XD Design Bobby Compact review

(This review came later that I planned to, as I was struggling to find enough free time to put my thoughts in line. I planned a number of posts in the meantime but never had the time to complete them…)

To make a long story short, some time before Christmas 2017, I was among the lucky winners of one of the Vice.com online competitions/contests. I was informed by email that I should expect my Bobby backpack (no other details in the email) in the following weeks. I was in search of a new backpack (and in fact I was about to get one), so this was great news! The backpack finally arrived, brand new and well-packed, some time before Christmas, so it was early Christmas for me. As far as I remember it was the first time I ever won something in any of the numerous contests that I have taken part in, so I cordially thank Vice for that 🙂

The model I received was the Bobby Compact, so the smaller one of the two available backpacks, (and the more expensive one, to my surprise) fitting a 14-inch laptop among others. I am currently using a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard as my travel and out-of-office work companion, so I didn’t mind that. It came in pastel blue color, which was less vibrant than the rest of the series (and I also didn’t mind, as I was to use it for commuting to work and back).

Both Bobby backpacks have been extensively reviewed by various experienced reviewers on the Web, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to replicate standard things. To make things more useful for everyone, I will focus on my personal experience and how my setup fit (or did not) the specific backpack.

Design & Quality

Not much to say about the design; it has been copied by so many different companies that it speaks for itself. Design focuses on two aspects (i) Anti-theft, so no external zippers exposed to others and (ii) comfort, so that all weight is balanced rather better than in other backpacks – indeed, the backpack embraces the back of the body and make it easy to carry loads of stuff.

Quality of the backpack is outstanding, in every detail. Water resistant and cut-proof material, no loose threads, no bad stiches. Perfect zippers, sturdy straps, everything is top notch. Looks like a backpack made to last.

Practicality

The backpack is practical, for sure. Nice internal organization for both a laptop (14-inch) and a smaller tablet or A4-sized documents, elastic band pockets for e.g. hard disks, water bottles (no external pocket for that) etc, a small zippered pocket for memory cards, adapters and other (really) small items, an open pocket on top of it for quick access items, an internal side pocket for a small power bank (however, most will not fit there) etc. There are also two really useful (but small) side zippered pockets for quick access items like smart phone and charger, cards etc. and another interesting safe zippered pocket at the center of the back of the backpack, for e.g. wallet, keys and other valuables – no one will be able to access this one, too.

Another practical detail is the rain cover, available at the hidden pocket at the bottom of the backpack, which looks well-thought and designed.

It is also useful, especially for the larger model, that the backpack can open flat when a couple of internal buttons are opened; this allows a suitcase-like layout that can help in arranging stuff inside the bag even more easily.

Overall, it is a practical backpack, with some interesting organization options.

Size

The backpack is smaller than its brother, but due to its design (e.g. side flaps) it looks bigger. Internally, things to be pretty packed since most of the pockets are internal and occupy the limited internal space.

I personally managed to fit my 10-inch tablet & Bluetooth keyboard, a pack of paper documents (A4 size), my external hard disk & a small paper notebook at the two band-pockets, a couple of USB sticks and other tiny stuff in the zippered pocket, some markers and my 10.000 mAh powerbank on the open pocket above it (it wouldn’t fit in the dedicated side pocket). In the remaining internal space I could fit a medium-sized lunch box (on its side), a couple of cereal bars, a small flashlight and a medium water bottle. Nothing more.

I used the two external side pockets for one smartphone and its charger, and my (pretty large) keyring with lanyard, along with a pack of tissues. The central safe zippered pocket was occupied by my small magic wallet, another smartphone (backup one) etc.

I never got to use the Bobby Mini, a foldable tote bag packed with the Bobby Compact only. It is really, really practical and of course can be used individually.

My personal point of view

I am not carrying much stuff around (ok, maybe slightly more than the average) but I found the Bobby Compact a tad smaller than I would like to. Since I am not currently using public means of transportation for commuting to work (I plan to do so in the future though), I am not making use of its anti-theft features.

The backpack was extremely comfortable to carry on my shoulders and extremely practical, as I could access my most frequently used stuff (e.g. wallet, smartphone and charger) without having to open the main compartment. I never got to use the external USB port for charging my phone, but it would also come handy when wandering around the city or an airport. At the same time, I missed some more zippered pockets for my numerous USB sticks, microSD cards and other tiny stuff I have with me. I found a workaround for that with a small organizer that could hold a couple of short cables and adapters, memory cards etc.

In the few weeks that I used the backpack on a daily basis, I started seeing some smudges in the front, leather-like panel which I could not quickly remove with a wet towel (and we are talking about taking the backpack from house to the car and from the car to the office (and back). I do not mind some minor cosmetic issues so I didn’t bother trying more to clean it.

For the time being, I replaced the Bobby Backpack Compact with my Tech Air backpack , to which I gave a second chance after taking some more time to check out its features and allocate my stuff inside. However, I plan to use the Bobby in the near future, especially if I go back to commuting by metro; it could also help me reduce the stuff I carry around with me to the minimum required 🙂 

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Using a Windows Phone in an Android / iPhone world

My main smartphone is a Nokia Lumia 735, a Windows Phone back then promoted as a selfie-phone (due to its nice front camera). It came as a replacement to my (still fully functional Lumia 720, which replaced my previous Windows Phone etc.).

I have been using Windows Phones for quite a long time now, back at the time when they were the only smartphones available on the market (the Windows Mobile 5.0 era). Back then, they were a great choice if you wanted a smartphone with a decent camera, a GPS with offline maps, ability to watch movies on the go (I still remember watching series episodes on my HTC Touch Cruise while commuting to work), using mobile versions of Office etc. Those were the days.

In the meantime, I gave Android a try with a ZTE Blade, when my HTC Polaris was stolen, but never got used to it so I quickly gave up and got myself a second-hand LG Optimus 7.

Since then, Android came to the market and conquered it. Apple also managed to create a devoted ecosystem with its iPhones, Blackberry went out of the market etc. Windows Phones became a niche ecosystem of people who wanted the simplicity at their hands, increased security (compared to Android) and a set of familiar apps (Mobile Office). However, due to an awful strategy by Microsoft, things went pretty worse and now Windows Phones account for less than 0,5% of the global market.

What does this mean for a Windows Phone user like me?

I admit, I still get some security updates and some rare app updates. I am still able to use essential apps like Mobile Office, Facebook (awful; slow and laggy), Instagram, Foursquare, Here Maps and others. I am still able to use Continuum (through a hack), view my photos at some of the Smart TVs I’ve used, sync my files (and photos) through OneDrive and Dropbox.

At the same time I miss a lot. I cannot use mobile banking for any of the banks I am collaborating with, I do not have proper Google apps (Maps, YouTube, Google+, Drive etc.), some apps have reduced functionality (e.g. the one of my phone service provider is a basic one, compared to the full versions for Android and iOS). and I cannot use newer apps at all since developers do not bother with a Windows Phone version of their apps.

I have already got myself a pretty basic Android smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy A3 2016) – not only as a backup (I could use my Lumia 720 for this purpose), but mostly for being able to use the apps that I need but cannot find in the Windows store. I am still not ready for the transition to Android but I am preparing to do so., as my smartphone is a work tool for me and I need it to have all the functionalities I need for my work (ranging from managing business social media accounts to getting things done with Mobile Office – which btw works better in Android than it does in Windows Phones).

XD Design Bobby Compact – Πρώτες εντυπώσεις

Εδώ και ένα περίπου μήνα είμαι κάτοχος ενός XD Design Bobby Compact (το γνωστό anti-theft backpack), το οποίο μου ήρθε σαν δώρο από έναν online διαγωνισμό του Vice.com, στον οποίο είχα λάβει μέρος. Μου φάνηκε παράξενο, καθώς είναι ίσως η μοναδική φορά που κέρδισα κάτι σε διαγωνισμό, αλλά φαίνεται πως άξιζε η αναμονή!

XDDesign_Bobby_Compact_ext

Ακόμη δοκιμάζω το πόσο με βολεύει για καθημερινή χρήση (σπίτι-γραφείο) σε σχέση με τα άλλα σακίδια που έχω, γιατί έχω μάλλον κάποιες παραξενιές όσον αφορά στο τι μεταφέρω καθημερινά και στο τι περιμένω από ένα σακίδιο. Επίσης το σακίδιο ήρθε σε ένα μάλλον φωτεινό χρώμα, το οποίο δεν ταιριάζει ακριβώς με το στυλ μου, αλλά αυτό είναι κάτι που μπορώ να παραβλέψω 🙂

Οι πρώτες μου εντυπώσεις από το σακίδιο είναι οι εξής:

Θετικά
– Πραγματικά αντικλεπτική σχεδίαση (όλα τα φερμουάρ και οι τσέπες είναι προστατευμένα στην πλάτη μου)
– Αρκετός χώρος διαθέσιμος για ογκώδη αντικείμενα (π.χ. βιβλία, αδιάβροχο, κλπ).
– Πρακτική υποδοχή USB για φόρτιση του κινητού (με τη χρήση του δικού μου powerbank – δεν περιλαμβάνεται)
– Πρακτικές θήκες στην πλάτη (π.χ. για πορτοφόλι) και στα δύο πλαϊνά (σχετικά μικρές, π.χ. για κινητά, κλειδιά και άλλα που χρειάζεσαι άμεση πρόσβαση). Επιπλέον “σχισμές” χωρίς κλείσιμο στους ιμάντες για κάρτες, εισιτήρια κλπ. που θέλετε να χρησιμοποιήσετε άμεσα.
– Πραγματική διαφορά στην αίσθηση βάρους που μεταφέρει το σακίδιο (το βάρος πέφτει κυρίως στην πλάτη και φαίνεται λιγότερο σε σχέση με τα άλλα σακίδιά μου)
– Καλή ποιότητα κατασκευής και πρωτότυπος σχεδιασμός, διαφορετικός από τα υπόλοιπα που κυκλοφορούν. Κρατάει το σχήμα του ακόμη και άδειο και αντέχει στη βροχή (δεν το έχω δοκιμάσει στην πράξη, αλλά το υλικό φαίνεται όντως υδρόφοβο).
– Σε σχέση με το κλασικό, μεγαλύτερο Bobby, συνοδεύεται από αδιάβροχο κάλυμμα (στη βάση του σακιδίου) και το πολύ πρακτικό Bobby mini (μια τσάντα για ψώνια που δικπλώνει και αποθηκεύεται σε θήκη-πορτοφόλι – έρχεται στο ίδιο χρώμα με το σακίδιο).

XDDesign_Bobby_Compact

Αρνητικά
– Δύσκολο άνοιγμα και κλείσιμο του φερμουάρ του σακίδιου – θέλει λίγη εξάσκηση και σίγουρα να “γυρίσεις” το κάλυμμα του φερμουάρ.
– Έλλειψη αριθμού εσωτερικών θηκών: Υπάρχει μία μικρή θήκη με φερμουάρ (π.χ. για USB sticks, SD cards και άλλα μικροαντικείμενα), μια “τσέπη” για μεγαλύτερα αντικείμενα (αλλά όχι μεγάλη και μάλλον εύκολο να αδειάσει) και δύο μεγάλα λάστιχα για π.χ. σκληρό δίσκο, παγούρι, ομπρέλα κλπ. Μαζί με τις δύο θήκες για laptop (μέχρι 14”) και tablet στην πλάτη στου σακιδίου και την υποδοχή για το powerbank είναι όλες οι θήκες. Αυτό σημαίνει ότι άλλα αντικείμενα όπως φορτιστές, καλώδια, γραφική ύλη, post-it, χαρτομάντηλα κλπ. είναι όλα χύμα στον κυρίως χώρο. Προσωπικά θα ήθελα περισσότερες θήκες με φερμουάρ εσωτερικά.
– Η “τσέπη” που είναι πάνω από τη θήκη με το φερμουάρ έχει ελαστικές θηλιές για στυλό (3-4) και νομίζω πως έχει ήδη αρχίσει να ξεχειλώνει από το βάρος (αν και δεν είναι πολύ σημαντικό).
– Θα ήθελα και ένα κρίκο για τα κλειδιά, που έχω συνηθίσει από άλλα σακίδια.

Γενικά

Πρόκειται για συμπαθητικό σακίδιο, με ορισμένα πολύ ιδιαίτερα και πρακτικά χαρακτηριστικά αλλά και περιορισμούς. Πιστεύω πως όσο το χρησιμοποιώ θα προσαρμοστώ στις δυνατότητές του και θα τις εκμεταλλευτώ καλύτερα. Αν ξέρει κανείς το τι να περιμένει από αυτό και έχει διάθεση να ασχοληθεί (η έλλειψη περισσότερων εσωτερικών θηκών αντιμετωπίζεται με τη χρήση π.χ. κασετίνας για τη γραφική ύλη, κουτιών για μικροαντικείμενα κλπ.), τότε αξίζει τα λεφτά του.

