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 theis also given credit.
My personal list ofissues 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 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.
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 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.updates here on UMPCPortal are my thoughts on the Lenovo N20p which is built around a design I tested recently in the
Unlike the Flex 10 thisdoesn’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 anotherusing the platform and in this case it’s replacing an ARM-architecture SoC that was in the previous version. The HP 11 G3.
A PDF file (now removed) was spotted by Google Plus user Alvin Chin and the details showed that although the HP 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.
I wrote yesterday about the ARM-powered Acer Chromebook 13. Today I want to talk about the 11.6-inch version of this. The 11, or CB3-111, runs on the same Atom/Celeron N2830 as the ASUS C200 but it’s cheaper. 219 Euros for the CB3-111 vs 249 Euro for the ASUS C200. Pricing in the USA is likely to have the same differential.
Once again – 219 Euros. That’s just about the cheapest laptop you can buy with a current processing platform. OK, the Acer ES1-111 is available for the same price and it’s got more storage, Windows 8 and a Gigabit LAN port but it’s close.
In terms of comparison with the ASUS C200, athat I really like, there aren’t many differences in the specifications. AC wiFi is there along with USB3.0, HDMI, 16GB of storage and the 1366×768 screen resolution but this one is non-glossy. The only significantly different specification is that battery which is 36Wh – about 75% of the capacity of the 48Wh battery on the ASUS C200. Battery life is likely to be 3/4 of the figures we’ve seen there. Weight is 1.25KG.
There’s the potential for a few surprises here. Upgradable RAM and SSD is something we’ll be looking out for but the screen brightness, WiFi performance and keyboard will have to be good just to keep up with the ASUS C200.
In Munich today, NewGadgets got some hands-on with the Acer 11 / CB3-111 and if you look closely at the information stand you’ll see a 4GB option listed along with ‘up to’ 32GB of storage. That matches the offering from ASUS with the C200.
I’m not one to pass on rumours but I have always believed, since I tested the Switch 10, that an 11.6-inch version would be even better. An article at TabTec takes some previously unseen model numbers and predicts that an 11.6-inch Acer Switch, the SW5-111 and SW5-171, will arrive at IFA.
There’s literally no more information other than the new model numbers that were found on an Acer website but if you follow Acer’s model numbers it would make sense that an SW5-111 would be an 11.6-inch with Atom/Celeron and that the 171 would be running a Core CPU (I’d guess at a Haswell Y-series.) They would be a natural replacement for the Acer Aspire P3 range which runs on 2nd-generation Core.
If an 11.6-inch Acer Switch 11 to be launched there would need to be some improvements over the Switch 10 to make it interesting. A Full-HD screen, larger battery (or additional battery in keyboard) would be the first on the list. A good price would be expected too.
I’m at IFA (from 3rd Sept) so will be able to being you some more information then, unless Acer launches the Switch 11 beforehand.
Looking for a sub $200 Tablet PC option? The Toshiba WT8 is $193 at Amazon.com today but the newer, lighter Toshiba Encore 2 WT8 is $192. This Windows with Bing PC arrives for testing tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. What features have been stripped out of this Bing version of Windows? Is the new platform better? Is there significantly more available storage space or is this 1GB RAM limit going to negate any of the potential improvements? With the original Windows 8.1 8-inch tablets also at the $200-$220 mark, why bother with the Encore 2?
Two important things to note about Windows with Bing are that 1) You don’t get an Office Home and Student license and 2) There’s only single language support. The latter may not affect many people (except myself – someone that relies on this for purchasing tablets in Germany and switching them to the English language) and the former is offset by a one Year Office 365 Personal license. You get Ooutlook included in that and you also get, in theory, 1TB of free online storage for the year. There may be other changes too.
There’s a 5.0MP auto-focus rear camera which could be useful if it’s as good as the one on the original WT8, microSD support up to 128GB and stereo speakers. As with the WT8 there’s no HDMI so you’ll need Miracast or DLNA support to stream movies to a bigger screen.
If the Toshiba Encore 2 wants to be a competitor in the western market for tablet PCs it needs to beat the class-leading Dell Notebookcheck and the price drops to $175 or less then it could be worth a closer look.in features or undercut it by a big margin. This launch price isn’t enough to convince me but if the device checks out in my review for
Since the day I started Carrypad (the former name of this site) there’s been a continuous battle between ARM and X86 processing architectures. Remember the Nokia 770 tablet? How about the Raon Digital Vega?  Today that fight is mainly in the Android tablet space but it’s becoming increasingly rowdy in the space too. I was very impressed with the ASUS C200 recently (on Intel) and there’s a 13.3-inch version of that, the ASUS C300, which will go right up against something using ARM architecture that is launching from Acer soon. The Acer Chromebook 13 running the Nvidia Tegra K1 platform and will offer similar performance, similar weight, similar price and similar battery life. Where’s the differentiator?
The new Tegra-based13 will come with a 1366×768 screen, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. So far that matches the ASUS C300. In terms of weight, 3.3 pounds matches the 3.1 pounds of the ASUS. AC WiFi can be found on both along with a full-size HDMI port, 48Wh battery, webcam and two USB ports. They’re both USB3.0 on the Acer but I doubt many will care much about that.
The ASUS C300 has been on the market for a few weeks now and the price has dropped down to $229 which is very attractive when you compare it to the more expensive Acer Chromebook 13 at $279. That launch price is sure to come down so I’ll ignore that as I continue my comparison.
The Acer13 has the longest-lasting battery life of all Chromebooks – up to 13 hours!
