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Thread: ctl 2goPad SL10 full review

  1. #1

    Default ctl 2goPad SL10 full review

    Ctl 2goPad SL10

    Thereís a lot of renewed interest in tablets, with several Windows 7 based slates newly out on the market, and more coming soon. The 10Ē capacitive touch based ctl 2goPad slate has several compelling features, and a very compelling price tag.

    But letís address one issue right off the bat Ė that capacitive screen that is so nice to touch, is not for inking. I have a capacitive pen and tried my best to get it working, but no matter what program I tried, I had to press really hard and still came out with a mess. The touch screen is for navigation, not inking, and not drawing unless you enjoy finger painting. This tablet is best understood in the context of the iPad, which also comes with a capacitive touch screen and no pen. Once I stopped trying to make it be a little writing pad, and started treating it like my iPad, its potential really came out.

    Hereís what itís packing:
    Processor - Intel Atom N450 1.66 GHz
    Memory - 2GB 667MHz DDR2
    Video - 10.1' LED Capacitive Multi-Touch
    1024x600 resolution
    Integrated Intel Graphics
    Storage - 250GB SATA HDD Ė yeah, seriously, 250GB!
    Communications - Dual Antenna Wifi b/g/n
    Bluetooth
    Integrated 10/100 LAN
    Dimensions - 10.3"x6.6"x.72"
    2.6 lbs
    Ports - Bluetooth
    2 Audio Jacks: Microphone in, Speaker out
    2 USB ports
    Mini VGA out with adapter
    1 RJ45 Ethernet 10/100
    Micro SD card reader
    OS - Windows 7 32 bit
    Audio - Built-in High Definition Audio
    2 channel stereo speakers
    Omni-directional microphone
    Webcam - 1.3 megapixel
    Battery - 4 cell lithium-ion, est. 5 hour life Ė but really more like 2.5 or 3

    Design
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    If you saw the unboxing video, you know I love rubberized backs. Itís unfortunate that there are so many stickers also on the back interfering with that nice soft touch coating. Despite the nice leather case that it came with, I ended up using it out of the case plenty too. The gently rounded edges and glass (or at least, really hard plastic, the spec sheet doesnít say which) front, combined with the comfy soft touch backing make for a device that is really delightful to hold. 2.6lbs may be hefty in the small slate world, but the weight is well balanced and didnít bother me for couch surfing and reading in bed. Itís the kind of weight that combines with the solid build to give the overall feeling of high quality construction, the opposite of cheap and plasticy. The webcam and touch buttons blend into the solid glass front and give it clean look, in stark contrast to the large, shiny 2goPC logo also loudly proclaiming itself under the screen. Perhaps thatís there to distract you from your own reflection in the super glossiness of the screen.

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    It comes with a leather (synthetic) case with a kickstand that props it up at a good angle for desktop use. The little flap that holds it closed also likes to flip around and block the webcam and part of the screen. Turns out, there is a magnet in it and in the kickstand to help hold it back, but it took a few days of bending it back to get it broken in enough to stay put.

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    Once in place, itís a great size for sitting on the desk. The 10Ē screen is easily readable from both desk distance and book reading distance. Oh, and it also covers that silly logo making for a completely clean front. Unfortunately, it also covers up one of the USB ports, but with Bluetooth on board, I rarely needed even one of the USB ports. Speaking of ports:

    Ports and Buttons

    Top: heat exhaust, power button, status LEDs, microphone
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    Left: AC adapter, speaker, headphone, microphone, 2 USB, SD card, VGA adapter, Ethernet
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    Right: speaker
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    Bottom: air intake
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    Buttons on the bezel: settings, up, down, ok
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    About these buttons, I did find the up and down to be handy in applications that didnít allow drag scrolling like Seesmic. The settings button brings up a dialog that offers big buttons for turning on or off the wifi, Bluetooth, and camera as well as sliders for volume and brightness. There is also an advanced tab that controls the accelerometer and auto brightness. These are useful things to have quick access to, but I found that the buttons were right under my thumb in landscape mode and I ended up inadvertently launching the settings panel many times. The okay button is handy when you have to make a selection during boot, before the touchscreen is on.

