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GBM InkShow and Review: The Tega v2 Slate Proves that Windows 7 and Slates are Not a Good Mix

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This is a tough review to write. First, Hugo Ortega, the man behind TegaTech and the Tega v2 is a friend and a Tablet/UMPC/Mobile promoter without equal, and I’d love for him to succeed with this new dual booting slate.

Second, although I have always had my doubts, I’d actually like to see Microsoft have some real skin in the Tablet/Slate game. You can say that they do and that the Tega v2 is proof of that, but unfortunately, the proof that it provides is that Windows 7 and the slate form factor made popular by the iPad just don’t mix well.

Third, after spending a weekend with the Tega v2, there is a lot to like about the device, and I really found myself questioning just how much the iPad had influenced my view of these devices. But there are also issues. The TegaTech marketing that says this device is an “iPad Killer” and the bottom line there is that the device is going to be compared to an iPad, marketing or no.

All of that said, here goes.

The Tega v2 is the first Windows 7 Slate I’ve laid my hands on and that will be the case for many a reviewer. These devices are just starting to trickle out. So much for 2010 being the year of the Tablet/Slate from Microsoft’s perspective. TegaTech is aiming this at the Enterprise market, but I would imagine there will be consumer interest as well, even with a price point of $799 US. Not only does it run Windows 7 as an OS, but it allows dual booting into Android 1.6. TegaTech promises that they are working on making later versions of Android (2.1 and 2.2) available. In fact, to take advantage of Android 1.6 users will have to download and install an image of that OS and while that can be done, you’ll have to follow instructions provided to make that work. Hackers get ready.  The review unit I was provided has both Windows 7 and Android 1.6 installed, but I’ll be focusing more on the Windows 7 side for this review. Suffice it to say that the unit handles the dual booting nicely, giving you the option of which OS you want when you press the power button.

The Tega v2 weighs in at 28.2 oz and its long and narrow (9.6 by 7.5 by 0.6) dimensions strike me as odd, given the ratio of bezel to actual screen, but that may be a personal preference. It has a capacitive touch screen that runs at a resolution of 600 x 1024. Call it a wide-narrow screen. In landscape mode the 10 inch screen feels very wide. It portrait mode it feels too narrow. Again, that may be a personal taste thing. I use Tablets and Slates in portrait mode a lot, and this just doesn’t feel right to me. There is also a balance issue. When reading eBooks in portrait mode, the device feels like it is too tall to hold comfortably for long periods of time. The

That said, the design and fit and finish of the device looks and feels pleasing. It feels professional, even with the now accepted finger prints that we see on all of these glossy devices. Some who I’ve let play around with it don’t think it feels fragile, but my first response to it was that it was as fragile as I thought the iPad was when I first laid hands on that device. Both devices require some sort of case in my opinion. I characterize the iPad as more “portable” than “mobile” and I feel the same way about the Tega v2.

The Tega v2 features two USB ports, mini VGA out, micro SD slot, an audio jack for headphones and a microphone. There is a front facing camera (1.3mp) and the review unit has a 32GB SD drive. There’s also a SIM slot. It has a fan that constantly runs, and in my experience the device can get warm to the touch but not overly so. Battery life in my weekend experience checked in at just under 4 hours when running Windows 7. That’s far from the new bench mark that Apple set with the iPad, but then that device was designed from the ground up for great battery life and the Tega v2 has to work with Windows 7.

And that brings me to the Tega v2′s biggest weakness. It’s been said before by me, and countless others, but it obviously bears repeating. Windows 7 is not the OS for these kind of mobile devices. It’s too cumbersome, requires too many resources and while the Tega v2 is a fully featured Windows 7 Tablet, it is also subject the many vagaries that Windows 7 can visit on any device. Take screen rotation for example. It works well on the Tega v2, but there is a brief blackout every time the screen rotates and some tearing of the image when the screen re-lights up. This isn’t a show stopper, but it isn’t elegant. Several folks who checked it out over the weekend actually thought they had done something wrong when they moved the device slightly. I blame Windows for this more than the hardware, or rather I blame the combo of Windows 7 and the hardware. There is no lock button for rotation, so until you get a handle on holding the device the rotation can be disconcerting. Don’t get me wrong, with the Intel Atom N455 clocking at 1.66GHz, nothing I threw at the device seemed to slow it down, although I didn’t do a ton of heavy multi-tasking. Another example is sleep mode. There is a problem with some review units returning from sleep. They don’t. That’s nothing unusual in my experience as I’ve seen laptops and netbooks have similar issues. Again, that’s Windows. (UPDATE: Just a few minutes after publishing this review I received some updated drivers from TegaTech that have fixed the sleep mode issue. This is good news.)

