ExoPC Windows 7 Tablet Review

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Posted 11 Nov, 2010 9:00 pm

When we first laid eye’s on the ExoPC late night in a hotel room at Computex we knew the afterhours setting meant that we were getting our hands on something special. At the time we had little faith in Windows 7 tablets, actually that attitude hasn’t changed, except when it comes to the ExoPC. I said it in June and I’ll say it again, the ExoPC UI makes Windows 7 tablets viable. The UI is zen like in appearance with a series of circles, interacting with the 44 dots is almost like playing with bubble wrap, you just want to keep pressing them to see what happens. Lucky it comes with its own store and a flurry of applications so you won’t easily get board and discover you are in fact in an empty ecosystem. Its capacitive touch screen is very responsive and offers the snappy experience we all look for in a tablet. I’ll lead with my video and you can read the rest of my review below.

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Hardware

Hardware wise the ExoPC runs on the Intel Atom N450 but its topped off with the Broadcom Crystal HD card which allows 1080p playback. This is something that we love, the 11.6 inch frame is larger then most tablets on the market but it makes it better device for watching movies. I’m not a fan of glossy displays as I think it makes them useless in mobile computing scenarios. But in this case I don’t mind because it is 11.6 inches and 2.09 pounds its main focus is going to be at home and not as a mobile computing tablet. It is still thin enough that you could take it with you if you wanted to watch a couple of movies, it just can’t compete with the battery life offered by the iPad.

If you position this tablet as a device that you are going to set on your breakfast tablet to read the paper, letting the kids play with while you are cooking dinner or to do some sofa surfing then you’ve found the right device. You’re never far from an outlet and its under 4 hours of battery life is manageable while kicking around the house. Luckily this is exactly the scenario the devices is being tailored towards, which is why it comes with Windows Home Premium over Starter which is typical on this CPU. Windows 7 Home offers integration with home media which the artificially limited Starter does not. It is tailored to be a couch surfing device.


I spent some time on my couch with the ExoPC and I have to admit that I did find it a bit heavy and needed to settle into the right position for some serious playtime. When I compare my time on the couch with the iPad vs the ExoPC I find that I have a very similar posture, I just notice the weight of the tablet sonner when I’m using the ExoPC.

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life I always think more is better. This is one of my major issues with the device although I hear ExoPC has a stand with integrated battery in the works, which would double the battery life. One thing that I found a little odd while testing the battery was that regular SD files & 1080p HD files diminished the battery at roughly the same rate as I got just over 3 hours or exactly two movies out of both file types. The screen brighten was at 75% as I wanted to enjoy the vivid colours of my films. Usually I expect that SD files will provide a few extra minutes since they are less intense on the CPU. This is something that I might continue to play around with as there might be a way to configure the system.

Screen / Form Factor

For consuming media it is really a great device since its got the larger frame it offers 1366 x 768 which on a 10.1 inch netbook is a little to small when you are watching a movie in letterbox. The other complaint with 1366×768 on a 10 inch device is that its just too darn hard to click on things! Luckily this is not the case with the ExoPC’s Media Player. They’ve customized their player for the touch screen which makes it easy to operate. The volume is missing at this stage of the game but its coming in an update in the next month or two. Accessing media files on a Windows tablet hasn’t been great since I often open wrong files, but ExoPC has implemented a file launcher that makes you forget you are even in Windows. Its set up with circles where the files would be which is much easier to navigate.

  • aftermath

    I’m a huge fan of the way that you cover news and review devices. Most people either have an excessively sanitized perspective or an overtly biased one. In contrast, yours is unique while still being fair minded and interesting.

    Slates have been manufactured, sold, used, and reviewed for a very long time. Despite this history, the form factor has only RECENTLY caught the eye of many mainstream consumers for non-functional reasons, which in turn means that manufacturers are attempting to cater to the perceived demand, which means that websites like this now find themselves covering relevant news and completing relevant reviews on behalf of their visitors.

