Tag Archives: tablet

Acer’s R7 the most twisty Windows 8 tablet/laptop yet

What is the name for a laptop that is also a tablet? A tabtop? Or perhaps a tabletop, which is a good way to describe Acer’s R7. The hinge (called “Ezel”) swings up to become a stalk supporting the tablet, raising it above the table.

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What is the value of this configuration? Maybe you can think of something?

The thinking here (if I have it right) is that you can get the screen closer to your eyes than would be possible with a normal laptop. In other words, the flat table-top is not the normal use, but rather a tilt towards you but raised above the keyboard, if you see what I mean.

Alternatively, there is a backwards configuration which, I was told, is for presentations. The keyboard is your side, while the screen points into the room.

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Of course, you won’t actually be able to see the screen yourself but that is a small detail versus the great view afforded to your audience. I am being a little unfair – the idea I think is that you sit screen-side too, and control it by touch.

You can also fold the screen flat to make a standard fat tablet configuration.

Failing that, there is a keyboard-only mode – note, no trackpad on view.

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This is to avoid hitting the trackpad by mistake, apparently. Or if you really want a trackpad, you can have it, but note that it is behind the keyboard:

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A bit odd? Let’s just say, different.

Close the lid, and looks like just another laptop.

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For more information on the R7 see here.

Review: Logitech K811 Bluetooth Easy-Switch keyboard for iPad, Mac and more

I travel a lot and use a tablet rather than a laptop, and have gone through numerous Bluetooth keyboards. These are a necessity for me, since the tablet I use is either an iPad, which has no USB slot for a wireless transceiver, or a Windows slate that has only one USB slot that is often occupied.

It is surprising how much can go wrong. Some of the issues I have had (NOT with this keyboard let me emphasise) are keyboards turning themselves on in your bag and performing random actions; keys physically coming off the keyboard while in your bag; and tedious reconnection attempts when the Bluetooth pairing somehow breaks.
Another annoyance is that most Bluetooth keyboards can only pair with one device, forcing you to re-pair every time you switch.

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Not any more. Logitech’s K811 keyboard can be paired with up to three devices simultaneously. The first three function keys across the top of the keyboard select which one you want to use.

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This keyboard is designed for iPad, iPhone or Mac, but I found it also worked fine with the Windows tablet subject to few annoyances (keys that are incorrectly marked).

Specifically, on Windows all the alphabetic keys work correctly, as do the numbers, and most of the special characters. The main issues are that backslash types # but can be found on the § key, and @ and ” are transposed. No Windows key of course, but Ctrl-Esc works. Really not too bad.

Note that there is a PC version of the keyboard, called the K810, which seems similar but is a little cheaper. So get that if you only have PCs, but if you have a mix of devices, the Apple one is fine.

While the keyboard is probably not a good choice if you only use a non-Apple tablet, if you have a mix then it can still be useful.

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This is a standard Mac keyboard though too small to have a separate numeric pad. The function keys default to the special functions, like dimming the backlight, and you have to press the Fn key to get the standard functions.

Physically the keyboard feels sturdy and well-made though it can flex just slightly in the middle since it has four small rubber feet. This did not cause me any problems. The keyboard is big enough for typing at speed and in comfort, and small enough that it tucks easily into most bags. It is 29cm on the longest side.

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There are some little details that I like. The Connect button can be depressed easily with a finger, no need to find a small pointed object, though I have never pressed it accidentally. There is an on-off switch that is unlikely to slide by accident, avoiding those bag-typing problems mentioned above.

The keyboard has a built-in, non-replaceable rechargeable battery, charged via a USB cable. Battery life is said to be 20 hours of typing with the backlight on, or an impressive one year with the backlight off. You can adjust the brightness of the backlight using the function keys, though it resets when you next switch off and on, so you will probably end up with the backlight on most of the time, though it does dim automatically if you do not type for a while.

The coolest feature is a sensor that detects your hands and turns the backlight on, if the keyboard has been idle, before your hands touch the keys. A bit of a gimmick, but you can’t help admiring it.

Bluetooth switching really does work. I tried a test with an iPad and a Windows tablet. Press the key for the 1st device, and typed text appears on the iPad. Press the key for the 2nd device, and typed text appears on the Windows tablet. Reconnection seems quicker than average.

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Overall I love the keyboard, and recommend it. I would have liked a protective bag to help prevent damage to the keys when loose in a larger bag, and suggest care with this as it is a common problem.

If you just want a keyboard for an iPad, you might be better off with one of the Logitech keyboard covers. If you have several mobile devices though, this is great, with a quality and convenience that justifies its price.

   

Windows 8 survival guide for touch and tablet users

Many features of Microsoft’s new Windows are designed for touch control on tablets – or perhaps a touch screen on your desktop or laptop. If you have one of those, congratulations: you are set to get the best from Windows 8. Even so, finding your way around does take a bit of time to learn, thanks to some non-obvious features. Here is a brief survival guide for tablet and touch users – if you only have keyboard and mouse see here. If you have a hybrid with both, I suggest reading both survival guides; some things are easier with a keyboard and mouse.

That said, I have found that almost anything can be accomplished with touch alone; and it is worth persevering since it gets easier with practice. A slate without a keyboard is smaller and more convenient that a laptop or slate with loose keyboard. The exception: if I need to type a lengthy piece, a keyboard is worth the inconvenience.

I am mostly avoiding third-party utilities. This is for out-of-the-box Windows 8.

Options are shown a, b , c etc where they are alternatives. Steps are shown as 1, 2, 3 where needed.

How do you right-click an icon without a mouse?

In the Desktop, you can do the equivalent of a right-click by tapping and holding an item until a rectangle outline appears under your finger. Release to show the right-click menu (context menu).

How do you type in a desktop app when the keyboard does not appear?

Tap the Touch keyboard icon in the notification area at bottom right of the screen.

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How do I stop the keyboard covering what I am typing in a desktop app?

Very annoying and I do not have a perfect solution. One option is to dock the on-screen keyboard by tapping the dock icon at top right of the keyboard:

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In this mode, it will not overlap any apps. I find it annoying though since you now have a short screen, and when you hide the keyboard apps remain in the position the keyboard pushed them to, so I have to resize them.

Tap the icon when docked to undock.

My tip: try typing in portrait mode. Docked or undocked, this gives you a better chance of not having to type into the void.

How do you get back to the Start screen?

a. The Start menu is a now a full-screen Metro application. You can find it in several ways. Press the Windows key, which is present even on tablets as the solitary key under the display.

b. You can also swipe in from the right to display the Charms bar, then tap Start.

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c. A third way is to swipe in from the left and then immediately out again. This brings up the app history bar. Tap the Start tile at the bottom.

How do I organize the Start screen into groups?

The new Start screen is not hierarchical, but does support named groups. Two things you need to know:

1. To create a group, tap on a tile and drag up slightly as if you were going to flick to select, but don’t lift your finger. An outline appears on the tile and you can drag a tile right or left until it passes a grey vertical bar. Release to start the new group, or drag further to add to a different group. You can drag past the end of the screen to have further groups scroll into view.

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Add further tiles to a new group by dragging them under one of the existing tiles in the group.

2. To name and/or move the group, put two fingers on the screen and pinch inwards. This will zoom out. Now, flick up on the group you want to name. This selects the group. Then you can tap Name group to name or rename it.image_thumb4

3. To move a group, use the same technique you used to move a tile – flick up, but do not lift your finger. Now you can drag the whole group to a new position.

I turned my tablet on and the logon screen comes up, but it does not respond to touch.

I hope this never happens to you, but I have seen it regularly on a Samsung Slate and guess it may happen on other models too. The only solution I have found is to reset the machine. To do this:

1. Hold down the power button until the unit turns off.

2. Now hold does the power button again. When the unit seems to be turning on, keep the button held down. Eventually it will turn off again. Now it is completely off. Turn on again in the normal way, and your touch control should be OK again.

I have the Start screen or a Metro app running. How do I get to the desktop?

You can go back to the Start screen and tap the Desktop tile. There is a better way though. Unless you are already at the Start screen, it is quicker to raise the app history bar by swiping in from the left and then out again. Then tap the Desktop tile.

