Archive for the ‘Tabletkiosk’ Category

Report and Photos from TabletKiosk Road Show

Friday, October 20th, 2006

On Thursday, October 19th, TabletKiosk hosted the first of their series of Road Show events. This event was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel of Orange County, CA, just a few blocks away from the Disneyland Resort and the Anaheim Convention Center. While it took quite a long time (over 2 hours) for me to drive there from the San Fernando Valley on a Thursday afternoon, it was an enjoyable event. As an added bonus, I ended up waiting out traffic after leaving the event by going for a nice dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Catal at Downtown Disney.

The event was primarily an informal opportunity to get some hands-on exposure to TabletKiosk’s UMPCs and Tablet PCs and accessories as well as an opportunity to network with staff members from TabletKiosk as well as members of the UMPC/Tablet PC community. I did feel like the event was targeted more at prospective UMPC buyers than at current owners (I actually was doing a bit of “salesmanship” of the concept myself), but it still was a nice opportunity to see most of TabletKiosk’s products in person while also meeting a few other members of the community.

There was no formal program and no major announcements were made, but they did have pretty much all their current systems and accessories on display and they also showed up a few prototypes of new accessories. They also had a drawing where they gave away 10 gift-bags of Intel swag as well as one $300 gift certificate to TabletKiosk.com. Unfortunately, I did not win anything.

The next events will be held on November 9th in Orlando, Florida and November 30th in Houston, Texas (a previously-announced 11/2 event in Ft. Lauderdale, FL has been cancelled). TabletKiosk is also promising to visit quite a few more cities with similar events during 2007.

After the break are some photos from the event. Clicking on any of the photos will take you to a larger, higher-resolution image.

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Thoughts on TabletKiosk i72xx Series

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

TabletKiosk last week announced two new eo UMPCs, the i7209 and i7210. Both models have similar form factors and are re-branded versions of the UMPC marketed in Asia under the Founder brand-name. In some ways, these new models are a step up from the already (and still) available eo v7110, although the older model also still has some key advantages as well.

The key difference between the two TabletKiosk UMPC product lines is the choice of processor and chipset at their core. With the i72xx series, the “i” stands for “Intel” while the “v” in v7110 stands for “Via”. The i7209 is based on the Intel Celeron M while the higher-end i7210 is based on the Intel Pentium M. Both models also use the Intel 915GMS chipset, with integrated DirectX9 3D graphics. Both also have a 1.3 megapixel camera, an SD card slot, and 7.1-channel sound built-in. Finally, these new models also each come with a docking station that provides Ethernet, VGA, S-Video, and additional USB connectors.

These are all nice enhancements over the previous model. The Intel processors and chipsets should provide a decent performance boost over the Via, particularly with the Pentium M based i7210, likely to be the fastest performing UMPC yet available. Until some hands-on reviews of the units start to be circulated, it won’t really be known whether the battery life is better than what was found with the v7110, but improvement is very likely. The better video and sound capabilities should give these new models an advantage over the v7110 for multimedia features, also competing pretty strongly with what the Samsung Q1 offers in this area (other than its instant-on capabilities).

The main area in which the v7110 continues to have a big advantage is customization of the memory and hard-drive configurations. With the older model, you can select configurations of 256MB, 512MB or 1GB of RAM, while the i7209 is only available with 512MB and the i7210 comes with 1GB. Even more significantly, the v7110 uses 2.5” hard drives, which provide a considerably wider range of choices than the 1.8” drives used in the i72xx series. The i7209 comes with a 30GB drive while the i7210 comes with a 60GB, each running at 4,200RPM. Surprisingly, TabletKiosk doesn’t appear to offer the opportunity to customize the i7209 with more memory or a larger hard-drive, although I would think that such upgrades should be possible.

The v7110 is available with hard-drives ranging from 40GB all the way up to 160GB and at speeds of 5,400 or 7,200RPM. Obviously, the v7110 is capable of substantially higher storage capacities and much faster performing drives. They do also offer the ability to send the unit back for later upgrades to the larger drives or memory (at a pretty substantial cost, of course) or the components to perform those upgrades yourself are pretty readily available, assuming you are pretty comfortable with that kind of fairly delicate computer maintenance.

With the faster processors and other added features, the i7xxx series does cost more than the v7110. The i7209 is priced at $1,099 and the i7210 costs $1,399. By comparison, the v7110 starts at $899 for the minimum configuration, with 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive. Even if you upgrade the RAM to 512MB to match the i7209, the price is only $998 and that is with a larger, faster hard drive. If you upgrade both the RAM and hard drive to match the i7210, the v7110 comes to $1,239. The price of the v7110 doesn’t exceed that of the i7210 until it is upgraded to either a 100GB 5,400RPM drive or a 60GB 7,200RPM drive, either of which comes to $1,423.

