Week in Tech: Sony Vaio Tap 11, Will It Game?

By Jeremy Laird on January 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

As I wandered the debris-strewn wasteland of discarded smartphones that is the aftermath of the perfect storm of disposable consumerism at CES in Vegas earlier this month, my plan had been to regale you all with a twisting tale of ultra mobile technology and gaming. To talk about the iPhone and how its performance has ballooned by 40 times since introduction in 2007. And what it all means for the PC. I wrote it up and even managed to crowbar in an anecdote about the afternoon I spent lounging in the sun at the Colombo Swimming Club chatting to Arthur C. Clarke without once mentioning 2001 (true story and all that). But then I thought sod that whimsy, I’ll save it for another day. I’ve got an Intel Haswell-powered Sony Vaio Tap 11 at the moment. Will it game?

For the ADHD afflicted among you, here’s the short answer: Kind of. The longer version goes something like this.

What we’re talking about here is a device in much the same ballpark as Alec’s newly-acquired Microsoft Surface Pro 2. Both are pure tablet devices with 11-inch(ish) 1080p screens, albeit with some laptop-like accoutrements. Critically, both are full Windows 8 PCs with pukka Intel Core processors. None of this ARM and Windows RT nonsense, no weedy Atom processor.

In the case of this Sony Vaio Tap 11, the keyboard slice is so laptop-like, it seems downright odd to find it not attached or at least attachable via some kind of modular hinge.

The Tap is a super-slim Intel Core tablet that doesn’t need to make any excuses re proportions

With the two clasped together (magnets hold the two halves in place and a neat little connector allows the Tap itself to charge the keyboard), it looks very much like a super-slim lappy. It’s just when you go to lift the lid, it comes off in your hand.

Then you discover there’s a kickstand at the rear, but unlike the Surface, it’s a bit of a miserable little stick rather than the chassis-wide flap. And you suspect (correctly) that this thing is going to be a complete pain in the posterior to prop up on anything other than a perfectly flat, hard surface.

You’ll also go postal when then battery on the keyboard goes flat – as it surely will do on occasion – leaving you wondering why the hell you didn’t just buy a bloody ultrabook.

Personally, I don’t think this makes any sense for a Windows 8 device. Pure tablets are great. But the whole point of having a Windows tablet over an Android or iOS device is to do proper Windows things as well as touchy-swipey things.

Like a laptop, just a bit broken

A notebook-style snap-in hinge, Asus Transformer style, is what the Tap needs. Without that, the deal’s off, for me. Still, if you really are after a pure Windows 8 tablet experience, the Tap has a trump card: its thickness. At just 9.9mm, the Tap is just a teensy bit thicker than an iPad – well, that was true before the iPad Air came out squeezed things down to just 7.5mm.

For context, Google’s Nexus 10 is 8.9mm and the Surface Pro is 13.5mm. The point is that the initial impression of the Tap is that it’s just a tablet and I mean that in a good way. You don’t pick it up and immediately begin to play off the performance innards against the bloated proportions in your mind – it’s fat, but hey, it’s powerful.

Instead, you think – at least, I thought – Christ, they’ve gone and done it. A proper PC in bona fide tablet proportions. For the record, we’re talking Intel Core i5-4210Y (1.5GHz nominal, 1.9GHz Turbo, two cores, four threads) with Intel HD 4200 graphics. Indeed much of the credit for the proportions must go to Intel for squeezing the full-fat Core architecture into a power envelope that works in such a skinny tablet.

A PC as slim as an iPhone? That’ll be the Tap 11

Anywho, the chip specs are similar to the Surface. Both have the 20-execution unit version of Intel’s graphics, but the Tap’s are clocked at 850MHz to the Surface’s 1,100MHz. Basically, the Tap trades both CPU and GPU clocks in return for what is arguably a genuine tablet form factor to the Surface’s more Ultrabook-minus-keyboard feel.

What it doesn’t do, surprisingly, is match the Surface in terms of physical build quality, much less the insidious but undeniable tactility of Appleware. I’m not sure why Sony can’t quite get its head around that essential combination of alloy lushness and robustness. But the Tap proves it remains a little off the pace.