Is the battery life the differentiator? I can show you 13-hours on the ASUS C200 but possibly not on the ASUS C300 so it’s likely the Acer will win here but when you’re talking about all three Chromebooks lasting a full day on a charge does it make much difference?
Is it simply down to CPU brand? Is Tegra going to attract people? “192 Nvidia CUDA Cores” sounds good!
In terms of performance, assuming the SSD speeds and WiFi performance are similar, there won’t be much difference in web browsing speeds but one area where the Acer might have an edge is graphics. Gaming options on Chromebooks are rare so is the GPU really that important? There are two things to consider here. The first is GPGPU acceleration which could push up some HTML5 performance; The other is Android applications.
At Google I/O in June, Google demonstrated Android apps running on a Chromebook. Later, Google revealed that is was “done on a Chromebook Pixel running a standard development channel image and all Android code was running under Native Client.” The technicalities are still unknown but could it be that Google are building the libraries required to allow Android apps to run with mininal porting? Google admits that it’s a technical challenge but it’s clear that Google want to bring Android apps to Chromebooks. ““Our goal is to bring your favorite Android applications in a thoughtful manner to Chromebooks.” The Acer Chromebook 13 might not beat the ASUS C300 in 2014 but it might be the one to buy in 2015 when you take the possibility of Skype and Minecraft into account. It could break Chromebooks out of the simplicity-focused education market and right into a mainstream one. 
Android apps might be the reason that Gartner predicts that Chromebook sales are likely to triple by 2017. That brings the forecast total to 14.4 million units globally. If
ART and the porting of applications happens in numbers we could see a platform that competes with low-cost Windows 8 laptops for mainstream customers and exceeds that forecast. Having looked at the ‘gaps’ in ChromeOS closely I think ART Android apps can make a difference. Even if Skype is the only application ported over in 2015 it will make a huge difference. Low cost Windows laptops will evolve too though so competition will remain strong.
My Acer C200 overview video:
 Corrected with additional research. Google has not officially announced that ART will come to Chromebooks. The incorrect section originally read:
“The first is GPGPU acceleration which could push up some HTML5 performance; The other is ART. ART is the new Android runtime that you’ll find replacing Dalvic in the up-coming Android-L release. Google has said it will build ART into ChromeOS and that really could be a game-changer for the Chromebook. ART means that, for the first time, there will be native, non HTML5, local apps on the platform. It means games can be ported over from Android to Chromebooks. The Acer Chromebook 13 might not beat the ASUS C300 in 2014 but it might be the one to buy in 2015 when you take the possibility of Skype and Minecraft into account. It could break Chromebooks out of the simplicity-focused education market and right into a mainstream one.”
MSI aren’t known for having big distribution channels in Europe or North America so the new MSI S100 10-inch Baytrail-T tablet may not reach your local store shelves but it will be interesting to watch the price on it. We’ve spotted it, pre-sale, for 349 Euros ($384 pre-tax equiv.) MSI have chosen a 1280×800 screen resolution and have issued a strange press release. This “WinOS” tablet has “soul-shaking 3D surround sound. “ A 2MP camera “provides incredibly [sic] image quality.”
One retailer in Europe has the MSI S100-012NL up for pre-sale at 349 Euros which includes 64GB storage and the keyboard cover. Perhaps for that price we can excuse the poorly written PR?
MSI S100 10-inch Windows tablet specifications:
- Windows 8.1
- Intel Bay Trail-T Z3740D 1.33GHz
- 2GB RAM
- 64GB storage
- Screen” 10.1″ IPS HD 1280×800
- Camera: Front 2.0MP FF / Rear 2.0MP FF
- Speaker: 1W speaker (We suspect that should be ‘speakers.’)
WIFI 802.11b/g/n + BT 4.0
- Micro SD, Micro USB 2.0
- Headphone port [possibly not headset]
- HDMI connector (Mini)
- 27Wh battery
- Size: 262.2 x 173.6 x 9.8 mm
- Weight:595 grams (890 grams with keyboard cover.)
If you’re happy with 1280×800 resolution, which I suspect many people might not be, and want a super-cheap, lightweight 2-in-1 then take a closer look. We’re hoping the quality is better than that of MSI’s English proof-reading.
Similar devices: Acer Switch 10, ASUS
Intel’s Core M reminds me of a moment in 2008 when I briefly tested a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. It was one of the few UMPCs around that used a Core Solo processor instead of the very low-end pre-Atom CPUs and it was a breakthrough in handheld PC performance. Core M is going to allow manufacturers to make exactly the same sort of breakthrough from ‘just enough’ into mainstream performance on a handheld PC except this time it’s fanless. Core M is going to be the first CPU that allows manufacturers to make different types of tablet PC without the compromises of size, heat and noise that have been associated with previous high-power Windows tablets.
That much was clear from early information we got about the Core M / Broadwell Y processing platform at Computex. A 600 gram 10-inch tablet running ‘Core’ without fans is special but yesterday Intel gave us more details about how they’ve achieved performance, sizing and TDP improvements.
Before we sing the praises of fanless Windows tablets too loud let us consider the3 vs the HP Pro X2 410. Both of these use Core i5 CPUs but the HP Pro X2 is fanless. It also gets hot and throttles the performance so much that you can easily get into situations where an Atom-based tablet might be better. The latest Core CPUs use thermal measurements to calculate short-term CPU overclocking but if the system gets too hot, you end up with an under-clocked system. It means that the 3, which has a quiet fan, is much, much more powerful than the HP Pro X2. Fanless systems can be a disadvantage.