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I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. Where are the menus and settings?

There are two places to look. To get menus, like the tabs and address bar in Metro Internet Explorer, swipe in from the top or bottom of the screen. To get settings, swipe in from the right to show the Charms bar, and tap Settings. The settings are contextual, so you will get the settings for the current app.

I’m in a Metro app. Where is the search function?

I was surprised to see reviews of the Wikipedia app bemoaning the lack of a search function. How could an encyclopaedia app not have search?

It does of course. It is just that it is not obvious where to find it.

The reason is that Windows 8 has a system search feature. You summon by displaying the Charms bar (swipe from the right) and tapping Search. Search defaults to the current app, but you can search elsewhere by tapping another option.

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. How I can see the on-screen clock?

This annoys me as well. However, swiping in from the right will show it temporarily.

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. How do I close it?

The idea is that you don’t normally need to close an app. Rather, you switch away from it, which you can do using techniques already described: swipe in from the left and immediately out again, to show the app history bar.

Metro apps may be hibernated when not in use, so they do not grab system resources in the way desktop apps sometimes do.

However, you might want to close an app because it is misbehaving, or just because you have a tidy mind. Swipe in from the left and out again to show the app history bar, then press on an app, do not lift your finger but drag it down and off the bottom of the screen to close it (throw it away).

I hate the “live tiles” in the start menu, how can you turn off all the flickering activity?

Yes, I’m not sure about them either. In the Start screen, flick up on a live tile so a tick appears in the top right corner. Then tap Turn live tile off at the foot of the screen.

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There is also an option to remove personal data from live tiles. To get this, display the Start screen, move the mouse to the bottom right corner of the screen, then tap Settings – Tiles. Tap Clear.

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How do I start an application when I can’t even see it in the Start screen?

Can be a problem. Before you give up though, there are a few things to try:

a. The quickest way to find an application is by typing a search. Display the Start screen. Swipe in from the right to display the Charms bar, and tap Search. Then type a few letters on the on-screen keyboard; all the matching applications are listed.

b. Swipe up in the Start screen and tap the  All Apps button that appears in the app bar. Swipe through the entire list to find an app.

c. Still can’t see it? Try showing Administrative tools. From the Start screen, swipe in from the right to show the Charms menu. Tap Settings, then Tiles, Show administrative tools.

d. If you are really stuck, you might need to use Explorer in the desktop to find the application in Program Files or Program Files (x86).

How do I switch between applications, since Metro apps do not appear in the taskbar?

Swipe in from the left and then immediately out to show the app history bar. This shows all the running Metro apps as well as the current Desktop app. It is not ideal because it does not show all the Desktop apps. Then again, you can use the taskbar as your switcher for Desktop apps so it is just about viable.

How do I shut down or restart the computer?

Swipe in from the right to show the Charms menu, then tap Settings and then Power.

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This is somewhat hidden because Microsoft intends that normally power management, or shutting the lid on a laptop, or the soft power-off on a tablet, will be enough. Still, some of us like to turn the PC off completely.

How do I log off or switch user?

Go to the Start screen and tap the user name at top right to display a menu, including Lock, Sign out, and Switch account.

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Having two versions of IE is confusing. I keep losing track of which sites are open in which browser.

Agreed. One solution is to make Metro IE the default, so that Desktop IE rarely opens, though this is not ideal since some web sites only work properly in Desktop IE.

If you do want to do this. go to Control Panel, type Internet in the search box, and tap on Internet Options. Tap the Programs tab, and under Choose how you open links, select Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop. Finally, make sure Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop is NOT checked.

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How can I avoid going back to the Start screen when I am working in the Desktop?

a. Make sure your usual applications are pinned to the taskbar and start them from there. If you use lots of applications, you can make it double-height to fit more on, or it will scroll.

b. Put more shortcuts on the Desktop and use Windows – D to bring up the desktop when you need it.

Where is control panel? The real one, that is.

If you have read this far, you should know several ways to find it.

a. Start screen, search apps, type “control”, tap Control Panel

b. On the desktop, swipe from right for Charms, tap Settings, Control Panel.