Details like the little pop-out flap covering the USB and mini HDMI ports really are cringeworthy. If you even suggested such a kludge at Apple HQ, I imagine you’d immediately be escorted from the building and shot.

A court-martial offence…

More critically, it doesn’t feel as tough as either the Surface or any iPad (or a Nexus 10 for that matter). It doesn’t feel cheap. But it does feel a bit delicate.

As for the general Windows 8 experience and how it stacks up as a touch device, I’ll point you in the direction Alec’s Surface 2 review. I’ll only add that I think the logic and structure of the interface formerly known as Metro is fundamentally borked. It’s half-baked, frequently infuriating and not nearly as intuitive to use as a touch device as Android or iOS.

As for using touch in the desktop interface, what a nightmare. The last of the generalities involves battery life, of which there’s far, far too little. My testing hasn’t exactly been scientific, but my general feeling over the past two weeks or so is of a device with about one-third the battery life of an iPad. In other words, shite.

That’s a pity because what the Tap does do is offer a tantalising glimpse of ultraportable PCs of the future. General CPU-and-storage-bound performance in Windows is just dandy. As for gaming performance, well, much depends on context. It’s actually pretty impressive for such a slim little thing.

Kickstand computing: Please make it stop

If you’re old school, you’ll be pretty happy. Ye olde Counter-Strike original runs slick and smooth at 1080p. Newer fare obviously struggles. But you’ll get most things running just about tolerably for short stints if you crush enough settings and drop the res to 720p.

I wouldn’t call it a genuinely gameable device. It’s the sort of machine that forces your hand. You can play games, but it’s the Tap’s limitations that decide which ones as much as your personal preferences. That said, a few weeks with the Tap does at least remind you that it’s game design rather than graphics that really matter. Is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive actually any more fun?

It also has you wondering how many more generations we’ll have to wait for something that looks like the Tap but really does have pukka gaming chops. The backdrop to that is the broader story I was going to write.

Good old Counter-Strike will run on almost anything

And it comes down to this. The really explosive period of ultra mobile performance innovation – the one that’s seen iPhone CPU performance balloon by 40 times since 2007 – may already be over. What the iPhone 5S is capable of with its A7 chip is the stuff of the aforementioned Arthur C.’s sufficiently-advanced-to-seem-like-magic motif. I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing sometimes, it’s that impressive.

But we’ve gotten there so fast from 2007 because a lot of what has driven ultra mobile performance hasn’t been the pure science of the possible, but a new emphasis on raw performance. It’s only relatively recently that there’s been much demand for seriously powerful computing in something like a handset and so it’s only recently anyone has even tried to make the most powerful possible ultramobile chip. In the past, it’s all been about making ultra mobile chips as small, cheap and power-efficient as humanly possible.

Put another way, it’s ye olde convergence at work and most of the heavy lifting has already been done. Phones have been getting dramatically more powerful, PCs dramatically more power efficient. Very soon the two will meet in the middle. From then on, incrementalism will prevail.

Super slim, initially seductive. But leaves you feeling empty. Is that the Tap or the iPhone?

For me that means the prospect of a proper gaming PC in a tablet or smartphone form factor isn’t going to happen any time soon. The gap between something like an AMD Radeon R9 290 and Intel’s integrated graphics in the Tap 11 is pretty epic. But, I don’t really see that gap vanishing in the next few years.

Yes, ultramobile graphics will get faster. But not at the rate we’ve seen over the last six or seven years. Meanwhile, desktop GPUs will keep getting faster.

Fast forward to the end of the decade and I reckon you’ll have smartphones with CPUs comparable to the Tap’s. They might even have graphics more powerful than Intel’s latest integrated effort.

But that would make for a merely adequate gaming PC today. It won’t even come close to what’s possible with a current high end GPU, much less the best the industry has to offer in 2020. So, yes, you will have a smartphone that’ll make a decent fist of playing Xbone and PS4 ports. That will be pretty impressive. But if you’re remotely serious about gaming, it won’t actually be enough.

It was ever thus with integrated graphics. And it’s not quite time for that to change.

P.S. The Vaio Tap 11 is available today and yours for around £800. Which is a lot. For something fundamentally flawed.