We don’t quite know how much Core M devices will be affected by throttling yet. Larger devices with more airspace, and I expect to see some interesting 12-13-inch designs soon, will have the advantage over thinner designs with less ‘thermal headroom’ but leading edge designs may be able to squeeze more out of the platform. This slide from Intel is really worth studying. In it you can see how device thickness impacts on the TDP limits. At the extremes, that’s with a 7mm thick 10-inch design, you’ve got just 3W of TDP to play with. Ambient temperature becomes more critical too and I demonstrated that with the HP Pro X2 410 in my review at Notebookcheck.
What is certain though is that in terms of marketing, Core M-based fanless Windows tablets will offer some real differentiators. Light weight, thin designs, silent operation and, you can be sure, 1.6-2.4Ghz clock ranges will sound impressive. Underclocking to 600Mhz won’t be in the list of features though so we’ll have to look carefully at the first tests. I’ll certainly be looking out for this when I attend the Intel Developer Forum in September.
Core M tablets and 2-in-1s will be high-end devices. They need to be to cover the costs of this leading edge CPU on its new manufacturing process. Although Intel says that the “14 nm product yield is now in healthy range” and that considering the 14nm process produces more chips per wafer you can guarantee that Broadwell-Y will have lower yield than other SKUs. Each one will have to be carefully tested to see if it meets Intel’s standards.
Those high-end devices will offer some nice features though. Although there are Atom-based platforms that offer reasonable Gen-7 Intel graphics and Intel Quick Sync video hardware the CPU and video processing here is going to be in another league. It’s not desktop-gaming capable but it’s certainly going to enable fast ‘Pro-Am’ 1080p video editing and rendering. GPGPU acceleration for HTML5 is also likely to be in a different league meaning the ever-important Web applications will be faster. Given that gaming capability is not a key feature the platform would match requirements for a high-endquite nicely. There’s power here for some impressive X86 Android gaming experiences too and we shouldn’t forget that Core M won’t be just for Windows, at least when the pricing comes down.
In terms of battery life Intel have revealed a few features and optimisations that could help significantly in some scenarios. Video playback and typing, as I’m doing here, should get a significant battery-life boost from the optimised power control elements in the new platform. TDP is said to down by up to ‘2x’ (meaning 3W TDP SKUs are probably in the pipeline) for the same performance level. That’s impressive. Due to die size reductions there’s more space for battery too although it’s likely that some of this space needs to be used for airflow improvements. Given the cost of batteries I wouldn’t expect any increases. On the contrary, you might see battery sizes reduce on the lower-end and thinner products.
You’ll find a detailed analysis at the new Broadwell architechture over at Anandtech so don’t forget to check that out too.
In summary the Core M range of SoCs, like other ‘Y-series’ or ‘SDP’ oriented designs will offer a lot to the designer and a lot to the marketing manager and we’ll have to be careful to analyse what this really translates to in terms of performance for power users. There may not be enough in Core M to run a complete daily desktop experience and for consumers, the prices could be high but thin and light fanless designs are critical and it looks like Intel have enabled a product range that can offer that. Given some good, showcase designs – and the ASUS Transformer Book Chi could be one of them – there could be enough here to elevate Intel-based tablets into a unique position and that’s exactly what Intel need. Core M is the differentiator-enabler.
Source: Intel. Press materials are here.
I’ve previously done work with ChromeOS and Chromebooks but this is the first time I’ve done a top-to-bottom, deep-dive analysis of a published at Notebookcheck.net and the overview video is below.. The two weeks of testing and analysis has just been
The ASUS C200 is probably the most productive PC per $ that I’ve ever tested. It offers over 10 hours of battery life in some scenarios and along with that it’s got a good keyboard, it’s light (1.2KG) and it’s completely silent. But it’s aand it has its limitations. It’s also running on a low power Intel Baytrail-M platform so that has limits too.
Luckily the C200 is running a high-end Baytrail-M platform so performance isn’t a major issue for web browsing but when it gets to HTML5 applications there are some issues. Documents in Google Drive took a long time to load as did my large Google Play Music collection and even good old Tweetdeck. These long loading times aren’t due to poor WiFi performance as the AC-capable module was strong throughout the test.
Good speakers mean you’ve got the potential for a good video experience and this 32GB model had enough space to load up a number of films. With 10 hours of offline video viewing available with one charge you’ll have no problem on a long-haul flight although it must be said that this non-IPS 1366×768 screen has limited viewing angles.
ASUS have done a good job with the C200. It’s not a direct competitor to the Acer C720 which you would probably choose if you were more into web-based working. If you’re more into a casual web experience, the C200 is theto buy.
It’s well-built and incredible value. $229 right now on Amazon. Looking forward to 2015 and a time when Android Runtime and local apps are starting to be ported over it could solve some of the issues I listed in the full review. Here’s a summary of those Chromebook issues:
Chromebook issues: Skype, local storage, printing, Microsoft Office and other Windows (or OSX) productivity suites, offline applications, USB device support, network attached storage using SMB, NFS and DLNA,video format support, AC3 and DTS audio incompatibility, music player synchronization, Amazon Prime Video outside the USA.
Enjoy the video and the full review and if you have any questions, let me know.
I was very sad to read news on Friday that Lenovo was getting out of the small screen tablet market. It turns out, however, that it’s not true. Lenovo issued a press release yesterday stating that they “are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business.” In addition to that they stated that they will have a new 8-inch and a new 10-inch Windows tablet ready for the holidays.
