Staring me in the face was this neat little glossy faced box of tricks! It was a little smaller than I had imagined, but it wasn’t too small…..or was it?
You can tell that it has been hand made as the screen doesn’t sit perfectly in the surrounding bezel, and sometimes when handling the slate, the screen tends to move away from the main unit. This has something to do with why the accuracy with the screen is not 100%. Obviously we can look forward to a much better build with the final production units.
It was a little heavier than I first thought, but only because I really didn’t know what to expect. Now that Iâ€™ve had it and used it for a few days I don’t even notice the weight, which really isn’t that much. (And is even 144 grams heavier that the FP (final production) unit).
About the ExoPC
The screen is BIG, perhaps it might seem small to you when you first open the box, but once you start to use it, you see that actually you have a lot of real estate on the 11.5″ LCD.
The fan is almost constantly on, which is a bit of a bummer, but we know that this will be sorted in the final production units, and will only come on when needed; however, the unit does get quite hot when on charge (naturally), I only hope that the fan that is used in the FP unit is more powerful but quieter.
In the centre at the top of the screen is the 1.3MP forward facing camera. I’ve tested the camera and it works well for web-cam chats and takes quite good high resolution stills.
In the left upper corner is the light sensor and an indictaion LED which is orange when charging, and blue when first powering on.
Apart from those two above there is absolutely nothing else on the face of the device, just glass.
Turn the Exo on its left side and from left to right you have; Power socket 3mm jack, Mini HDMI port, 2xUSB ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, SD Card Reader & SIM card slot. Flip it upside down and all you have are vents in the casing and a docking port.
The ports are positioned perfectly, I wouldn’t want them anywhere else on the unit. 2 x USB should be ample for most people, I don’t think I ever used both in one go. The HDMI was very easy to use, as you can see in my video, and it was a crystal clear picture, no jumping, jittering and the colours were perfect. You could easily use this to extend the desktop on the unit to another monitor/HD TV. I suppose if you have a main desk but are out and about a lot, if you dock the unit to the ExoPC official dock, with a USB keyboard & mouse already connected, all you would have to do is connect up your HD monitor to the HDMI and you have yourself a desktop PC(!) ready to transform to a mobile device when called in to action.
The ExoPC does not in any way feel cheap! If anything because of the weight, (again its not too heavy), it feels solid as a rock! Like you could drop it out from under your arm and it would just bounce on the floor (not tested!) and be fine.
The casing, on the back and some of the bezel, is coated in some kind of rubbery material which really helps for grip, especially when carrying it with one hand.
The problem with it being a coating is that in time, with wear, that coating will inevitably wear off. Not everywhere mind, but in certain key hands-on area’s.
Even though its not the FP screen, the one in the prototype is very good…….. from certain angles! When you get those angles right the screen is bright, vivid and very clear & crisp & not pixelated at all, all the corners are sharp and the rounded edges smooth, just what you want from an LCD screen.
Using the ExoPC
Windows 7 is a marvelous work of art, it really is the best bits of all of Microsoft’s attempts at creating an astounding OS over the years. The Windows UI is very good, it even has a mode for tablet devices to make thinks like buttons & icons larger for your fingers to hit them easier……. but(!) itâ€™s just not good enough for a solely touch enabled device! Which is where the ExoPC UI layer comes to the rescue!
A couple of occasions, when I was using the ExoPC in Windows, it took me to a screen (full screen on a PDF viewer for example), I lost the start bar and no other buttons were visible, I couldn’t get up the on screen keyboard to close the app or get back to the home page. Thatâ€™s were you really need a â€˜hardâ€™ â€˜homeâ€™ key, that takes you back to a position where you can recover the app or close it, probably just the same as the â€˜show the desktopâ€™ button in Win 7, or perhaps to bring up the Task Manager, thatâ€™s the only thing I can say that this unit is lacking. On those occasions all I could do to get back to life was to re-boot.