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48 Comments »

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  1. SominiTheCommenter says:

    My problem with these tablets-cum-PC is who wants to play a serious game on a freaking tablet? If I’m on the loo I’m not playing Far Cry 2 or Deus Ex, I’m playing Pop Cap games or Angry Birds, or whatever.
    Who in their right minds wants to play a graphically demanding game on a touchpad, or in those cramped keyboards? If you need to have a table to use it together with a mouse or even a gamepad, why not buy a beefy laptop, if you still want/need to carry it between different tables? If you want to use them on the same table every day, why not buy a desktop?
    I think this is the main reason the OEM aren’t sticky über-graphix on that things. It’s a solution waiting for a problem.

    • Premium User Badge

      amateurviking says:

      These laptop/tablet hybrids are compelling for me because they can work as an ultraportable laptop, are an ok tablet (I don’t have a tablet at all at the mo), can sub in as a desktop by plugging in a display and Kb/M. Ok it probably doesn’t do any of those super well, but I still like the idea.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        Jack of all Trades, master of none.
        Personally I abhor that, but that’s personal preference.

        • Premium User Badge

          amateurviking says:

          Yup it’s definitely a compromise. Fits my usage. Definitely not for everyone though.

          • Jac says:

            Only compromise between surface pro and laptop really is screen size and a discrete graphics chip. For me would never go back to a laptop when I can have a tablet that does significantly more than an iPad or android tablet for not significantly more of the price. Only people who use a laptop as a primary gaming device would be hamstrung but so far my surface has done me good. Source games run excellently, darksiders 2 was pretty playable, full foot manager, all the GOG games etc. The pen is fantastic for some classic GOG RPG action. Basically I’m a convert.

        • Jools says:

          I hate to say it since I know it sounds terribly condescending, but I think a lot of the problem is that it’s hard to understand how useful a tablet is when haven’t really used one for a long period of time. I was given an OG iPad as a gift and it took me a solid four or five months before I really understood how useful it could be. Now I pretty much have my iPad on me all the damn time, and it’s right alongside my laptop or desktop when I’m doing actual work. The point is that tablets are tablets and laptops are laptops. Not everyone needs both, but there’s actually very little overlap in the things that they’re good at.

          • tormos says:

            Care to enlighten us laptop peasants about what a tablet does really well side by side with a laptop
            (not trying to be a dick, just confused)

          • Ragnar says:

            It largely depends on your laptop, but my iPad is lighter, faster, with a better, bigger, sharper screen, and much better battery life. It’s better for browsing the Web, watching shows and movies, or playing FF Tactics or Phoenix Wright and Ghost Train.

            That said, storage space sucks, as does typing. It’s nowhere near as handy as my Android smart phone, which is much better for email, messaging, and general writing. My phone rarely leaves my side, while my iPad sits in one place and gets used sporadically. If going on vacation, I bring my laptop loaded with shows and movies to watch, and transfer them to the iPad as we go through them.

          • lukibus says:

            Don’t quite understand what utility the iPad is providing while you are using the laptop. You mention it being “right alongside my laptop or desktop when I’m doing actual work” but no explanation of why.

            Is the iPad/(and I guess any tablet) acting as a second display, or a live update of you work related emails, stock tickers?

            Or is it a pacifier/blankie type device that makes you feel connected in real time to the world while you are working?

            Like other have said “not trying to be a dick” but you don’t explain what the benefit is that you took months to understand.

            [Note: Regularly use combinations of OS/PC/laptops/smart phones/tablets/displays in both work and home environments so I’m honestly interested in the detail of the understanding you reached ‘cos it might help some of my relatives]

          • SominiTheCommenter says:

            @lukibus Instant procrastination!

      • klmx says:

        All I’m waiting for is a decent 2-in-1 with a Thunderbolt 2 connector, so I can get on my eGPU game. That’s pretty much the dream of Windows 8, ain’t it? Having a single device device for everything, something that allows me to catch up on the internet (all I ever do on my iPad is browse websites, catch up on my RSS feeds or watch YouTube, Having a larger (11″-13″) screen wouldn’t really be a compromise for me), but that can easily switch to a more decent machine for when I want to edit a photo or write an elaborate post for when someone else is wrong and still give me all the graphics when I’m home.