This is great news because it supports my theory that 8-inch Windows tablets haven’t done badly at all. While I believe that the innovation will be focused in the 10-13-inch tablet space over the next years the Dellpopularity, recent announcements from Microsoft and my own experience tells me that the 8-inch tablets aren’t bad at all. At $225 the Dell Venue 8 Pro is an absolutely brilliant tablet and as I cycle through them in my daily use, I can’t say that any of them are bad.
While new models are in the pipleline Lenovo did say that theis now longer for sale in the US. The is out of stock right now too so let’s hope we get that one back on the shelves soon.
Info via GigaOM
I recently wrote about what a late-2014 high-end 8-inch Windows tablet could offer. I talked about Intel’s Realsense camera technology, 3G, USB3.1, 1080p screens and AC WiFi. A digitizer and additional access security could be interesting too but is there a market for these high-end features in the 8-inch sector? Could Microsoft create a market with a Surface Mini and a really special technical feature?
8-inch tablets are bobbing-along at the $200 price-point now and the excellent Dell Venue 8 Pro is just $224 today at Amazon.com. At the high-end the Lenovo is still $413 which is nearly double the price for very little more in terms of speed or power. The Dell VP8 is the #43 best-selling computer, tablet or accessory at Amazon.com which is pretty impressive. The Lenovo Thinkpad 8 is at #1828, which isn’t that impressive.
Clearly there isn’t a huge audience for high-end 8-inch tablets with a lot of bells and whistles so is there any reason to make one?
The3 appears to have launched well and it too is a niche, high-end product but it’s getting a lot of traction in terms of search traffic, news and review articles and good feedback from owners. After one month on Amazon.com there are 23 customer reviews with an average rating of 4.3 and It’s the #154 most popular computer, tablet or accessory which is really very good for what is a niche product. Why is that?
Firstly the3 has set a new bar in terms of engineering. They’ve cracked the 800 gram mark, reached an impressive level of thinness and still managed to design a tablet with a good battery life, at least for a powerful tablet like this. Secondly, it’s a Surface. Surface has become a quality brand and is getting netter all the time. Microsoft continues to market the brand and products heavily across many types of media. Could the same engineering, branding and marketing make a Surface Mini a success?
A Surface Mini, or indeed any high-end 8-inch Windows tablet, will have to fit with a high-end brand so it doesn’t have to be cheap. It also needs to match that higher price in terms of perceived quality, more importantly, in terms of breaking new ground with a new feature. That ‘new feature’ could be an issue in the 8-inch space because smaller tablets are bounded by tighter pricing. Then there’s the question of limited physical space in which to innovate.
Brand + Quality + Feature
We know Surface has the brand quality and that Microsoft can give us some great engineering but what can they pull out of the hat in terms of new features. I’ve done some brainstorming and come up with a set of features that could be possible given pricing and sizing constraints. Not many of them are really that interesting from a marketing perspective but some are worth further consideration.
- Battery life – There’s very little scope for a unique feature here in 2015.
- WiDi – It’s useful but there aren’t many people that even know what it is and how it can be used.
- USB3.1 – A point upgrade, as seen by the customer.
- AC WiFi – Not exactly a deal breaker if it’s not there at this stage.
- Type cover keyboard – There’s little scope or demand for creating a good typing experience within the limited space.
- Super-thin design – Sure, shave 0.5mm off but it won’t look much thinner than a Lenovo Miix 2.
- Screen size. Do users want a 5 or 7-inch Windows tablet? Given the huge competition in this area it’s a risk not worth taking.
- Digitizer – 8-inches is not really the best place to put a digtizer, adds thickness and reduces space for battery.
Given that Nokia camera technology is now under the control of Microsoft and that other companies, like Intel, are looking at depth-sensing cameras for new photographic experiences, security, gaming and gesture control there’s an exciting possibility that a high-end 8-inch tablet could break new ground by being the smartest camera ever. The hard technology is there to make an optically-stabilized sensor that might even have some zoom capability but it would need some very special software to make it work well. Is this something that consumers would be interested in or is there too much competition in the established smartphone sector?
Isn’t it time to finally get an outdoor-readable screen with low-power properties in a reader-focused device? 8-inch tablets are great for reading both book and web-based content but the screens are terrible outdoors. Pump up the backlight and you’ll use your battery charge quickly too. I’m not aware of any screen technology that’s quite ready to transform the outdoor experience and battery life in 2015 so maybe it’s something that’s going to come with flexible or folding screens. While we’re talking about screens, how about some waterproofing too? There’s a lot of scope for change in screen technology.
Connector-less tablet / processor-less tablet.
Intel want to make a connector-less tablet after Broadwell products have launched. You might see something at IDF in September but it won’t be a final product. WiGig is the technology that would be used and it can enable remote docks that offer completely transparent local wireless experiences. Someone could even make the first procesor-less tablet. Instead of having the CPU in the tablet and the connectors in the dock, why not put the CPU in the dock and run the screen and touch layer over WiGig? This would completely transform the tablet design and enable incredibly light builds with extremely long battery life. They wouldn’t be usable without the dock but there’s nothing stopping the dock from being small too. It could clip on to the back of the tablet.
Give us your feedback in the poll below and if you think there’s a ‘feature’ just over the horizon that would be perfect for a high-end 8-inch Windows tablet, let us know in the comments below.
What a pleasure it was to test and review the Acer Aspire Switch 10 for Notebookcheck.net over the last three weeks. The Acer is a low-cost 2-in-1 that’s up against a product that has been selling like hot-cakes and yet it pulls through.