Inking and Touch
For Inkers, the capacitive screen works well depending on the stylus you have available. I found the Pogo Sketch to be unsatisfactory but the Boxwave/Targus styli to work much better. I was surprised by how responsive the touch experience felt. I didn’t expect such a good experience from a Windows 7 device, (or in Android either) but it worked quite well for scrolling, pinching and zooming, etc… But again, Windows 7 rears its ugly head, and for best results you do need to do some screen calibrating.

The Buttons
There are three buttons on the bezel. Power On/Off, Home, and Enter. Tapping them yields certain functionality while holding them down yields other actions. In Windows 7, holding down the Home button minimizes whatever is on your screen and returns you to your Home screen, which echoes behavior we see from other mobile OS’s. That said, my wife Thomasin and I both experienced frustration with the button placement as they are located right where your hands want to rest in landscape mode, making it easy to have an errant button press to send the unit into sleep mode or to the Home screen. Others pointed this out as well.

Browsing
Here’s a surprising comparison. Using either  IE 8 or Firefox loading web pages and browsing is a quicker experience on the Tega v2 than it is using Safari on the iPad. But quite a bit, actually. I did work with Google Chrome a bit and that experience was also faster.

Android
There is an issue with WiFi using Android that TegaTech promises will be resolved in the image that is released to customers. You can’t get a WiFi signal and not having connectivity makes the Android experience incomplete. So, it is tough for me to judge how Android works on the Tega v2 or doesn’t. Keep in mind a couple of things here. There is no Android Marketplace available so don’t think you’ll be scoring your Apps from there. Also keep in mind that even though TegaTech is promising later versions of Android, Google itself says that anything below 3.0 isn’t designed for the Tablet/Slate experience. So does that make this an unnecessary add on? Not necessarily in my view. But it does point out that what we’re seeing here at the later stages of the year of the Tablet/Slate are not going to be the devices that we ultimately judge the success of Android Tablet/Slates on. Perhaps we’ll know more about that next year this time. Although I’m starting to have my doubts about that time frame as well.

Final Thoughts

I want to like this device more than I do. It feels like it could be a competitor but at the moment it isn’t. It shows Hugo’s mobile device experience in how the hardware was designed and it is certainly pretty to look at and nice to hold. TegaTech and others who choose Windows 7 have a legitimate market to target. That market is those folks who want a Tablet/Slate and need Windows to make that work whether in the Enterprise or not. But they are saddled with an OS that works well on desktops and laptops, but alas was not meant to be on these pick up an go devices. Microsoft screwed the pooch on that one awhile ago and while there is talk of a CE based Tablet/Slate OS, we haven’t seen any real proof of that coming to market any time soon. If nothing else the Tega v2 points out what could have been had Microsoft had any real leadership over the last number of years since it decided to essentially forego the Tablet form factor. That’s a shame. For folks like TegaTech, HP, and others, it creates a real hurdle that obviously some are abandoning in favor of other solutions. For others (Google, Apple, HP and WebOS) it creates opportunity that they seem to be taking advantage of forcing Microsoft into “also ran” status before some of the other players have even started the race.

In the InkShow you’ll get a tour of the device and some of its functionality. Tomorrow I’ll be publishing at first look from my wife, Thomasin as well.

All GBM Inkshows are sponsored by MobileDemand.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

25 Comments

  1. aftermath

    10/18/2010 at 6:13 pm

    “The Tega v2 is the first Windows 7 Slate I’ve laid my hands on… ”

    I could have sworn that you covered the Motion Computing J3500. Either my mental illness is far worse than previously suspected, or this little canary has something to say about your coal mine.

    • Anonymous

      10/18/2010 at 6:27 pm

      Aren’t you the one always getting on our case about slates being distinct from tablets? As is evident in several of his recent posts, Warner, for whatever reason, has been taking that to heart. And here you are giving him grief for that. Yeah, I’d say your mental illness is far worse than previously suspected.

