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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

window Walking

So, I’ve been in KL over the last couple of days for work matters. Being in the capital, I was pretty interested to scout out some new tech, especially with Microsoft Malaysia having launched Windows 8 last Monday. I’ve been very curious as to how good Windows 8 touch devices would be and what their price points are.

After training on Friday, I was walking around Suria KLCC trying to pass the time. In a spur of the moment, my brain told my feet why not take a walk to Low Yat Plaza? Actually, my transport arrangement needed me to take the LRT to Bangsar in an hour and a half so I was wondering if it be worth it to walk all the way but I decided to do it anyway.

I’d heard about the covered walkway covering the distance between KLCC and Pavillion but I never knew where it was until the day before when a friend showed me.

Going along the elevated walkway, I have to say I’m quite content with it. Generally speaking, its quite spacious. I don’t think a Kancil would have much problem driving through it, or most of it anyway. Also, just as I’ve read and heard, its air-conditioned and makes for a pleasant walk. That said, it isn’t too cold in there, as it’s about room temperature. 

Since the walkway is a confined space and spans a long distance, I guess some people might worry about security. In fairness however, I still think its safer than walking along the street since there are security cameras throughout and security guards at certain intersections. That’s right there are intersections. It splits at certain points as you can get to a few other places from KLCC besides Pavilion, so its good to read the signboards at the intersections if you’re going for the first time.

Fast walking, I reached Pavilion in about 10 minutes or so, which is pretty alright by me. However, because I was rushing for time, I had to fast-walk all the way to Low Yat Plaza as well, which is about a kilometre out from the Pavilion walkway exit/entrance. A lot of people were on the street and unfortunately it was drizzling quite a bit too so I got soaked.

The Windows 8 showcase was on the ground floor so I went in to see which tablets from which OEMs would be available in Malaysia. I already had a good look at the Sony VAIO Duo 11 at the Sony store in KLCC and I was quite impressed so I was hoping for a bit more with the other brands.

Windows 8 @ Low Yat Plaza

There were a number of all-in-one desktops, as well as laptops and ultrabooks running Windows 8 on display but I wasn’t there for those. I was there for the form factors new to the OS, tablets and hybrids.

I was disappointed to find only five tablets/hybrids on the display floor. The first which I had a chance to check out was the Samsung ATIV running Windows 8.

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro

Docked to the keyboard, it really looks like an ultrabook. Note that its running Windows 8, not RT (Samsung’s RT offering is the ATIV TAB, which there is no news of here as of yet).

The tablet itself has a large enough 11.6” screen that also comes with a microSD slot, but more importantly there is a USB 3.0 port as well. The keyboard is actually quite a pleasure to type on, which I think will be the case for all tablets with at least an 11 inch display. There are a couple of USB 2.0 ports on the keyboard as well. I can’t remember whether the storage is 64 or 128 GB, in any case, its priced at RM 3,599.00. It comes with a stylus as well, but that wasn’t on display, so I’m curious as to how well it works. Honestly, I’m still rather unsold on how functional styluses are in the first place.

Next up was ASUS’s clone of the Transformer with Windows RT slapped on top of it, the VIVO Tab RT. One thing I’ll say outright is this, because the display is 10.1 inches and its keyboard matches the length of the tablet, its simply not a keyboard people want to type on. Its such a pity as all RT devices come pre-installed with the touch optimised version of Microsoft Office (or more specifically Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Student RT), which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for no extra cost than the device retail price, which is RM 2,199.00

Sony VAIO Duo 11

Also around, was the first Windows 8 tablet/hybrid that I got my hands on. At 1.3 kg, its definitely not something you’ll want to use without a table-like surface to rest it on nearby. Its not unbearable though, but definitely heavy for the average tablet use. There are a number of reasons for this though.

Firstly, this hybrid device features a built in keyboard that reveals itself as you slide the screen upwards, converting it from a table to laptop layout. I tested the keyboard quite thoroughly with the trial version of Office 2010 Sony installed on it at a Sony Store in KLCC and I was very satisfied. There’re enough space between the keys and while its no desktop keyboard, its not hard to type and mistakes were minimal.

Still, just having a keyboard that doesn’t detach isn’t the only reason why this device is thicker and heavier. The device itself hosts two very important ports I haven’t seen on any other touchscreen device, a full-sized VGA and Ethernet port. These are huge clues that this device is built for business. Imagine that, no need for scrawny expensive adaptors for connecting to an LCD projector. The other things is that in business environments, there are still plenty of offices that do not utilise wireless connections and stick to physical cables, so being able to connect to a LAN cable is a definite plus point. Of course, there are plenty of other ports like USB 3.0, microSD slot and the HDMI port. Also, it comes with a stylus as well.

With 128GB of solid state drive storage, it comes at a price of RM 3,999.00. It’s a hefty price, but it comes to mind that this is more of a laptop rather than a tablet considering what it does. It’s the most tablet-like laptop out there, whereas others seem to be trying to make the most laptop-like tablet.

Acer Iconia W510

The last one I saw was the Acer Iconia W150, which I had read about and seen on Engadget. I was initially impressed with its seemingly simple and light keyboard, but once I saw the small size of the device, I didn’t even bother to play with it, instead just opting to take a photo of it while this guy was trying it out. I was in no mood to try a keyboard that seemed even smaller than the one I tried out on the Asus VIVO Tab RT.

There was one more, a Lenovo RT device, but that was a laptop, not a hybrid or a detachable device so I passed on that. At the time I thought, why would someone create an RT laptop/ultrabook? Then again, I think that’s the way it should be for ultrabooks moving forward, especially since ultrabook users always want something thin and light with long battery life, which is exactly what ARM architecture brings with the RT version of Windows.

My conclusion was that among the devices on display, the winner was surely between the Samsung ATIV Smart PC and Sony VAIO Duo 11. The thing is, both devices don’t come with Office 13 since they’re running on Windows 8 and not Windows RT. Honestly speaking, the VIVO Tab RT would have been an outright winner if it had a bigger screen, which would have meant a wider and better keyboard. In some ways, the OEMs have still left a fair bit to be desired. That’s why I’m still very curious how Surface RT and Surface W8 Pro will be like if they do arrive in Malaysia.

One thing though, I know that the Sony VAIO Duo 11 is selling out in KLCC. That said, I still think the best tablet/hybrid for Windows 8 or even RT is yet to be on sale here. More patience is required. Hopefully things will pick up during the holiday season. Microsoft’s Surface and even Toshiba’s offering seem pretty interesting.

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