So I splashed out a bit this week and brought a new Tablet PC. After having a convertible style Portege M200 for over two years now, I decided I'd rather go for a slate, it is very rare I use the keyboard on my M200. As Motion this year released the LE1700 a slate machine with a 1400x1050 screen there was really no other choice. 1024x768, or any combination of weird widescreen ratios, just don't do the job.
I've been off and on thinking about getting a new one, thanks to nVidia's terrible support of the GeForce 5xxx on Windows Vista, which has two or three niggling issues despite hours of troubleshooting and attempted workarounds, I'm happy to say the new machine doesn't have an nVidia graphics card.
I ordered it from Mobitech, who specialise in Tablet PCs and the like, they kept me well informed and it arrived the following day.
The Motion LE1700 comes in two basic flavours, one with a Core Solo processor at 1.2Ghz, or with a Core 2 Duo at 1.5Ghz. For price and battery life reasons I went with the Core Solo.
I also threw in a bunch of upgrades like 2GB of RAM (512MB default with Windows XP), and a 60GB hard drive (30GB default), as well as the View Anywhere screen which, although I hear isn't as good as with previous models, really improves the brightness and clarity of the screen, today outside I had no problems reading it. I'm still waiting for the Sun to come out to try it in direct sunlight.
I won't be going into too many details of what ports it has and the specs, you can find that stuff in many other reviews around the internet.
To start of, let's talk packaging. It comes in some simple packaging, it doesn't feel over-packaged like some products so that's good, less stuff to throw away.
You get a note about imaging software and recovery discs, I believe Mobitech included one in the accessories box, and there is also one attached onto the screen.
As the unit has no optical drive, typically you'd make an image of it over a network, it comes with True Image for that purpose, and then boot from a USB device to restore the image. But first I had a play around with it, mine came with Windows XP, as the Windows Vista version was only available with the Core 2 Duo version, at least from Mobitech.
By default it ships with the screen set to 120 DPI, this is nice, and the more people who start using more high DPI settings, the better support for it there will be. At the Windows default of 96 DPI, some people do have to strain to read the text, remember this is a 12 inch screen at 1400x1050.
After a few minutes playing with Windows XP on the machine I fired up True Image and made an image over the network. That took about 45 minutes to backup about 10GB over the wireless network to my Home Server ready for installation of Windows Vista, whose tablet features cannot be resisted.
Windows Vista took about 50 minutes to install (clean install), I spent another hour patching it up and installing Motion's software and drivers, then I installed Office, the machine comes with a copy of OneNote 2007, as my M200 did with OneNote 2003. So that's good.
Comparing it to the M200 (right), which was already quite a small Tablet PC, doesn't look too good from this angle, they are both 12 inch screens. But from the side on, the Motion is much slimmer.
The machine is about 25% lighter than the M200 too, which is all good, I don't have to carry around a keyboard anymore; unless I want to (I'm planning on doing a separate review of the Motion's external keyboard).
I've had it for over a day now, and have been doing my tweaks to get it working the way I want it. Removing the fingerprint software from inside of Windows - don't need that bloat, I just need it for quick logins, undoing the damage Intel's driver did to my menu - I don't want entries to the graphics control panel when I right-click on the background - thanks.
I'm still slowly moving things over to this machine, like favourites and RSS feeds, as well as setting up my documents as offline stores so they can be synced back and forth and so on. I'm pretty much up and running with it now.
Performance wise I am actually really surprised, the machine only scores a WEI of 2.8 due to the Core Solo 1.2Ghz processor, and the 4800 RPM 1.8 inch hard drive was making me nervous but performance is really good considering the specs of this machine and it feels much smoother than the M200 running Windows Vista and it is ready to use straight away after login, the M200's disk would get hammered for a few minutes. I have yet to install World of WarCraft on this machine, the M200 struggled with it, and so it'll be a good test once I can get Catherine playing it again.
The screen is a lot better than on the M200, writing on it feels very smooth. The M200 had a plastic film over the screen which gave it a more papery texture, but also made the whites look slightly off-colour. There is also much less glare on the screen too.
The Motion LE1700 feels solid to hold; the casing is strong and feels like it could take some punishment.
The pen it comes with is also very good quality; I brought one of Wacom's executive pens to use with my M200 because the pen it came with was so cheap and plasticy. I won't need to be replacing this pen.
There's a few software issues I've come across, Motion's dashboard software resets the screen orientation on login to landscape mode - they have however acknowledged this and should be coming up with a fix. The fingerprint reader is by Omnipass and includes a lot of extra bloat I think a lot of people won't need, once that's prevented from running and I removed a lot of annoyingness to the system too - like ugly icons on file menus and the like from the registry things were much better. In the default install Motion don't have a lot of bloat like other manufacturers, but I am not a fan of display drivers wanting to put junk in my menus.
The direction pad can be quite difficult to use sometimes too, left or down (depending on which way around you are) is sometimes hard to press first time as its so close to the edge of the screen. It's also at the top of the machine when in portrait mode (where I spend most of my time), unlike the M200 which had the direction pad on the right-hand side. This is much less of a problem with Windows Vista as you can use pen flicks to move up and down pages thankfully, using Windows XP on this machine in portrait mode could get quite annoying if you do a lot of reading and need to scroll up and down.
Other than these issues, I give this machine 5 out of 5. I'll try and do a follow up review of it after I've used it for a few weeks, and do a review of the Motion keyboard that I brought with it.