How do I play a DVD?

Windows 8 does not include a DVD player. However your PC may come with DVD playing software bundled by the PC manufacturer. If not, download Videolan (VLC) from here. It’s free, and DVDs will play fine.

How can I stop PDF documents opening in Metro?

Windows 8 is set up to open PDF documents in the Metro-style Windows Reader. It is not too bad, but can be annoying and does not have the range of features in the Adobe reader. To fix this, make sure that the latest Adobe reader is installed by downloading it from here. Once installed, tap and hold a PDF file until a rectangle outline appears, and release to show the context menu. Tap Open With and then Choose Default program.

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In the dialog that appears, tap Adobe Reader:

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Now PDF documents will open on the desktop in Adobe Reader.

Where has backup gone in Windows 8?

It’s still there, but for reasons best known to Microsoft it is now called Windows 7 File Recovery. Open desktop Control Panel, type recovery top right and tap Enter. Tap Windows 7 File Recovery.

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How do you run an application as administrator?

Go to the Start screen find the application icon and flick up to select. Then tap Run as administrator from the menu bar at the foot of the screen.

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How do you capture a screenshot without a keyboard?

Use the Snipping tool by searching the Start screen. Tap New to capture all or part of the screen.

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Where is the alt key on the touch keyboard?

Microsoft has made every effort to prevent you finding the alt key (and a few other useful things like function keys) if you are using the touch keyboard.

Enabling these is a two-stage process. First, show the Charms menu, tap Settings, and then Change PC Settings. Tap General. and then under the heading Touch keyboard, select Make the standard keyboard layout available.

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Now tap to show the touch keyboard and tap the keyboard icon at bottom right. This lets you select a keyboard mode such as the split keyboard. Select the full keyboard, second icon from the right in the screen grab below.

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The touch keyboard now shows Alt, Fn and other useful keys.

Review: JoyTAB 8" Android tablet. Do you need to spend more?

How much Android tablet can you get for £150.00? Quite a lot, as this JoyTAB 8″ tablet from Gemini Devices demonstrates. No complaint about the specs: ARM Cortex A8 1.2Ghz processor, Mali-400 GPU, 512MB RAM, 8GB storage, running Android 4.03 “Ice Cream Sandwich”.

There is also a Micro-SD slot (confusingly labelled “TF Card”), a front-facing camera, headphone jack, USB connector, mini HDMI port, and wi-fi.

No Bluetooth, unfortunately, but you cannot have everything. Though given the choice, I would rather have Bluetooth than HDMI.

Still, no real complaint about the specs. How is it in use?

The unit is light though it feels a bit plastic, particularly the switches on the front and side, but they work fine. There is not much to see on the front: black screen, black surround, and two physical buttons, one for menu and one for back. On the side, there are buttons for power, volume and home. Personally I would rather have the home button on the front, but it is no big deal.

On the bottom edge are the connectors for USB, power, HTML, SD card and sound. Not clear why the SD slot is labelled “TF Card”, but I stuck a 4GB SD card in there and it worked instantly.

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I turned on, and was greeted with the JoyTAB wallpaper, its brightness perhaps compensating for the rather dim screen.

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Wi-fi connected smoothly, and I had a quick look at the apps:

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Nothing exceptional here. Documents To Go is a trial, Twitter and BBC iPlayer I added myself.

Unfortunately BBC iPlayer was a letdown. The app bounces you to the browser, and the browser says my phone (?) is not supported.

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I tried updating Flash Player to the latest version with no improvement. In fairness, this may be a BBC issue, though iPlayer works fine on other Android tablets I have tried.

YouTube mostly works, but video is not too good. It looks dark and detail is lost.

I got an even more entertaining error when I attempted to play my Google music in the browser.

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Web browsing in general is a mixed experience. Mostly it is good enough, though searching Google is slow and jerky if you have incremental search enabled.

Not only is the screen dim, it is unresponsive too. Pinching and zooming is an effort, and when it does work it is not smooth.

Still, Angry Birds works well, email works with both Microsoft Exchange and Google Mail, and battery life seems not bad though charging is slow even with mains.