It’s cheap and capable and it’s a great showcase for Windows 8 and Intel’s Baytrail-T processor
The Aceris essentially a Windows 8 tablet weighing just 580 grams (1.28 pounds) but for just 338 Euros / $380 it comes with a good dockable keyboard, a great screen, good speakers and enough processing power to enable real PC productivity.
The battery life isn’t as good as its main competitor but with nearly 5 hours of 1080p playback and nearly 6 hours of good quality WiFi surfing it’s not bad.
If you’re looking for a low-cost 10-inch tablet that’s light and adaptable for simple productivity, entertainment and connectivity the Acer Aspire Switch 10 and the Asus Transformershould be at the top of your list. My favorite is the Switch 10 but you should watch this video first…
I have a history of testing simple, fast and efficient video editing software and two years ago I settled on an Intel platform with Quick Sync hardware. Quick Sync is simply a hardware acceleration layer for video encoding and processing and it works extremely well on Ultrabooks. It also works on Clovertrail and Baytrail-T Windows 8 tablets and 2-in-1s (also a few Baytrail-M processors) but the problem there is that the desktop applications are just a bit too heavyweight. I’ve tested a number of Windows 8 ‘RT’ apps but it wasn’t until last week that a re-tested Magix Movie Exit Touch and found a big step forward. Version 2 is fast, touch-friendly and works perfectly for YouTube video sequencing up to 1080p.
The basic version is free but you won’t be able to title, trim with accuracy or output to 1080p but that’s OK because if it works well for 720p videos for you it’s going to be worth paying the 2.49 euros for the full version.
Import multiple clips, photos to a timeline. Apply various transition effects, add an additional audio track, stabilize videos, add title and export to 320, 480, 720 and 1080p in H.264 or WMV formats. Upload videos to YouTube. Use on-device camera or import videos from external cameras.
I tested Movie Edit Touch 2 on a Clovertrail tablet (Acer W510) and it crashed every time but when I tested on a cheap LenovoI was impressed to see fast 720p rendering of videos taken with my Nokia 808. Using the Lenovo with five 720p clips, an image, crossfades and titling across 30% of the video I saw an export rate of 4X (50 seconds for a 200 second video.)
The 720p render resulted in an H.264 file with a 197kbps 2-channel audio and a 9Mbps video rate which is a little high for on-the-go YouTube uploads in 720p but good for local playback. A 480p export was done in 37 seconds and resulted in a 2Mbps file rate which could be perfect for quick video uploads to YouTube while still leaving the option for a high-quality output at a later stage.
Using the built-in camera to record some 1080p clips I pasted 4 of them on the timeline along with 3 photos. Two titles and an audio mix were overlaid onto most of the video. The 90 second video rendered to 360p (1 Mbps rate) in 24 seconds, 480p (2 Mbps rate) in 28 seconds, to 720p (Mbps rate) in 34 seconds and 1080p (18 Mbps) in 52 seconds.
A stabilized 480p render took 6 minutes which is 4X longer than real-time. Quality of stabilization is good although it’s unusable due to the introduction of black frames into the render. This must be a bug. The stability of the app is questionable too. We saw crashes on YouTube upload and crashes on rendering which appear to be random. The app re-starts after being sent to the background (project is saved.)
There are quicker ways to produce videos by simply taking a one-shot video on a good smartphone and uploading to YouTube. Theor is good too but if you want to sequence and title some higher quality videos from external sources and quickly publish a titled track with your intro and outro added to the timeline this is a lightweight, low-cost and fast way to achieve it. Given that it’s version 2 it also looks like Magix are actively working on it unlike other video editing programs we’ve seen in the Windows 8 Store.
At last there’s a good starting point for Windows 8 video editing that doesn’t require a desktop application. . Given a good quality internal cam the process is even quicker. Take a look at this video I (very) quickly put together using video captured, scene-by-scene, into Movie Edit Touch 2.
- Stability (app does not run in background.)
- Saving project can take a long time.
- Audio annotation capability.
- Import images direct from cam. (Currently only imports videos taken from built-in cam.)
- Stabilization bug introduces black frames.
- Ability to choose a rendering bitrate could help. E.g. 3Mbps 720p for a fast YouTube upload.
Note: All testing done with H.264 source files and H.264 rendering.
Have you considered using a Windows 8 tablet for video editing. At under $250 a Windows 8 tablet and Movie Edit Touch 2 could be an essential addition for anyone on the road, for journalists, bloggers and others that want a simple fast editing suite without external camera restrictions.
I’m testing the Acer Aspire Switch 10 for Notebookcheck.net right now and it’s going well. I prefer it to the ASUS because of the better keyboard, mouse and screen but there’s one little issue – battery life. The Switch 10 has a 24Wh battery inside which is much less than the 34Wh battery of the and less than half of what you got on the previous W510. Looking at the keyboard reveals that it’s quite light and has 8 exposed screws so naturally I took a look inside. What I saw was encouraging because there’s space, screw holes and an unused PCB header space.
The bottom casing has been designed to fill a space delimited by 6 unused screw holes. The red arrow points to an unused space on the PCB which has been designed to include a header connecter. The bottom case has about 3mm of space which is very tight, but not too tight for a slim 20-25Wh battery pack. There’s also the possibility that a slightly different bottom casing could be designed with another 1-2mm of space.
The Acerkeyboard has been designed to include a battery option so the question is, will Acer use to offer a different product or is it an option that was canned in the design stage?
Acer, if you’re listening, please take the option and provide us with that battery. The Switch is, in my opinion, better than the, but the small tablet battery is the Achilles heel.
How much would you pay for the battery option that would make it the true replacement to the Acer W510 and a unique product?
Android L, ART and Chromebooks. If you use Windows products, these Google products might make you sit up and take notice soon because Google have just announced important enhancements that connect theand Android world.
There was plenty of news from Google IO’s keynote yesterday and the big news was Android L, the codename for the next generation of Android. A developer preview is available now and when it launches for customers it will include changes that enhance the experience for users and, more importantly, increase investment in professional app development for this space. It could draw developer resources away from the Windows Store just as things were getting interesting there.
Android L details are still emerging but thanks to the keynote yesterday we now know that a new user interface layer called Material Design, new security features based on Samsung Knox and ART, the new Android runtime that replaces Dalvic will be included.
ART improves on Dalvic by pre-compiling code at install-time rather than during runtime which speeds-up the startup of apps and improves performance and battery life by reducing runtime CPU usage. There’s a useful intro to ART here which proves it’s being developed for i86 Android too. We assume those 2-in-1 runtime developers like Bluestacks and Console OS are also going to migrate to this model. More importantly it looks like Google are going to develop ART for Chromebooks meaning you’ll be able to run Android apps on a .
Don’t expect Android apps to run onimmediately or without porting work; The wording of the announcement that Android apps are coming to Chromebook left a lot of questions . “This is a difficult challenge technically” says Google.
It’s likely that ART is being developed with ChromeOS in mind but that the hardware extraction layer needs to be refined on that platform before apps can be used. Security, user sessions and graphics capability is vastly different on a Chromebook. There’s a mouse and keyboard too which means may have to be ported or even submitted to another store before they can run on the Chromebook.
“Our goal is to bring your favorite Android applications in a thoughtful manner to Chromebooks.”
In a demo we saw Evernote running on a smartphone and then in a window on a Chromebook. “We have ported that Android application…” says Google indicating that yes, apps will need to be changed for Chromebooks. Vine was also demonstrated.
Like Windows Phone and Windows 8 there’s going to be a close connection and cross-pollination of apps between Android phone and Chromebook which means developers may put more resources into the bigger screen and embrace more expensive application projects. Now that Drive, Slides and Sheets support Microsoft Office docs natively there’s a more difficult choice for Windows users. Being able to run native apps with local data storage on the Chromebook also changes they way we should look at these devices and knowing that they offer some of the highest processing power per dollar in the market today means the Windows-based offerings will have to step up the game. The potential here is absolutely game-changing for Microsoft.
Related: Microsoft just released an Android handset under the Nokia brand with Microsoft service layers.
Let’s move on to screen mirroring. It was announced as a new capability for Chromecast and it also has a Trojan-horse element.
It’s useful to be able to use Miracast on a PC for wireless screen mirroring and audio transmission but the adaptors are expensive or no-name products. Android 4.4 already includes Miracast so it makes sense that the newly announced Chromecast screen mirroring feature is based on Miracast and it means Windows PC users (at least users with recent products) potentially get a $35 Miracast option – with Android inside. There’s still a question mark over what Chromecast screen mirroring really is so we look forward to more details on this. If it’s true, Windows users may be buying Android without realizing it and that build could evolve into Android TV.
Let’s assume you’re using Windows on a PC, but you buy a Chromebook because, well, it’s a powerful and cheap way to use the Web and your 4-year old Windows laptop is just old, slow and very boring. Then you pick up a Chromecast which just happens to be the next model with Android TV inside. We’re speculating here but if that’s the case you’ve just got yourself into a situation where you’re getting into Android apps on the TV that can be run on the Chromebook. You’re fully into the Google ecosystem for just $235, without an Android phone. What’s the next step? An Android phone and tablet?
Be excited about what’s happening here but be aware of the timescales that could go way into 2015 before we get a choice of integrated products. It could take even longer than that before Chromebooks get any major selection of Android / ART apps. When it happens though it will bring important enhancements across all Android-based products. The application ecosystem could get even more investment and the Chromebook could get native apps. If you’re prepared to commit to the Google way of life you’ve got an exciting choice coming up. That Windows / Android dual-OS option is looking more and more important.
Back at MWC we spoke to MMV CEO Christopher Price about dual-OS tablets, Ultrabooks and desktops. At that time they were public about iConsole.TV - an Android build designed to run games on high-power PC platforms. The idea of high-end gaming power is interesting but the more interesting topic for us was the promise that they were “building the first Android desktop PC.” [Watch the video here.] MMV have officially launched that project and it’s called Console OS. It’s going to be a true instant-switch dual-OS options for Windows PC owners.
Console OS is a part-completed dual-boot Android build that has the aim of being a complete desktop-capable fork of Android for X86 . The project has launched on Kickstarter where you can support and influence the project. If the project is successful we could see a true hypervisor-controlled instant-switch Android build in 2015.
The Kickstarter project is mainly geared towards building Console OS Pro – a version with hypervisor-based switching, service layers, maps and stores. This version will also, eventually, include OpenGL4.0 support and a Windowing system. Console OS will also be available to everyone soon as a basic dual-boot version.
Neither version will ship with the Android application store or Google service integration but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It’s up to MMV, OEMS and Google to solve that issue and there’s obviously going to be money directed towards teasing OEMs into the project. Unofficial Google solutions are likely to appear but the hope is that Google would eventually come to their senses and support this commercially led project. The Amazon store is has already been tested and MMV will also build a Console Store that will include enhanced apps. MMV are also promising to allow you to import applications from your existing Android devices.
Other Cosnole OS Pro features:
- Toggle between native and modified user-interface.