Σίγουρα είναι ένα σακίδιο που θα συνεχίσω να χρησιμοποιώ καθημερινά και φαίνεται ότι θα αντέξει άνετα την καθημερινή χρήση, λόγω ποιοτικής κατασκευής. Ίσως τελικά με καταφέρει να περιορίσω το τι μεταφέρω μαζί μου καθημερινά, να κάνω δηλαδή πιο minimal τον εξοπλισμό μου.

Windows Creators Fall Update & touchpad issue

A couple of days ago I installed the Windows Creators Fall Update on my only laptop, the decent Acer Aspire ES1-512. It started pretty late and took so long that I decided to leave the process unattended. When I woke up in the morning, I noticed that the laptop was stuck on a blue page (not the BSOD) so I had to power it off and reboot.

To make a long story short, I noticed that the touchpad (an ELAN model used by Acer) was not working at all! I plugged in a mouse and started investigating things. The touchpad was not listed as a device in the Device Manager and I could not find the ELAN tab on the mouse properties menu (as suggested in other cases). I also tried re-installing my laptop’s touchpad drivers from the Acer website a couple of times, rebooted, nothing.

Then I read on a forum that it may be the Serial I/O drivers that cause the problem after the update. So, I gave it a try and installed them as well. The installation finished and I was prompted to do a restart but even without that, the touchpad was fully operational again! 🙂

The device is listed in the device manager as “ELAN I2C Filter driver” and the driver was updated through the device manager to the latest version.

Tech Air TAN3711 15.6-inch backpack review

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in the hunt for yet another backpack, as I got bored/tired of the one I’ve been using almost exclusively for the last years, during my daily commutes to work and back. And when I was about to get a brand new one for me, I recalled a backpack I was given several months ago, now resting at my storage room. And I decided to give it a try.

The backpack is a Tech Air 15.6 Inch Backpack TAN3711, with the following dimensions:

Width 34.5 cm
Height 13.5 cm
Depth 46.5 cm
Weight 1.1 kg

I have been using the backpack for a couple of weeks now and here are my impressions:

What I like:

  • The bottom is rugged, with heavy duty rubber/plastic. This means that even if it sits on water, water will not soak the internal of the backpack.
  • The laptop compartment is reinforced, in a way patented by the company; it’s like having a sleeve for it, which is securely integrated in the bag.
  • There is a dedicated pocket for documents, folders etc. behind the laptop sleeve; this ensures that documents will not wrinkle etc.
  • There are 4-5 internal small pockets, open top, which allow the storage of e.g. a mouse, a phone charger, a wallet, a pocket notepad, wrapped cables etc. Keep in mind that all of them are open (see later on)

What I don’t like:

  • Both external pockets are badly designed: They only have one zipper (not the typical couple available nowadays) and it starts from pretty low point; this means that if you put small items inside they will likely fall when you try to open the pocket. For example, I have plenty of USB sticks with me and some of them were always about to fall when I opened the top pocket for storing my keys.
  • There are not internal zipped pockets: This means that all these small things that may end up in your backpack (and in case you decide to avoid using the external pockets for the aforementioned reasons) will spread inside the bag if it turns around. Securely storing coins, paperclips, rubber bands, USB sticks etc. is not possible with this bag.
  • There is no external side pocket/mesh for water bottles, umbrellas etc. This makes the backpack look less wide (it is already significantly wide) but I miss this feature. After all, I wouldn’t put my wet umbrella inside the backpack.
  • A deep and wide mesh pocket exists in the main compartment, which can be used for various items but with no organization. This also occupies space from the main compartment.
  • The main compartment will not fit a typical lunch box, as it is narrow and on top of that blocked by the internal pockets, all of which face inwards.
  • The material doesn’t look waterproof – let alone weatherproof.

All in all, it seems like a backpack aiming at professionals and not the typical city commuters, who carry their water bottles, umbrellas etc. with them, along with lots of small things that need to be securely stored in zipped pockets. I like its shape and it seems to hold its weight well-balanced (not carrying a laptop with me, though) but I really miss some features that I consider essential.

Despite that, I plan to keep using the backpack and will try to adapt to its features and limitations for the next weeks, too, but I will keep my eyes open for any alternatives.

Lumia 735: Time for a clean update

I kept trying to install one of the last Windows Mobile updates (before MS stops the stream of updates in the near future) since September; despite the fact that I could successfully download it, the installation kept stopping at some point with one of these hard-to-understand Microsoft error codes.

Yesterday I got a notification for a new update (the October one) so I tried installing it, too. It seems that the update required a total of 1.18GB of storage – hard to find that with a total of just 8GB of storage (including system reserved storage). I kept removing apps, offline maps, cleaning the cache. I was still short in space. So I decided that it was about time for the big step.

First I backed (almost) everything up, using the built-in feature of Windows Mobile (my first backup after quite a long time). Then I went for a hard reset, wiping everything from the device and started everything from scratch. After a couple of reboots I managed to install the latest Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary update (Build 10.0.14393.1770) along with all my apps (including the ones that initially shipped with the mobile, totally useless). I only had to enter my credentials, fine tune some settings and everything was there, including the home screen tiles 😉

I was excited to see that despite the hard reset, both the stored WiFi passwords and the Continuum hack was there, fully working as they used to. Overall, it was a process that took me something more than 1,5 hours and now my 735 feels more responsive and with more free storage space.

In search for a new backpack

In search for a new backpack

I have been using my Sentio Sporty backpack almost daily since I got it, two years ago; I never expected it to last that long. I even used it as my main backpack during business trips lately, as I tried to travel light – lighter than in the past. In the meantime, I had some short breaks, using my Swiss messenger bag and even an old Trust backpack, trying to break this daily routine of using the same bag to and from work. After using it so intensively I can be a pretty subjective reviewer of it.

Sentio_Sporty_2048310

What I like:

  • It is really light;
  • It is compact: a 15.6-inch laptop hardly fits in its main compartment (no way to fit it in the laptop sleeve). I don’t have to carry my laptop so my tablet fits fine there when needed and I can easily store the bag virtually anywhere;
  • It is spacious: Its main compartment can fit my lunch box, along with chargers, cables, a hard disk, etc. – the main compartment expands a lot compared to the bag’s total volume;
  • It is practical: it has two external side mesh pockets for my water bottle and umbrella. It also has a three zippered pockets in the front, one of which with some basic organizational options (for pens, business cards and a small zippered part for coins and other small items. All zippers have their own loops, and are double, which makes them easy to use;
  • It is easy to carry around: It has soft shoulder straps and combined with its low weight you can hardly feel it.

What I don’t like:

  • Its material is so soft that it hardly holds its own weight; in most cases, the bag sits like a sack of potatoes…
  • The material is so thin that wears off when sharp or heavy objects are packed in the bag;
  • The bag is not well-balanced; since all additional pockets are located at the front side, the additional weight makes the bag lean forward, which is awkward when backpack is on my shoulders;
  • The top handle is not well-placed; for some reason it is located more towards the back of the bag.

For these reasons, I lately started looking for alternatives. What I wanted was a spacious yet compact backpack, comfortable for everyday use, with dedicated pockets for organizing all the small things I carry along, lightweight and durable, and even water-resistant if possible.

My short but in-depth online research came up with two potential candidates: Targus Seoul (a long time favorite of mine) and HP Odyssey. The former was a bit more expensive (about €45) than the latter (€25) but money was not an issue, as a backpack is a long-term investment.

Targus_Seoul

I spent hours checking out video and text reviews on Amazon, blog posts and images from manufacturers and users, trying to figure out how I would fit my stuff in their pockets and slots, which were their strong and weak points etc. I even had the opportunity to check the Odyssey at the office, as a colleague of mine had a couple of them in different colors. Seoul seemed more refined, with well-thought features (see the trolley and tablet sleeve, and maybe a bit more spacious) while the Odyssey seemed more rugged and less-refined but still practical. The Odyssey even got a reddot award / honorable mention in 2015.

»The HP Odyssey scores high for its well-thought-out functionality, which focuses particularly on the safe and comfortable transport of sensitive electronic equipment.«

And when I was about to get one of these for me, I recalled a backpack given to me several months ago, resting at my storage room. And I decided to give it a try…

(to be continued).

WinTab: How near is the end?

I was browsing the Web with my Wintab last night and received a notification about an updated graphics driver (Intel 10.18.10.4653); after installing and rebooting, I kept on browsing only to see the tablet switching off after a while with a “paf” sound. I switched it on, kept using the tablet and the same thing happened again. It happened once more and then I went to bed – no need to bother about that so late.

Next morning, I booted and was greeted with the Windows troubleshooting screen; it was frustrating, because the touch screen was misbehaving as it used to do after upgrading to Win10 for the first time. I swiped on the right and the cursor went on the left (and vice-versa) so it was tricky to find the proper spot. In the end I gave up and just switched off the tablet.

I hope that the problem will be as simple as a driver issue, so that I can revert back to the old one. I like the tablet (functionality-wise, not quality-wise) so I will miss it if it stops working…

Can a cheap Windows tablet replace your laptop?

In my case, yes. For more info, just read below.

I am a avid supporter of portability and lightness, so I always try to do my work (and live) with the less and lightest possible. My laptop arsenal consists of a huge and bulky 17-inch Toshiba Satellite (was used as a desktop in my previous work, so I rarely moved it away from the desk, and a low-end 15-inch Acer laptop, with basic specs (4GB of RAM, Intel N2940 @ 1.83GHz, 500GB HD), to be used mostly at home (by my wife and kids) and during trips, when my serious work had to be done. I needed something more portable, light but efficient, to save me from dragging these laptops around the house, where space is really limited – i.e. no desk available.

There are some related articles on the Web, authored by those who tried to get things done with a tablet, replacing their laptop. See for example

I am using a cheap 10.1-inch Windows tablet imported by a Greek tech company (Plaisio Computers), so it is practically a Chinese model with the Turbo-X (Plaisio’s brand name for my electronic devices) brand on it; a common practice among related electronics suppliers. It features (like almost all similar tablets) the following specs:

  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage: 32GB flash (expanded through the microSD slot)
  • CPU: Intel Z3735F @ 1.33GHz
  • Screen: 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800
  • Cameras: Front (2MP) and rear (5MP) cameras (both low quality). Practically useful only for Skype calls.

An interesting spec is that it charges both from its microUSB port and from its proprietary port (pin cable) so I can charge it and use its microUSB cable at the same time.

Modifications

Update to Windows 10: The table came originally with Windows 8.1 and no drivers were available by the supplier/manufacturer. After a couple of months, the free upgrade to Windows 10 started rolling and knocked my door, so I went for it. I had serious issues after upgrading (touch screen not working at all or misbehaving), cameras not working etc. so it took me days of researching for solutions, drivers and getting some support from Plaisio. Now it’s working like a charm with Windows 10.

Keyboard: The tablet came with a detachable keyboard, but after about after one year the plastic gaps of the tablet part, where the keyboard’s hinges plugged, broke and so the keyboard will not fit without causing issues to the tablet’s plastics. I soon replaced it with a Logitech K480 bluetooth keyboard because: (a) it doubles as a stand for the tablet (otherwise I would also need a stand) (b) it can be paired to 3 devices max and instantly switch between them by rotating a dial knob so I could also use it with my smartphones and other tablets and (c) it was bluetooth, so it would save me the only full-size USB port of the tablet (the second one was on its original keyboard part, which was now unusable) from a USB RF adapter of a wireless keyboard.

Storage: The tablet’s 32GB are mostly occupied by the OS and other app files, leaving less than 15GB for the user. I went for a 32GB microSD card, to be used as a storage so all apps would be installed on the tablet’s storage.

Peripherals
Mouse: After the original keyboard incident, I was left with no touchpad, so while I use the touch screen sometimes I need the precision of a mouse. I have a travel USB mouse with a retractable cable at hand, along with a bluetooth Microsoft mouse as a backup.
USB: I have a microUSB to USB adapter for making use of the tablet’s microUSB port.
HDMI: I bought a microHDMI to HDMI cable for hooking the tablet to TVs or larger screens. In most hotel rooms the ports (and TV menu options) are locked but sometimes I get lucky.

Ethernet: The tablet did not come with an ethernet port, so I got a USB to ethernet adapter for those rare (nowadays) cases where WiFi is not available but I have the option for a wired connection (while in other cases there are both but wired is usually faster and more stable 😃 )

Typical use

I mostly use my tablet at home, when I need to browse for something and I need a screen larger than my Lumia’s 4.7-inch one. It boots quickly, can be used single-handed and acts like a small-form laptop. I also use it for working with documents, reading ebooks, checking my emails and social media etc.

At one time, I decided that carrying my 15.6-inch laptop around during my business trips was an overkill so I started using my WinTab instead. And I haven’t regretted it. It is much lighter, flexible (e.g. I can use the tablet only when reading a document or reviewing my slides during a flight, where space is limited, and attach the keyboard when I am at the hotel room or during the meeting / workshop that I am attending, for working on my slides, keeping notes, sending emails, sharing outcomes through social media etc.