      • aftermath

        10/18/2010 at 11:50 pm

        “Aren’t you the one always getting on our case about slates being distinct from tablets?”

        Yes, but apparently to no end. A slate is a form factor. A tablet is a usage scenario. Both of these devices are slates. Only one is a tablet. If a statement in an article implies that the J3500 is not a slate, then how exactly am I expected to see that as having positively responded to any concern over terminology that I’ve ever expressed? This is terminology which I neither had a share in the credit for its innovation nor do I have a share in the responsibility for its preservation. Much in the same way I’m sophisticated enough to differentiate between Warner and the terminology that he advocates, try to differentiate between me and the terminology that I advocate. I’m not getting on anybody’s case. I’m trying to support a conversation around such inconsequential issues as the very terms that we use to educate consumers. Honestly, I have better things to do than babysit the fundamentals of a conversation. Call everything whatever you want at this point. Call everything hamburgers and then complain about how bad they taste. Just don’t blame me one way or the other.

        To be plain, my comment was that both devices are slates. That was it. It had nothing to do with Warner. It had everything to do with slates. To imply that it was an attack on Warner is pretty offensive to me. It’s also offensive to imply that Warner has somehow tailored his approach to his writing in order to better suit ME. That confers an insincere lofty status upon me and an insincere degrading one on Warner. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Warner, and I believe that if he ever makes changes in his writing or approach on a topic, then he does it in the spirit of improvement or exploration and not in deference to some poorly regarded, anonymous commenter on the Internet. If Warner has made the change that you indicate, then perhaps he did it for some more positive reason that was more fundamental than personal. Doesn’t he deserve that kind of credit? I think so, and I don’t think that I deserve the other kind of credit. In much the same, please don’t imply that I’m out to grief Warner. I have a deep respect for everybody who contributes here at GBM, but I have tremendous affection for Warner both a person, professional, online contributor and veteran of tablet computing. If I was out to antagonize him, than I’d probably find something far more arbitrary and painful than the fact that the J3500 is a slate to be the weapon. I think Warner and I aspire to the same side: truth. That makes truth a pretty lousy weapon, but a pretty valuable commodity to share.

        My hope is that Warner and I are otherwise cool.

        • Anonymous

          10/19/2010 at 12:52 am

          Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize your condition was one of paranoia, where one instance of grief means they’re out to get you. I will put the kid gloves back on for you going forward.

        • Anonymous

          10/19/2010 at 2:33 am

          All cool in my coal mine.

    • ChrisRS

      10/18/2010 at 6:36 pm

      The J3500 and twh vaious slates and convertables that we have had for years are TabletPCs.

      This is a Tablet that runs Windows 7. The distintion is a little tricky.

    • Warner Crocker

      10/18/2010 at 7:25 pm

      aftermath,

      I guess technically you’re correct. I probably should have said first Windows slate that tries to knock of the iPad or something similar like that. But unless you’ve been sleeping or hibernating in my coal mine, I would have assumed that most folks looking at this device given the form factor, price point, etc… would be thinking of this device as an different kind of canary than the slates we saw (and still see) from the likes of Motion, Tablet Kiosk, etc… The makers of these Windows slates certainly are seeing them that way.

  2. Anonymous

    10/18/2010 at 6:38 pm

    FYI, I have also been evaluating the TEGA v2, which I’ve been showing on my personal blogs. I won’t be doing a review for GBM in the same manner as Warner, but I’ll be showing some other things.

    In general, I agree with Warner’s review. Suffice to say, the out-of-box experience is pretty rough, but it can be improved. I’ve been overhauling the interface for small-screen multi-touch, which is what I’ll be sharing. Also, Hugo has just worked out the fix for the sleep problem (with an assist from me).

  3. animatio

    10/18/2010 at 8:48 pm

    as long as any windows is installed and run as it will be on pc’s it will be a hog on any tablet. that’s not a proplem of windows as such but of the producers of tablets unable, or unwilling, to install an optimized profile of windows on these devices. considering the part of microsoft in this … as long the guys from redmond are not able or willing to provide tablet-specific desktops and profiles with their os (in place of stamping sweating, big-mouthed on stages) they will continue to be shooting into their own legs ….

