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Thread: Windows 8 on the Samsung Series 7 Slate

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  1. Default Windows 8 on the Samsung Series 7 Slate

    This was asked about in another thread, so I figured it was time to start a new topic. I didn't see a dedicated Samsung subforum, nor a Windows 8 subforum, so I'm putting this here in the general forum for now. Mods should feel free to move it if there's a better place for this discussion.

    First off, my background. Compared to some of the folks on this forum, I am a relative newcomer to the TabletPC space. My first tablet was a hand-me-down Motion M1400 about 3-4 years ago. I'd been coveting a slate tablet for years, but never had the money or work justification to purchase one. I immediately fell in love with the M1400 and slate tablets in general, quickly conforming my workflow to the new platform. From there I moved to a lightly used LE1700, which I've used for just over two years.

    I use a tablet for taking notes (OneNote synched with Dropbox means that I have notes for every single meeting I've attended in the last 3.5 years immediately accessible) and for lightweight content production and review. This involves heavy user of Excel and Word, moderate use of Sketchbook Pro and Photoshop for concept work and approval and light use of Illustrator and InDesign for final production. The LE1700 has served me well over the last two years, with what is STILL the best screen in the market space, a nice comfortable form factor and decently good performance.

    But, it's getting older, slower and this newfangled "touch" thing is kind of catching on. I found myself picking up my iPad more and more often when I just wanted to consume content, and found myself more and more annoyed at system slowdowns as Windows 7 collected the usual cruft of security updates and other things that slowed it down from the early days. Waiting half a bus trip just for Illustrator to start was kind of the last straw.

    So, one supervisor approval later, I have a brand new Samsung Series 7 Slate for work. After using it for about 5 minutes just to confirm that (A) it worked and (B) It was full of crapware and stupid configurations, I blew away the OS and installed a clean copy of Windows 8 Developer Preview, sans tools.

    I used this page as a guide for the Windows 8 install:
    http://bradwilson.typepad.com/blog/2011/11/win8-dp-on-samsung-series-7-slate.html

    The only thing that didn't work for me was the USB key install. First, it needs a key larger than 4Gb, as the usable space on all of my 4Gb keys was about 100Mb too low to fit all of the files. Second, once I got that working and booted from the key, it refused to acknowledge that there were proper drivers for the hardware on the key (despite having copied all of the files and followed all of the steps). So, since I had a portable USB DVD drive anyway, I just used that instead and all went well.

    I'd already played around with Windows 8 a little bit on a traditional laptop, so I had some idea of what to expect, but I really wanted to try it out and see how well the metro style apps worked with a touch device as well as how the overall experience would be improved. Given that the traditional desktop mode is ALMOST indistinguishable from Windows 7, it seemed a no brainer to play around with it and see how well it worked.

    After installing all of the Samsung drivers as per the page above (and removing one, which is a subject for the next post), I ended up with Windows 8, Office 2010, Dropbox and Sketchbook Pro. Overall the system has been pretty well behaved, the metro style apps are an interesting concept, especially given how they implemented that feature into Internet Explorer, and for the most part, my software works as expected. I'll follow this up with my specific experiences with the software and features I care about, with the hope that this will prove valuable to anyone who is wondering about either the platform or the OS.

  2. Default

    Microsoft OneNote

    This is my "make or break" application on any tablet, as I am so addicted to having searchable digital notes, available anywhere. I had two concerns about the Series 7 in this regard, neither of which was as bad as I'd feared.

    The first concern I had was the screen size and proportions. As most people know, this is a WIDE tablet, 16:9 aspect ratio with what I would consider a rather stupid resolution of 1366x768. This is a serious step down from the beautiful screen on my LE1700, with an almost perfect 8.5x11 piece of paper aspect ration and 1400x1050 resolution. There are a lot of things I dislike about the iPad, but I will say that the 4:3 aspect screens are far better for portrait mode than widescreen, and I really do think Microsoft dropped the ball by making 16:9 or 16:10 the official spec for Windows 8. That said, this thing is also 2/3 the size of My LE1700 in all dimensions, including weight. The screen viewing angles and brightness are even better than Motion's ViewAnywhere display, and it's really a joy to use, so I'm willing to cut them a little bit of slack.

    I use OneNote in Portrait mode, and I used to have 1050 pixels of width to carry the notebook menu, current notes and page menu. But in the end, my actual writing width fits easily inside the boundaries of the Samsung. Basically what I do is use the normal view for navigation and then use OneNote's full screen view for note taking, which strips off most of the crap and leaves you with just a notebook. I found it very easy to get used to this, and by the time the first meeting was halfway over, I was perfectly comfortable with the Samsung, even with the aspect ratio.

    I also LOVE the way the OneNote team implemented touch. They perfectly understand that pens are for writing and touch is for navigation, so instead of what I had feared, where touching the page would draw a line, instead the pen does all of the note taking and my fingers let me scroll up and down as needed. Other than the occasional palm rejection issue (I need to train myself to always put the stylus tip close to the screen before resting my palm) I found the experience to be very satisfying.

    The pressure sensitivity works fine with the built-in drivers, and the eraser works well too. Even better, I have yet to experience the annoying lag that was happening more and more often in Windows 7, where flipping to the eraser would occasionally take a few seconds to "stick" and I'd end up drawing lines with the eraser before it started erasing.

    Really the only thing that I'm going to need to get used to on this device is the screen. My LE1700 has a nice matte, somewhat grainy screen protector, which is a very different feel than the slick glass of the Samsung. It helped a bit to swap stylus tips for a felt tip (sadly not included with the tablet, but you can get them from Wacom) but it's still a bit of a different feel than I'm used to. I don't think it's something that will bother my long term however.

  3. Default

    Wacom Drivers

    I mentioned above that I had some trouble with the Wacom drivers for this device. I haven't had much time to try and troubleshoot yet, but what I found is that while the digitizer works perfectly with the native Windows drivers, when I installed the Wacom drivers from Samsung's Easy Software manager, they caused all sorts of havoc with the system.

    The first indication I knew something was wrong after a reboot was the dreaded (to me) old fashioned cursor. On my LE1700 in the early days, anytime I saw a regular windows cursor and not the Win7 tablet "star" I knew that I was in trouble. In this case the tablet lost all palm rejection, repeated flickering the cursor as it argued for position with my palm.

    So, I quickly removed the drivers, rebooted and all was better again.

    For most people this is pretty much the end of it. The native drivers work fine, so you're set. Unfortunately, I am not "most people" and I made extensive use of both pressure sensitivity in Photoshop and Illustrator (which require Wacom drivers) but also have several styli with twin side buttons, and being able to have a side button mapped to shift is very much a part of my workflow (the major uses being multiple select for moving and deleting files or email, and drawing straight lines quickly in Sketchbook pro or Photoshop).

    So, this is a problem that I'm going to have to solve, since without the Wacom drivers, two of the pretty critical use cases have gotten a lot less efficient for me. I haven't had time yet to do a comprehensive search to see if others are having this problem or not in Windows 8, but if and when I find a solution I'll be certain to archive it here.

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