- Ten-Second toggle between Windows and Android.
- The Hypervisor looks like it will be based on Xen and include XenGT graphics virtualization technology.
- 2 apps can be run side by side (on both versions)
- ‘Industry licensed’
- Secure-Boot supported
- Gaming OpenGL 4 will be supported in 2015
- ASUS will be one of the first products to get a tailored build
- Kickstarter supporters will be able to vote on which devices get priority in the tailoring process.
I’ve taken a close look at the project and spoke to MMV and I think it’s one of the best dual OS projects yet. Where Bluestacks, the AMD-funded project, runs inside a Windows-based runtime and others from Insyde and AMI haven’t really got off the ground this is not only a good technical solution but a well-organised project. Choosing to go through Kickstarter means it gets a good amount of free marketing too.
So why would you want Console OS? The free, dual-boot version may not interest too many people outside the early-adopter class but I think many will be interested in testing games on devices like theand even some more powerful Ultrabooks. The Pro project is going to be the more interesting one for the mainstream though. There are going to be device-specific issues that will limit the audience at first but by choosing popular devices first – and the is a perfect example – they should improve their reach quickly. Ultimately the OEMs need to pick up Console OS to make it truly successful and that success really does ride on being able to get a full Store and quality service layers into the product. Google is obviously the first choices but let’s not forget that Microsoft have a full Android stack in the Nokia X project.
MMV have published a list of competing Android X86 options and features.
Here’s the list of devices that will get tailoring treatment from day 1 although it must be noted that there could be issues and changes. Sensors, 3G, multitouch, digitizers and other hardware will need open-source drivers before they are supported.
- Dell: , XPS 12, , and XPS 15, ,
- Intel: Next Unit of Computing (all NUC models except for 847DYE)
- Lenovo: -inch, -inch, IdeaPad U430p, , Yoga 2, Yoga Pro 2
- Sager: NP2740
- Sony: , & 13
- System76: Galago UltraPro
- Toshiba: Protege R30 & Z30, Tecra A50, Z50 & Z40
- And, of course, all of our own iConsole-branded hardware like iConsole Unit 00 (and more, new hardware coming later this month)
Support for additional systems will be steered by OEM backing and by the community.
Console OS release timescales
Console OS Developer Release 1 within about 30 days of the Kickstarter’s conclusion (Est. September) After the initial launch the Kickstarter funds will be used to build out support for the devices that are voted for.
MMV expects Console OS (Pro) 1.0 around December, 2014 with the goal of giving OEMs something to ship in time for new x86 tablets and convertibles this winter to ship in stores.
We’re in touch with MMV and looking forward to early testing. Expect more coverage from us soon.
Although I wasn’t at Computex last week I covered it like a hawk both here and at Ultrabooknews. Yesterday I went through the complete video recording of the Intel mobility keynote and it was well worth it. If you have any interest in mobile computing at all you should watch the whole video, embedded below. The first part of the video is about gaming, AIO and 4K monitors. There’s some impressive stuff going on there but that’s not what I want to focus on. Skip past that (about 12 minutes in) and it’s tablets, 2-in-1s, RealSense, WiGig, wireless charging, Llama Mountain and even a new Acer 2-in-1 that will come at a $199 price point, possibly. Here’s some detail, background and thoughts on what I saw.
Llama Mountain and the Core-M announcement (made in the Day 1 keynote) were the main topic of discussion on most sites covering the events but I noticed a few additional points worth highlighting. Core-M at 10-inch will have “about twice the performance of an arm tablet.” By saying that, Intel have admitted that their Core-M brand is in the same fighting ring as ARM. That’s not good for Core in my opinion. Core-M is a re-branding of the Y-series Core i3/i5/i7 that we’ve seen before on Ivy Bridge and Haswell. It’s down clocked with tight ‘Turbo’ controls and it gives designers an easier and cheaper way to work with Core in the mobile PC arena. Interestingly for my websites is that it bridges the two by crossing over both Baytrail and Core U-series () solutions. What’s not exactly clear here is whether Core-M is just Broadwell Y-series or whether it will cover some high-end Atom products too. If it does it will be quite the trick. Personally I think it’s just Broadwell Y for powerful tablets and 2-in-1s. Note that this is not just a Windows play. Android is included and I suspect Chromebooks/tabs too. The Llama Mountain 10-inch reference design with Core-M at 550 grams is impressive. We’ve seen Clovertrail and Baytrail-based 10-inch tablets at this weight but not Y-series. I have a Y-series Haswell fanless tablet here and it’s heavy so this is a great step forward. 600 grams is the maximum I think that any tablet (of any size that targets consumers) should be. Llama Mountain is impressive and inspiring and Intel should turn this into a developer kit item (and of course, give them away at their developer conference in September!)
One product that really opened my eyes was this. Intel say that this Acer product, which I’m sure is a 2-in-1 due to the frame controls, will come to market for $199. $199 for a 2-in-1? They’ve just launched the Switch 10 at …but wait a minute. This is the Switch 10! Did Kirk accidentally pick up the wrong device on stage? How can they make it cheaper than most cheap 8-inch Windows tablets? The lowest cost netbooks cost $199. This can’t be right? If it is right, it might even be wrong to do this from a business perspective.