  4. animatio

    10/18/2010 at 8:48 pm

    as long as any windows is installed and run as it will be on pc’s it will be a hog on any tablet. that’s not a proplem of windows as such but of the producers of tablets unable, or unwilling, to install an optimized profile of windows on these devices. considering the part of microsoft in this … as long the guys from redmond are not able or willing to provide tablet-specific desktops and profiles with their os (in place of stamping sweating, big-mouthed on stages) they will continue to be shooting into their own legs ….

  5. Cuhulin

    10/18/2010 at 10:39 pm

    There is no question that Microsoft has work to do for Ipad competitive slates. It needs to cut down the number of background processes, which will reduce the resource requirements. It needs to create a touch-based interface layer that either replaces or sits on top of the current Windows UI. It needs to standardize the hardware and driver interfaces.

    If Microsoft does those well, I think Windows 7 can be a very capable slate form factor. The Tega is a good idea, but, in that sense, probably premature.

  6. Andrew Beery

    10/19/2010 at 12:43 am

    As a long time Windows Tablet user and current owner as well as a current iPad owner I have to say I really wish the two devices would converge. I love my iPad but I really need better system level inking and stylus support to truely replace my Windows tablet… I like/need the deep support for inking in Windows… it sounds like the biggest problem with the Tega was the lack of a rotation lock… I’m got to believe this could be handled with a utility… I do wish it had a duel digitizer though.

  7. Synergi

    10/19/2010 at 1:08 am

    If Apple goes a head and adds a pen like Wacom, it would be all over. No one would catch up to them I don’t think. I still can’t understand why they ignore this customer base.

  8. Flashbuy

    10/19/2010 at 2:07 am

    Bah! As much respect as I have for Hugo and Warner, and as much as I understand why we need the term “ipad killer’, this and any Win 7 device isn’t a competitor for the iPad or any Andriod/Palm devices. Win 7′s competitor os Mac OSX. iOS’s competitor is the other mobile OS’s. You can’t beat the usage for the iPad witha Win7 device and if you need what Win 7 has the iPad is useless. SJ gets that a consumption device needs instant on, good battery life and a simple GUI. And MS, with the proof of the iPads success, still ignore that and offer the wrong OS for the device instead of competing directly.

    Microsoft has had the “iPad killer” for a decade. It was/is Windows CE/Windows Mobile/Windows Phone. It’s just that no one at MS ever worked out that even enterprise buyers are also “consumers”. Had they got that through their thick heads we’d have CE based devices that would blow iOS away. They say a camel is a horse designed by a commitee. MS is the living proof of that, especially in the tablet space. They have great people making great concepts and then a team that completely stuffs it up at the end stage. Steve Jobs has realised that the normal consumer market was a neglected and potentially huge place to be and produced devices and marketing to succesfully in to this sector.

    Gordon

  9. Anonymous

    10/19/2010 at 11:53 am

    Nice overview. Warner’s disdain for the narrow portrait display is something I predicted when the iPad was first released. Those 168 extra pixels (600 vs 768) give the iPad a distinct advantage in portrait viewing. This is strictly a function of the widescreen format of the v2 and other Windows tablets.

    http://jkontherun.com/2010/03/18/168-reasons-ipad-browsing-beats-convertible-netbooks/

  10. Ingwing

    10/19/2010 at 12:24 pm

    Unfortunately, everybody (and their brothers and sisters) are building touch screen devices to play in the iPad game as well. As I am not an insider into this industry, does anybody know why no manufacturer comes up with a decent and affordable pen based slate for serious notetaking? I am just wondering…

    • Jeffrey Glen Jackson

      10/19/2010 at 2:24 pm

      Because Steve Jobs has pronounced that pen==fail, and nearly everyone has bought that cool aid. :-( For me, no_pen==fail. Nearly everything I do with a laptop could be easier to do with a slate+pen (photoshop, premiere, logos bible software, one note). Unfortunately, not only are pens a thing of the past now, but what devices to exist are actually gimped wacom technology, or worse, ntrig. My kingdown for a full cintiq on a tablet pc!

  11. tony

    10/27/2010 at 8:55 am

    they also need to bring the price down to compeat with the £400 laptop range. because if its going to be £600-£700 in the uk thats going to put people off.

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