I connected it to a PC and got an error. USB storage shows up if you enable it in settings, but it did not connect as an Android device. I fixed this by installing the (unsigned) driver from Gemini, which I found in a forum post here.

While I have not seen any faults, the test device does make odd, quiet popping noises from time to time when charging, which is a concern.

In the end I cannot give this a recommendation. It is good value in one sense, but if you can stretch to a Samsung Galaxy, which admittedly is twice the price, you do get a substantially better experience. An Apple iPad costs even more; but if you want silky-smooth touch control, a beautiful screen, and for everything to just work, then it is worth the money.

What if you only have £149? My pick would be something like a nearly new HTC Flyer, currently on offer at Amazon UK for around that price. Yes, it only runs Android 3.x “Honeycomb”, but it is a lovely device with a great screen and HTC’s customised Sense UI.

Update: It is worth adding that Google has now announced the 7″ Nexus Tablet which is on offer in the UK for £159 for the 8GB version or £199 for 16GB. That changes the rules.

Close up with Asus PadFone: is a converged device in your future?

Asus held an event in London to show off the devices it revealed at Computex in Taipei recently, though sadly there was no Windows RT device to be seen.

Among the Zenbook Ultrabooks and Transformer Primes there was something innovative though, which was a near-final sample of the PadFone, which combines smartphone, tablet and Android laptop into one package.

The thinking is simple: why have an expensive smartphone as well as an expensive tablet, each perhaps with its own SIM card and contract, when the smartphone can power both? In the PadFone, the phone docks into the tablet, and the tablet clips into a keyboard case. As a final flourish, there is an optional headset stylus, a stylus with a Bluetooth headset built-in so you can answer the phone easily when it is docked.

Here are the three main pieces:

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The tablet, note, is useless until you dock the phone. You do this by opening a flap on the back and dropping it in.

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The tablet then works just like any other Android tablet, though it is heavier than average, and has a bulbous section on the underside.

Attach to the keyboard case, and you have a laptop.

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The tablet has a 10.1”, 1280 x 800 screen with Gorilla Glass, a speaker and headphone jack, and a front-facing camera.

The phone has 1GB RAM, 16GB flash storage plus Micro-SD support, Qualcomm 8260A Snapdragon S4 Dual-core processor with Andreno 225 GPU, rear camera and its own front-facing camera, and runs Android ICS.

The keyboard adds USB ports and a card reader.

Each device has its own battery so a full setup has three batteries, or  four if you count one in the stylus headset. However you can have scenarios where the tablet is out of power but the phone is not, for example, which would be annoying.

I spent some time with the PadFone, scribbling on the excellent note-taking app which comes with it, and assembling and disassembling the unit to get a feel for how it works. There is plenty to like. The phone itself looks great and seems fast and capable. Docking and removing it is straightforward, particularly since the flap acts as a lever to eject the phone gently. Asus assured me that it has been tested for thousands of insertions. The tablet worked well too, though it is heavier than most and the protrusion which holds the smartphone is inelegant.

A winner then? I am not sure. It is interesting and innovative, but the mechanics need some refinement. Most people have a case to protect their smartphones, but for the PadFone you will either need to remove the phone from its case when you dock it, or else treat the tablet as the case, in which case it will not slip so easily into a jacket pocket or handbag.

The stylus headset is not just a gimmick; you will need this, or another Bluetooth headset, to make sense of using the phone when it is docked.

Some variations on this theme occur to me. After another generation of miniaturisation, perhaps you could design a phone so slim that it fits into the case more like an old PCMCIA card used to slot into a laptop, without an ugly protruding flap? Another idea would be to make all the communication between phone and tablet wireless, building just enough smarts into the tablet that it works as a kind of remote desktop into your phone.

The Asus folk present told me that the PadFone is first-generation and we can expect the concept to evolve. Another goal is to make a splash in the smartphone market, using the PadFone as differentiation from all the other Android devices out there.

Apparently the PadFone will normally be sold on contract, and while it will be bundled with the tablet, whose name is the PadFone Station, the keyboard and stylus headset will be optional extras.

