There’s ‘value’ and there’s ‘cheap.’ The Toshiba Encore Mini falls into the latter group and even at $119 it’s got too many issues to be recommended for most types of user.
The Toshiba Encore Mini was one of the first devices I got hands-on with at IFA earlier this month and although it was an attractive size it was immediately clear that it had cut many corners. The screen, a non-IPS panel of just 768×1280 resolution, is terrible. Even my eyes, old and tired, saw jaggies and poor viewing angles.
And then there’s the specifications. The Z3735G CPU is acceptable but it’s coupled with just 1 GB of RAM which might work OK for the RT/Modern environment but you’ll run into problems as soon as you attempt to used the desktop. Given the low resolution and the RAM issue the Encore Mini might as well have desktop disabled so that RAM can be saved for the Modern environment. In fact, perhaps this should be a $99 Windows RT device? The 13 Wh battery is the smallest I’ve ever seen on a Windows PC. This is a 5-hour tablet, not a 10-hour tablet.
On the positive side the Encore Mini is just about the cheapest Windows PC in the world and comes with one year of Office 365 and 1TB of One Drive storage included. You could potentially run a DisplayLink monitor from the USB port, connect a keyboard via Bluetooth and charge it from a solar panel. Products like the ASUS Eeebook X205 and the Acer ES1/E11 notebook are cheap but consider that these $199 options are 66% more expensive and that could be the difference between having a PC or not.
I’ve got a set of images on my broken Ultrabook that i’ll recover next week but you can watch the video below and see everything you need to know. The price will make this a stand-out offering as one of the cheapest ‘PCs’ on the market but please, check out the video before buying. Rarely am I so negative about UMPCs but there’s no place for this tablet in the developed Western markets and even in developing markets I would suggest caution.
It had to happen on #13 right? On my recent 14-day tour of IFA and IDF (Berlin, San Francisco) I prepared myself with four devices. One Windows laptop. One Chromebook. One smartphone and one featurephone. What I didn’t plan for was a total failure of the main Windows laptop. Chromebooks don’t work as a fallback laptop.
Everything had gone very smoothly with my Haswell-based. The platform has great battery life (in this case, all-day working without a charge) and 1080p video editing and rendering for my (admittedly basic) YouTube videos. Photo editing (for blogs) is easy and there’s enough space in a 128GB SSD for a two-week session. When your Ultrabook fails, however, you’ll need a backup. I’m usually equipped with a second, lower-powered Windows laptop or tablet but this time I only had the Lenovo N20p Chromebook. While that has battery life, a quality browser, good WiFi and a keyboard that won’t drive me crazy it can’t handle video editing. When you’re producing up to 15 videos for YouTube per day you need local processing. Lesson learnt. A Chromebook is not a fallback solution.
The silver lining to this story is that Intel helped me out at the last-minute with the loan of a3. The back-story is that I was sponsored by Intel to go to IDF so Intel Germany stepped in. I thank you! While the 3 doesn’t have an SD card slot (so annoying) and isn’t a ‘lapable’ solution (it works, but it’s not easy) and the keyboard feels a little bouncy it’s the lightest Core i5 PC I’ve ever used. 2.45 pounds for a Core i5 ‘laptop’ with backlit keys and a 42 Wh battery. Wow! That’s some engineering. It’s an ultra mobile desktop-capable PC!
The 12.5-inch screen wasn’t a problem although I did notice some desktop apps having tiny text due to the high PPI. It was a little stubborn with returning from standby though and got extremely hot when rendering videos. Connected Standby is out-of-spec too. Microsoft want to see less than 5% drain over 16 hours in CS mode. Thewas returning 5% in 5-10 hours although I admit I didn’t reset it to factory settings before starting to use it. The keyboard is perfect…for what I was doing. It’s a little bouncy but I got used to it and felt comfortable after a short time. I was using a German layout which has a tiny left-shift key and it kept catching me out but I see that the QWERTZ layout doesn’t have that problem. I can’t complain. The only think I will mention is the hinge. It looks complex and it looks very vulnerable. It works, but for how long?
