if Microsoft spent all of its development effort to get Surface RT ready and neglected Windows 8 tablets which explains why Intel's CEO Paul Otellini complained in September about Windows 8 bugs.

Two months ago I had very high hopes for the Samsung ATIV 500T Windows 8 tablet when I managed to get a review unit from Intel. But there were so many bugs that I held off for two months to wait for the fixes. After three major driver and firmware updates covering everything from BIOS, chipset, Pen to Sound, and Graphics, I no longer have to reboot twice a day and the tablet is in a near-stable state, but it still crashes and needs rebooting when I use Netflix's Metro app. These issues may be related to an entirely new class of drivers used for "Connected Standby" (always on) devices on tablets, since I haven't experienced these problems in Windows 8 on conventional laptop and desktop systems.

Samsung ATIV 500T dock connector (bottom view)

In its current software state, the Samsung ATIV 500T would have been my favorite mobility laptop if it didn't have an unusable dock. While the keyboard and touchpad are excellent, the docking connector suffers a fatal design flaw. The ATIV 500T's keyboard/trackpad dock uses tiny pins to touch flat plates on the bottom of the 500T tablet which become disconnected with the slightest disturbance. Even routine typing causes the tablet to disconnect from the dock. Sometimes it just means keys presses and mouse movements won't register. Other times you'll hear the Windows 8 device disconnect chime. The problem only got worse after two months of use.

Next Page: Better tablet designs like the Acer W510

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