Review: Cygnett Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad, Windows

In the iPad era there is increasing demand for wireless keyboards that will transform your tablet into a productive writing machine. I have tried a number of such gadgets recently, including a bargain-price iPad keyboard case and an expensive Samsung keyboard to go with the Slate I have been using for Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Both keyboards work, but with so many annoyances that I rarely use them. The keyboard case works well enough, if you can cope with squishy keys and a tiny power switch, but adds so much weight and bulk to the iPad that it becomes like a laptop, and in doing so loses much of its appeal. The Samsung keyboard on the other hand has a quality feel but lacks a proper power switch, and I found the only way to prevent it powering up when in your bag is to remove the batteries, which is a nuisance. Further, there is some kind of design fault with the keys which can get stuck down; they pop back easily enough, but after a few times something snaps and I now have a key that slopes slightly.

Enter the Cygnett Bluetooth Keyboard, primarily designed for the iPad but which works find with the Slate and no doubt numerous other devices, and which is priced competitively considering it has hard keys and is rechargeable.

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I found several things to like.

First, it has a real on/off switch on the back, something I value having experienced problems with Samsung’s soft power key.

Second, it is small, and will fit in the the top inside pocket of a man’s jacket or tucked into a flap in almost any bag or case. The longest side of the keypad is around 1.5cm less than the length of the iPad itself.

Third, it seems robust and the keys are pleasantly responsive.

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Getting started was simple enough. Charge it using the supplied USB connector, and pair with the iPad or other device by depressing the recessed pairing key, scanning for new devices, and typing the code given.

I find I can get a good speed on this device, though it is a little cramped especially if you do true touch typing using all your fingers. Still, this is mainly a matter of practice and it is a big step up, for me, from the soft keyboard on an iPad or tablet. Another reason to prefer a physical keyboard is that you get twice as much screen space to view your document.

The keypad also works fine with my Windows 8 Slate, though it has Mac-style keys so no Windows key. Of course you can use Ctrl-Esc for this. There is a Print Screen key though, so from my point of view all the important keys are covered. There is no right Shift key.

One small disappointment: although it has a mini USB socket for charging, this keypad is wireless only. It will not work as a USB keyboard even if you use a full USB cable, rather than the charge-only cable supplied. A shame, because there are circumstances when a USB keyboard is useful, such as for changing BIOS settings on a Windows tablet.

The keypad also works with some Android devices. However I was unable to pair it with an HTC Desire smartphone, and I have seen reports of similar issues with other Android mobile devices. If the device prompts for a number to type on the keyboard, you are in business. If it suggests typing a generic code such as 0000 on the device, it does not work, though there may be a workaround of which I am not aware.

Another limitation: you can only pair the keypad with one device at a time.

Nevertheless, I like this keypad better than the Samsung keyboard which cost much more. Recommended.

 

Asus Transformer Prime looks great – but I would rather have it with Windows 8

Asus has announced the Transformer Prime, a quad-core tablet which comes with a mobile dock. The tablet looks like this:

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but it docks with a keyboard to become more like a laptop:

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The dock includes a keyboard, USB port, SD card slot, and an additional battery. Asus claim a battery life of 18 hours for the tablet when docked, or 12 hours for the tablet alone.

Specs for the Transformer Prime include 32GB storage, 1GB RAM, micro HDMI port, front and rear facing cameras (the rear camera can take full 1080p HD video), light sensor and gyroscope, GPS, combined audio and mic-in jack, and of course wi-fi and Bluetooth.

The real star of the Transformer Prime though is NVIDIA’s new Tegra 3 SoC (System on a Chip).

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Tegra 3 includes a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU and a 12-core GeForce GPU, compared to its predecessor the dual-core Tegra 2 with its 8 core GPU. It also supports double the amount of RAM: 2GB rather than 1GB. Anand Lal Shimpi has a great overview here.

The Transformer Prime is set to arrive in the UK in early January with a recommended price of £499 inc VAT. It will run Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

Perhaps I have spent too much time with the Windows 8 preview over the last month, but I cannot help thinking that this would make an excellent Windows 8 tablet. I like the idea of the keyboard/dock which also forms protection for the tablet screen; with Windows and Office this might be the only device I need when travelling.

