I’m giving up on my Intel Atom tablet- and here’s why:
In 2013, after Intel introduced the cheap Bay Trail chipsets, we saw a surge of new, cheap tablets running Windows 8.1, with Intel’s Atom platform powering them. It was a terrific scenario from Microsoft’s point of view; showcasing the best of their recently refreshed, touch-friendly OS with cheap, accessible devices- as well the advantages of a broad spectrum of OEMs throwing their support behind it.
And we did see many decent, proficient devices; the Dell Venue 8 Pro, the Asus Transformer Book T100, etc. Even the Surface 3 was powered by an Atom (albeit a newer, next-gen Cherry Trail Atom processor). They could accomplish basic tasks - handle Windows 8.1 flawlessly, web browsing, watching videos, Word and PowerPoint. They were significantly more powerful and effective than the devices they were spiritually succeeding- the ill-fated Atom powered netbooks. Some tablets were even capable of some basic gaming!
Yet, after a good run with it, I am retiring my Intel Atom tablet.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a poor device by any means. Back when these Atom tablets were gaining traction, I parted with £250 and picked up a Lenovo ThinkPad 8. Out of the sea of Windows tablets, it was the one that caught my eye. 1200P display, full metal build and a half decent pair of tablet speakers - it seemed to be the perfect rival to the iPad mini, in a way. A device I could use for light work and watching videos, reading, etc-all the things a tablet is meant for. But with the potential and power of full Windows.
Except that was the device’s downfall. Windows itself.
I did expect to use it as a tablet. I watched videos, browsed the web, used some apps; wait…
Apps. Apps apps apps.
While Windows 8.1 was still a current affair, the Windows store was a sore mess: just half-baked apps and older ones that hadn’t been updated in months gone by. Useful apps that I needed on a daily basis that were retired. I ended up without any decent note taking software that synced with my other devices, or a decent music streaming app from the service I pay for. So there went half of the tablet functions of the device.
Then comes the other side of the conundrum:
By buying a device that runs full Windows (currently Windows 10), I subconsciously raised my expectations and found myself using it for tasks one would usually assign to a laptop: Illustrator for some light graphic design work, the odd game, laying down a track idea in Ableton. I think the eMMC was its saviour for a period - the fast read and write speeds made it just about usable for these tasks when I was desperate.
However, the weak processor and the 2GB of RAM seriously struggled to handle these tasks and regularly choked; something I really should have expected from a processor made for tablets. It started encountering serious performance issues. I was pushing a tablet to do a laptops job. I subconsciously expected more just because it was running Windows.
Now I do acknowledge that if this device had Windows RT I could not have lived with it. But I also realized that as of right now, Windows and the x86 platform just cannot work well on tablets. Lack of app support (an old story I know), a framework built primarily for desktop PCs at the core - they can try but as of yet, Windows just doesn’t work as a tablet-only OS.
It tried to be a tablet and failed. It tried to be a laptop and failed. Neither a jack nor a master of either trade.
The Surface line achieves a perfect balance, in a way. Enough power for proper work but with all the things that make tablets so great. Powerful, premium hardware and practical, integrated software.The Atom line has been put down by Intel. These tablets are dying slowly. And it’s obvious why. And that’s why I’m putting my ThinkPad 8 down at long last. It was a good run and I enjoyed using the device on a daily basis. But it seems that as of today, Windows just isn’t right for tablets.