ExoPC Prototype - Vigourous Testing & Review

First Impressions
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.....perhaps.

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 fan is almost constantly on, which is a bit of a bummer, but we know that - that 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 units is more powerful but quieter.

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 an 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.

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 is a marvellous 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.

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 install an app from it to the USB port and started to install. 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!

Author: Kevin Dark - 1/1/2009 10:00:00 AM