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First Impressions

ExoPC Front

ExoPC Back

About the ExoPC

ExoPC Side

Merchandise

ExoPC Tshirt
ExoPC Magnetic Calendar
ExoPC Notebook

Peripherals

ExoPC in car mount on desk

Logitech blue-tooth keyboard with built in touch pad
The Blue-tooth keyboard I used.


Cheap USB wireless keyboard and mouse
Cheap wireless USB keyboard
& mouse combo I used.

Below are some links to products that will definitely work with your ExoPC














ExoPC Logo

ExoPC Specifications

Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
UI Layer ExoPC UI Layer
App Store Yes
Multi-touch Capacitive dual-touch, Pressure sensitive
Display 11,6 inches, 1366 x 768, 135 pixels per inch
RAM (installed / max) 2GB DDR2
CPU Intel Atom Pineview-M N450 1.66 GHz - 64 bit support
Graphics Intel GMA 3150 BROADCOM Crystal HD 1080p
Storage SSD 32GB or 64GB
Wireless Wifi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Ports USB 2.0 x2, Audio jack, Mini-HDMI, Dock, Card reader - SD/SDHC 32GB Max
Accelerometer Yes
Light sensor Yes
Webcam 1.3 MP
Microphone Yes
Speaker Built-in 2 x 1.5W
Battery 4 - 6 hours depending on use.
Dimensions 295 x 195 x 14.0mm - 950g

First Impressions

ExoPC Yellow UI

Staring me in the face was this neat little glossy faced box of tricks! It was a little smaller than I had imagined, but it wasn't too small.....or was it?

You can tell that it has been hand made as the screen doesn't sit perfectly in the surrounding bezel, and sometimes when handling the slate, the screen tends to move away from the main unit. This has something to do with why the accuracy with the screen is not 100%. Obviously we can look forward to a much better build with the final production units.

It was a little heavier than I first thought, but only because I really didn't know what to expect. Now that I’ve had it and used it for a few days I don't even notice the weight, which really isn't that much. (And is even 144 grams heavier that the FP (final production) unit)


About the ExoPC

The screen is BIG, perhaps it might seem small to you when you first open the box, but once you start to use it, you see that actually you have a lot of real estate on the 11.5" LCD.

The fan is almost constantly on, which is a bit of a bummer, but we know that this will be sorted in the final production units, and will only come on when needed; however, the unit does get quite hot when on charge (naturally), I only hope that the fan that is used in the FP unit is more powerful but quieter.

In the centre at the top of the screen is the 1.3MP forward facing camera. I've tested the camera and it works well for web-cam chats and takes quite good high resolution stills.
In the left upper corner is the light sensor and an indictaion LED which is orange when charging, and blue when first powering on.
Apart from those two above there is absolutely nothing else on the face of the device, just glass.

Turn the Exo on its left side and from left to right you have; Power socket 3mm jack, Mini HDMI port, 2xUSB ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, SD Card Reader & SIM card slot. Flip it upside down and all you have are vents in the casing and a docking port.

ExoPC Official Dock

The ports are positioned perfectly, I wouldn't want them anywhere else on the unit. 2 x USB should be ample for most people, I don't think I ever used both in one go. The HDMI was very easy to use, as you can see in my video, and it was a crystal clear picture, no jumping, jittering and the colours were perfect. You could easily use this to extend the desktop on the unit to another monitor/HD TV. I suppose if you have a main desk but are out and about a lot, if you dock the unit to the ExoPC official dock, with a USB keyboard & mouse already connected, all you would have to do is connect up your HD monitor to the HDMI and you have yourself a desktop PC(!) ready to transform to a mobile device when called in to action.

The ExoPC does not in any way feel cheap! If anything because of the weight, (again its not too heavy), it feels solid as a rock! Like you could drop it out from under your arm and it would just bounce on the floor (not tested!) and be fine.

The casing, on the back and some of the bezel, is coated in some kind of rubbery material which really helps for grip, especially when carrying it with one hand.
The problem with it being a coating is that in time, with wear, that coating will inevitably wear off. Not everywhere mind, but in certain key hands-on area's.

Even though its not the FP screen, the one in the prototype is very good........ from certain angles! When you get those angles right the screen is bright, vivid and very clear & crisp & not pixelated at all, all the corners are sharp and the rounded edges smooth, just what you want from an LCD screen.


