ExoPC Slate Hands-On: The Windows 7 Tablet We’ve Been Waiting For

A few weeks ago, I opined that Windows 7-based tablets had the potential to offer a great user experience and an even larger ecosystem of applications than the iPad. Many people, including my own colleagues, thought I was crazy. Perhaps even Microsoft thinks so because it just announced that it’s coming out with a tablet-friendly version of Windows called Windows Embedded Compact 7. Unfortunately, they’re all wrong; Windows 7 can be a great tablet OS.

For proof, look no further than the ExoPC Slate, a Windows 7 tablet being shown off by Intel this week at Computex 2010. The ExoPC Slate features an 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 capacitive touch display, 2GB of RAM, and either a 32GB or 64GB SSD. Somewhat surprisingly, the tablet is powered by an Intel N450, not the lower-power Intel Atom Z5xx CPU we usually see in Windows tablets. However, considering the weak performance we’ve seen from many Atom Z5xx-based products, we like this bold choice of processor, even though it results in a manufacturer-claimed battery life of 5 hours.

ExoPC Slate Size

Like other Windows tablets we’ve seen, the ExoPC Slate has several hardware features the iPad lacks, including a front-facing Webcam, and several ports, including an SD card reader and USB port. The trade-off for the large screen, powerful processor, and ports is some heft. The Slate weighs 2.1 pounds and measures 11.6 x 7.7 x 0.5 inches, making it quite a bit bigger than the iPad or other Windows slates we’ve seen. However, many users may be willing to put up with the weight in exchange for a compelling user experience.

Custom Interface and Home Screen

How do you build a truly compelling tablet experience on top of Windows 7? You design your own custom UI, of course! ExoPC’s interface really steals the show, by making it both fun and intuitive to launch programs, while it also includes several apps of its own.

When you first launch the ExoPC Slate, you boot to Windows 7 Home Premium, but rather than seeing the desktop and Start Menu, you see the ExoPC home screen. The home screen is loaded with tiny discs that serve as shortcuts to subscreens or folders or to apps themselves. The discs have a configurable wallpaper that fills in unused space. The UI supports multi-touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom so you can enlarge or shrink the home page or subfolder pages as well.

Apps

When you launch an app, its icon appears underneath the home button on the right side of the screen. Want to switch between open tasks? Just tap the button for the application you want to switch to. To kill a task you drag its open application icon off-screen. On the left side of the screen are volume controls and a button that lets you switch to the traditional Windows 7 desktop.

ExoPC has included apps for children’s learning software, games, radio playback, eReading and more. However, any Windows program could be assigned to a disc so you can even launch your browser, e-mail, or Microsoft Word through the ExoPC UI.

Early Thoughts

After a few minutes of playing with the ExoPC Slate, we were really excited both by its power – the device plays high definition video without a hitch – and by the flexibility it provides in switching between the traditional Windows UI and ExPC’s proprietary interface.

Check out the hands-on video below for more details.

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AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Manto4 Says:

    Apparently it’s going to have a mid-to-late September release!

  2. Review Says:

    I am super interested in this device! P.S. in the video you mention 1GB of ram, but all ExoPC’s come with 2GB of ram.

  3. darkkevind Says:

    Pre-orders are being released mid Oct as the unit has been upgraded a lot since this video.

    This truly the best windows slate out on the market right now!

  4. gonzal36 Says:

    I can’t wait for my EXOPC!! This machine has me stoked!

  5. Harsha Says:

    I like this tablet but I’m not sure how many applications it can use on Windows 7 operating system. Most applications have been designed for mouse interface and not for touch interface. Though the hardware looks, software limitations will be overwhelming for the user.

  6. Steve J Says:

    Harsha works for Apple.

  7. R. Vallée Says:

    Since the iPAD triggered the birth of the others, ALL new tablets appearing on the market had to offer “more” to start with !!! Any meaningful comparison must therefore be done with the fore coming iPAD version 2. Come on….!

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