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Thread: Motion LE1600 full review

  1. #1

    Default Motion LE1600 full review

    The LE1600 was announced in May of 2005 as an update to the M line of slate tablets. It came out as the first slate to feature the latest Centrino mobile technology combined with a hot-swappable extended battery for a full day of mobility. Designed to be clipboard sized, the LE1600 shaved both a quarter pound of weight and a quarter inch of thickness off the previous M1400.

    Today, the LE1600 represents an affordable point of entry into the world of active Wacom digitizer based pen slate computers. The 12” screen is a dream to write on and the Centrino chipset is still enough to keep up with most office and internet tasks. These machines are currently available used and refurbished for less than most netbooks, and offer similar or better performance with the added benefit of the active Wacom pen technology.

    Specs of the review unit:

    Intel® Centrino® Mobile Technology with the Intel® Pentium® M Processor Low Voltage 758 (2MB of L2 cache, 1.50GHz, 400MHz FSB)
    1GB RAM (max 1.5GB)
    60GB HDD (1.8” 4200RPM)
    12.1" XGA TFT LCD with viewing angles up to 180 degrees and active digitizer technology
    Intel 915GMS Extreme Graphics controller
    Maximum 128MB total with Intel Dynamic Video Memory Technology
    11.65”x9.64”x.87”, 3.1lbs standard (38.5WHr), 4.1lbs with extended battery (40WHr)

    Design

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    When I first picked up the Motion LE1600, I was impressed with how slim and sturdy it is. The magnesium and cabon fiber frame give it very solid feel while keeping the weight down. Speaking of the weight, it is well balanced across the machine, and even with the extended battery, remains quite manageable for holding in the crook of one arm to write with the other. Picking it up one handed is much easier without the extended attached, but still doable with it on. The rounded edges also make it very comfortable to hold.

    While the ports and buttons sure are convenient to have, they do leave the front and edges of the device looking cluttered. Also, the spread of the ports over the two sides of the device does make a little more awkward to use in portrait mode, because either way you flip it, there will be ports sticking out the bottom that may need to have things plugged into them. Speaking of...

    Ports and Buttons

    In landscape:
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    bottom: keyboard and dock connections

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    left: wifi switch, power slider, 2 USB, mic/headphone, proprietary DVI-D, VGA, ethernet

    top: all battery, which does provide a nice grippy handle for holding the machine in one arm in portrait mode

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    right: pen garage, vent, SD card slot, Type I/II PC card slot, AC adapter

    Front bezel in landscape:

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    left: ctl/alt/del (SAS) button, fingerprint reader (doubles as scrolling surface)

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    right: LEDs for power, charging status, HDD activity, Wifi activity

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    tablet buttons including escape, function, a 4-way directional button with enter in the middle, a button to bring up the dashboard, and screen rotate

    That’s a lot of useful ports and buttons. The thing that isn’t so useful is the arrangement. In standard portrait, the power adapter, pen, and card slots are all coming at you out the bottom. The other way around, the USB ports are coming out the bottom. This might not be a problem for some, but if you want to set the device up on something (like a music stand) in portrait mode, things start to become inaccessible. For one of my uses (digital sheet music) that means that I have to run on battery and pull the pen out before I set it down, as the USB foot pedal has to be sticking out the top. Most of Motion’s promotional shots show the machine being used in landscape mode.

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    Two panels on the back also open for easy access to the HDD, wifi card, and single RAM slot.

    Screen, Digitizer, and Pen

    The 12” 4:3 screen is really nice. It feels just right for writing notes, and is nicer to draw on than the smaller TC1100. Although, the interface does look a little big when 1024x768 is blown up to 12”. To think that 15” notebooks used to come with only that many pixels.

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    The screen is not exactly glossy, but it sure does attract fingerprints. I’ve had no problem with glare, but in bright light, the fingerprint smudges become annoying. It also looks pretty messy when the machine is off.

    The pen is thick and comfortable to hold for long writing sessions. It’s a little heavier than the pen of the TC1100, but in a good way. It does have an eraser end, which is a nice bonus. It also has one button on the side for right click, but mine was broken.

    Heat and Fan Noise

    I could only hear the fan if I held the machine up to my ear. It only gets warm sometimes, and never hot. It runs comparable to the TC1100 in terms of heat, but with nowhere near the blow dryer fan noise of the TC1100. The noisiest thing on the LE1600 is the hard drive. A quick SSD upgrade and you’d have a cool, near silent device.

    Sound and Speakers

    These are some of the loudest speakers I’ve encountered in a mobile device. I was able to watch youtube and hulu with the speakers set down to around 40%, where I normally have to have them cranked all the way up on other machines. The sound is not quite as full as from dedicated external speakers, but it sure does win in the volume department.

    Audio processing was pitiful under XP, killing its ability to work for me in the studio. However, an upgrade to Windows 7 solved the playback issues in SmartMusic, and would likely greatly improve the performance of any program using MIDI for playback.