    Screen and Touch

    The 1024x600 10Ē screen is typical of netbooks. Yes, 600 pixels are not very many, especially when turned to portrait. I ended up using the device in landscape mode most of the time, scrolling vertically, but portrait book reading was okay. The nice thing about having so few pixels is that they are easy to hit with a finger. Iíve had a Viliv S5 with the same resolution packed into a 5Ē screen, which required a stylus to hit anything accurately. The 2gpPadís display is easy to read and easy to touch - really easy to touch actually. The capacitive screen is delightful. It responds to gentle touches and swipes easily, which are handy for navigation in Windows 7. The edge to edge glass covering makes it easy to hit things in corners too. Important things tend to live in corners, like the start menu and close buttons. The best indicator of how well the touch navigation was working is how transparent it became. Itís so easy to reach out and touch what you want, and it just works with such a light touch, that I caught myself reaching for buttons on the screens of my other (not touch screen) computers too. I frequently paired it with a Bluetooth keyboard while on the desk, but rarely felt the need to plug in a mouse.

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    The only real drawbacks to the screen are its glossiness and the viewing angles. It really is distracting to see your reflection looking back out of dark scenes in videos. It can also make use in a room full of bright lights an interesting game of finding just the right angle to avoid the reflections. The LED backlighting does get nice and bright though, which can cover up a lot of reflections and fingerprints. The viewing angles are not great. Side to side angles are good with only a little brightness and contrast lost, but not much color distortion. However, being just a little bit too high results in the screen looking washed out, and being a little too low blacks it out. Luckily, the kickstand in the case puts it at just the right angle to look its best while sitting on the desk. When holding it like a book, finding the right angle was a little trickier as it started to feel a bit heavy to hold up. Itís all about getting your legs to the right angle to the hold the machine in place. I know viewing angles can be a big deal to some, but I didnít find it to be problematic for my uses. I hope these pictures help illustrate the problem angles to help you make your own decision.

    Straight on:
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    From the bottom (it fades darker and loses contrast)
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    From the top (washes out):
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    The internet straight on:
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    From the bottom:
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    From the top:
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    Windows 7 touch and keyboard

    So many reviewers like to complain about Windows not being a touch friendly OS. I donít seem to have a problem with it. Iím not even really sure exactly what they mean by ďnot touch friendly.Ē Windows 7 has the touch and tablet bits built in. The 2goPad comes with an application launching skin which I will talk about later, but even without that, I think Windows is just fine with just a finger or two. The taskbar is big enough that programs pinned to it are easy to launch. The close box is easy to hit even in the corners due to the edge to edge screen covering. The start menu, Internet Explorer, Windows Live Mail, and many other programs allow scrolling from anywhere in the windows without having to try to grab the scroll bar. In fact, I find that IEís scrolling is actually more reliable than either grab and drag in Firefox, or chrome touch in Chrome. Dragging a window to the top will maximize it, and the sides will half screen it. The only things I would really like to see to aid in navigation would be physical buttons for full screen (F11) and window switching (alt/tab or super/tab). Some links on webpages can be small to hit accurately, but that what pinch to zoom is for. The only place I really felt the need for a mouse was flash, where you have to hover to get the menu to come out.

    Windows 7 has an on screen keyboard as part of the TIP. Itís not bad. Itís resizable, and you can turn off the extra keys on the side to make the qwerty part bigger. It worked well enough to input urls, usernames and passwords, and even type a few short emails. While itís good to pull out the Bluetooth keyboard for longer typing, itís also nice to leave the keyboard behind when all you need is a window to the web, or a book.

    Easy Bits Software overlay

    Slow. Really Slow. There is a lot of unnecessary animation in transitions, and they donít even play back smoothly. I can understand the desire to have a shiny overlay to hide Windows from those reviewers who donít think it works well with touch, but itís really nothing more than an app launcher. Just as much could be accomplished by pinning frequently used apps to the taskbar and leaving icons on the desktop for others. The little clear button on the right side of the taskbar will minimize everything so you can get back to the desktop of shortcuts quickly. I left in on just to give it a fair try, but if this were my own machine, I would turn it off and uninstall it.

    Heat and Fan Noise

    There is a cost to having an Atom N450 in a small box, and that is heat. The 2goPad deals with this heat by having the fan on. All. The. Time. The device itself doesnít ever get too warm to hold comfortably. In fact, it rarely feels warm at all except for the exhaust vent on the top left. But the fan is just always going. Itís not that loud, and as long as there is something else going on (tv, music, podcasts) you wonít hear it. But reading in bed = annoying, disruptive fan.