    I don’t want to make any specific comments about your review other than to say that I do not share in your affection for the circle tessellation UI. That’s pretty terrible design. Anybody who has even seen a human interface guideline knows that icons function best when their forms are distinct. You never circumscribe the individual silhouettes of icons with any auxiliary form, let a lone a common one for all. It makes them more difficult to distinguish. This UI looks different, not good.

    I think that your review is a fine review of the computer. It stands on its own as review of a mobile device, and it’s even a pretty good slate review. However, you use the word “tablet” A LOT, but you NEVER identify or discuss any of the tablet functionality of either the hardware or the software. I’m not confused over the fact that “tablet” has become a casual euphemism for “slate”, an unfortunate collapse of collective judgment which probably comes from the fact that tablets tend to be expensive, powerful, premium computing products and usurping the term on behalf of low-end consumer slates boosts the overall mindshare of these inferior devices. Adding to this confusion is the fact that a tablet doesn’t have to be a slate at all. It may also take the form of a convertible or even an ordinary clamshell device such as a laptop. The irony here is that, unlike most popular slates, the device in front of you does have some (marginal) tablet functionality (mostly due to the operating system), but this usage scenario was never referenced. As it stands, your review shows me how this slate is an excellent media and Internet device. I’d also like to know to what extent it’s a good tablet, otherwise, what’s the point of continuously asserting that it is one?

  • Jason

    Wow, what a lot of words without much to say…

  • Anonymous

    Where was Windows 7 in your review? What version of 7 does the tablet use?

  • Anonymous

    It’s a tablet. So is a slab of rock for inscribing. So is my Wacom Intuos. It’s also a slate. So are the tiles in my parent’s bathroom. These definitions are born from outside of computing. Marketing tends to label products one way or another and I think this has influenced you.

    The reason why tablets are only just in the general consumer’s eye now is that hardware has reached an affordable price and performance level for the target market, along with the software and infrastructure being ready. Can you imagine if Apple tried to release an iPad 10 years ago? 5 years ago?

  • http://twitter.com/attila_toth attila_toth

    I can’t figure out why would I want a tablet for home use instead of a similarly specd, more usable (keyboard!) and cheaper netbook.

  • http://www.netbooknews.com Nicole Scott

    And that’s why netbooks will never die!!! ;)

  • http://www.netbooknews.com Nicole Scott

    Windows 7 Home. I do mention it, actually there is whole paragraph dedicated! Here it is again since you seemed to have missed it!

    If you position this tablet as a device that you are going to set on your breakfast tablet to read the paper, letting the kids play with while you are cooking dinner or to do some sofa surfing then you’ve found the right device. You’re never far from an outlet and its under 4 hours of battery life is manageable while kicking around the house. Luckily this is exactly the scenario the devices is being tailored towards, which is why it comes with Windows Home Premium over Starter which is typical on this CPU. Windows 7 Home offers integration with home media which the artificially limited Starter does not. It is tailored to be a couch surfing device.

  • http://twitter.com/3H_Stuff Phillip Labossiere

    GREAT GREAT review. I am loading up on so much EXO PC news and u set the bar. I cant wait until I can get my hands on one, bugs or not. I am riding this EXO train from the first stop to perfect tablet town. Is the truth about a Nov 15th public order date true? I was informed by one of the Dev testers.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnCritic John Critic

    The UI software is probably the main selling point of the Exopc as under the hood is practically the same as any other similarly designed tablets out there, but it is also the weakest link.

    The UI looks like a layer the same way we HTPC builders have interfaces (ie. boxee, XMPC, media portal) to support media playback. I think I would eventually get bored with the UI and probably want to sample others including Microsoft’s version to support tablets, or even try and install Android or Meego.

    At the end of the day its the hardware that will give users a lot of flexibility on what and how they want to use a tablet. For some people they would rather have a developed solution like the iPad (quick) than be provided with the tools to create the solutions themselves (time consuming).

    Exopc’s other problem is that they keep providing unfinished tablets for reviews. By the time it finally gets released, CULV or dual atom based tablets would have been developed already. They will need to pick up their game for us consumers to really enjoy the very best of what’s available.

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