My v7110 has 1GB of RAM and the slower 100GB hard drive, meaning that I paid the above referenced $1,423 price, only $24 more than the i7210. Obviously, if I were purchasing my UMPC today, I would have to give serious consideration about which model to buy. I’m honestly not entirely certain which one I would have chosen if I were making the decision cold, but I don’t regret my purchase. Doing a quick check on my hard-disk, I have about 40GB free currently. That means that trying to carry everything I have on my eo currently, the hard-disk on the i7210 would be completely full with memory cards or external USB drives as the only option for adding additional storage.

I certainly would appreciate the extra processing power, improved multimedia features and, likely, improved battery life of the newer model, but portability of data was really the prime motivation for me purchasing a UMPC. In fact, that is the main reason why I choose the eo over the Samsung Q1. I use my eo to carry around essentially all of my personal and professional documents, my entire digital photo collection, all of my purchased tracks, as well as a fairly large number of tracks that I have ripped from CD at a lossless bit rate. If anything, I suspect that my storage needs on my UMPC are apt to increase, if anything.

While the new models would be more appealing to me if they used the faster, higher-capacity 2.5” hard drives, I still think that they are a strong addition to TabletKiosk’s UMPC line. More importantly, these new models indicate a definite commitment to UMPCs on the part of the company. Already, they have added several new accessories that are compatible with all of the available eo models. I’m sure that these new models will fit the needs of many potential customers better than any others currently available and overall that is a big positive for the UMPC in general.

Report and Reflections After eo Recall

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Last week, I sent my eo in for the recall service intended to improve the battery life. Although TabletKiosk had initially stated that they simply would be replacing a defective part, by the time they actually started performing the recall service they had decided to simply transfer the hard drive, memory (if expanded), and back panel (with the serial number and Windows activation number), to an otherwise completely new unit.

I was very pleased with TabletKiosk’s flexibility and efficiency handling the recall. After getting the initial return authorization, I exchanged periodic emails with them until they confirmed that they had everything in stock for performing the recall work. This let me avoid sending it back before they were ready to quickly turn it around. Once they were ready, my desktop PC had gone in for repairs and I didn’t really want to be without my eo. TabletKiosk was very accommodating, immediately agreeing to hold the replacement unit until my other system was repaired.

Once I did send it back, the turn-around was about as fast as it possibly could be. I sent it back via UPS next-day delivery on Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, I got an email with the tracking number for the return shipment even before the tracking showed my shipment as delivered. TabletKiosk was so fast that they were able to complete the transfer and ship the unit back to me before UPS could update the tracking data on their website. I had my replacement eo by 1pm on Thursday.

The new eo works pretty much as expected. The battery life is definitely improved, with about 2 hours of use now readily achievable under normal use. This still isn’t stellar, and is still less than the 2.5 hours originally advertised, but it is a definite improvement and it absolutely improves the usability of the eo. Once the extended battery becomes available in a couple weeks, I honestly think that the battery life will be sufficient for pretty much all my needs.

Otherwise, the new eo seems pretty much identical to the previous one. I have seen some reports that the heat dissipation has been improved in the replacements, but I can’t really say that I have noticed much improvement. The device still gets pretty warm, mainly over the vent on the left side. It never had been overly bad on my eo, though, so it is definitely possible that mine simply was not as bad as some of the others from the first shipped batch.

While any recall is inconvenient, now that this one has been completed I can honestly say that it was a pretty painless experience. By transferring the hard drive from the old unit to the new one, no data was lost and there was no need to re-install anything or to do any restoration from backups. TabletKiosk’s efficiency resulted in me only being without my eo for almost exactly 48-hours, which is an exceptionally short time for a mail-in recall.

Of course, TabletKiosk certainly should have been aware of the battery life issues prior to shipping the first batch of devices and should have at least notified buyers ahead of time with the option to complete the order at that time or not. Even with the battery life issues, I have gotten nearly 2-months of good use out of my eo, thus I am glad that they didn’t delay shipping the product for this issue. I simply feel that being more up-front about the issue might have given them better publicity and, possibly, reduced the overall cost of the recall.

Based on the relatively few people reporting on the recall online, I suspect that they ended up with a lot of returns for refunds. The only other blogger that I have seen reporting experiences with the recall is CTitanic from Ultra Mobile PCs Tips. While I’m sure there were some other eo buyers that kept their unit but don’t participate in the online UMPC community, I do think this suggests that the percentage that didn’t return their systems was likely pretty low. I still think the eo is an excellent device and, after the recall, it now is very competitive with the Samsung Q1 and other similar devices in this class. I really hope that the recall hasn’t tainted the overall reputation of TabletKiosk or the eo and that it ends up selling well.

