Tags: le1700

Windows 8, LE1700, Surface and other tablet thoughts

As regular readers will know I'm a long-time Tablet PC user - my most recent purchase however was years back. That was an old Motion LE1700. One of the early ones, with a 1.2Ghz Core Solo processor. I've held off since, as low-resolution screens have dominated the market, and I don't see the point in upgrading to downgrade my screen.

Launched early 2006 it originally shipped with Windows XP Tablet Edition. But I promptly upgraded it to Windows Vista. There were two major improvements it brought, first was the ability of the handwriting recognition engine to learn, the second was pen flicks - probably the single most important innovation for making Tablet PC use faster and easier.

Instead of grabbing the scroll bar, or using the D-pad - which isn't always under your thumb or fingers you could just flick a page up and down, and it would scroll, flicking left and right would move forward and backwards. This worked across Explorer, Internet Explorer heck pretty much everything. You could even set it to use diagonal flicks to do things like copy, paste, delete etc.

Windows 7 brought some performance improvements, but it was clear the Windows and IE teams were no longer interested in focusing on these active-digitiser based tablets, despite me hassling the IE team for years, pen flicks were never fixed in Internet Explorer, they've been broken in three major versions now. Other browsers never properly supported the input panel, and/or pen flicks so were difficult to use compared to Windows Vista and IE7.

Windows 8 continues that tradition - and makes it worse in some regards. You no longer get a hovering input panel when the pen is focused on a field to enter text, you need to manually open the keyboard. Like Windows XP pre-SP2. Nasty. However in the new modern environment you always have a keyboard open up. Sweet. Now if only that worked on the desktop.

Other than the tablet features of Windows retreating - making using Windows 8 on the desktop in many ways like the original Tablet Edition of Windows. Windows 8 actually runs quite well. The new modern-environment largely works OK, bar having to use the scroll bars to scroll around rather than flicking - there's a few performance issues with some of the games but it is quite useable. More so than Windows 7 was in my opinion.

There's a few other issues with Windows 8 - Internet Explorer renders text in a sort of half-assed approach, rather than proper ClearType. I don't think it is using sub-pixel positioning, in the desktop or modern environments. This makes some fonts, especially ones designed for ClearType like Segoe look pretty bad. You might argue that's less important since screens are finally starting to increase in DPI - but tell that to my desktop screens - that aren't, and have maxed out the resolution of DVI/HDMI.

The earlier issues I've mentioned like a pegged-CPU in the earlier builds are now fixed - at least after connecting to Windows Update.

But I'm still at two minds what to do. The plan is to buy an ARM based Surface when they're available in October, as a stop-gap as they're pretty low-resolution and don't have an active-digitiser. Then an x86-64 one when they're available 3 months later. The x86-64 ones have 1920x1080 screens, so will do my fine on the resolution front and they have a pen for the times when I don't want to get the screen grubby.

Do I wanna go back to Windows Vista on the LE1700? Undoubtedly the best old-school Tablet PC OS? Or buy Windows 8 since it'll be dirt cheap and leave that on there.