If the laptop had been invented after the tablet …

I attended a press briefing for a new kind of portable computing device which its inventors are calling a “laptop” and have been trying out a review sample.

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Unlike today’s one-piece slate form factor, the laptop has a hinged top which when open forms the screen. The lower piece, called the keyboard, has physical buttons representing the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and other useful inputs, more or less matching the on-screen input panel we are used to.

The makers claim that a keyboard is faster to use than an input panel, but I am not convinced. One of the problems is that you are either looking at the screen, or the keyboard, and it takes a lot of practice to type without looking at the keyboard and missing what is appearing on the screen.

The real benefit is that without an input panel, there is more space on the screen for the application. Still, bearing in mind that the input panel disappears when not in use, this is not really such a big deal.

The downside of the laptop is that the two-piece design makes it bulkier and potentially more delicate than a conventional tablet. I also found that while it works fine on a desk, in a constrained space such as in an aeroplane seat the hinge design is awkward to use, and on several occasions I gave in to the frustration and used my normal tablet instead.

If you are standing up, the laptop is horrible to use, whereas a tablet works fine: you can hold it in one hand and control it with the other.

Laptops will be more expensive than tablets because of the more complex design, though we were shown a cheaper variant that has a passive screen which does not respond to touch.

This is odd to use; at first you find yourself constantly stabbing at the screen by mistake, but eventually you can train yourself to do everything with the keyboard. Just make sure you do not ever switch back to a tablet, otherwise when you come back to the laptop you will find yourself stabbing the screen again!

In order to mitigate the lack of touch control on these low-end devices, the designers have added an on-screen pointer which you can think of as a virtual finger. A small area in the centre of the keyboard is touch-sensitive, and moving your finger there moves the on-screen “finger”. You can then tap or click a button to simulate a finger tap.

It is a clever idea, though operating at one remove from the screen itself takes some getting used to. In the end though, it feels like a step backwards and for most users the extra cost of the normal touch screen is well worth it.

My view: for certain specialist tasks the laptop may catch on, but I cannot see it succeeding in the mass market.

Inspired by Ten failings that will check the tablet’s rise

Asus announces combined smartphone and tablet – the Padfone

Asus has announced the Padfone, a combined tablet and smartphone running Google Android. The phone docks inside the tablet, which means you get an internet-connected tablet without having to pay for an additional SIM card and contract. It is a similar concept to Motorola’s Atrix, which combines smartphone and netbook. I like the concept and its efficiency, though I am not sure that this is quite the right approach.

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Asus is also having another at at Linux on a netbook. The Eee PC X101 will run MeeGo, the Linux-based operating system which was once a joint Intel-Nokia project, but ditched by Nokia in favour of Windows Phone. MeeGo enables Asus to offer the X101 at a lower price than would be the case with Windows, as well as offering snappier performance; however there will also be a Windows 7 option so I guess the market will decide.

Viewsonic ViewPad 10 Pro does Windows and Android – but Windows first

Viewsonic has announced the ViewPad 10 Pro, a 10” tablet that runs both Microsoft Windows 7 and Google Android 2.2.

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I saw the ViewPad 10 Pro briefly this morning here at Mobile World Congress. Specs include Intel Oak Trail chipset, 2GB RAM, 32GB storage, and front-facing camera for conferencing.

The big appeal of the ViewPad 10 Pro, successor to the ViewPad 10, is that it runs Android as well as Windows. Just tap a button, and Android appears in place of Windows.

Sounds good; but as Viewsonic explained how this works I became doubtful. Apparently Android runs in a virtual machine on top of Windows. I have nothing against virtualization; but this approach does suggest some compromises in terms of Android performance and efficiency. No matter how clever Viewsonic has been in its implementation, some resources will still be devoted to Windows during an Android session and battery life will be less good than it might be.

I can see more sense in running Android first, for the sake of its speed and efficiency on low-power hardware, and Windows in virtualization for when you need to dip into Excel or some other Windows application.

The upside of this approach is that you can switch between the two without having to to do a hard reboot.

Viewsonic says you will be able to get one of these in your hands around May 2011.