        (And before some of you nerds butt in and start talking about bandwith: With a GTX660 you only have a difference of 3FPS or something, so it’s definitely worthwhile)

    • Soman1979 says:

      my best friend’s step-aunt makes $84 hourly on the internet . She has been fired from work for 8 months but last month her paycheck was $12353 just working on the internet for a few hours. try this…….
      http://www.Jobs84.com

    • Dinger says:

      To be honest, these things are more laptop than tablet. It weighs a kilo. The screen may be 11 inches, but the bevel adds a couple more. I haven’t tried the 4210Y, but I have Asus’ take with the 4200U, which has the HD4400 instead of 4200, and an even bigger 13.3″ screen.

      The reason why they put a kickstand in there instead of a “snap-click” magnetic keyboard (as Asus does) is because the whole computer is in the tablet and hinging it on the keyboard means finding a keyboard heavy enough to hold it up. Asus does it with a restricted reclining angle (mitigated by an IPS screen) and throwing weights in the keyboard. Yeah, it’s not a very good solution to add weight to a portable PC.

      The HD4400 runs games surprisingly decently. The main problem with my Asus model is that, when it does run games, it loses radio contact with the keyboard. I don’t know if the Sony has the same problem.

      One other note to address why would you want this rather than a straight laptop: you can turn the screen horizontal and work in profile mode.

      For me, though, 10″ was always too big for a tablet. Make it 7″ — something you can hold with one hand.

  2. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    I had high hopes for this as an alternative to the Surface Pro 2 but it seems to have some absolutely bizarre design choices (tiny kickstand, detached keyboard etc).

    Saying that, I’ve been pootling about with the steam home streaming thing today (works surprisingly well on my terrible home access point) and something like this would be great as a streaming client.

    Still swithering over whether to go for the surface pro 2 or a ‘regular’ ultrabook. I really could use that wacom digitiser…

    • ThTa says:

      Just hold out ’till the Pro 3. Playing the waiting game with tech isn’t as silly as it would be normally, what with components marginally improving every odd month.

      There’s a pretty good chance Microsoft will follow Intel and Apple’s idea of “an actually new product every two years, a marginal improvement every year”, which would bode well for Surface Pro. (Also, Broadwell is going to be truly fantastic for mobile performance, especially on the GPU side.)

      Until then, you could probably just pick up an original Pro (or Pro 2, if you’re lucky) second hand/refurbished, if you just want to get a good impression. There’s a real wealth of people who decided the device wasn’t for them (or picked up its successor/a version with more storage), so you can save an awful lot on the MSRP. And unlike buying just any laptop second hand, there’s generally far less unfortunate wear. (And if there is, it’s easier to identify beforehand.)
      Tying into this is that if you do wait for the Pro 3 and it ends up disappointing, the widely publicized generational shift is still going to massively drive down the price of the device you were willing to buy initially. (I.e. the Pro 2.)

      edit/unrelated to most of the stuff above: And yeah, the Wacom digitizer really is a killer feature. Which is one more thing Sony tends to mess up with their insistence on N-Trig. (I mean for crying out loud, Synaptics pretty much caught up to them in a single generation of “Hey, we can do active digitizers, too, and we’re cheap!”)

      • Premium User Badge

        amateurviking says:

        Not sure I can hold out til November for rev 3. My current laptop is pushing 6 years old and an imminent move to Italy for work means I’ll be abandoning my desktop. Something needs to give in the next month or two. Got a conference in the US in early March and am hoping to pick something up then.

        • ThTa says:

          That’s fair. The US pricing is a lot more attractive on the Surface Pro, too. (Heck, the 1st gen 128GB model is currently going for just $599.)

          I personally picked up a second-hand SP2 64GB with some accessories (Type Cover 2, a 64GB microSD card) for a bit under 700 euros a few weeks ago, on account of it having some pretty visible damage*, which was low enough for me to “just try it”. And even if it’s a compromised version (I would much prefer a proper amount of storage and the 8GB RAM), it left enough of an impression on me to convince me to buy a proper version of the next-gen one, while simultaneously helping me hold out ’till then.

          *Part of the magnesium fractured at the USB port. The best part about this was that the damage was pretty clearly not a result of it being dropped or any normal wear, so I’ve since been able to RMA it, and Microsoft will be sending me a brand new SP2 shortly.