Using the ExoPC

Windows 7

Windows 7 is a marvelous work of art, it really is the best bits of all of Microsoft's attempts at creating an astounding OS over the years. The Windows UI is very good, it even has a mode for tablet devices to make thinks like buttons & icons larger for your fingers to hit them easier....... but(!) it’s just not good enough for a solely touch enabled device! Which is where the ExoPC UI layer comes to the rescue!

A couple of occasions, when I was using the ExoPC in Windows, it took me to a screen (full screen on a PDF viewer for example), I lost the start bar and no other buttons were visible, I couldn't get up the on screen keyboard to close the app or get back to the home page. That’s were you really need a ‘hard’ ‘home’ key, that takes you back to a position where you can recover the app or close it, probably just the same as the ‘show the desktop’ button in Win 7, or perhaps to bring up the Task Manager, that’s the only thing I can say that this unit is lacking. On those occasions all I could do to get back to life was to re-boot.

Edit: 3rd Sep 2010 I tried pressing the hard button on the back of the device, but this just put it into standby mode, when it woke again I had the login screen, but from there all I could do was click the button to log in, no other options were available. Once logged back in it took me straight back to my full screen app and I was back at square one again. If anything this is a limitation of the app, i should have been able to 'right click' inside the app and choose to come out of full screen mode.

ExoPC docked in car mount on desk

The general feel, performance-wise of the ExoPC is that of a middle range laptop. The 2GB RAM really helps the CPU, if it were any less I would bet the unit would run rather laggy. Tap the screen and it responds immediately, and even though its the prototype screen (most of the time) its quite accurate.

Loading apps like a web browser, Wordpad or PDF reader is quite snappy, there's not much loading time, (especially with Chrome). Other apps such as Microsoft Word/Excell take a little longer, 20 seconds or so, but once they're loaded they're very snappy.

Edit: 3rd Sep 2010
This was before I worked out the Windows Media Sharing was running in the background and eating up all of the CPU! Having done another test, apps like Word, Excell etc. have a load time just a tad behind the browsers, so quite quick. (Stupid Windows Media Sharing!) . . . . Actually its a good feature if you have a REALLY powerful machine to do it on.

Edit: 15th Sep 2010
With the new SSD in the unit things are really speeding up! The ExoPC was snappy before but now things like office 2010 apps load up and a couple of seconds! Applications install faster and things like Photoshop load quicker too. There really is a VAST difference between these two SSD drives. The upgrade was definitely worth the two week extra wait!
Please see the comparrison videos below.

Video Link: Original slower SSD
Video Link: New super fast SSD

Web-browsing on the ExoPC is an area where it shines, obviously we have so much choice with browsers and because the big three are 'touch enabled' there's no fiddling with the tiny thin scroll bar to navigate up & down the page. Obviously flash is supported (Windows 7 OS) so Youtube and various websites that embed flash, whether it be videos or games or just banners work perfectly and fluidly.

I varied the way I held the ExoPC depending on mood, sometimes I'd use one hand (left) gripping between my thumb and index finger, and tap the buttons and keyboard with my right, other times I'd place the ExoPC in the palm of my left hand and half support it with my wrist, its all down to personal preference.

Video Link: Web Browsing Comparison
Video Link: Pinch Zoom Revisited

ExopC desktop view

I found myself in the landscape mode almost 90% of the time, only moving to portrait for testing or reading PDF's. The current software for rotating the screen is very crude, the screen goes black and the transition is pretty unpleasent! All this will be solved in the final version though and we'll see a smooth transition with no 'black screen' effect. To add to that the software is way too sensitive in this prototype, something that has been ironed out also for the FP units that you will buy.

The basic version of the UI that was installed on the prototype was in fact that, pretty basic, but that doesnt mean it wasnt a good concept. To be able to organise your games, apps, music & videos like they intend it to is genius and the UI itself is simple & easy, just what you want for a touch user interface..

HDMI

This is one of the main features that got me excited about the ExoPC, the ability to output 1080p video to your HD TV!

