• RM Slate 100 - Initial Review

    It arrived this morning in a very large looking box. Within which was another, much smaller box, within which was the tablet PC I’ve been waiting for since its announcement just over a month ago. To be honest, that was almost all that was in the box, apart from a mains lead and recovery DVD. Now over the past few months I’ve been playing with a lot of Android based tablets and iPads, almost all of which have impressed me greatly (apart from a few cheap Android tablets). Now it is the turn of one of the first ‘full fat’ Windows 7 based tablets to be given a full going over.
    Previously and Windows 7 based tablets have been lacking in both power, memory and storage with low end VIA processors coupled with a measly 1GB RAM and a distinct lack of any significant storage and screen space.


    RM Slate 100 Spec:
    • Intel Atom 1.6 GHz (Pineview-M N450)
    • 2GB DDR2 800Hz Ram
    • 32GB SSD
    • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
    • 11.6" 1366x768 Display
    • Capactive Multi-Touch Display
    • Bluetooth
    • 802.11 b\g\n Wireless
    • mini HDMI
    • 2 USB Ports
    • SD Card Slot
    • Sim Slot
    • Weight 995 Grams

    Until now that is, with the RM Slate 100 we finally have a tablet that is on par with the capabilities of any modern netbook and low end laptops. With a weight of only 995 grams and a price of only £399 (ex VAT) it oozes value with great build quality and a rubberised coating on the back giving the well balanced chassis a great feel in your hands.


    The only think overlooked (or more likely removed to save costs) is the SIM card slot is not connected to a 3G modem. If it is it isn’t showing in Device Manager or in the BIOS but that may just be a bug etc and sadly RM's site is lacking much documentation yet.

    After a couple of hour’s initial charge and a short Windows 7 setup routine I was ready to roll. Sort of. It did take a little tweaking to increase the default icon and text size as my sausage fingers (think jumbo sausage. In batter) found it awkward to accurately press on icons and menu options. This wasn’t due to a lack of accuracy on the screens part but rather the small contact area that the screen presents by default. I suspect that small children won’t experience these problems, however I feel staff should possibly be issued with a stylus to assist in operation of the device.
    The device also is fitted with an accelerometer to assist in screen orientation, but I have found this a little ‘laggy’ with the screen blanking for a second before being redrawn at the correct orientation. And when you start to push it a bit you can hear the fan kicking in. It's not loud, but it is noticable. I also began to notice the gaps in Windows 7 tablet capabilities about this point. Windows 7 was designed with tablet functionality in mind from the off, however the actual ergonomics and methods of operation are far removed from what we see from Apple and Android offerings, and once you start to use W7 on a tablet these become more apparent. For instance the on-screen keyboard is small and not very intuitive, especially when typing in passwords and hidden fields. Where, for example, the iPad\iPhone keyboard will highlight the latter pressed, there is no such indication with the W7 on-screen keyboard. It can however handily be resized and swiped out of the way when not required.
    If Microsoft want to seriously offer Windows as a viable slate\tablet OS than they really need to polish it up a bit, as compared to their rivals it looks positively clunky. That is not to say it is unusable. Far from it, it just lacks the thought others have put in as to how we user touch devices differently to traditional keyboard and mouse inputs, and considering just how many users experience of touch screen devices differs from how they have to interact with Windows 7, hunt-and-peck will have to be replaced with hunt-and-prod-and-prod-and-prod.


    Note: These pictures are pretty bad and do not reflect the display quality which is very good.

    I recall several years back that when we were kindly presented by RM at our second annual conf the UK’s first EeePC I said that in this product RM had something rather special. I think RM have done it again, and at a price that is more than reasonable for the level of hardware offered, and from this I can almost guarantee that you will see some of these in your schools soon.
    Now, I wonder if it runs Ubuntu Netbook Edition?

    RM Slate 100: Avalible from RM Direct at http://www.rm.com/shops/rmshop/Produ...f-b99c3111a591

