Windows 8 Tablet – Review: ExoPC Slate

Recently at we’ve made it our objective to cover all the latest, greatest, and in-between when it comes to tablets that run Windows.

While many of the options we’ve presented have been well above the $600 price mark of high-end tablets like the iPad, today’s tablet in review is a little different.

The ExoPC Slate is a sub-$600 tablet that isn’t a power house, but it more than capable of providing a basic, enjoyable table experience and as a testing-ground for Windows 8 Beta (and potentially a great option for upgrading to the full commercial version later this year).

Keep in mind that this little guy isn’t a heavywieght when it comes to power but it is also only 2 lbs and much more ‘portable’ than many of the other slate options we’ve had the privilege to take a peek at.

First, we will start with a run down of the tablet’s specs:

  • an 11.6-inch HD BrightView touch-screen (with a 1366×768 resolution)
  • Intel Atom Pinevie-M N450 1.66GHz processor
  • 2GB DDR2 667MHz RAM
  • 64GB SSD
  • SDHC memory card reader supporting up to 32GB cards
  • Realtek Hi-Def Audio
  • Intel GMA 3150 graphics
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • Mini-HDMI
  • Battery up to 4 hours
  • Integrated 1.3MP webcam
  • Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n wireless
  • Weight: 2.09lbs
  • Demensions: 11.6×7.7x.055 inches

The ExoPC Slate is aesthetically pleasing enough to the eyes but nothing to write home about.

The edges and the back of the rounded tablet are plastic, not metal like the iPad (which is of similar price point, really). Still, the plastic does give the unit a smooth feel and a solid-holding experience.

The ExoPC has a generous 11.6-inch screen that is very glossy and tended to leave plenty of finger prints. A nice touch is that ExoPC does at least include a screen cleaner and cloth, right in the box.

The display itself is sufficiently bright and the resolution makes the experience look rather nice.

The unit handles watching 720p content rather well (it stumbles a little with higher 1080 content though), and overall provides an enjoyable viewing experience.

Unfortunately, this is more of a ‘base tablet’ than others we’ve reviewed and so its writing/inking capabilities leave a lot to be desired.

It does include a foam-tip capacitive stylus that is fine for navigating menus, but ultimately it struggled to effectively work for writing. This means that if you absolutely need a good slate/writing experience, you might want to count this one out.

For basic scribbled notes and such, it should suffice I suppose, just not for anything truly serious or detailed.

To me, it is the hardware that generally makes or breaks these kind of slate tablets.

That being said, this isn’t the typical type of slate I’ve reviewed up until now, instead this a more consumer/casual targeted device.

Personally I think that a casual device is a great testing ground for Windows 8 Beta and if I can pick one up used cheap enough may consider this model for keeps, myself.

That being said, the hardware isn’t high-end and is more on par with a netbook. Considering this device costs about double as a netbook, this might in itself be a deal breaker for some (unless you plan to find one used).

The device runs a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, 2GB, and 64SSD which provides a capable – though somewhat limited – Windows experience.

On the battery side, it isn’t a powerhouse and if you are doing plenty of high-end video it will likely only last you around 2 ½ to 3 hours, though it is capable for lower-end use to make it up to almost 4 hours.

Normally, I don’t focus on the software side that much because I know that most users will just upgrade to Windows 8 eventually anyhow. That being said, the software experience on the ExoPC Slate is actually worth mentioning.

Yes, it is still just Windows 7 but the folks at ExoPC have created a specialized UI that adds touch-optimization on top of Win7. While it isn’t perfect, somewhat limited, and buggy, it still is good for those basic “on the go” tablet needs.

The ExoPC UI is built on native code and HTML to provide an alternative operating environment and not overwork the CPU that much.

The interface itself looks somewhat like “Connect 4” and features its own re-layered version of IE 8 that has touch-optimized controls.

The ExoPC UI even manages to have a bunch of pre-loaded touch applications such as games, education, books, and music folders.

There is even an “ExoStore” that provides its own free apps and actually has as many as a thousand.

This is nothing compared to Google App stores, Apple App Stores, or even Windows Phone marketplace but it is still a welcome enough feature.

Overall, if you are looking for a basic tablet that has legacy support now and an upgrade path to Windows 8 or Windows 8 Beta later, than this could be a great choice.

While the ExoPC UI isn’t perfect, it certainly offers many improvements over what we typically have seen with Windows 7 and touch.

The ExoPC tablet is available at Amazon for $549.95.

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