Sunday, July 7, 2013

[Review] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review–part 2: Usability

This is the part 2 of the Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review. This one is about usability.

Note: If you missed the part 1, click on the following link to read it.

Part 1: Ease of holding the tablet and look & feel.

OK, let’s get on with this section then.

1) Media streaming from the PC

One of the use cases for this tablet was media streaming from the desktop. While there are hiccups like the video player being too slow to launch videos and sometime you lose the network connection to the video file if you had it paused for a long time, the streaming experience is great. You don't get black bars on HD content like you do in iPad. You don’t need a 3rd party software to manage the streams. And the playback is smooth. Funny how the MacBook Air 2011 model that I have screams when you watch a video. No fans here. All that’s said, the sound quality of the speakers sadly ruins the experience.

2) Desktop experience

This has nothing to do with the tablet. It is all Windows 8'a fault. The desktop apps aren't easy to use. It is not because the controls are not big enough for the touch (at 1366x768, they are large enough), but because they are not optimized for touch. Only the bundled apps have full support for stuff like finger scrolling and zooming.

If you increase the DPI, things get larger and it becomes easier to use. You can also change the default view setting to “Large Icons” instead of “Details”. But the issue with that is, this setting gets synced with your desktop as well! That, I don’t need.

I tried adding a photo on Windows Live Writer for a blog post I was writing and I had to waste like 2 minutes just to grab the holders to crop the photo. Google Chrome is horrible and actually too slow for this tablet. Media Player Classic, which is the video player I use on the desktop also doesn't work well with touch. Office apps are OK, but typing is difficult with the virtual keyboard, especially because of the larger size of the tablet. Virtual keyboard has no issues on a mobile phone though. So, you see, the desktop experience hasn't been that great. The only reason I go into the desktop is to access the files stored on the desktop PC. Otherwise I hardly use the desktop apps. I probably should have went with WinRT then!!!

3) Metro experience

Metro runs pretty well on a tablet. Maybe because of the cheap eMMC storage, the apps take a bit of time to load. But after that it is mostly the CPU, which is also slow.

Windows 8 needs more official apps from the major app makers like Facebook and Google. Twitter now has an official client but it is very feature limited. Sure, most people will argue that those are just web apps, and they are right, but you really need touch optimized apps because the web apps are mostly made for the mouse.

4) Reading books

Now, Microsoft doesn't have their own bookstore so you either have to download PDF files or use a service like Kindle to get books in. Sure, you can easily open the PDF files stored in your desktop PC as well. Even though the screen doesn't have a high pixel density as the iPad, once you are immersed in the book ,or anything that you are reading for that matter, you won't notice the pixels. Sure, if you compare it with a iPad side by side, you will notice the difference. But to tell the truth, the low resolution has not bothered me, not even once, during the last four months. It's the glare that ruins things and I have dealt with it. Maybe if you read for many hours, your eyes will get tired soon.

5) Music/podcast listening experience

This is downright bad, because of the crappy speakers. I prefer to listen to them on my iPhone.

6) Browsing experience

Metro version of IE10 (now IE11 in Windows 8.1 Preview) is great actually. Better than mobile Safari. There are times that it becomes slow. But nothing is perfect. Sure, you cannot have add-ons and it will never get add-ons. Most of the issues are related to Windows 8 and some of them are being fixed in 8.1. I'll be writing a separate article about that.

Next: the performance, the camera and battery life

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