    Edited to add: It's been 2 days since I have started to play with this slate and I have to say I'm struggling to find many faults with it. The display impresses me more and more each day. It's very bright clear and vibrant, however you will find yourself digging into the advance power settings to get the brightness correct as you will be using this on batteries a lot more than plugged in, and the capacitive ability is very resposive without being overly so. What you must watch out for however is fingers accidentally contacting the edge of the screen when holding the tablet and inputting at the same time as random things happen!!. Battery life seems OK (I've not had time to run full stopwatch tests under load conditions yet) and I've been using it for regular internet browsing and running office 2010, and have always got over 3 hours from it, without completely running the battery down. As for faults I find it can get a little bogged down and 'pause' for about 10 seconds. I've noticed this when browsing with both IE and Firefox, but stangely not when using other applications.
    Also using the Windows interface with just fingers is becoming more and more normal and I can now pretty much hit each icon and toolbar first time every time. I still think the interface needs a rework for slate devices though. I would also recommend you download the Microsoft Touch pack (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/e...displaylang=en) to let you demonstate multi-touch and other aspects of the touch interface to potential users.
    Comments 33 Comments
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Seeing those pictures of the screen in the article I have to stress that the image quality is far, far better than that shown there. For some reason the display looks all 'speckly' in the pictures. Let me assure you that is it not. It is bright vibrant and a joy to look at.
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      Go on, install SIMS on it
    1. jpaterson's Avatar
      jpaterson -
      Does it have a hardware button to bring up the OSK?
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      I forgot to add, it has only one button. The power\standby switch. The OSK is a permanent on-screen shortcut that lives on the LHS of the screen (for some reason it's not visable in the pics I took). It can be 'flicked out when required, or, rather helpfully when you 'prod' on a text field a shortcut to the OSK appears.
    1. Duane_Dibbley's Avatar
      Duane_Dibbley -
      i've got an ACER 1825ptz which is a capacitive touchscreen laptop. I agree with you - Win 7 just isn't up to scratch compared to other OS's but like you say you get used to it. battery doesn't sound great tho with the latest laptop offerings from ACER (including mine) and others doing 8hrs+
    1. simpsonj's Avatar
      simpsonj -
      I'm probably going to sound a bit negative, and I don't mean to be, but a few points surprise me. I should also point out that I'm looking at slates as being carried around by the students, and taken home, rather than being in a classroom with a laptop trolley, which colours my judgement somewhat!

      1, The 3-4 hour battery life - The iPad can last at least 10 hours watching full video before the battery becomes an issue. For the RM slate to be viable, surely it needs to last a school day (ie 6 hours)? Maybe its Windows 7 being power hungry rather than the hardware itself?

      2, Fans - Not sure I like the idea of movable parts in a slate, but that could just be me. There again, the iPad tends to overheat if left in sunlight, so if it prevents that problem...

      3, Windows 7 as a touch screen OS - How viable is it as an alternative to a laptop? Could you invisage writing coursework on it, or using it to do basic graphic work, or spreadsheets? One of the main flaws with the iPad is that its close, but not quite comfortable enough, to be used in a serious "office" way.

      4, And finally, could you envisage rolling these out onto a network?

      As I said, I don't want to be negative, I'm really looking for a viable slate that kids can use for everyday schooling, and if any company could pull that off, I think it could be RM.

      But thank you for writing up the review though! Really useful to me
    1. Drummer_Boy's Avatar
      Drummer_Boy -
      Bro I might want to borrow this off you for a future gig to run my remote control mixing desk software on!!!
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      @Simsonj. Just address you points.

      1. When I say I've got 3-4 hours, that has been hammering it, multi-tasking, constant browsing and software installs, and given that the battery is quite small it's not too bad at all. In fact. I've been using it occasionally, putting it on standby and using it again with the same charge over a 24 hour period. I will do time tests when I can, but it will have to wait ATM.

      2. The fan is very quiet and none of the chassis gets hot when in use. Warm, yes, but not overly so.

      3. It takes a little getting used to. The on-screen-keyboard take a little learning (in getting it to appear\hide when you want it too) and no haptic feedback leaves it feeling cold sometimes, however it is a full Windows 7 computer, and as long as the processor meets the software spec should run pretty much anything. I'm going to try Photoshop Elements 9 soon. My guess is that with a stylus, graphic work will be a doddle. If you want to get the best out of it then a bluetooth KB\mouse will be in order, but so far I've been doing fine with my fingers.

      4. Yes. It will run W7 Pro\Ultimate etc. fine. There is no physical ethernet though, only wireless, so I'd ensure you have a USB CD\DVD drive and the appropriate imaging software for OS deployements.

      All things said, it IS a good slate, but considering it is the first W7 slate with the level of hardware I'd expect to find to use it successfully, there are no other pieces of kit to compare it too. We shall have it on the stand at BETT for you all to have a good look at and running real world apps, not specially selcted pieces of software
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      @Drummer_Boy. I'll pop around with it when I can to give you a play. Just as soon as I've got rid of the lurgy! You really don't want this for Christamas.
    1. teejay's Avatar
      teejay -
      Does it blend?
    1. ZeroHour's Avatar
      ZeroHour -
      @Simsonj: one thing, I can tell you 100% that the ipad does not last 12 hours playing video non stop as I have never seen it last that long yet.
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      Rather disappointed with the Slate, screen is terrible. It's that horrible high gloss that shows all the finger marks, and the touch part is poor.