I was hoping for WiGig news at Computex but I wasn’t expecting Intel to put their weight behind it like this. Intel wants to be “number 1 in WiGig silicon in the world” TX/RX. WiGig (more info) is important and could enabled CPU-less tablets if it works out as planned. “…We’ll build reference designs to eliminate all cables from Ultrabook and 2-in-1 PCs.” This is something Intel are planning post-Broadwell and it not only allows a tablet to be thinner but it could save a lot of costs. Get an integrated WiFi/WiGig card inside and you save a lot of port, space and design costs. Waterproofing becomes easier too. Expect some sort of demo mid-late next year. Intel’s WiGig silicon is known as Maple Peak. WiGig docking is coming in the first half of 2015. (Actually it’s already available from Dell but I think Intel is referring to docks made with Intel inside.
On WiDI – the consumer-grade screen mirroring and extending solution – Intel highlighted a new product from Actiontec. Screenbeam Mini 2 is looking like the Chromecast of WiDi solutions and it’s badly needed. Current solutions are big , expensive and problematic. The Screenbeam Mini launched in Taiwan during Computex and is on sale there for about $US 50. It needs to be cheaper in my opinion but maybe this version 2 is going to reduce the price. My Actiontec ScreenBeam testing here.
It’s noteworthy that Intel said that WiDi is the “best Miracast experience. ” They’ve taken second row on wireless display. I don’t like wireless charging. It’s very lossy and that goes against the grain when it comes to by focus on efficient computing. However, having seen the 20W charging pad working with an Ultrabook I may be about to change my mind. The Dell was demonstrated with wireless charging too and it’s all under A4WP standards.
Also worth seeing is the RealSense live beautifying webcam demo. Check it out in the video.
When I reviewed the 270-euro Lenovorecently I knew it would be a great candidate for an SSD upgrade. This fanless, touchscreen hybrid is the very model of a modern casual portable laptop but it was fitted with a really poor quality hard drive that was obviously holding the system back. After completing the SSD upgrade yesterday I can report that the difference is amazing. Applications are starting in half the time, the PCMark score is up 70% and the system works as it should. No more drive activity slow-downs and a huge lift in the user experience. I’ve done a lot of SSD upgrades over the years but this one is probably the most impressive.
The Lenovo Flex 10 has a 270-degree fold-back screen. Stand-mode is very useful.
I’ve dropped a MydigitalSSD BP4 in as a test (I had it from a previous test I did with an Acer V5) but you can shop around for a good deal. On Amazon.com there’s an offer on the 7mm 128GB Sandisk SSD that would be perfect for this. $69.99 is a great deal. [Affiliate link.]
Over 40X improvement in the very important 4K write speed. Superb result!
In a PCMark test the device scored 70% better. 1521 with HDD, 2579 with SSD. Application start-up times are drastically reduced. DriftMania started in 10 seconds compared to 21 seconds with the HDD. Lenovo Photo Show started in 5 seconds (11 with HDD.) Facebook, IE, Chrome and Paint also started about twice as quick. Battery life has probably been improved too but I haven’t tested it yet. Considering the heat that was generated by the HDD and the time it took to get things done there’s going to be a clear real-world difference in how much you can get done on this. Silent operation is a dream too. I’ve connected a USB3.0 docking station and I’m writing this with external screen, keyboard and mouse and it’s a very nice way to write.
Inside the Flex 10. RAM is soldered. No fans. Disk and WiFi module are easy to remove
How to upgrade to SSD on the Lenovo Flex 10
To do the upgrade you’ll need a USB recovery drive (create using Windows 8 tools on a 16GB USB stick or CDROM.) I chose to use an external USB 2.5-inch SATA adapter so that I could do all the imaging on a faster PC. Obviously you will lose your warranty and there’s a possibility of failure or breakage so take care and own the risk!
- Reduce partition size on C: to bring total disk size into range of SSD. Use Windows 8 disk manager to shrink the volume. (Ideally do a system restore to factory setup beforehand.)
- Remove back of Lenovo Flex 10. This is a little tricky. Two screws are hidden under the rubber feet and one has a seal that will need to be broken. You lose your warranty at this point. You can use a thumbnail to carefully prise the unit apart. It takes time and care, especially at the front corners, but it’s certainly not a sealed unit.
- Remove hard disk. It’s an easy 4-screw removal process. (Note: You can upgrade the WiFi too. The basic 2.4Ghz single channel unit has good reception but would benefit from a dual-channel upgrade IMO.)
- Put hard disk in 2.5-inch USB3.0 adapter.
- Take Acronis TrueImage disk image of hard drive. (Took 40 minutes on a fast SSD-based using free 30–day trial.)
- Remove drive from adapter and store with care
- Insert SSD into adapter.
- TrueImage disk copy the saved image to the SSD drive. (You might get an error saying it won’t boot but you can ignore that.)
- Remove disk from adapter and install in Lenovo Flex 10
There are still clear limits with this setup. The Lenovo Flex 10 doesn’t have a powerful CPU and that shows itself when you start using browser-based apps. Google Drive and the associated productivity apps won’t be much fun (Chromebooks are way more suited to this) but I suspect the free Office Home and Student will be a far better experience. GPU and video decoding power is pretty good though so you’ll be able to watch 1080p videos and play Windows 8 RT games without any issues. XBMC and Openelec work well. Read my full review, or my summary review video for more detail.
I’m a huge fan of the 270-degree fold-back screen (more so than the 360-degree fold-back) and a huge fan of ‘lightweight’ computing. Based on what I’ve seen with the Flex 10 there’s scope for Lenovo to make a seriously useful Flex 11 with a quad-core Baytrail-M and a low-cost 64GB SSD. Until then though, this Flex 10 SSD upgrade has created an extremely well-balanced hybrid netbook that covers a wide range of activities. I’m keeping it.