Acer Iconia W4 tablet: a small assistant under the yoke of a large Windows

    This article will focus on the Acer Iconia W4 tablet running on the Intel Atom platform running the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1. But before we take it apart (literally), I want to say a few words about the nature of our interest in compact tablets at the G8 and the expectations from the device under test.



    I have been doing IT journalism for quite some time. At least four times a year (and actually - more often) I work at large international exhibitions, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, Mobile World Congress, etc. From the side, probably, these exhibitions seem to be a feast of engineering and a source of useful nishtyakov. To a certain extent, this is how it is. But the journalist’s tasks are rather laborious and boring: to study the maximum number of new products, highlight the most interesting ones, shoot, record the characteristics, then get in the corner and write an illustrated report as quickly as possible. The initial information gathering phase requires long running around the stands. Now, when smartphones have learned to count the number of steps taken, it has been found that in the early days I walk 12-15 kilometers.

    To transfer impressions in a readable form, you need a laptop. With a normal text editor, with a photo viewer, with Photoshop for RAW processing (I shoot only in them) and, finally, with a more or less capacious drive to drop frames from a flash drive. When you walk a lot, even a relatively light ultrabook quickly starts to pull your shoulder. And the bag or backpack is somewhat annoying. Of course, if it is necessary, you walk and do not be indignant. But when I first saw an 8-inch tablet on Windows 8 (if I’m not mistaken, it was Acer who showed it a year ago), I vividly imagined myself walking around the exhibitions with a small handbag, where the tablet and keyboard lie to it. And how, having collected a certain amount of information, I sit down, take out a tablet, and in it are my favorite Word. ACDSee and Photoshop. Thanks to them, I quickly write text,


    The official portrait

    Microsoft says that tablets on Windows 8, unlike their counterparts on other platforms, are ideal not only for consuming content, but also for creating it. The opportunity to test this statement in practice came to me about three weeks ago, when an Acer Iconia W4 tablet with a wireless keyboard came for a test. I tried to work on it and am now ready to state my impressions.

    First about the device itself.

    The screen size is 8 inches. Used IPS-matrix with a resolution of 1280x800 pixels. The matrix, frankly, is not the most expensive - it is noticeable by not very uniform illumination (only against a dark background, but still) and the appearance of fading colors with a significant deviation from the right angle. There is also a noticeable bias in “warm” tones, which in itself is not bad, but the yellowish white is very striking at first. Of course, compared with the first-born W3, which used the matrix TN + Film, the progress is huge. Nevertheless, the device is quite budgetary, and something really good to put into it would be unprofitable.

    The tablet uses an Intel Atom Z3740 processor belonging to the Bay Trail family. It went on sale at the end of 2013, and now its wholesale price is 32 US dollars (when buying a batch of 1000 pieces). Four cores operate at a frequency of 1.3 GHz, but under load it can grow to 1.86 GHz. The integrated graphics core with active use accelerates to 667 MHz, and in normal mode its frequency is half that. The production technology is 22 nm, the volume of the second level cache is 2 MB. The processor supports a 64-bit instruction set and, theoretically, can address up to 4 GB of RAM. However, the vast majority of manufacturers put half as much volume, explaining this by the lack of performance gains when installing 4 GB. So in Acer W4 we are met only 2 GB.



    64 GB on-board storage capacity. This, in principle, is enough for a minimal set of software, but movies and music, not to mention photos, have nowhere to store. You can insert a microSD card for them, and the official website says that the maximum amount is limited to 32 GB, and in practice, 64 GB works. 128 is already acceptable for a small personal computer. By the way, the speed of the chip soldered on the motherboard is surprisingly high - up to 165 MB / s when reading and up to 66 MB / s when writing. This explains the fast loading and overall speed of work.

    Now, I think it's time to look inside. Theoretically, the back cover of the W4 is not removable, but in practice it can be removed easily with a piece of thin plastic or just a strong long nail.