      Got SIMS on it, but SIMS really does need touch screen support before it useful - well for SIMS stuff anyway
    1. creese's Avatar
      creese -
      Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
      Got SIMS on it, but SIMS really does need touch screen support before it useful - well for SIMS stuff anyway
      It's on the way, starting with Discovery.
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
      Rather disappointed with the Slate, screen is terrible. It's that horrible high gloss that shows all the finger marks, and the touch part is poor.

      Got SIMS on it, but SIMS really does need touch screen support before it useful - well for SIMS stuff anyway
      Have you adjusted the icon and text size yet? It was in my earlier report that it was hard to use with defualt settings and you had to make adjustments. As for the touch part. How do you mean? In what way poorer. Mine was very responsive and the image quality great. The 'high gloss' you refer to is simply the screen cover\casing itself, and it is widely accepted that any large screen tablet device would show up fingerprints, regardless of the tinting of the screen.
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
      Have you adjusted teh icon and text size yet? It was in my earlier report that it was hard to use with defualt settings and you had to make adjustments. As for the touch part. How do you mean? In what way poorer. Mine was very responsive and the image quality great. The 'high gloss' you refer to is simply the screen cover\casing itself, and it is widely accepted that any large screen tablet device would show up fingerprints, regardless of the tinting of the screen.
      Yup and it's still not great and then the screen space becomes a bit problem. I guess you could get a screen protector, but it's yet another thing to buy - assuming they exist. Having said that it's loads cheaper then a iPad.
    1. simpsonj's Avatar
      simpsonj -
      Thanks for your replies @Dos_box and @ZeroHour. I fear imaging slates could be a royal pain, but I'm not closed to the idea if prices go down, and the money becomes available.

      I wonder how similar the experience is to using an iPad with Remote Desktop software, which can definately be a bit fiddly. As regards to battery life, I charge my iPad once every three days, although I haven't really tried a stress test yet.

      I'll see if I can find you at BETT to have a proper look
    1. simpsonj's Avatar
      simpsonj -
      @matt40k at £399 ex VAT, if it doesn't have 3G, surely that makes it the same price as an iPad, indeed more expensive than the 16gb model, and roughly on par with the 32gb non 3G models. If the slate does have 3G, then it will be cheaper than the iPad equivalent.

      However, throw in the price of Office, Windows and CAL licencing if you're planning to network them and it would be interesting to see a price comparison after that. Mind you, with the new licensing announcement by Microsoft, maybe that wouldn't be so much of an issue.

      I'm hoping that there will now be a drive for touch screen friendly, educational, apps for Windows 7 and Android, to make slates a true alternative to netbooks.
    1. Alis_Klar's Avatar
      Alis_Klar -
      are these jpeg's corrupted? I can see the top few rows but the rest display partially as grey pixels, like the jpeg has been corrupted?!? Tried CTRL+F5 and different browser
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      Quote Originally Posted by simpsonj View Post
      @matt40k at £399 ex VAT, if it doesn't have 3G, surely that makes it the same price as an iPad, indeed more expensive than the 16gb model, and roughly on par with the 32gb non 3G models. If the slate does have 3G, then it will be cheaper than the iPad equivalent.

      However, throw in the price of Office, Windows and CAL licencing if you're planning to network them and it would be interesting to see a price comparison after that. Mind you, with the new licensing announcement by Microsoft, maybe that wouldn't be so much of an issue.

      I'm hoping that there will now be a drive for touch screen friendly, educational, apps for Windows 7 and Android, to make slates a true alternative to netbooks.
      It's 32gb, so the iPad 32GB at £499 is more expensive. Desktop upgrade package is about £30 which includes an Windows Upgrade, Office, and a CAL (or it did last time I checked). You've then got the bonus that you can use Flash and all that stuff.

      Plus I'd rather manage 125x Slates then 100x iPads

      DosBox, did you see, sorry don't know how to describe it, the back of the tft, looks like a solar panel (think that's the best way I can describe it!). Also did the webcam work for you?
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Yes, the webcam was fine. There is a copper foil sheet on the back of the screen. I think it's to prevent heat from the motherboard going forwards.