    Sound and Speakers

    The speakers are on par with other small computers. They are enough for watching videos with the machine sitting on my desk in a quiet room. However, when the construction fired up outside our windows, I needed to plug into the speakers.

    Performance

    While the glossy widescreen lends itself well to video watching, Atom processors with Intel graphics do not. Cnet TV played back well at high quality, but HD became choppy. Hulu at 480 was not the smoothest, but still quite watchable. Netflix fared the best streaming clearly and smoothly.

    Winning a game of Solitaire (and yes, it took a lot of tries) resulting in smoothly falling and exploding cards. I have to say, Mahjong on a capacitive touch screen is really nice. The animations from exploding tiles are also smooth. I didnít attempt gaming any more intense than that. Itís an Atom based netbook.

    Overall, it performs like a typical Atom based netbook. The 2GB of RAM helps quite a bit with running Windows 7. Browsing the web and email were no problem, although seesmic desktop was sluggish. The nook for PC app worked great and I spent a fair bit of time reading on the 2goPad. The lightest swipe was all it took to turn the page.
    Benchmark results are typical netbook numbers:

    WEI
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    Geekbench:
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    Crystal Mark:
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    Comparisons

    The capacitive screen is just as responsive as the iPad, and the performance is about on par with most netbooks. The 250GB HDD is massive given most other Windows slates are coming with SSDs. This is also one of the least expensive of the currently available Windows 7 slates, by a lot, but you do sacrifice some portability and battery life over the other options.

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    For the price, the 2goPad is hard to beat. In fact, the only touch slate that does beat it in price is the base level iPad. The 2goPad also offers 250GB of storage and a full Windows 7 OS. On the other hand, the iPad will run about 3x as long on battery. I guess there is also the Archos 9 which is now down to $428 at Amazon, but really, that Atom Z515 is just not up to snuff. And Windows 7 starter, 1GB of RAM? Thereís a reason that one didnít make the chart.

    The battery life might look low, but hereís how the day played out for me Ė It was plugged in at the desk while I worked in the morning. It slept in my bag and was woken up to check email and read between students. I came home and plugged it to top off while I ate dinner. It then had enough life for some couch surfing while watching TV and reading before bed. I did almost run it down reading at night, but I should have gone to bed sooner anyway. That book was really good.

    Conclusions

    But that brings us back to the main issue. If youíre reading this review at a tablet website, chances are youíre interested in drawing or inking. Thatís not going to happen here. But, the Tega v2 is also capacitive and performed equally poorly with capacitive styluses. In fact, the Netbook Navigatorís poorly reviewed resistive screen would actually work better for inking as you could at least use a plastic stylus with more success than the Targus stylus on the 2goPad. The HP slate is promising pen input, but it looks like itís going to be N-trig, and well, they donít have the best track record. If youíre looking for little sketch pad, you may want to keep looking. If youíre looking for a companion or entertainment based device, but want a full blown OS (more than just iOS or Android), then this is good choice. In fact, itís a great choice. Despite the fact that it didnít work out for work, Iíve used it several hours every day and really enjoyed it.

    Also, I can't seem to get the pictures I didn't use inline out of the post, so enjoy some extra photos:
    Attached Images Attached Images          

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
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    Posts
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    viola:

    ...Another in a string of very nice reviews! You willingness to include a lot of images makes these exceptional. Also, the incusion of benchmark results is a nice touch.

    A couple of comments:

    <> Your observations about the Atom processor, and the Geekbench results, aren't at all surprising. IMO, Atom went too far in the direction of low-power (read: diminished capability) computing IF your ambition is to run Win7.

    <> Regarding your comment about N-trig, I understand the scepticism, but my advice would be to hold your judgment until the Slate 500 (and the Fujitsu T-580) are in the hands of users. N-trig is using a new generation of hardware, and one would hope that they have incorporated lessons learned up to this point.

    An outstanding job!

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Really nice job on the review! Linked to the front page under reviews.
    John Hill
    TabletPCBuzz, Owner/Editor

    Allegiance Tablet PC Experts, CEO
    ALLTP Website
    ALLTP Tablet PC Store


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