I bought a cheap Windows 8.1 tablet just after Christmas, called a Tesco Connect, and I've finally got round to setting it up, so I thought I'd post some thoughts on my first impressions.
What is it?
It's a 7 inch tablet, running Windows 8.1 with Bing (32 bit). It has an Intel Atom (Z3735G) Quad-Core running at 1.33GHz, 1GB of RAM, and a 32GB drive of some solid-state technology or other. The screen is 800 x 1280 pixels. There's also a micro SD slot, a micro HDMI output, micro USB, Bluetooth, a couple of cameras and a headphone socket. I believe it probably uses WIMBoot technology to squeeze the data into 32GB? (It only has 3 partitions, on a GPT disk.)
As I understand it, it's an own-brand device specifically for big UK Supermarket chain Tesco. This probably makes this post rather UK-specific, so apologies to readers in other countries.
Why did you buy it?
It was cheap! When I bought it, it was reduced to £60. Considering it includes a 1-year licence for Office 365 Personal, which Microsoft also sell in the UK for £60, if you wanted Office 365 Personal you could activate the licence, move it to another computer, throw the tablet in the bin and still not be out of pocket. The tablet is £69 as I write this, which still isn't a high price.
Also, I wanted a tablet for travelling and some other times when I've time to kill which I've not been using profitably.
What software does it have on it? Is there a lot of bloatware?
I was pleasantly surprised here.
In Programs and Features when I first switched it on, it just had a list of installed drivers and Office 365. And nothing else.
Over and above the default ones, there are a couple of Modern/Metro apps for Tesco (not unreasonably) and one for Blinkbox.
But the upshot is that I haven't needed to uninstall anything!
What is support like?
Seems pretty appalling to me! There's a leaflet in the box with a toll-free number to call, but that seems to be about it. The instructions consist of a flimsy leaflet in which there is one page of warnings and precautions, one page with a diagram showing what all the buttons and connections do, and rest is all about how to use Windows 8.1 rather than the tablet itself. The leaflet has tiny writing and is hard to read. I can't find any documentation in a PDF or similar on the device itself, either.
I couldn't find any manuals, drivers or similar online (although 'Connect' is a really unhelpful name when you're trying to Google for device drivers ).
In fact that lack of support is one reason I wanted to post this, in case the information here helps someone.
What's Battery Life like?
I don't know yet, but what I do know is that it takes ages to charge. It seems that for an hour of use on battery you have to charge it for almost an hour beforehand.
There's only one USB port, which also doubles as a charging port, which means you can't charge and use USB devices at the same time. For anyone getting one of these, I recommend leaving it to charge for a few hours before you initially use it.
This also means buying a Bluetooth keyboard is probably a 'must' for users such as myself, so I can still type on it while it's charging, without a USB keyboard.
What did you do when you turned it on?
Well I'm paranoid about having a good backup of computers, especially when they're brand new, and what I wanted to do is take a backup with Macrium Reflect Free of the device before I'd even set it up.
I knew that Audit Mode exists (Ctrl-Shift-F3) in the Out of Box experience and that was enough to get me into the UEFI menu, where I could slow down the BIOS booting process (by having it wait 5 seconds on startup and show the BIOS manufacturer).
The keys to get into the BIOS seem to be:
Esc or Del : Setup of the BIOS/UEFI
F7 : Boot Menu where you can choose what you want to boot from - that is either a bootable USB or the main system drive.
It was the F7 that it took me ages and trial and error to find.
Obviously there are no actual keys on a tablet, so you need to connect to a USB keyboard before switching on to get into the BIOS in that way.
What also took me ages was that I was foolishly trying to boot a 64-bit Macrium USB, but since that uses 64-bit WinPE, this was failing every time. It was only when I remembered that the OS might be 32-bit (and checked in Audit Mode) that I used a 32-bit Macrium USB instead and started to make more progress.
Luckily it still booted from USB even when the Macrium USB was plugged in via my 4-port USB hub which also had the mouse and keyboard connected at the same time.
Once I was into Macrium, I could connect another USB device - an external disk drive, and backup onto that.
I couldn't figure out how to make Macrium Free use the SD card or WiFi. I tried copying in what I thought were the correct drivers, but it didn't seem to work. But I'm no expert with Macrium so perhaps I was doing something wrong.
But I'm glad I backed it up and know how to get back in to restore it. Obviously the drive is non-user-replaceable, which limits the times when a restore would be better than using a Refresh or Reset, but if it gets corrupted so I cant get into them, I'll know how to attempt a restore from a bootable USB.
Once I switched it on and went through the 'out of box experience', there was then the inevitable long list of updates to work through.
What's it like in use?
As it's running full Windows 8.1 (as opposed to RT) you get all the desktop functionality. However on a 7 inch screen, my fingers are too pudgy (is that even a word?) and my eyesight not sharp enough to use it effectively. So I'll be looking for good Modern apps to run on it.
However plug an HDMI screen in, and a mouse and keyboard, and it's a normal computer (albeit a slow one), especially with the full set of Office programs, even MS Access and Outlook.
I tried playing a TV programme that I'd downloaded with the BBC iPlayer downloader. This was reasonable, although I wasn't trying to play it at high quality (not much point with a small screen) and I think it did start to drop a few frames when another process fired up. But it would be very usable for that sort of thing.
There is a Windows key, but it isn't in its rightful place at the bottom centre of the screen, instead it's a button around the top edge.
I'm not sure there should be a folder called TEST_TOOL left behind on the C: drive ...
What about Office 365?
For me, I think the desktop Office is too fiddly and touch unfriendly to be used much on a small tablet. It might be OK once I connect a screen and keyboard but that's not really what the tablet is intended for.
Office 365 Personal is sold as having a licence for a 1 PC or Mac and 1 tablet. However on the myaccount page for Office, it lists the installation for my tablet in the section for PC and Macs, so it's not clear to me if a Windows tablet is counted as a PC for that purpose (which will be a bit mean if true)? I am hoping to be left with a free licence to put Office 365 on my laptop.
Will you put Windows 10 on it?
Presumably I will eventually, when it's released and it's free-upgrade time.
However before then I'm still in 2 minds on whether I'll put the Preview on before that. For one thing I think the WIMBoot means I can't just do an upgrade install. And the pitiful support means I can't download a set of drivers from the Manufacturer's website, so it would be the luck of the draw whether Windows 10 TP has the right drivers already in its ISO.
Is it encrypted?
No it seems not. One of the announcements with Windows 8.1 was 'Pervasive Device Encryption' which should be present on devices with Connected Standby, which this one does have. So I was hoping it might be encrypted. However I believe that because it's 32-bit... no encryption.
I'm fairly pleased with it. A Windows 8.1 computer for £60 (which seems to be about US$90 at present) including a year's Office, has got to be good value, especially if I can use the Office licence on my laptop too for the year. Time will tell how much I use it though; I think the decider for me will be whether I can find some good Modern/Metro apps to make better use of that small screen.
I think in hindsight that if there was a bigger screen size tablet at a price that wasn't too much more, then that would probably be better value for me.