TabletKiosk sends recovery DVD, stand, and T-shirt

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Late last week, I ordered a car charger from TabletKiosk for use with my eo. The package came today and, in addition to the charger, it contained a second box with a few extra items that TabletKiosk will apparently be sending to everyone that bought the first batch of units.

The package contained the Windows XP Tablet Edition recovery DVD, a plastic stand that was described in the manual for the eo, but not included in the original box, and a t-shirt with the TabletKiosk logo on the front and the eo logo on the back. Note that the t-shirt is an XL size.

While I had expected that the recovery DVD would eventually be sent, I was surprised and pleased by the inclusion of the other two items. The t-shirt, in particular, was a very nice surprise.

After the break, here are some photos of the items. Sorry that the shirt was still a bit wrinkled from shipment when I took the pictures. (more…)

Update on eo Battery Life Issue

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Yesterday, TabletKiosk sent out a notice to all of the purchasers of the first batch of eos announcing a voluntary recall in order to install a hardware fix that should improve battery life. They have indicated that they found a faulty component that was causing a significant portion of the excess power drain on the units.

The email stated that the units will need to be sent back to TabletKiosk for the repair and that they will be shipped back within 72 hours of receipt at their facility. The email provided contact information to request return shipping instructions. I sent them a request for those instructions yesterday, but have not received a reply yet at the time of this writing. It was unclear from the email whether they would cover the cost of return shipping or if that will be the owner’s responsibility.

In addition to offering to repair the devices, the email also offered a 25% discount off the purchase of any one eo accessory purchased before the end of July. I requested that they apply the discount towards my pre-order for the extended battery.

While I’m not that happy about having to do without my eo for a few days, I am glad that they found a cause for the problem and that they are offering to correct the existing units. With the battery life improved, the eo will be a substantially better and more useful device. It is expected that any units shipped going forward will already have the hardware fix installed, which makes it much easier for me to now recommend the eo to people who believe its feature set will meet their needs. (more…)

eo Battery Life Issue

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

Anyone who has followed discussions of the TabletKiosk eo v7110 in various forums or blogs should know by now that there is a fair amount of controversy surrounding the device. The primary issue is that the originally advertised battery life (with the included 3-cell battery) was over 2.5 hours, but the reality is that the eo cannot manage more than 90 minutes or so under normal use. Even with pretty much everything (including the screen) disabled, testing has generally shown an upper limit of about 2 hours.

The issue is well documented on other sites and has been publicly acknowledged by TabletKiosk as well. Over the course of last week, requests sent to their technical support department (I opened a ticket with them myself) met with fairly terse, stock responses acknowledging their awareness of the issue and that they were working on finding solutions. On Friday, they sent a mass email to all eo owners once again stating that they were working on the issue and extending the no-penalty return period for purchases up to 30-days instead of the usual 15. Right now, there is a lot of discussion online among early adopters about whether or not each of us plan to keep our system or make use of this return policy.

Many are pondering whether TabletKiosk knew about the problem before they shipped or not. I have worked either with or in technology quality assurance groups for much of my career and I know that QA can sometimes take a back seat to marketing-driven deadlines. It really looks to me like TabletKiosk was pretty focused on being able to issue that press release announcing that they had the first UMPC available in the US market and that probably resulted in a rush to shipping. They also were likely influenced some by the rather excited and somewhat impatient pre-order customers (including me) who were really making it known that we wanted to get our orders as soon as possible

We do know that the shipment of the first batch was delayed by a little over a week after they discovered that a large percentage were defective due to a case molding problem. At first, it might seem that the extra time spent verifying that the remaining units were ready to ship should have increased the chance of them identifying the battery life issue; the opposite may very well be true. The need to identify and certify the units that did not have the show-stopper defect could easily have caused a large percentage of basic functionality testing to be set aside. With the impending shipment of the Samsung Q1 greatly threatening the ability to issue that “first to market” press release, serious measurements and testing of the battery life may simply have been set aside. (more…)

TabletKiosk eo v7110 – First Impressions

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

I received my TabletKiosk eo v7110 UMPC yesterday and have since been working to get the device configured as well as generally becoming familiar with it. This definitely shouldn’t be considered to be a full review as my experience thus far is rather limited, but I am going to share some first impressions in several key areas.

Design and form factor

The eo is a very well designed device with a layout that makes it quite comfortable to use. The buttons and pointer control stick are extremely well positioned for comfortable access while holding the eo in both hands. The surface is smooth and well-rounded and the unit feels very solidly built without being excessively heavy.

The one fairly significant issue with comfortable handling of the device is that it gets quite a bit warmer than I would have liked during operation. When plugged in to the charger, it gets downright hot. Even when running on the battery, it still gets quite warm. It isn’t so hot that it isn’t useable, but I did find that it puts off enough heat that I probably won’t want to use it for very long in a non air-conditioned environment and I suspect I’ll want to use it on a tabletop whenever feasible. (more…)