Edit: 3rd Sep 2010 I tried pressing the hard button on the back of the device, but this just put it into standby mode, when it woke again I had the login screen, but from there all I could do was click the button to log in, no other options were available. Once logged back in it took me straight back to my full screen app and I was back at square one again. If anything this is a limitation of the app, i should have been able to ‘right click’ inside the app and choose to come out of full screen mode.
The general feel, performance-wise of the ExoPC is that of a middle range laptop. The 2GB RAM really helps the CPU, if it were any less I would bet the unit would run rather laggy. Tap the screen and it responds immediately, and even though its the prototype screen (most of the time) its quite accurate.
Loading apps like a web browser, Wordpad or PDF reader is quite snappy, there’s not much loading time, (especially with Chrome). Other apps such as Microsoft Word/Excell take a little longer, 20 seconds or so, but once they’re loaded they’re very snappy.
Edit: 3rd Sep 2010
This was before I worked out the Windows Media Sharing was running in the background and eating up all of the CPU! Having done another test, apps like Word, Excell etc. have a load time just a tad behind the browsers, so quite quick. (Stupid Windows Media Sharing!) . . . . Actually its a good feature if you have a REALLY powerful machine to do it on.
Edit: 15th Sep 2010
With the new SSD in the unit things are really speeding up! The ExoPC was snappy before but now things like office 2010 apps load up and a couple of seconds! Applications install faster and things like Photoshop load quicker too. There really is a VAST difference between these two SSD drives. The upgrade was definitely worth the two week extra wait!
Web-browsing on the ExoPC is an area where it shines, obviously we have so much choice with browsers and because the big three are ‘touch enabled’ there’s no fiddling with the tiny thin scroll bar to navigate up & down the page. Obviously flash is supported (Windows 7 OS) so Youtube and various websites that embed flash, whether it be videos or games or just banners work perfectly and fluidly.
I varied the way I held the ExoPC depending on mood, sometimes I’d use one hand (left) gripping between my thumb and index finger, and tap the buttons and keyboard with my right, other times I’d place the ExoPC in the palm of my left hand and half support it with my wrist, its all down to personal preference.
I found myself in the landscape mode almost 90% of the time, only moving to portrait for testing or reading PDF’s. The current software for rotating the screen is very crude, the screen goes black and the transition is pretty unpleasent! All this will be solved in the final version though and we’ll see a smooth transition with no ‘black screen’ effect. To add to that the software is way too sensitive in this prototype, something that has been ironed out also for the FP units that you will buy.
The basic version of the UI that was installed on the prototype was in fact that, pretty basic, but that doesnt mean it wasnt a good concept. To be able to organise your games, apps, music & videos like they intend it to is genius and the UI itself is simple & easy, just what you want for a touch user interface..
Considering the ExoPC I had was a prototype, it really blew (and still does blow) me away!
I really didn’t think that you could get the power of a decent operating system in this form factor, a 14mm thick salte for goodness sake!
The combination of the fully functioning Exo UI Layer and the Windows OS will make this unit top of its class, a must have! Ok the design is not as sleek as the iPad granted, but who cares, who wants to pay a lot of money for a big iPod touch and then try and use it as a fully functioning PC? Only simpletons. The ExoPC is a fully functioning PC.
With the ExoPC the uses & possibilities are infinate, there will always be some new USB peripheral that comes out that enables it to do something new, just like with our laptops we have already, only this thing doesnt have to sit on your lap and fry your thighs with its eminating heat!, or be placed on a table to be able to take notes quickly or book that last minute flight. The freedom that the ExoPC gives you has been a long time coming, we should have had this kind of thing years ago, my hat goes off to Jean-Bapstiste and the awesome guys & gals at ExoPC for bringing us this revolution in ultra mobile computing.
Long live ExoPC!
The following video shows the ExoPC tablet’s hands on experience
ReviewÂ ContributedÂ byÂ Kevin Dark from kevindark.co.uk.