    Software

    The LE1600 was released with XP tablet edition preinstalled but is “Vista Ready” according to one of the stickers. While XP may be fine for some, I’ve been using 7 for too long to go back. I also need to run Windows 7 to get acceptable audio processing performance for studio use. I tried to use it with XP for a week, but a broken TIP, poor audio performance, poor rendering in Journal, crazy slow boot times, and general sluggishness drove me to a Windows 7 upgrade. I highly recommend the upgrade. The only drawback is that you will not get aero effects in Windows 7, but you don’t get those in XP either, so no real loss. There are some potential problems with sleep mode (mine’s not waking right now, but I haven’t tried much to fix it yet), and the install was no walk in the park (problems with both Ethernet and WiFi, but found all the drivers eventually).

    Motion includes dashboard software for controlling many aspects of the hardware including the wireless radios, display, pen and tablet, power, and security settings. This can be launched from the button on the front bezel. The original version shipped with the LE1600 is not compatible with Windows 7, but both the LE1700 dashboard and the J-series dashboard will install and work with Windows 7. I’m currently using the J-series dashboard, and the only thing that doesn’t work is control of the WiFi on/off.

    Performance

    The internet runs perfectly fine even on these older processors. While OneNote 2010 is a little slow to load, it runs fine once it’s going. The biggest bottleneck currently is the 1GB of RAM, causing switching between many running programs to be slow, as it has to go out to the page file to bring back an application that hasn’t been active recently. It’s definitely faster switching between running programs after the upgrade to Windows 7.

    I was hoping to take advantage of the SD card slot to use ReadyBoost to make up for the lack of RAM. However, none of the cards I tried (class 4 or class 6) were acceptable for Windows to use. It would seem that while the card reader can see bigger cards (it had no problem reading/writing my 16GB sandisk card), it does not do so at decent speeds, meaning no card will be fast enough for Windows to consider for ReadyBoost. http://www.tabletpcbuzz.com/showthre...268#post319268

    Video playback is good, especially considering how strong the speakers are. Standard youtube and hulu playback quite smoothly fullscreen. Hulu at 480p also stays smooth although it stutters a bit on fullscreen. Youtube will playback at 720p fullscreen as long as it’s the only thing going on. It got quite slow when I rotated the screen while a 720p video was playing, but once it caught up it was smoothish again. Netflix was also quite smooth at the default settings. Movie watching on this is definitely enjoyable.

    I put ArtRage on it and found the performance to be quite good to my untrained hand. I had my husband (who is an interactive deisigner) put it through it’s paces on both the the LE1600 and the TC1100, and the LE1600 performed noticeably better. Most tools kept up with his sketching just fine. Only the watercolor brush got a bit laggy with faster strokes.

    Benchmarks for those who like numbers (I seem to have lost the XP benchmarks, these are both done under Windows 7):

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    Comparisons

    I think the closet “competition” to the LE1600 is the HP TC1100. Both are 3lb Pentium-M based slates with Wacom digitizers that can currently be picked up for less than the cost of most netbooks. Both perform at least as well as an Atom based netbook, and both can be upgraded to Windows 7, although neither will run aero effects. They both have dock options and removable keyboard options (in addition to bluetooth for keybaords and mice).

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    The biggest physical difference is the screen size. The TC1100 has a 10.4” screen with flush edge to edge glass, while the LE1600 has a 12” screen recessed into the bezel. Both screens run the same resolution (1024x768) and have great viewing angles, but the LE1600 is brighter. The matte glass on the TC1100 hides fingerprints much better though. I have to say, every time I pick up the LE1600 I’m amazed by how beautiful the screen is. I can’t say that of the TC1100. Having the same weight under a larger screen leaves the LE1600 feeling a little thinner and lighter in my hands than the TC1100. However, the TC1100 does have a more compact footprint and fits in smaller bags.

    The LE1600 runs on a slightly faster processor (1.5GHz vs 1.1GHz) but the real difference in performance comes from the LE1600’s newer chipset. This gives it much more video RAM using integrated Intel graphics, vs the dedicated Nvidia chip in the TC1100. I have found video playback to be noticeably better on the LE1600. Unfortunately, something in the chipset of the LE1600 is not playing nice with sleep in Window 7, crashing it on wake. I have not been able to fix it yet, but others have reported success with various chipset drivers.

    Some smaller, pickier differences include: The TC1100 will hold more RAM (2GB vs 1.5GB) as well as using a 2.5” hard drive as opposed to the 1.8” drive in the LE1600. But do to chipset and BIOS limits, the TC1100 will only see 120GB max. The LE1600 has more physical buttons, while three of the TC1100’s bezel buttons are pen activated. The TC1100’s SD card slot will only see up to 1GB cards, while the LE1600 is not SDHC, it can see and write to 16GB cards.