Moving on to the Nokia Lumia 1020p I have to give it 10/10 for casual photos. I picked up the excellent Shoulderpod S1 while I was at IFA and I was planning to pick up the Lumia 1020 grip case too but on the third day of the event I dropped the 1020 and the screen smashed. It’s limping along now until I decide whether to stay with Lumia (830 perhaps?) or move to Android where there’s some very interesting progress being made in smart photography.
The Lumix FZ150, now nearly three years old, still does a great job as an all-round blogging camera. The OIS is stable, close-up video works well, an external mic helps in loud situations, the zoom helps in press conferences and the swing-out screen is something I couldn’t do without. I tested the FZ1000 at IFA and wow, that’s #1 on my list as a camera upgrade. I also tested a cheap LED lamp. This CN-160 (aff.) is available under many brands and having tested it (thanks to broadcast journalist Guy Degan) I’ve ordered one. Update: it just turned up in the post.
The Ultrabook platform (Haswell U-series CPU with SSD) is superb and every mobile reporter working with media should use it. Quick-Sync video processing will save you time and battery life and a 50+ Wh battery will give you all-day action. Thewith Core i5 and a Surface Pro Cover keyboard, and a good USB3.0 SD card adaptor is one of the lightest options. I’ve used the SP3 for a week and I’m impressed although the lack of SD card slot is a real pain.
Chromebooks work well as companion laptops and I will continue to use my Lenovo N20P around the house but I won’t be taking a Chromebook as a backup laptop again. It’s got a keyboard, yes, but it hasn’t got the capability you need if you’re working with digital media.
As for the Lumia 1020, recommended! Great photos, videos and audio are possible and it processes media well for online use (it’s not the best at natural colours but it ‘pops’ well online) although I still reach for my bridge camera when I’ve got an event to cover. The Lumia 1020 also has a little problem in that it’s reached ‘peak effectiveness’ for social photography and videos. Where does Microsoft go next with Lumia because if they don’t add a zoom soon, devices like the Lumix CM1 could take over.
Did I use the Nokia 808 on this trip? Yes, as an audio recording device, MP3 player and backup phone and cameraphone. I suspect it will stay in the kit bag.
Mobile Reporting Kit #14 will be assembled in early 2015 for CES, MWC and CeBIT. I have a feeling that the Surface Pro 3 will be replaced by an Ultrabook (I’m looking at that ASUS UX305) and I’m hoping I can get hold of a Lumix FZ1000 camera which would be a big improvement on the 3-year old FZ150 I have. As for the phone, I’m remaining open-minded. While the Lumias are fantastic cameras and mapping devices, there’s still a lag in choice of applications. I will be working with Android on the Dell Venue 8 7000 next month so I’ll make a choice after I’ve used Android again.
In an Intel-led Core M benchmarking meeting today I saw a set of controlled benchmarks from a 6W TDP Core M product. The tests were performed in an 685 gram 12.5-inch Llama Mountain reference tablet with a machined aluminum rear casing that is optimal for this design. We also saw a copper-based rear casing that can handle a lot more thermal energy but you won’t see that happening in consumer products. The benchmark scores we saw were more than I had expected.
Over at Ultrabooknews: Intel Core M Overview, benchmarks and product Previews
Three benchmarks were run, once, on a rested system in a warm room.
Sunspider: 119ms at
2.8 2.6 Ghz. ( 3 with Core i5 is 113ms at 2.4Ghz Turbo)
3DMark Icestorm unlimited: 48230
Cinebench R11.5 – 2.65 (3 with Core i5: 2.77)
Note that these are the scores from a high-end 6W TDP Core M 5Y70. The 4.5W TDP Core M SoCs won’t perform this well and in a product with a less-than-perfect thermal design there could be heat issues that prevent Turbo Boost reaching these high levels.
GPU performance needs to be further tested and long-term gaming could impact Turbo Boost capability.
This is the best you’ll see from Core M at
2.8 2.6 Ghz but it’s important to remember that this is best-of-Core M right now. I’m going to be pushing to get the new Lenovo Helix 2 in for testing so at that point we’ll get our first real-product results.
Tip: Check out the Surface Pro 3 review at Notebookcheck.net for a controlled set of performance figures.
Disclaimer: Intel have paid for my attendance at IDF this year.
I was asked for my opinion on the price of the Dell Venue 8 7000 just after it was announced and all I could think of was the nice looking Lenovo Tab S8 which is very similar, for about $199. After handling the Dell Venue 8 7000 I now see a product worth much more than that. The amazing OLED 2K screen is punchy and sharp. The 6mm thin design is light and stylish and the 3 additional Realsense snapshot cameras offer some interesting options for photographers. In this video you’ll see some of those features being demonstrated.
After talking to a number of people about the Dell Venue 8 700 I know know the following.
- It will be available in November.
- There will be an LTE version. (Intel 7260)
- It runs on Merrifield (Intel |Z35xx-series)
- The screen is 2K resolution OLED
- The base configuration will be 2GB RAM and 16GB storage
- An SDK will be released but it’s looking like early 2015 before developers can create apps
Youll find out more in the video after the images…
A reminder of the specs.
2K resolution screen (Ultra HD(
Edge to Edge screen.
8.4 inch screen
Realsense ‘snapshot’ capability
Early November availability
I’ll write no more. Please just watch the video.
From the Intel press release.
Michael Dell and Krzanich previewed an upcoming Dell tablet with first-of-its-kind photo capabilities. The new Dell Venue 8 7000 Series with Intel® RealSense™ snapshot is the world’s thinnest tablet and will be available in time for the holiday season. Intel RealSense snapshot is an enhanced photography solution that creates a high-definition depth map to enable measurement, refocus and selective filters with a touch of a finger. It will introduce new capabilities and new ways of using the tablet, opening up a new creative horizon for developers to come up with apps that change how consumers engage with their photos.
Updating from the keynote, live.
This 8-inch Android tablet will come with Realsense and a context sensing SDK from Intel which includes cloud-based context services.
Prototype shown on stage (see below for live images)
2K resolution screen (Ultra HD(
Edge to Edge screen.
Early November availability
Price was not given.
Given the dimensions this has to be a Baytrail–based tablet. Update: Moorefield platform is being used here.
During Intel CEO Brain Krzanich’s keynote today at the Intel Developer Forum, Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell, previewed the upcoming Dell Venue 8 7000 Series – the first tablet with Intel® RealSense™ snapshot and the world’s thinnest tablet, measuring only 6mm in thickness. Intel RealSense snapshot is an enhanced photography solution that creates a high-definition depth map to enable measurement, refocus, and selective filters with a touch of a finger. It will introduce new capabilities and new ways of using the tablet, opening up a new creative horizon for developers to come up with apps that change how consumers engage with their photos. For example, consumer can change the focus of a photo to different objects or foregrounds in editing. Objects within the photo can also be measured. The Android-based tablet is powered by the Intel® Atom™ Z3500 processor series and will be available in time for holiday.
We’re at IDF14 and will try to bring you more details as soon as possible.
The Intel IDF 2014 keynote is about to start. Core M, Realsense, Perceptual Computing, 2-in-1 are keywords I’m expecting to hear a lot over the next hour and I’ll be noting significant announcements here on this ‘live notepad’ as I go along. Refresh to update on mobile technology announcements.
Above: Core M laptops and 2-in-1’s, probably the same as we saw at IFA.
Follow the hashtag #idf14 for updates over the next 3 days.
Intel predicting 50 billion X86-based ‘Internet of Things’ devices in 2020.
Brian starts with IOT announcements. Opening Ceremony and Fossil smart wearable products..
Intel announces that Edison, the tiny dual-core single board computer will be around $50 and is ready to go to retail now.
Intel continues with IoT (calling it “wearables for machines”) and standards. Open Interconnect Consortium and Industrial Internet Consortium are announced.
[Data center segment.]
- Michael Dell and Krzanich previewed an upcoming Dell tablet with first-of-its-kind photo capabilities. The new Dell Venue 8 7000 Series with Intel® RealSense™ snapshot is the world’s thinnest tablet and will be available in time for the holiday season. Intel RealSense snapshot is an enhanced photography solution that creates a high-definition depth map to enable measurement, refocus and selective filters with a touch of a finger. It will introduce new capabilities and new ways of using the tablet, opening up a new creative horizon for developers to come up with apps that change how consumers engage with their photos.
Note that the Dell Venue 8 7000 has Realsense snapshot and not the full Realsense capability set.
Back to the keynote…
Skylake, next generation core will be launched in 2015.
