Wintab 2-in-1: Issues solved

To make a really long story short: The guys at Plaisio were fast in activating again my tablet (the issue was caused by the replacement of the board) but each time I refreshed the tablet and restored stuff, I got the same issue; after they fixed it for a 2nd time, we both agreed that I will take an image of the system (using the built-in functionality of Windows 8.1) in case the issue comes up again.

This is exactly what I did so now I have a fully functional tablet again; even though it still runs on Windows 8.1. 😦

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Turbo-X WinTab: Second round of issues

Turbo-X WinTab: Second round of issues

I picked up my WinTab from the Plaisio service yesterday; I was informed that both the motherboard and the battery were replaced and I was glad to hear that. I did a quick check to see if the touch screen was responsive (it was, but the tablet was downgraded to Windows 8.1 in order to work) and went back home.

After I completed the install/set up of the operating system, I realized that I could not proceed with the activation of Windows, which should have taken place automatically. I kept receiving a message about the key used not being valid…as you can imagine, I never had any key as the tablet comes with Windows preloaded. I quickly checked online and found out that this is common after replacing a motherboard and a special procedure needs to take place by the manufacturer or service (e.g. see here and here).

Windows activation issue (Greek only, as Windows are not activated)
Windows activation issue (Greek only, as Windows are not activated)

I immediately contacted again the Plaisio service via email (always useful to have all communication in written form) and started working on workarounds; I reset the tablet to the defaults, went from zero again and installed all updates, tried some additional Windows updates…nada. I even tried to make use of the free upgrade to Windows 10 I was offered by the system, but it was not possible for me to go on without first activating Windows.

I received a response to my email later today; as I was afraid, I will have to visit the service point again (not really accessible from my house) in order for this special procedure to take place. In addition, I was informed that:

  • The tablet’s drivers are not available anywhere online, as they are included in the ISO file of the operating system (provided as-is by the manufacturer).
  • Windows 10 are not currently supported due to lack of proper drivers; they are currently under testing and I will be informed as soon as I can upgrade to Windows 10 (even though I guess that I will have missed Microsoft’s deadline for this).

This means that I will have to spare my tablet for some more days and hopefully receive it in a fully-working state. Fingers crossed!

Updating my Turbo-X Wintab 2-in-1 to Windows 10: Issues

Updating my Turbo-X Wintab 2-in-1 to Windows 10: Issues

While I was on holidays I received the notification that I could automatically download and install Windows 10 on my Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet. Since WiFi was pretty slow there, I waited until I got back home and decided to give it a try. Installation was automatic, pretty quick and soon I was introduced to the new Windows 10 interface – alas, the touch screen was not responding!

After unsuccessfully trying to find touch screen drivers that would work (Plaisio does not share the set of Windows 8 drivers for this tablet – for unknown reasons), I decided to reset the tablet and send it to the service, as it was still under warranty (it was only 1 month’s purchase). I was warned by the system that I only had one month to roll back to Windows 8.1 if I wished (which I didn’t) so I went on to delete all files and have it cleaned before it was serviced. In the meantime I had contacted the Plaisio service dept. describing the situation and they asked me to bring the tablet to them for an inspection.

After the reset process completed, the tablet rebooted for the last time – and it was then that I saw the blue screen of death, warning me that the boot device was inaccessible!

inaccessible-boot-device-windows-8No matter what I tried, the tablet kept rebooting into the same blue screen so I had to find a way to make it boot into something bootable.

  1. Create a bootable USB with Windows 10: I was lucky enough to have upgraded my tablet first to Windows 10 within Windows 8.1 and then make this attempt. This means that I did not need any serial or activation number, as the system was already prepared for the update, so I would have a legitimate copy of Windows 10. The process is described here.
  2. Make tablet boot from the USB: That was the tricky part as the BIOS was not accessible by pressing any of the buttons (F2, F10, F12 etc.). I found online that you have to power on some devices (not mine) by pressing the power button and Volume Down, in other cases it was Volume Up – after many attempts, I realized that in my case I had to press simultaneously Power, Vol Up and Vol Down in order to get in the BIOS! Then I changed the boot order (it was not easy, as options were not very clear) but I did it.
  3. Fresh install Windows 10: The process went smoothly, even though the tablet became unresponsive at some points (after periods of inactivity during the installation) and I had to reset it. In the end I ended up with a fresh installation of Windows 10. However, screen resolution was low, touch screen was not working, battery icon was not available in the tray etc. Damn!
  4. Find appropriate drivers for hardware: As I mentioned earlier, drivers for this tablet are a well-kept secret so I had to look for alternatives. I found out that the Onda v101w tablet might be similar to mine so drivers worked for my tablet, too. Indeed, display drivers worked, bluetooth worked, battery icon appeared etc. The only thing that didn’t work was the touch screen.
  5. Reset the tablet (again): The last resort was the authorized service. I reset the tablet again (this time it worked nicely and all devices were recognized so the drivers remained intact), created a temp account for accessing the tablet (that the service guys could also use for fixing the tablet) and let it there.
  6. Have the tablet restored: On 17/8/2015 I left the tablet at the Plaisio service, explaining the issue with the touch screen, the battery not charging more than 95% with the provided charger and the cable that was worrying me. I received a call later on from them, letting me know that the charging was going beyond 95% (apparently they used a micro-USB charger but I gave up on that), that the cable was indeed placed there and that there was no risk of being damaged after use (I hope that this is true) and that they would have to send the tablet to the central service in order for them to see if the touch screen would work with Windows 10 or if we would have to revert back to Windows 8.1 (which I said I didn’t mind, as long as the touch screen works ok – I may try the update at a later stage, when the drivers will be updated). I was also congratulated by the tech guy for managing to install working drivers for Windows 10 (this might have been shocking even for them!).