    • Tams80 says:

      For older games Surface Pro 2 will be fine. The Wacom Penabled digitiser it has is one of the best implementations of it. My problems with it are the aspect ratio and the use of a kickstand without a supporting dock option with a battery.

      If battery runtime is a concern for you, don’t get the first pro. The runtime is pretty bad. The 2’s is more in line with the better ultrabooks. I think the main stumbling block will be the 10.6″ display. If you can live with that, then I think you’ll find it a great device, especially for the price (the Fujitsu Q704 is it’s only real competition and that is considerable more expensive).

      If you have more questions, may I recommend the TabletPCReview forums? It’s under ‘dicussions’ on the site. Even if I do say so myself as an active member, it is one of the best online communities I have seen and is the place for tablets with pens advise (pre iPad era at that, so they know their stuff).

      • ThTa says:

        It’s worth noting that the SP2 will still drain nearly as quickly as the SP1 under comparable heavy load, it just sustains itself much better under normal load.

        Also, that Q704… I commend it for trying to be the high-powered ThinkPad slate I’ve wanted. (Not a huge fan of the Yoga stuff.) It’s a shame the design isn’t quite there, though. Still, it’s giving me hope for future powerful W8 tablets that aren’t the SP3. It’s good to see other manufacturers using the U series processors and Wacom digitizers, and I’m definitely a fan of the customization they’re offering.

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    melnificent says:

    Set the CPU properties in battery to go to 75% max, this stops turbo from kicking in and greatly increases battery life, while having a negligible effect on framerate.
    Still not ipad territory, but my gen 1 Surface Pro gets 5-6 hours skyrim or other full fat gaming experience. I understand haswell increases this a bit more.

  4. Viroso says:

    Hey peeps, how big you suppose is the environmental impact of our little PC gaming hobby? Not even comparing to anything else really, just focusing on the impact we cause and wondering if it’d be possible for the world to pick up on gaming, like, if it is feasible when we look at sustainability, resource use, etc.

    Hey RPS, it’d be cool if you guys took a long, thorough look at the environmental impact we cause.

    • db1331 says:

      Even if my PC killed a baby polar bear every time I launched a game, and I had to watch that baby polar die on a livestream, I would still play the same amount of games I do now. I love baby polar bears, but I love PC gaming more.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        You are either the cancer that is killing gaming or literally worse than Hitler.
        Pick your poison.

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      felisc says:

      It would be a hell of a research for such an article though. Maybe some good papers have already been written on the subject. Anyone ?

      • Viroso says:

        I don’t know if it’d be too troublesome. Probably finding out the impact of all PC gamers combined is like impossible, but it’d be interesting to know, for an instance, what it takes to put together our hardware. The materials, where they come from, where do they go to, what can they do, how are companies handling the waste, do they have any responsibility to handle the stuff they sold us once we throw it away.

        Then there’s the carbon footprint and just a google search showed me some things I didn’t know. Like how the computer industry as a whole has a carbon footprint as big as aviation, responsible for 2% of all CO2 emissions… in 2008 (really curious about what and where this computer industry is though).

        Anyway, it’s definitely an interesting angle and one that’s almost never ever looked at by gaming press. It only ever shows up when some organization sends out a press release about some research that was done. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this sort of article being done spontaneously by the gaming press.

        • tormos says:

          If you ever want to be really upset about the impact you have on third world countries (and the conflict in the DRC in particular) google Coltan. It’s used in laptop and smartphone capacitors and the DRC has the second most production of it globally. Coltan mining in the DRC is equivalent to or worse than “blood diamond” mining in Sierra Leone a half decade ago in terms of funding violent conflict and atrocities. And there’s no certification system in place like there now is for diamonds to make sure that your laptop doesn’t contain conflict Coltan. Have fun sleeping tonight :)

    • dorn says:

      The environmental impact of gaming is a tiny tiny fraction of what it costs for you to even exist. Any effort spent trying to reduce it is better spent promoting energy research.

      • Viroso says:

        Yeah, see, no. This is just the sort of thing I think lets us get derailed too easily. Comparing the impact of gaming with the impact of other things, specially other huge things like living.

        We can’t forget this is a luxury we enjoy, could the world enjoy it too? I think it’s an interesting thing to know. But saying “it is too tiny compared to X” stops before we even get to know anything. What if it isn’t too tiny though.