Wireless power and WiGig demonstrations on stage. (The audience was impressed with the demo.)
Doug Fisher shows new reference design for an Android tablet which include certification and GMS access before going to the manufacturer. Intel commits to providing software updates within 2-weeks of AOSP updates.
Doug Fisher announces Open Interconnect Consortium. Open source and royalty free interconnect software.
Launched on stage – Dell Venue 8 7000 Android tablet with Realsense. (Details here.)
Off the top of my head I think this is the lightest 10-inch 2-in-1 PC that I’ve ever seen. The HP Pavilion X2 is a Baytrail-T quad-core tablet with a 1280×800 screen and a 34Wh battery which is going to give you a reasonable battery life. There’s a full-size USB port, MicroHDMI, MicroSD and charging port and the keyboard isn’t bad either. This UMPC will launch at $330. My tip: A version might be available with 1GB RAM. Avoid that and go for 2GB RAM and 32GB storage. Total weight: 800 grams, 1.75 pounds.
More images here.
Toshiba have just launched two low-cost 11.6-inch Windows laptops that hit the same price brackets as their new Chromebook 2 which tells us one thing – no-one really knows how the $200-$300 Windows vs Chromebook market is going to play-out. Do they have overlapping audiences or are they well separated? The Toshiba Satellite CL 10-B is obviously targeted at this market with a specification list that only differs from Chromebooks by virtue of the fact that it runs Windows. 11.6-inch, Baytrail-M, small SSD. The Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 adds a 360-degree hinge. I took a look at both of these Windows laptops at IFA and here are two video overviews.
Toshiba Satellite CL10-B
Full photoset here.
This basic Windows laptop is going to be a ‘sub 300’ product says Toshiba and we’ve subsequently heard that it will launch at 260 Euros. It still might be able to compete against the cheaper ASUS Eeebook X205 because in my opinion it’s slightly better built than the X205 and has a better keyboard but it could also have upgrade possibilities as it’s based on the SATA-capable Baytrail-M platform. With a battery capacity of 26Wh (unconfirmed) a TFT screen with a 1366×768 resolution, 2GB RAM and 16GB storage it’s got baseline specifications. Weght:1300 grams.
Toshiba Satellite Radius 11
The Satellite Radius adds a 360-degree rotating screen to the mix. It’s still a non-IPS screen and the specifications are much the same as the CL-10B apart from a larger battery and a 500GB drive. Of course the weight and price is higher. Price will play a major role in the success of the Radius 11 as it’s competing against the Lenovoand other low-cost Yoga-like hybrids. Weight: 1500 grams.
Seconds after I made this video at an IFA press event this ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi was taken away. it shouldn’t have been there but my video camera had already been rolling.
The ASUS Transformer Book Chi has a really lightweight screen but it’s quite wide. The keyboard is great and the hinge and dock seem high quality. The casing too. I’ll jut leave you to enjoy the video…
Intel just announced, or rather, just launched Core M. 8 products were highlighted.
On the slide: Acer Aspire Switch 12, ASUS Transformer Book T300FA, HP, ASUS Transformer T300 Chi, Lenovo 2, ASUS Zenbook UX305, Wistron N-Midas.
Update: I had seconds to get pics of the 8 Core M laptops before they were pulled off the stage. Can you match the devices to the product names?!
Core, at 4.5W TDP is going to enable fanless computing and finally, thin and light powerful tablets.
In my opinion we’ve just entered a more difficult world of performance testing as from what I’ve seen, 50% of the performance of this platform relies on Turbo Boost which hinges on thermal design. I look forward to going deep and getting hands-on ASAP!
Here’s the Lenovo Helix 2 that I had hands-on with earlier today. (For Notebookcheck.net)
I’ll try and track down the other devices after the keynnote.
Hand-made using walnut and oak the Alpentab is quite the unique product. Alpenelectronics, an Austrian company, is taking local wood and crafting cases for an OED Windows 10-inch tablet. The result is expensive, but special. I got some hands-on at an IFA event yesterday, spoke to the creators and found out that they’ll be making a Core i5 edition alongside the Atom Z3000-series that I saw. In addition, Alpentab will be making a special edition version with a wooden keyboard and wooden mouse .Can you imagine the hours of work that it will take? It’s no wonder that you’ll be paying around 4500 Euros for it. Even the basic tablet will set you back 800 Euros.
