consultants are sandburs

Friday, December 12, 2014

Micro Center has some low priced small tablet products, "WinBook" brand.

This page. In owning and using the 7-inch and 10-inch tablets (with keyboard/cover added for the latter), I am satisfied with product quality and capability - although every electronic item should be fully checked out for functionality or defects within the vendor's free-return period (be sure to ask about that before buying anything).

On the 7-inch WinBook I have set it for ongoing maximum screen brightness, and still get around 3 - 4 hours of battery life per charge. Keeping it near a charger is always wise, as with any portable electronics. Long term durability is presently an unknown. And whether next year there will be obsolescence worry, the market always moves toward encouraging further purchases. (Look at Apple and its messaging to its cult following, that way.)

If you key into brand names, Microsoft has an HP 7-inch tablet model for sale that is also available at Office Depot [i.e., also OfficeMax, after the merger]; currently priced at each outlet for $100. Note, however, the WinBook products each have a standard USB outlet, and in reading specs the HP unit has the charging port doing double duty as a micro-USB connection, so if you use an adjunct item, e.g., external storage, you cannot keep the item tethered to a charging unit and have to rely on battery life.

The WinBook 7-inch item I have has been run through several charge/discharge use cycles, it has done Bluetooth handshaking with headphones, and I equipped it with a 64 gB Samsung EVO microcard for extra local storage. There is the cloud, with Microsoft using initial device use to channel people to its OneDrive (previously "SkyDrive" but rebranded), and it offers several gB of free storage for users before monthly surcharges are imposed for usage of greater amounts of cloud storage.

The high resolution display on the WinBook tablets is great, and there is a magnifier utility you can toggle via the "Ease of Access Center" choice off of the Control Panel; and if you like using the magnifier regularly you can easily pin it to the taskbar for ready access. Touchscreen usage is okay, but if you run regular desktop items such as the Firefox or Comodo Dragon browsers, you need good eyes for menu and submenu choices, and either a special touch or a stylus to avoid repeated wrong option selections. A 7-in diagonal screen is small, but if you have an iPhone and either a special touch or use a stylus, you are already there. If all you intend is use of Windows Store apps, resolution and detailed touch-menu choices will not be a factor. The Win-8.1 OS for the tablet comes with a range of preloaded apps for basic use functionality, and there is much user configuration flexibility via the Control Panel main menu.

If you were taken in on the Windows XP end of lifecycle support via the end of monthly update availability for XP imposed by Microsoft earlier this year, be aware that the Windows 8 lifecycle end is set for Jan. 2018, presently.

("Windows 10" apparently will be the next release and it is unclear whether initial purchase of it will include monthly updates, or whether a monthly service charge might be imposed for updating, now that Microsoft has made top management changes while it, like any firm, is looking anew for ways to monetize whatever it can. But that is a separate story. If you want freedom from that, consider Linux.)

Interested readers can do a "Windows With Bing" and/or a "WIMBoot" web search to see how Microsoft and its OEMs can cram a trimmed down Windows 8.1 OS into a quick booting unit with only 1 gB of working memory, with space left for apps and such.

There's an online fatwallet thread about the Micro Center WinBook offering. If you are looking for a convenient web browsing portable tablet (and YouTube player), that has connectivity that an iPad may lack, and at below iPad pricing, it is good to know that the holiday marketplace has a bottom feeder offering range besides Chromebooks running Google's ChromeOS.

LAST: If you do any shopping at Micro Center at its Saint Louis Park location, please join me in a nagging campaign to encourage them to consider opening a north-end outlet at the vacated K-Mart site on Hwy 10 in Anoka. It is unlikely, they seem to be a single outlet per city-metro regional retailer, but nag them anyway.

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