    The battery capacity is 5020 mAh (20 Wh), and it takes up all the free space inside the case. The official site promises us battery life of up to 10 hours, but I'm afraid this is a noticeable exaggeration. In practice, it’s more correct to talk about six o’clock. Word, a browser with windows of social networks, mail synchronization - in this mode. As a video player, the tablet lasts longer, especially if you use a player that supports hardware decoding. If you do not overdo it with brightness, you can watch a movie for up to eight hours in a row.



    In my version of Iconia W4 there is 3G support implemented using the Huawei MU736 module. This is a relatively recent model, which went on sale in March last year. The maximum data rate is 21 Mbit / s, sending 5.76 Mbit / s. It works stably, the network holds tenaciously. The only thing to complain about is that the MU736 is pretty voracious. And if you want the tablet to work on battery longer, 3G is better off.

    For Wi-Fi, the Broadcom-based module supports 2.4- and 5-GHz bands. The maximum connection speed is 300 Mbps, which is more than enough for such a compact device. There are no complaints about the stability of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, everything is perfect.


    With heat-scattering screens


    And without them

    The motherboard is strikingly reminiscent of ... a gun. It is unlikely that the engineers specifically sought this, but see for yourself - it’s really Dzerzhinsky’s Mauser. You reinforce the similarity by the fact that a 3G module is inserted from below, like a clip.



    The tablet is distinguished by rather vociferous stereo speakers. True, they are located so that it is problematic to achieve a true stereo effect, but they play loudly. The main thing is, holding the tablet horizontally, do not overlap one of them with oxygen.



    The overall design of the Iconia W4 is simple and easy to repair. All potential weaknesses are implemented on separate boards - both the power connector and its controller. So, if something happens, the repair should not be too expensive. We also note that there are no “sandwiches” on the W4 motherboard, and all the main chips are CPU, RAM, storage, etc. - soldered separately. This means that the likelihood of contact breakage during shock or shaking is minimized.


    A processor surrounded by RAM and a drive. A


    board with power connectors and headphones.


    All components in one frame.

    Simple and reasonable, let's say so. And I won’t swear even at open microSD and SIM card slots, since nothing comes out of them, no matter how hard you try.



    I won’t talk about cameras either good or bad. Conventional tablet cameras. Facial - for online communication. Rear - for not very important pictures of medium quality. If you want to shoot well, you need another device. And this is so for photo and video notes.



    And now let's talk about the main thing - how convenient the tablet is as a workhorse in the field.

    At work

    Can I use a tablet on Windows 8 without a hardware keyboard? Yes you can. But only in the interface of Modern UI (nee Metro). Both he and the applications for him are pretty well imprisoned for touch control.

    But this interface is for consuming content. And if in my case everything was limited to them, I would prefer a tablet on iOS or Android. But the task is to work, and all important applications, including the Microsoft Office 2013 package, are launched in the desktop interface.


    The tablet is too thin to accommodate a full-sized USB port, but comes with an adapter that allows you to get the desired one from the micro-USB port.

    Under Iconia W4 there is no “native” cover with a hardware keyboard, so I used a universal one, suitable for almost all Acer tablets, and other companies too. Externally, the case resembles a small leather folder or envelope. Expanding it, we find the keyboard itself, and the leather part folds up fantastically and turns into a stand. The connection with the tablet is established via Bluetooth, one battery charge lasts for a long time - I could not land it in two weeks.




    There are no latches on the keyboard cover - the tablet is simply placed on the stand and that’s it. This is normal when you are working at a table, but if you put the structure on your knees or on your belly, it becomes unstable. The tablet strives to move to the side or fall on the screen, you have to hold it. Sometimes the magnets diverge, and then the Iconia W4 gradually falls back. This, of course, is not very convenient. By the way, on another Acer tablet, the Aspire Switch 10 , the keyboard clings and serves as an additional power source. But there will be separate material about him.

    I put the usual set of software and start working. To start, I am writing text in Word. Everything goes smoothly, until there is a need to select a line, increase the font and make it fatter. Of course, you can do this without a mouse. But I took this operation, so as not to lie, about five minutes. It seems that I somehow selected the text, you try to make a double tap out of habit and open the properties, but the selection somehow gets confused. You start poking at the menu, and it is, infection, small. As a result, of course, he managed. But the perplexity remains.

    It turns out that the touch screen does not replace the mouse and touchpad. For full-fledged work, they are still needed - either one or the other. It was obvious to me when I started using my first tablet on Windows 8 - Dell Latitude 10bought a year and a half ago. But he did not pretend to be an ultra-compact gadget, weighed decently today, and therefore I considered the trailer in the form of a keyboard and mouse to be quite reasonable. But here we have a compact gadget weighing 415 grams. What, and also need to carry a bag of accessories to it? Come on? I’m even somehow uncomfortable talking, but in Pages on an iPad with a hardware keyboard it’s much easier to work with text ...

    There’s no need to talk about working in Photoshop without a mouse. Therefore, we stop playing ultramobility, we catch a tailless beast and check - how is the Iconia W4 in general?


    Hit me if you can

    You know, surprisingly cheerful. There is nothing to talk about the office suite - it flies. Viewing photos in RAW is also surprisingly fast - both from the built-in drive and through the home network. There is almost no difference with a large PC, except, of course, not counting the small screen diagonal.

    Work in Photoshop, too, at first struck by playfulness. Opening files and simple operations, such as adjusting the brightness and correcting the white balance, occurs instantly. And this, I note, with a 20-megapixel RAW from the Sony RX100 camera. If you do not open more than a dozen files at the same time, the comfort is complete, well, and then, of course, you start to rest against 2 GB of RAM and speed decreases. When applying filters more seriously, like Smart Sharpen, the difference with the desktop PC and the ultrabook is big. In one shot, the tablet can work up to three minutes. In principle, you can wait, but half an hour for ten shots ... too much. It is better to do with minimal edits of the pictures, and leave filters and other gadgets for a serious car.


    Putting a tablet with a set of accessories and my own Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook next to it, I suddenly noticed that the difference wasn’t that big ...


    And in thickness ...

    The general feeling is: it’s quite possible to work, but it’s not worth it to be seduced by the miniature size of the tablet. To ensure its full functionality in the bag, you need a volume that is about one and a half times higher than the originally planned. Plus, if the hardware keyboard is not equipped with a touchpad, when deployed on the ground, you need a flat surface for the mouse. And this, of course, radically reduces the mobility of the workplace. It makes you think: maybe hell with her, with this ease, and is it better to take an ultrabook tomorrow?

    Total

    If we consider the Acer Iconia W4 as a device, it's hard to find fault with it. Light weight, decent screen, thoughtful maintainable design.

    But the Windows 8.1 operating system, at least at this stage of development, does not do without hardware additions in the form of a keyboard and touchpad. The lack of them in the kit makes the purchase not fully completed. And, perhaps, someone's attempts to work as is will cause a storm of not the most positive emotions.

    Meanwhile, the tablet is not very cheap. Version with 3G will cost an average of 17,990 rubles. Add to this at least 3,000 rubles for a keyboard case, and you get a pretty impressive amount. Meanwhile, for 29,000 rubles you can buy an Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook with an 11-inch screen, 4 GB of RAM, a Core i5 processor and 128 GB SSD. There is an opinion that for a full-fledged work, to pay extra oh.



    This model, perhaps, will have to be recommended to those who prefer to mainly consume content, and only sometimes, in a relaxed home or hotel setting, briefly turns into a creator.

    Perhaps the situation with the comfort of work will change a little with the upcoming update of Windows 8.1, but it’s always a little strange for me when the improvements are vaguely promised tomorrow, and they offer to bring money right now. And it’s a little disappointing that Acer here, by and large, can’t change anything.

    The author thanks Alexander Levchenko ( www.tech-town.ru ) for his help in preparing this article.

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