If you’re al all interested you’ll want to watch this video, in which you’ll see the development directors contact details and the specifications.
This is the competition for 8-inch Windows tablets in the consumer space, and it’s good. Thin, fast, full HD and coming with an LTE voice and data option for an extra 50 Euros. The Lenovo Tab S8 runs Android KitKat on an Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core CPU.
I had an overnight session with the Lenovo Tab S8 before the Lenovo press event at IFA today and I was really impressed with the value-for-money. Like Windows 8 tablets it’s not something you’ll slip into your pocket but it’s thinner and lighter than any Windows 8 tablet. The Full HD screen looks bright and punchy and there’s a familiar user interface.
In terms of performance browsing felt really fast although it seems it’s attributable to the LTE I was using at the time. A Peacekeeper score of 1055 is slightly less than we see on Windows and that could be due to browser capabilities although I did use Chrome for the test. Sunspider came in at 668 ms and the Octane Score was 5406.
The 8MP camera my not be up to the standards of the latest smartphones but it’s not bad and it beats most Windows 8 tablet cameras I’ve tested. There’s an FM radio and, in the LTE version, voice calling, SMS and of course, data. The dual front-facing speakers are loud and clear.
There’s no HDMI port but you’ve got the standard MicroSD, MicroUSB and headset ports.
There’s no substitute for a full review to find out if the Lenovo Tab S8 is as good as it seems but when it comes to consumers, maybe that’s not the point. The specs are good, it looks good, Android is good and when that full HD screen is popping at the local mall it’s going to look irresistible at $199. The jump to LTE at 250 is something I’m considering myself given that there are few Windows LTE options available and none at this price.
While ‘adventurers’ know and care about the difference between Windows and Android when it comes to your average consumer, the Lenovo Tab S8 is going to be a lot more appealing. Here’s my Lenovo Tab 8 image gallery. The video is embedded below…
ASUS has just launched the EeeBook X205, a n 11.6-inch Windows laptop featuring ‘long’ battery life and a full-size keyboard for just €199. It weighs just 980 grams.
Running the Baytrail platform (Z3000-series as seen in the cheap tablets) it’s undercutting even ASUS’ own cheap Chromebook, the C200. In the model I got hands-on with there was only 1GB of RAM. ASUS specifications show 2GB RAM. I hope it’s the latter because 1GB RAM is not enough (as I found out in my review of the Toshiba Encore 2 WT8 at Notebookcheck
The keyboard isn’t the best quality but it’s big and was stress-free in my 5-line test. There’s no touch and of course it’s a sealed unit. Note that you’re likely to find soldered RAM and eMMC storage inside so don’t expect to be able to do any DIY upgrades.
This isn’t the first ASUS laptop that’s retailed for this price but it’s the first that isn’t constrained by a 10-inch screen. Multiple colour options could turn this into a big seller in the next quarter.
In my hands-on I saw an 18Wh battery which is really small for an 11.6-inch laptop and won’t give 12 hours battery life for the average user. It’s possible I was handling a non-final build though so let’s hope for a bigger battery in the final version.
Every August I get myself organized for IFA and IDF, the two most enjoyable and informative events on my circuit. CES in Las Vegas is fun but there are more relevant products and information for me at IFA and IDF, the Intel Developer Forum. This years tour is 14 days long so once again I need reliable kit. In 2013 I took an Ultrabook, a 270-degree rotating touchscreen netbook-style laptop and two Nokia phones along with my bridge camera. This year I’ve got the same line-up but with three different computing devices. I’ve dropped my Acer W510 and replaced it with, no, not the Acer Switch 10, but a Chromebook. The two Nokia phones are also different.
The Chromebook I’ve chosen (I bought it, it’s not a loaner) is the Lenovo N20p shown above and I chose it because since I reviewed the Lenovo Flex 10 I’ve been a huge fan of 270-degree fold-back screens. It permits lay-flat mode (ever used that in bed or to raise the screen up in a seat-back scenario? If not, you should) and the really useful, casual and coffee-table friendly tablet-stand mode.