    • SuicideKing says:

      I’ve been interested in the general sustainability of the technology we use in general for a while, now.

      I think the environmental impact of gaming itself would majorly contribute to consumer GPUs and system power consumption while gaming (typically 300-400w for the entire system i’d guess). The rest of the environmental impact would overlap with non-gaming activities too (except maybe power consumption).

      Obviously, not done any research on this, just guessing.

      • ThTa says:

        The environmental impact in terms of energy usage is pretty minimal, even the carbon emissions of major software companies with massive data centers is negligible relative to their revenue compared to other industries. But the reliance on Rare Earth Elements and Conflict Minerals in our technology is pretty dangerous. This combined with poor recycling (not to save the Earth, but to get all that stuff back in order to not “run out”) makes for pretty low sustainability of the semiconductor industry in its current state. Fortunately, developments in all kinds of graphene tech points to a bright future nonetheless.

  5. ThTa says:

    Not too fond of the Intel Y stuff. It’s fine for making PCs even prettier and more portable (HP’s Split x2 g100 and Spectre x2 are truly, truly lovely), but the fact that they’re effectively even slower versions of Intel’s Ultrabook (U) stuff just for the sake of enabling passive cooling while still maintaining the “Core” brand just leaves a really poor impression to me. The Surface Pro line may be thick and heavy, and they can drain their batteries in just over two hours when put under extreme load, but at least they didn’t compromise on that maximum performance; I can still run most of anything at reasonable speeds if I need to, even if it means killing otherwise pretty balanced (with the 2, at least) battery life. Whereas the Y line is essentially hardwired to stay in what would normally be Power Saver mode, all the while bringing that fun smartphone experience of “yeah we’ll run at full load for about half an hour, and then our thermal profile will force us even lower, no matter what”.

    I’d say the newer Atom’s were actually a fair bit more successful in bringing full Windows to tablets. Because they’re priced relative to their performance, actually offer competitive battery life, and don’t give the wrong idea. You know what to expect when you’re getting an Atom, the new line even exceeds most people’s expectations, whereas the Y line only ever disappoints.

    Of course, it’s going to be tough to properly combine a decent tablet experience (more portable, with great battery life) with a potential for real power when you need it. But with Intel’s constantly improving scaling (particularly with power gating) and improved, miniaturized active cooling coming up, there’s real potential for such devices coming to market. Mind you, I’m not talking about something that’s a proper (see my description above) tablet while rendering 4K video, just something that’s a tablet and can also do that, even if it’s at the cost of battery life, without having to resort to decidedly less portable design under all circumstances. I’m not planning on continuously doing serious work on a touchscreen device I’m holding in my hands, but I would appreciate being able to for short stretches, and being able to get the power I need without switching to another device, even if it means plugging into an outlet and/or dock. (At which point I would also gain proper peripherals, such as large mice, keyboards and, well, desktop monitors.)

    That may just be me, though. My idea of a portable device that combines the best of both worlds have always been based on the dock-to-get-back-all-those-ports and plug-in-a-power-cord-and-rev-up-those-fans-to-perform-properly concepts applied to laptops being used as desktop replacements for so long. Something that’s basically an iPad that magically runs Crysis without losing any of its former benefits just isn’t realistic to me, but I’m all for an even broader range of power/functionality scaling on devices. (Detachables are probably my favourite example of this, now. Being able to give up a few ports, your keyboard, and some performance or battery life to make your device more portable, except on-demand, is just lovely.)

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    Carra says:

    Starting with a cliffhanger, how evil. Reading through the article I kept on thinking “where’s the Arthur C. Clarke anecdote”?

  7. DrGonzo says:

    I genuinely don’t understand the complaints about metro on tablets. I much prefer my new windows 8.1 tablet over my previous android ones, I find android and ios pretty unbearable to handle. I find metro straight forward when I want to do something tabletty like checking my mail or watching netflix, much nicer than just a wall of icons, like some sort of windows 95 nightmare on android and ios. Then I can plug in my mouse and use a very responsive and quick desktop, even using an hdmi cable to a monitor and it is essentially a desktop. I love it!

