Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review of the ExoPC (so far - another work in progress)

I bought a slate (ExoPC) as an e-reader, travelling entertainment device and for portable Internet access. It's early-adopter stuff (drivers, drivers & drivers) and, while it does all the things I bought it for, it's far from perfect.

The ExoPC UI Layer. Very quick and easy to use, but also unfinished
Left side. There's a docking port underneath and a stand and stylus on the way.

For those interested in the tech side: Intel Atom N450, 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB SSD, 1 x SD slot, 2 x USB, 1 x mini-HDMI and a SIM card slot with nothing behind it. Audio I/O 3.5mm. 1.3 Mp webcam. 1366x768 11.6" capacitive touch screen, 4 hours battery life, if you're lucky. Broadcom chip for HD video via the m-HDMI. Runs Win 7 32-bit Home Premium out of the box. Cost A$762 delivered from Canada.

So here's my rankings so far:

 E-reader 7.5/10
Pros - covers every file format, backlit, good screen size and resolution. Big plus compared to a Kindle is glorious colour. Magazines etc look great. Also the speed of screen refreshes/page turns is very quick. Some e-paper screens I've tried blank out for a ridiculous time between pages. I'm a fast reader dammit.
Cons - too heavy (nearly a kg), short battery life, occasionally dodgy touch screen. The touch screen issue has been reported by other users but seems to be improved by new drivers (for me anyway). It's actually quite a bit better than other capacitive screens I've tried and can only get better with, yep, new drivers.

11.6" ExoPC linked to 54" Panasonic. One cable.
Mythbusters from ExoPC. Quality is as good as the file allows

Travelling entertainment 8/10
Pros - runs VLC, MPC - anything really. Got a cheap cable from Deal Extreme to hook to HDTV and it works fine. 1080p video + audio to a 54" plasma looks great, audio out to an amp or headphones is also great. Just the thing for motels or apartments when we're travelling.
Cons - It'll do a flight to Melbourne but not an international. I'd give it 9.5 if the battery life was better.

HDMI cable on the left, 3G modem on the right. Slate with fingerprints in middle.

Portable Internet access 6/10
Pros - great screen, especially compared to a smartphone.
Cons - weight and size mean I won't use it easily or often on the go, but fine at the destination. Needs a USB 3G modem - which I have - but an internal 3G/GPS card would be better. Some owners have already installed these, thus voiding their warranties. Like it says on my t-shirt, I Void Warranties 8-). Battery life again means that I won't spend too much time away from a socket, but to be honest I don't anyway.

All in all, I got exactly what I expected and was happy to pay for. I haven't mentioned the very fast and easy, finger-friendly Exo UI layer or the App store (which isn't much at all yet anyway). Some early problems have already been fixed by driver updates, and more are expected. The UI layer gets better with each iteration but hasn't reached version 1 yet so again, more fun to come. The bottom line is that I've now read scores of e-books I've had for years and it looks way easier to cart off on trips than a laptop or even netbook so I'm happy for now. In a couple of years new screens, batteries and APUs will probably produce devices 10x better, but by then the $2 coins in my bottom drawer will probably amount to enough to get one so that's OK too. (Beyond price was the look on the teller's face when I produced a 50 year old canvas bank moneybag with 400 $2 coins to buy this one.)


  1. "Slate with fingerprints in the middle"? Are you suuuuure they're not lip prints?


  2. What's that language you speak, boy?

  3. (Heavy Irish Sigh) I'm surrounded by philistines.

  4. I like the little round icons. It looks like bubble wrap. Pop! Pop! Pop!

  5. There's an App for that. OMG, what have I done. Darth Jobser has patented, copyrighted and trademarked that phrase. He has thousands of minion-bots trolling the Net for anyone careless enough to use it. I'm doomed, DOOMED I tells ya!

  6. I to am an early adopter and I have to agree for the most part. My only issues are battery life and the touch keyboard sometimes just disappearing in the middle of typing. Other than that, it's W7 and just about everything I throw at it runs. Response time is amazingly fast for such a small cpu. XBMC works very well as does HDhomerunTV drivers and app. For the first Product out the door with W7, it's a great start.

  7. Thank goodness you've got Anonymous to talk Geekish with, Greybeard. The rest of us are just good for recipes and cheesy jokes.

  8. I'm only here because I heard there'd be pretzels and dip.

  9. ...dont forget the well intentioned stale biscuits

    but I think that was just a unified driver issue at the time....that will get better over time

  10. Cool! I used suffer earlyadoptitius a Panasonic DVD recorder (just fixed for the second time) has so far cured me.

    I currently have a Dell Streak smaller but good.

  11. With every blog post you reveal a little more old man. Now we know the cruelly sharpened hook is on your right wrist.
    SWMBO has launched her own consultierie (no it's not "How to live with a bearded slob" thank you very freakin' much) and was talking about acquiring a tablet for work. I ruminated that running a composite world of a PC desktop & a Jobsian Iwank would have ongoing compatability issues. Is this still the case? or have they got cross communication more or less idiot proof?

  12. Ha! Like Igor's hump it migrates from side to side. As far as I know there's no communication problems between iThings and Windows PCs. iTunes seems to be the main prog for linking them. The new iPad 2 will be announced in January though, and it's likely to have front & rear cameras and maybe even an SD card slot for added storage. Probably go on sale in April at about the same price as current models. So you get a better one for the same $, or the existing model at big discounts. I have to admit the iPad is a much more slick and finished item than the ExoPC, but the Apps just don't do what I want. I'd rather just be able to run the same Office as the PCs, have a file system where I can store things instead of iTunes and so on.

    Sorry you won't be at the breakfast tomorrow morning. Another bunch of burgers to be seduced by my cheerful smile and avuncular good humour. Heh heh.

  13. On the other hand

  14. Merry Christmas, Greybeard. I hope you've had a good one. :)