First thing I did was go and buy a mini HDMI to HDMI lead from beleive it or not, Tesco's for about £10.00

My HDMI output demonstration video (link below) says it all. The whole process was quick, easy and had amazing results. The picture on my TV was crystal clear, crisp and free from jittering or staggered playback. You can either choose to output the audio through the HDMI lead to your TV, through the in-built speakers, or the option I chose the 3.5mm headphone/line-out jack. This enabled me to run the audio through my surround sound amplifier, and boy was the whole experience good!

MP4 Playback through VLC was not good! But I may not have had the right codec. I used Windows Media Player in my demonstration and it was very smooth.

Video Link: HDMI Output To HD TV

Peripherals

Me at my desk at work

I docked the Exo on my desk and turned on my blue-tooth keyboard with built in touch pad. It connected in two seconds (after the initial paring on a separate occasion) and I was typing in three. I connected up my blue-tooth headphones and streamed audio from Media Player while i surfed the web. Both these peripherals were going at the same time and neither conflicted.
I plugged in my external hard drive to the USB port and started to install an app from it to the ExoPC. While that was happening I took my micro SD card from my phone with all my music on, put it in an SD adapter and slipped it in to the SD card slot. Within a few seconds I’d added my music to my play-list and created a new play-list to listen to. It was SO easy! SO quick and effortless.
After downloading Windows Mobile Centre I connected up my phone (HTC HD2) to the USB lead and synced it, installed an app on my phone and then disconnected it, seriously took like 30 seconds end to end. This can all obviously be done on the go too, not just sitting at a desk; on the bus, the tube/subway, in the park, at school/university there really is no limit.
At first I couldn't get the on-board GPS to work (Needed BIOS update) so I used my external blue-tooth GPS dongle (Dconnex Blue-tooth GPS), went outside and within moments I’d added the dongle to the connection list and was using a demo version of Microsoft Streets & Trips!

Stylus

All I can say is, wait for the official ExoPC stylus, as the majority of the ones I tried were useless!
The best type of stylus you can get would be a soft sponge type one that has a tip very similar to the anti-static foam that micro-chips are packed in, that would give you the accuracy and the flow/glide you would need to have a good stylus experience.
Here are a few I tried:-

This one was promising but the rubber bulb on the end was too grippy on the glass screen, for the handwriting recognition demonstration video, I had wrapped and taped some tin-foil around the rubber bulb at the tip, which worked a treat as it transfered the electrical current, but then glided over the glass screen perfectly. The only problem was that I had to keep replacing the foil as and when it split from use! Stylus 1
This one was just plain useless, you have to hold it in a specific way, at a specific angle for it to work, and when it does work its not very good anyway. Avoid this type of stylus if you can. Stylus 2
This one wasnt bad, it glides well over the glass as it has a sponge type tip, but it's just not accurate enough and kept losing connection with the screen, especially if you moved too fast. If you pressed on the screen quite hard then it worked quite well, but who wants to write with force and get cramp? Stylus 3
This one seemed ok at first, but then I realised it was just lucky I was holding it right as after a minute or so I struggled with it. Its basically the same as the second one in this list, only the tip is rubber. Avoid! Stylus 4

Closing Summary

Considering the ExoPC I had was a prototype, it really blew (and still does blow) me away!
I really didn't think that you could get the power of a decent operating system in this form factor, a 14mm thick salte for goodness sake!

The combination of the fully functioning Exo UI Layer and the Windows OS will make this unit top of its class, a must have! Ok the design is not as sleek as the iPad granted, but who cares, who wants to pay a lot of money for a big iPod touch and then try and use it as a fully functioning PC? Only simpletons. The ExoPC is a fully functioning PC.

With the ExoPC the uses & possibilities are infinate, there will always be some new USB peripheral that comes out that enables it to do something new, just like with our laptops we have already, only this thing doesnt have to sit on your lap and fry your thighs with its eminating heat!, or be placed on a table to be able to take notes quickly or book that last minute flight. The freedom that the ExoPC gives you has been a long time coming, we should have had this kind of thing years ago, my hat goes off to Jean-Bapstiste and the awesome guys & gals at ExoPC for bringing us this revolution in ultra mobile computing.

Long live ExoPC!


To answer to my question in my first paragraph, no, no it is not too small it fits perfectly in to my life.

See my videos on Youtube...

Author

Kevin Dark - 2nd September 2010