In both cases, WinTab is a great laptop substitute: It is capable of handling light multitasking, e.g. a few browser tabs open along with a couple of MS Word files, a PPT presentation etc. It can decently play YouTube videos and MP4 files without stutters. It is really sufficient for such light tasks and makes me wonder about the crappy netbook I once owned (an Acer Aspire One 751h), which was a real nightmare to use, even with lightweight Linux distributions – how badly designed it was…

Issues faced

Battery: The battery lasts much less than advertised. I haven’t tested it thoroughly but it won’t keep charge for more than 3 hours, which is really low (and less than I need), depending on the usage. For this, I decided to buy a 2m microUSB cable so that I can access any available power outlet.

Lack of Miracast support: It would be lovely for the tablet to support Miracast, so that I could wirelessly mirror its screen on a Smart TV or large screen. Its hardware does not allow it so I need to hook it through the HDMI port. It cannot be used as a larger screen for other devices, so e.g. I cannot project my smartphone’s images or videos to it – wirelessly.

Screen quality: I do not mind about the low resolution of the screen, and it’s size is adequate most of the times. However, I recently noticed some flickering of the screen, which is really annoying.

Storage: I use the remaining internal storage of the tablet for installing apps and the microSD card for storing stuff (music, movies, images etc.). However, my work is much larger than that and I need to keep files synced. In order to address this, I keep my archive on an external HDD and work directly on it, when it comes to real work. I also have a selection of movies and music there, so that I do not exhaust the microUSB capacity. I’d love to have more than 128GB of internal storage, so that I could avoid this.

Heat: The tablet is fanless and shouldn’t raise the temperature but maybe due to bad design (and lack of air flow), it gets really hot behind the CPU. It may affect the battery life, but it’s not really a problem.

So to make a long story short, one can replace a laptop with a basic Windows tablet, but this surely depends on the expected use and requirements. A typical Windows tablet with a Z3735f CPU and 2GB of RAM can do much more than I expected and costs less than a low-end laptop.

Hacking my Lumia 735 to support Continuum

I recently came across a video showing how to enable Continuum on any Lumia smartphone and use it without display dock. It sounded pretty interesting, especially taking into consideration that we now have a smart TV at home (after the old TV broke down) and I wouldn’t want to invest in proprietary solutions like a Continuum dock. My Lumia 735 does not officially support Continuum (in fact I have a hard time projecting content to our smart TV as well) so I thought I should give it a try to see how it goes.

I took some time last night (less than 30 mins in total) to download the necessary files, hack the phone’s registry and restart the phone a couple of times. Then it actually worked! I managed to project my Lumia’s screen to my Toshiba’s laptop screen (despite the warnings I got that the laptop’s hardware does not support projecting from other sources). It was rather laggy but I could see a full-size desktop on the screen and actually run my Lumia’s apps using its touch screen as a touchpad 😃

Unfortunately, this was not the case for my Samsung smart TV; my Lumia could see the TV but could not pair successfully, while I kept seeing that the TV also tried to connect to the phone but with no luck. Interoperability issues I guess, with too many different protocols for performing a simple task.

In any case, the specific application of Continuum was not really useful, as I had a fully working 17-inch laptop in front of me so I had access to more processing power and a full size keyboard, along with a mouse.

However, the next day I thought I should give Continuum a try at the office, where in one of the meetings rooms there is a Philips Smart TV with a Miracast dongle attached to one of its HDMI ports. So I switched on the TV, selected the proper HDMI port as the source and waited. At the same time, I switched on the WiFi on my Lumia and launched the Continuum app. It took only a couple of seconds to see the home page of my Lumia mirrored on the meeting room’s smart TV!

What does this mean in practice? Let’s say I participate in a meeting where we share content and keep notes using the Intel NUC attached in the second HDMI port of the same smart TV. If I want to share something that I have on my phone, I just have to switch the image source (from one HDMI to the other), saving me from:

  • having to use any app credentials in another’s user account (running on the NUC),
  • having to switch to my user account on the NUC,
  • having to remember the credentials I use for a given app/account (I tend to forget lately)

From the convenience of my smartphone, I can show photos, videos, slides or even open a web page to share it with everyone in the room – wirelessly and with no hassle. How cool is that?