    • frightlever says:

      You don’t think that eg the browsers, even the gold standard in Windows 8.1 browsers – Internet Explorer (yes!) – are kinda fiddly under the touch interface? If you launch the swipe version of IE it runs fullscreen, taking up a little more real estate on screen than the desktop version but it lacks Flash support (I think!) and doesn’t seem to make any allowances for the touch display – all the buttons are the same size. The only advantage is that IE allows for pretty flawless duck-sizing – you know, where you make your fingers go quack quack – but having to zoom in on every link or option is tiresome. On iPad you can tapitty-tap a column of text to get it blown up to fill the width of the screen, but there’s no similar functionality on IE, and the other browsers, barring Chrome’s beta channel, don’t even let you zoom. Also, I don’t know if this is just a quirk of the W8.1 tablet I have but on iOS if I click a text box the on-screen keyboard appears, whereas most of the time on W8.1 I have to manually activate it.

      There are definitely nice things about the touch interface in Windows 8.1, but an integrated package it is not.

      • SuicideKing says:

        I reviewed a Dell XPS 12 last year or something, and yes, this keyboard issue was something that i noticed as well.

  8. uh20 says:

    wow that kickstand is a joke, how am i supposed to feel all my guilty media sites without it falling over

    the big tldr is that these things are in no way gaming compatible yet. and with prices matching that of fully capable gaming rigs, we are still stuck on the desktop space, and tablets are not dominating the world yet.

    • frightlever says:

      Tablets aren’t but most people get their computo-units from their mobile phone and I’d be surprised if there aren’t more people already gaming on mobile, phone and tablet, than on desktop. Not that it’s a zero sum situation. Tablets can out-sell desktop PCs, and even gaming laptops, while still leaving a healthy gaming ecosystem on PC. More people play games on PC, year on year every year, and the same is true for phone and tablet. Obviously desktop gaming will probably plateau first. At some point being tied to a desk to play a game, other than a sex game, is going to seem peculiar when the kids are all running around with their VR glasses painting the world into all sorts of magical places. (not the enclosed VR from the likes of the Occulus Rift – the overlay type like the CastAR).

  9. Jabberslops says:

    One of the best reason for owning a Windows Tablet PC is to play Civ5. I have a Dell Venue 8 Pro and play Civ5 BNW on it almost every week. It run a bit slow on the Atom Z23740D, but it’s not at all unplayable. It take some tweaking to get Civ5 running on it without it crashing all the time though. DX11 crashes so Touch Enabled is not playable right now (most likely a video driver issue). DX9 does not crash and you have to run windowed at 1024×768 with the taskbar set off to the left side. You also have to make sure that you don’t have screen auto-rotate enabled or it will mess with in game button recognition. You can’t really play with more than 3 other Civs because of late game slide shows. Other than these specific “Issues” Civ5 on a windows tablet is pretty great.

    Unfortunately there are not many Windows games that work well with just a touch screen. Steam is annoying to navigate on touch screen as well.

  10. Stevostin says:

    But do we need the horse power ? I am really under the impression that it’s mainly the battery life that counts. What are the hopes on that front ?

  11. frightlever says:

    “From then on, incrementalism will prevail.”

    Good read, as usual. I think you meant to imply that the difference in “power” between PCs and mobile devices would become incremental but it almost looks like you’re suggesting that overall gains in power will become incremental – which could eventually become the case but not for years yet. Never be afraid to over-explain to leaden-brained reader like me.

    I got a Asus VevoTab ME400C (a device whose model number I have inscribed on my brain from all the Googling I did AFTER I bought it). It was on sale at Amazon for £270 quid and while it’s Atom processor was only ever going to be sufficient for the miscellaneous note-taking and browsing that I wanted to do, I did harbour a dim hope of playing some of my classic Gog backlog on it – sadly the on-board GPU is thoroughly crippled by poor driver support so while most games won’t run at all (fair enough – running fifteen year old plus games on Windows 8 is going to be hit and miss) those that do play in a postage stamp sized area of the screen surrounded by black borders because there’s no scaling.

    I actually quite like it as a general purpose Windows device. The Windows 8 tiled interface is neat, but I have to flip over to the desktop side to actually do anything since half the settings options aren’t available from the home screen Apps – which leaves me hammering my fat digits at tiny icons like a Hunger Games style deathmatch to find the pointiest finger in the hand. So now I have one of those mini-Bluetooth keyboards – and I bought a cheap one so I keep having to turn it off and on to resync it – to handle the desktop.