    So, which one is better? Like so many computer decisions, so much of it depends on how you’re looking to use the machine. As much as I love my TC1100, the only reason I can see to pick it over the LE1600 is if you’re looking for a very compact machine. After going back and forth from one to the other, I find the LE1600 to be more responsive, and on a table or in the lap, the 12” screen is great. If you want to hold it in one hand, the TC1100 is a bit easier to manage. Also, beware the sleep bug with Windows 7 and the LE1600. The Windows 7 upgrade was well worth it in my case, but losing sleep is a hard trade off, although it should be fixable.
    Last edited by John Hill; 02-16-2011 at 04:07 PM.
    Formerly known as violajack.
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  2. #2

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    My memory is that the 1600 can take 2 gb of ram, even though the specs say otherwise. I put 2 in mine, and it read it. Also, what was your battery life on Win7? Given the single core processor, I would think you'd get better numbers than the 1700 running that OS.

    I found the 1600 was great for sketching, surfing, etc. but it did lag if you were going to do anything in an art program for print (i.e. high dpi or canvas size), as well as on the sophisticated brushes (like watercolor). For these things, the 1700 has shown marked improvement. Beyond that, the 1600 was great, and has better viewing angles than most 1700s (because of the switch to non-hydis screens for a while). It was just as good at doing most normal low-usage processes as the 1700, for half the price, a better screen, and a bit less weight (.2 lbs). It's amazing to me that these computers are 3-5 years old. Way ahead of their time!

  3. #3

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    Officially, it only supports 1.5 GB as 512 is onboard. But you're right that you can put a 2GB in the open slot, and I have read some debate as to whether that disables the onboard, or uses just 1.5 of the 2GB stick in the slot. Either way, I was unable to test as I didn't have a 2GB stick available. It's good to hear that it actually worked for you. It actually runs well enough off just the 1GB with Windows 7.

    Both the main battery and the secondary battery I had showed 40% wear, so even if I extrapolated what a full charge on a good battery would yield, I don't know how accurate that would have been on such worn batteries. Each battery was giving me around 1-1.5 hours. When I realized that even with both batteries, I wouldn't get a full teaching day in and still had to carry the adapter, I stopped putting the extended on. That's why I don't have battery life performance as part of the main review. I didn't think the batteries I had would be a fair representation of what the machine can really do.

    I was impressed with ArtRage, but yes it did lag somewhat on the watercolor brush. But then, I saw just as much lag with that brush on the core i5 Asus Slate at CES. I think I might have to hunt down an actual artist to test performance there, as I can only go so deep in the art stuff.

    The screen really was beautiful. In the weeks I had it, every single time I turned it on, I marveled at the screen.
    Formerly known as violajack.
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  4. #4

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    I wonder if increasing the pagefile size would improve performance. I see some people really poo-poo that, and others swear by it. I wonder if it's more about whether or not you've got a snappy new machine, or an older one like the 1600. ???

    Re: your battery life numbers. On the 1700, using win7, I still get only 1:40 mins, and that's with new batteries. So, yeah, there's definitely a boost there, given that your 1600 uses batteries with 40% wear. And you are getting numbers comparable to my new batteries in the 1700 running win7. Are you thinking about picking new ones up? I got almost 3 hours on my standard battery alone using xp. It might improve it's functionality (plus I'd be interested In seeing the numbers on win7! :) ). From your last comment it seemed like you got rid of it. ??

    One of my current issues is actually figuring out if I want to down grade to a 1600 and/or a ls800, for the combined price of a single 1700 with the good boe-hydis screen you've got in the 1600. I find a slate very difficult to use without good viewing angles. Also, there's something to be said against getting s machine that is better than what you need it for- particularly when price us a consideration.

  5. #5

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    Oh yeah, sorry, thought I had the disclaimer in the review. It was a review unit provided by John through Allegiance Technology Partners. It went back when I finished the review.

    I fell in love with the form factor while I had it, and almost purchased the review unit, but I'm a pixel junky. I want the 1400x1050 of the LE1700.

    When going with an older machine, it's important to consider the things that can't be upgraded - like the chipset and graphics, which are important for longevity in art applications. The processor may keep up for a long time, as the rise of netbooks caused the industry to shift off raw power and on to battery life and portability. But an older graphics set will start limiting other applications. My TC1100 won't run Windows Live Movie maker just because it only has 32MB of graphics memory on the nvidia graphics chip, not that I'd want to do a lot of video editing on it, but it won't even try. That's one of the reasons I find the LE1600 to be a better choice - it's one generation newer on the chipset and graphics, which will help it keep up longer. The LE1700 is just one more generation up from that (945 vs 910).
    Formerly known as violajack.
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  6. #6

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    I have to say, the major trade offs for the 1700 were the lack of good viewing angles and the diminished battery life on Win 7. Two important things for a portable slate, honestly. It also runs hotter and a bit louder (from the fans). Still, you get way better screen res, a core2 duo, and 4 gb ram as a max. So, it's not without it's benefits.

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