Saturday, March 21, 2015

Micro Center WinBook TW700 Continuing Review

After applying Windows updates, the WinBook TW700 is no longer prompting me that 1GB of RAM is too small for the way I run the system. I also purchased a WinBook TW801 (with a full-sized USB 3.0 port, and 2GB of RAM, I will review it soon as well) while I could still find one, Micro Center has discontinued that model for some reason. The TW802 replacement is back to a full-sized USB 2.0 port, and a more power-efficient CPU.

The ability to charge and run the system from a USB power source (which is only 5 volts DC) for an extended period of time is a particular strong point for me. My new ASUS S1 portable projector (another upcoming review) is able to supply USB power, so I have a big-screen system that doesn't need to be plugged in to watch a movie and more. The Dell Venue 11 Pro (yet another review) has a micro-USB port for charging, but the accompanying (23 watt, typically supplying over 7VDC) charger must be used, or the unit complains.

I mentioned 'movies', which I stream from services like Netflix and Google Play (like many of my other devices), but since it is a Windows device, an external DVD drive can be attached via USB (typically there is a cable with a second USB plug for power, as so there is not too much current draw from the computer; I will document the solutions I use at some later point). The viewing application I have installed (for Windows and many other platforms) is 'Kodi' (formerly called XBMC). Kodi can also stream other media context (one method I use to watch TWiT (This Week in Technology, run by Leo Laporte)

The WinBook TW700 tablet is so low in price (often below $60) because the no-cost 'Windows 8.1 with Bing' operating system installed. There are the limitations that Remote Desktop cannot be used as a client or host (I use the better Chrome Remote Desktop anyway), it can't join a domain (but can be part of a workgroup), can't install BitLocker, and I discovered it has PowerShell 4.0 pre-loaded (other versions of Windows 8.1 have PowerShell 2.0, and can only be upgraded to PowerShell 5.0). Windows 8.1 with Bing (other search engines can be selected, and other browsers installed) is still very functional, and may qualify for the free Windows 10 upgrade (which includes Windows 7 computers, in addition to Windows 8.1) when it comes out this Summer.

Other ways I have made this tablet more functional is to have a USB-to-Ethernet adapter (for a possible wired connection if needed), and a USB-to-Serial adapter (to allow consoling into network equipment). Older 'Prolific' chipsets for the serial adapter aren't supported under (any version of) Windows 8.1, so make sure you get the newer version if you take this route. Having a small, separately powered USB hub is handy for using more than one USB device at a time, and won't draw battery voltage from the tablet.

Speaking of power, the TW700 is powered by an Intel Atom Z37xx class CPU, same as the bigger TW80x tablets and Dell Venue 11 Pro. In this case it is a 1.33GHz (burst to 1.83GHz) Z3735G, limited to a 1Gb memory controller. I'm finding the 1Gb of RAM less of a problem than the 16Gb of flash for operating system and program storage. My attempts to have the 64Gb micro-SD card formatted as NTFS (so it can be used by Windows as an area for folders and applications instead of the flash) is proving problematic, as the card corrupts frequently.

Doubling the flash memory size to 32Gb, with 2Gb of RAM, was the primary reason I also purchased the TW801. Both tablet sizes also include a two-device licence of Office 365 Personal (Office applications are free on smartphones, so the other license would likely be used on a PC or Apple) valid for a year. The WinBook TW801 review is next up, stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Micro Center WinBook TW770 Beginning Review

I'm skipping a partially written topic I have, and moving on to my first entry in three months. This is a review for a small Windows 8.1 tablet I recently purchased. It does have limited resources but is able to run all of the single tasks I have tried. There is a slightly larger version (the TW801) at double the price if you do need more resources. The price is the primary factor why I bought it, as low as $59.99 from the manufacturer.

It is a complete Windows 8.1 installation (not Windows RT) and includes two licenses of Office 365 valid for a year. I've bought additional accessories that make the unit much more functional, which I will show below. The main limitation of the WinBook TW770 is only 1Gb of DDR RAM memory (the TW801 has 2Gb of DDR3 RAM). The flash RAM drive is also small (16Gb, which is close to the capacity of many Chromebook models), but if you are accustomed to working from the cloud you will be able to adapt (the TW801 has 32Gb SSD storage).

A single full-sized USB port provides some functionality, but I wanted more, as well as an ability to run USB devices from an external power supply (not from the limited battery of the tablet). The device I found is exactly what is needed, shown here ($9.99 on Amazon):
With USB an Ethernet adapter, Prolific serial port (make sure you have a chipset version that works with Windows 8.1), and external drives are possible. I also use a Logitech USB travel mouse (rather than Bluetooth, because I can shift it to other equipment I have). Speaking of Bluetooth, I run the tablet in a Logitech K480 ($49.85 on  Amazon), which is also able to operate with two other devices (I connect both my phone and Chromebook).
Other helpful accessories are a micro-HDMI cable for connecting to a larger display, the small Amazon cases and pouch to carry it around and a 64Gb micro-SD memory card. I'll include links to all of these accessories from Amazon below. The next topic will be how the TW770 operates, including pictures of how I use it.

Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard:
Kirin Micro-USB powered hub:
Amazon 7-inch tablet sleeve: