While most of the tablet PC industry is trying to go cheaper with their tablets to compete with the iPad and other technology of the same ilk, MSI has decided to go in the opposite direction, with surprisingly successful results. Rather than downgrading everything on their Wind Pad to bring the price and the usability down, they seem to have spared no expense in making this less a tablet for quaint, mobile computing, and more a full netbook garbed in a tablet’s innocuous clothing.
The Wind Pad is slightly bigger than the iPad, using a 10.1 inch screen rather than the 9.7 inches of the iPad. The display isn’t quite as crisp, using a 1,024 X 600 resolution rather than the 1,024 X 768, but that is hardly a noticeable difference for basic computing. It weighs in at just under two pounds, which makes it almost the same weight as the iPad, so it doesn’t feel bulky or clumsy.
Under the Hood
What is more impressive is not what the device looks like, but rather what sort of horsepower it is packing. It has a single core 1.66 GHz Intel Atom, which is much quicker off the line than the iPad and runs everything much faster. This is due in part to the 2GB of RAM against the 256MB available in the iPad. It runs like a Swiss clock that has been nose deep in tweak for the last eight hours. It’s a pleasure cruise for power in a small package.
The problem is that power comes at a nearly two hour sacrifice in endurance. All that bang means that it can usually only run for about 8 hours, which isn’t quite as impressive as the 10 hours common with iPad usage. This means that if you are one of the last hardcore transcendentalist poets and plan on marathon writing sessions in your favorite grove, the iPad is going to be a better choice.
Of course, a real transcendentalist would be scrawling with charcoal on bark, so I’ll not listen to complaints from that corner about their tablet PC’s.
The wireless connection in the Wind Pad is the same WiFi/3G as the iPad, so connectivity will not suffer in the slightest from one to the other.
Where the Wind Pad does falter somewhat is that it only offers one level of hard drive space out of the box: 32 GB. This gives fewer options to the consumer, so they are stuck sometimes either with insufficient storage for their needs, or a surplus of space. This can be frustrating for those that dislike paying for things they do not use, as well as for those that would pay more for exactly what they need.
The Head of Operations
The Wind Pad uses Windows 7, which can be very nice, but also problematic. Almost any PC user would agree that Windows 7 does not suffer from nearly as many flaws as many of its forbearers. It has a much more intuitive user interface, greater flexibility for driver usage and hardware upgrades, and it doesn’t drink and then slap your old lady around like some Windows versions have done (I’m looking at you Vista).
The problem with Windows 7 is it does not lend itself very kindly to touchscreen compatibility. It feels sluggish and unfriendly. The clicking and dragging maneuvers are hostile and require time to perfect. It uses a totally new customized User Interface skin, that helps somewhat, but still makes the touchscreen feel slightly unnatural.
The other issue with Windows 7 is that a full install requires 16GB of hard drive space. With only 32GB available, the Windows 7 installation is a detriment that fully halves the available storage space.
Bells / Whistles
What really sets the Wind Pad apart from other tablets is how far it goes to becoming much like its laptop and netbook brethren. It sports a very serviceable webcam that would make any YouTube jockey proud, an HDMI plug for those that want to use their tablet as an accessory for their digital television, and (most importantly) a USB port for whatever devices the end user wants to jam into its dainty little socket.
The USB port alone makes up for a lot of the marginal sins otherwise perpetrated by the Wind Pad. It opens up the customizable operations of the device, so the user is not restricted to only that which comes loaded, but a veritable horn of plenty. This way the touchscreen can be overcome with a mouse. A larger keyboard can be attached. Storage devices of all shapes and sizes can be plugged in for the mobile user that needs them.
The Wind Pad is the bridge between the world of the tablet PC and the world of the laptop. It is the first step toward making Windows 7 fully portable. It brings customization and power to the fingertips of the mobile user. Does it accomplish these things admirably? No, it certainly does not. It is unlikely that the Wind Pad will topple the iPad, especially as it totes a $700+ price tag. What it is, instead, is a display of what can be done in the tablet market. It is the Betamax of tablet PCs. I – using my technological crystal ball – predict that every tablet to follow which targets the premium user, will be required to carry the same abilities of the Wind Pad. Anything less will be seen as uncivilized Luddite gadgetry, not suitable for sophisticated society.