The Lenovo N20p Chromebook won’t be with me during the working day but it will be my travel companion. Films (most carried on the MyDigitalSSD PocketVault USB3.0 SSD drive) and consumption of RSS/Magazines/podcasts should be the main scenarios (the latter will be an interesting challenge for a cloud device while in the air) but I also expect to use offline Google Drive to write the occasional blog post.
I expect the N20p to be my consumption device in the evenings while the measured) of video battery life and an estimated 6 hours of casual web browsing the Lenovo N20p is likely to be well-used over the next 14 days.crunches videos and images. With 7-8 hours (
Moving on to the smartphones I’ve got the Nokia Lumia 1020 (bought very recently) with the Xenon flash and 42MP sensor. I expect to be able to get some good low-light photos and some quick videos. It’s got all the maps on it, my music, podcasts, RSS feeds and of course, Twitter, Skype, Facebook and Whatsapp for messaging. In the background will be a Nokia 808 running 2G with no data connection a multi-SIM card (same phone number as on the 1020) It’s simply my back-up phone (it will last over 7 days without charge in this scenario) and backup camera if everything else goes wrong. Talking of cameras I’m still using the Panasonic Lumix FZ150. I didn’t upgrade to the FZ200 but having read some reviews on the FZ1000 I’m close to buying something new in the telephoto camera/video department. Why a bridge camera? It’s light and it’s good enough for online photography and video in almost any light. I’ll stress that again – I’m creating news content for online usage, not creating 4K documentaries.
The usual paraphernalia will go with me. A USB power pack, Bluetooth headphones, cables and cards and as with last years tour (mobile reporting kit 12) it won’t be a lightweight kit. Perhaps the Lumia 1020 and the Ultrabook would be enough on their own but for a 14-day tour that would be too risky.
There’s one thing I want to highlight about my year-old Haswell-based Ultrabook. The battery isn’t as strong as it was and although I’m still getting 6+ hours out of it, it’s going to be a risk if I don’t take the power adaptor. Remember this, if you’re thinking about an all-day PC, it might not be ‘all-day’ a year later.
The lightest off-grid reporting kit of 2014.
Here’s a kit I’ve been having fun with this summer. I’ve dropped the Nokia 808 for the Lumia 1020 (I didn’t have the 1020 until recently) but that Acer W4 (3G version) with the Microsoft Wedge keyboard and Changers solar panel and storage is about as light, as capable and as efficient as it gets right now. If you’re thinking about an ultra-mobile and ultra-light kit this weighs just 1.4KG (ignore the additional stand as it’s included in the Wedge keyboard cover.
History of Chippy’s Mobile Reporting Kits.
After increasing my coverage on the interesting Chromebook sector recently I didn’t feel happy with it in the UMPCPortal timeline. You’ll now find my Chromebook coverage at Chromebookworld.com.
In many cases Chromebooks are highly portable and often use similar platforms to the ultra-mobile PCs we track here but they aren’t quite the same as the all-flexible PC/Windows architecture. Chromebooks and ChromeOS have, however, been an interesting topic in 2014 could become an important option for consumers and vertical markets over the next 2 years. Simplicity, efficiency and value are good and high levels of intrinsic security are increasingly important considerations. The rate of improvement continues to impress as native code support feeds-in and we look forward to the promised ports of selected Android applications. Touchscreens are available in some cases and full HD screens are appearing too. There are even 3G/4G options around.
While ultra-mobile PC coverage continues here I’ll be increasing my coverage of Chromebooks over there. I’ve ordered the Lenovo N20p Chromebook touch/flex Chromebook and I’m heading to IFA and IDF in the next weeks too so there will be lots to talk about.
Microsoft and Google are now head to head in the $250 laptop market and it’s going to be one big fight. Chromebooks and the Google ecosystem vs low-cost Windows laptops and the Microsoft ecosystem. I have my opinion on which option is better (tip: there’s no best laptop, just a best laptop for you) and many of you have solid opinions too but what do Microsoft say? On their Windows 8 Chromebook comparison page Microsoft have listed 10 points that should be considered before choosing between the two.
Interestingly, and so, so obviously, Microsoft have omitted the discussion on security.
What they do mention is: Applications, desktop, printers, DRM content, peripherals, document locations.