    Now if I had Windows 8 on a desktop machine, as opposed to a tablet, I’d be tearing my hair out the other way because the desktop would be a piece of piss, while the tiles would have me doing loop-the-loops with my mouse to get anything down, when all I want to do is hit a button to get to the screen I want.

    TL:DR Microsoft need to pony up and buy a Mac to see how you integrate touch into a desktop OS. Hint, you have it, hidden away until somebody actually needs it.

  12. Geebs says:

    Honestly I think these Windows 8 tablets haven’t quite found the right niche yet – about 90% of their usefulness comes from basically being a laptop. Pure iPad-alikes justify their existence through providing a touch-friendly web browser, being sufficiently ergonomic to be a decent ebook reader, and having ridiculous battery life.

    The iPad specifically justifies itself by being the only tablet with a sensible aspect ratio. I do wonder whether the windows 8 tablets specifically tend towards 16:9 to actively discourage portrait orientation so that they don’t have to worry about screen rotation screwing up older applications – in fact there’s a post about this higher up the thread.

    Basically, for anybody thinking about getting a win8 tablet as a convergence device – seriously, just get a laptop instead. It’ll be a couple of years before these things get good enough not to be disappointing,

  13. Mittens89 says:

    I have a question. Id love a Windows 8 tablet, primarily for indie gaming (games such as teleglitch, FTL, hotline Miami, etc). Id just like something affordable, and powerful enough to handle this sort of thing. What can I get? I dont know what the windows 8 market is aiming for, because youre either paying 800-900 quid for essentially a laptop, or youre pretty much forced into getting an android device if you want something cheaper (no Steam).

    Any genuine advice would be appreciated! I see a big window of opportunity for cheap indie gaming tablets that no one is exploiting. I am surprised Valve isn’t looking into this alongside SteamOS.

    • Jabberslops says:

      There are very few games that work well on touch screen. Games like Torchlight 1-2, FTL, and pretty much any game that has mouse click move or mouse move drag (dungeon crawlers as an example) do not work as well on a tablet as you might think because they all usually require right clicking which you can only get with a mouse or stylus in game unless you play in windowed mode. On Windows 8 you hold down your finger for right click. Torchlight 2 is playable without right click, but it’s tedious to do so.

      People have been putting together lists of games that play well on Windows 8 Tablets. Civ 5 is currently one of the best and most ready for touch screen with the Windows 8 Touch enabled version. On My Dell venue 8 pro i was able to run Minecraft without a mouse, but it’s all wonky and broken and the touch screen option in the options menu does not work.

      • Mittens89 says:

        I wouldn’t mind plugging in a mouse and keyboard, as long as its functional and compact. I just wouldn’t mind having something I can sit on the sofa with and play something for half an hour or so, that doesn’t have the bulky and clumsy feel of a laptop.

    • ThTa says:

      Asus has the T100, which is considered to be pretty much the gold standard for price/performance on Windows 8 tablets (and W8 hardware in general). It’s a nifty little thing which features a detachable keyboard and has a 10.1″ IPS display. It’s running on the latest Intel Atom stuff (Bay Trail), which is surprisingly fast, and certainly suitable for some less performance-intensive indie games.

      If you want a pure tablet experience, there’s an argument to be made for Dell’s Venue 8 Pro, which features the same Atom Z3740, but is considerably more compact (having an 8″ display). It also has the benefit of having a Synaptics active digitizer built-in (though the stylus is sold separately and poorly available), which isn’t up to Wacom standards, but is good for allowing mouse-like interaction on the touchscreen, by virtue of featuring hovering (it’s registered well before it actually touches the screen), having a button to do right-clicks, and obviously being far more precise.

      • Mittens89 says:

        Many thanks for the information. The Asus 100 could be a winner! I’ve always been pleased with the quality of their products, which is a bonus. Ill continue my research :)

  14. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    And that’s why you “game” on a Sony or Nintendo handheld if you’re stuck in some hotel away from home or at a hospital.

    Yes, PC greatness and all that, but come on, this and Alec’s review read like horror stories, it’s not worth it.