To USB or Not to USB


Microsoft Store, Windows 7 Phone & Tablet PC Reviews

So that I don’t have to re-name this blog “To Apple or Not to Apple.” Here’s my really surprisingly, super positive experience at the Microsoft Store in the Mall of America.  

USB 3.0 in Laptops

After being grNeda holding up Windows 7 Phone at Microsoft Storeeeted by several people, in brightly colored T-Shirts, I asked a one person, “Where are the USB 3.0 PCs?”  The Microsoft Genius, Neda (pictured right).

Neda immediately rattled off about 4 laptop PCs that had USB 3.0, including 2 Sony’s and 2 Dell’s.  She told me that you could identify the USB 3.0 ports as “blue” except for one that was “black” but labeled as SS.  Then, Neda showed me the models and the ports.  Neda also told me that the most of the new.

Windows 7 Phone

I asked about the Windows Phone, and she said, “Oh yes, the WIndows 7 Phone?  Right over here.  She showed up and demonstrated 4 models, 3 were HTC, and the one she’s holding up is the first model available on Verizon.

I’d like to note that the “tiles” (really just big icons, visible on the phone above) responded quickly to the touch, and switching between screens was quite fast.  I might even say transitions were faster than on the iPad 2 or iPod Touch 4.

Market Observation, I’m making some assumptions here, but if the APIs are the same for Win 7 Phone and Win 7 PC, it will be easy to move apps from PC to Phone.  This really could put Microsoft in the running as a serious competitor for the smart phone space.

Windows 7 Tablets

Neda then demonstrated 3 tablets in the Store, each improving on the other.  Here’s my Slate and Tablet Reviews in 1-3 sentences.

 ASUS Eee EP121 Slate

ASUS Eee EP121 Slate with Gorilla Glass

The first high-end, ASUS Eee EP121 unit had Gorilla Glass, “Tougher than the other models, and more of a desktop replacement,” said Neda.  WIth the free case, wireless keyboard, and 3 year protection plan it’s priced at ~$1300.  It has an HDMI port and SD card reader (missing from the iPad 2).  More here at Amazon where it gets 4 out of 5 stars after 120 reviews.

The touch screen seemed highly responsive and navigating Win 7 was easy.  It uses an i5 Processor, same as in most laptops today.






The EXOPC Slate has only 1 review on Amazon.  It doesn’t have the gorilla glass. It retails for $700 with a <4 hour battery life.  I wish I had more to say on this one, I realized I didn’t check the responsiveness of the touch screen or even play with it as I focused on the other 2 models.





Acer Iconia W500 Tablet with Docking Station

Acer Iconia W500 Tablet

The Acer Iconia W500 Table retails for  $550 at the Microsoft store. At Amazon it gets 4 out of 5 stars from 129 reviews.  If you look carefully, at this picture it has USB 2.0 based docking station.

The docking station includes a USB 2.0 keyboard, ethernet port, and additional host ports.  This means it has an embedded USB 2.0 Hub and possibly a USB to ethernet controller chip also.  The tablet has it’s own power cord

Acer Iconia W500 Docking Station USB closeup

You can see a close up of the USB connector to the right.  Neda explained that the 2 round metal pieces on either side are for stability.  Power still flows from the tablet to this USB docking station using the USB connector, as far as I can tell.

The tablet is about 2.1 lbs and has a battery life of <6 hours.  The iPad 2 at low brightness is probably more than 6 hours.  But, this is a Win 7machine, and the touch screen was quite responsive, and windows popped up quickly.

My conclusion is that these are serious contenders from a performance point of view.  In terms of ease of use, like needing to re-format the SSD every year is questionable, but if Microsoft and the hardware vendors can make these as easy to maintain as the iProducts, the performance and range of applications will make these systems viable alternatives to the iPad (especially the last unit at $550).

I definitely recommend you take a look at a Microsoft Store next time you visit a mall.  You might learn something and see something new.



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