You’ll notice that there are only 6 points there. That’s because Microsoft want to tell you that there are three types of applications to consider. Office (and other Windows programs,) Skype (and other Windows programs) and PC games (which are Windows programs.) Two more bullet points cover Web and Web apps for which the Chromebook is also given credit.
My personal list of Chromebook issues is similar:
Skype, Local storage, Printing, Microsoft Office, Offline applications, USB device support, Playing a CD or DVD/Video format support, Network attached storage access, Music player synchronization, DRM content. [More detail here.]
The elephant in Microsoft’s room is the important area of security. I’m very impressed with the security features available on Windows 8 but it’s not easy to make sure you have these features in your laptop or even to configure them when you have them. Chromebooks have the huge advantage that they don’t assume that the user is going to proactively act to improve security. “We update transparently and try to provide safe defaults without asking users to make security decisions” [src.] Cheap Windows 8 tablets do a good job if you use a Microsoft account (disk encryption, login tracking, secure boot, sandboxed apps in RT mode) but more needs to be done for the laptops which don’t have some of these features. Windows desktop remains a huge risk area too.
One other point I would argue, and Microsoft should bring this forward, is the fun aspect of using a touchscreen Windows device in RT mode. Chromebooks are as boring as Windows 7 laptops were and that’s not going to attract consumers in the sub $300 bracket. Devices like the Lenovo N20p might change that but only if Chrome OS evolves to offer better touch features and a richer choice of entertainment.
As you might have noticed I’m increasing my coverage of Chromebooks as simple, portable, secure PCs. I predict they will sell well as they improve over the next few years, they will drive a significant improvement in security across low-cost PC products, they will drive down prices of small Windows PCs and you’ll see some movement of Chromebooks into the ultra-mobile space very soon. I look forward to the first sub-1KG product.
I briefly mentioned the Acer Aspire ES1 in an article about the Acer Chromebook 13 last week but I think it’s worth taking a closer look at it now because this could be the next $199 Windows laptop. Given the specifications it also hints at a widening of the free Windows OS offer from Microsoft.
The Acer Aspire ES1 is a basic Windows 8.1 laptop that will be offered with 11.6, 13.3, 15.6 and 17.3-inch. All of them will run on Baytrail-M CPUs but the smallest of them combines that with 32GB of SSD and is launching for 219 Euros (184 Euros before taxes) in Europe. You can assume it will be available for close to that in US dollars too which means it’s the cheapest Windows 8 laptop running a current processing platform. There are some netbook-era sub $200 laptops around but they’re all 10-inch which is outside the range that consumers, and reviewers, are comfortable with.
You can be sure that the Acer Aspire ES1-111, the Celeron (actually Intel Atom architecture but no-one wants to let that slip in their marketing) with 2GB RAM and the 32GB storage will compete against the I recently reviewed) and the Acer Chromebook C720 which uses a more powerful Haswell-architecture CPU. Retailers in Europe are saying that it will be available in early October.CB3 (same CPU, same manufacturer,) the ASUS C200 (that
Can Windows laptops compete against Chromebooks, at the same price?
Back in 2007 we saw a similar fight as netbook manufacturers looked at ways to completely remove the cost of a Windows license. Linux-based netbooks arrived and shortly after disappeared as the Windows license cost was reduced to insignificance. ChromeOS isn’t your basic Linux distro, I agree, but don’t talk about the advantages of Chromebooks (services, simplicity, security, long battery life) without considering Windows 8. It too has sandboxed applications that auto-update (in the Modern UI environment) secure boot, on-disk encryption, supports low-cost memory and storage configurations and is extremely good at driving down power consumption. It can also host a USB printer, run Skype and do a lot of other things that you don’t get in Chromebooks. The Aspire ES1 even has an Ethernet port which helps a lot if you’re into cloud-based activities and it comes with a year of Office 360 and storage thrown in. (I’m testing that on a Toshiba Encore 2 WT8 right now.)
For more on the latest Windows 8.1 security features take a look at my Windows 8.1 tablet security report.
How do you make a $200 Windows laptop?
The Acer ES1 is running Windows with Bing, which is interesting as it has an 11.6-inch screen and therefore doesn’t get a free Windows license – which would leave no reason to run Windows with Bing. Simply put it looks like Microsoft are removing or reducing the licence cost across a wider range of for factors and screen sizes now. The cost of designing and building an 11.6-inch Windows laptop is now the same as a Chromebook.
What about 13.3, 15.6 and 17-inch laptops?
MobileGeeks found evidence of an HP Stream a few days ago. It to, according to the report, will run Windows with Bing and have 32GB SSD storage. It has a 15.6-inch screen and Mobilegeeks say it will launch at $199. If it’s true it will be a groundbreaker. Also in the low-cost price bracket is the HP 15-h015ng with the AMD E1-6010 which also runs Windows with Bing and has a 15.6-inch screen (and could be a version of the HP Stream.) The Lenovo B50, ASUS F200MA, HP 250 G3, Acer Aspire E3-111 and others all in the same boat.
As you look at low-cost laptop offerings over the next months expect to see a number of Windows options in the $200-$250 range. I’ll be at IFA next week and I expect to find out more there so stay with me for updates.
Rounding-off a series of Chromebook updates here on UMPCPortal are my thoughts on the Lenovo N20p Chromebook which is built around a design I tested recently in the Lenovo Flex 10. In my opinion it adds a lot of value to a laptop and is actually more suited to a laptops design than a ‘yoga’ style tablet-capable design. Like the Flex 10 the N20P has a 270-degree fold-back ‘stand mode’ touchscreen and comes with a basic set of specifications. Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16 GB of eMMC storage.
Unlike the Flex 10 this Chromebook doesn’t have a touch-friendly user interface option and that, for the time being, could be seen as a big disadvantage. In practice though there are a lot of things you can do with a touchscreen in stand mode and web-browsing is an important one. When I did the in-depth Lenovo Flex 10 testing I found the unit to be more practical as a partner PC than a 7-inch or even 10-inch tablet without a stand. Magazine-style reader apps (I use Feedly) are great with coffee as is a Facebook or Tweetdeck ‘easel.’ Video applications work well too because this seat-back friendly mode brings the screen closer to the eye and, at full fold-back, has great stability. If you want to lift the screen to eye-height you’re also able to fold the screen to 180-degrees and prop up the unit to balance on the keyboard edge. Flex is good and worth paying a little extra for.
At current prices the Lenovo N20p is going to set you back about $60-$80 more than the cheaper Chromebook options which is a significant 25%-33% more than the cheaper ASUS and Acer options and, presumably because of the design, it’s a little heavier than, say, the ASUS C200. There’s a 34.8Wh battery inside which is OK, but not the biggest either.
Screen resolution is a basic 1366×768 and there’s no mention of wide-viewing angles in the Lenovo marketing materials. A USB 2.0. USB 3.0, SD card, headset and full-size HDMI port are on-board and there’s AC-capable WiFi.
Although there isn’t a perfect match between a 2-in-1 design and ChromeOS now the Lenovo N20p offers the consumer something that’s been missing from Chromebooks up until now – fun. As ChromeOS develops with new features and improved touch capability the N20p could evolve into an attractive secondary PC for home and holiday use. If the AccuType full-size keyboard is good, this might make a good conference or hotel PC. In the Education market students are going to be far more excited about this Chromebook design.
If you’ve got the Lenovo N20p or are thinking of buying it (available at Amazon for $310 in the USA) let us know your thoughts.
To assist you in choosing a Chromebook we’re adding selected (lightweight, portable) models to our database here. The N20p will be added shortly.
You can find out more about the N20p at Lenovo’s US website.
It looks like the Intel Atom/Celeron CPU has really found a niche in the latest Chromebooks. Here’s another Chromebook using the platform and in this case it’s replacing an ARM-architecture SoC that was in the previous version. The HP Chromebook 11 G3.
A PDF file (now removed) was spotted by Google Plus user Alvin Chin and the details showed that although the HP Chromebook 11 will stay much the same as in the G2 version it will get the Intel N2820 as seen in the ASUS C200, Acer CB3 / Chromebook 11 and Lenovo N20p making it a ‘lose’ for Samsung and ARM who originally had the Exynos 5250 inside.
As with the Acer CB3 vs the ASUS C200 it’s largely a price war between the three although detailed reviews are highlighting small but important variations so check reviews before you buy.
To assist you in Chromebook purchases we’re currently updating our database to include all the current models and will link into reviews as we find them.