I am expecting the tablet by Thursday or Friday (in a couple of days, as they said), so I may receive it on time for my upcoming trip 🙂

Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet 10.1″ WiFi – First impressions

Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet 10.1″ WiFi – First impressions

I have been in the hunt for a Windows-powered transformer / 2-in-1 tablet for the last months, after the lovely experience I had with a colleague’s Asus TransformerBook T100 during a business trip. As I had the opportunity to buy something cheap last month, I decided to go for the Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet distributed by Plaisio, a major Greek tech/gadget (among others) retailer. I would expect that such a tiny (but powerful enough machine) would be my companion in my business trips, where no CPU-intensive tasks are required.

Turbo-X_Wintab

I have been using the Turbo-X WinTab for the last three weeks, mostly during my summer vacations, where I needed something easy to carry around for checking my emails, light web browsing and updating social media – while also drafting some blog posts and other texts. My impressions from this short experience with this 2-in-1 are the following:

Portability

It is a 10-inch tablet with a keyboard so it is easy to carry around. It is much easier to carry it as a tablet-only but the keyboard also provides a sense of protection to the screen. The laptop is pretty heavy (at least heavier than expected) with the keyboard docked.

Hardware

10,1-inch touch screen with 10 touch points and a 1280×800 screen resolution, vibrant enough to be readable under bright sunlight. Intel Atom Z3735F CPU @ 1,33GHz, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage, which can be extended through the use of a SD card. Small-form keyboard (to match the size of the tablet/screen). The packaging included a micro-USB to USB OTG adapter to allow the use of devices with full-USB interface through the micro-USB port. Last but not least, the WinTab features not only a webcam (which can act as a front camera) but a 5MP rear camera as well. The system is powered by a 6600 mAh battery (non-replaceable).

Extensibility

The tablet has numerous ports, actually more than the (older) T100. Apart from the typical headphones jack and power port (it features a needle-like, proprietary charging port), the WinTab has two USB ports (one full-sized and a micro-USB one) as well as a mini-HDMI port for connecting it to a larger screen or TV). In addition, it has an SD-slot for increasing the available storage space. Another full-sized USB port is available at the keyboard’s side. It features WiFi and Bluetooth while 3G is also supported by a different (slightly more expensive) model.

The micro-USB port can be used for charging the tablet as well; however, the additional, proprietary charger can also be used, freeing up this valuable USB port for connecting another device.

Software

The laptop came with Windows 8.1 32-bit edition and no bloatware installed. It also came with a free 1-year subscription for Office 365 and some other perks, such us free Skype call time and storage space in OneDrive.

Overall usage

The laptop feels pretty nice to use on a frequent basis. The small-form keyboard is not easy to get used to but it does the work when needed. The whole package is heavier than expected but it can be carried around easily, as it is pretty compact. The tablet part (screen) is pretty light and responsive enough for everyday tasks. When docked to the keyboard, the laptop feels sturdy and stable enough to support fairly heavy typing. The viewing angle is nice and comfortable and the docking mechanism is simple enough (featuring a sliding button).

Things to notice

  • Sometimes when the tablet is docked, removed and then docked again the keyboard becomes non-responsive and the tablet has to be restarted in order for the keyboard to respond again. I read somewhere that this may have to do with the touch screen driver, that needs to be set up in a way.
  • Even when the tablet is charged overnight, the battery is charged at 95% maximum. The only way I found to charge it up to 100% is to switch on the tablet and then leave the charger on or remove and plug the charger again. Otherwise, using a micro-USB charger solves the problem.
  • Battery life is nice but not as great as the T100 one. Depending on the usage, it may last for about 4-6 hours (maybe longer but I have not tested it yet).
  • In the keyboard part of the laptop, there is a wire that can be easily seen extended and then back in place when the screen is docked and changes position (from fully extended to closed on the keyboard). I hope that this wire/cord is durable enough to withstand frequent use and cycles of extension.

WinTab_cord

  • The screen is bright enough to be comfortably used indoors with the brightness set at minimum.
  • A driver update of the touch screen screws up the calibration and renders it unusable. The solution is to undo this update/roll back the driver and totally disable it/hide it. You can read more here.

Overall

The WinTab is a nice companion for those seeking a transformer in a small factor. It provides the convenience of Windows 8 (and subsequently Windows 10; I have already received the notification for the free upgrade to Windows 10) in a small and efficient factor. The CPU does well even with HD videos and cannot be compared to the lousy Atom CPUs used in netbooks some years ago.

The only drawback I see so far is the hard-to-get-used-to small keyboard, which makes me wonder if a stand-alone 10-inch tablet with a larger (but still not full-sized) keyboard would be a more efficient combination.

Lenovo Ideapad A1 – Incompatible apps

Incompatible1

(image taken from http://thesignalinthenoise.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/121)

A list of Android apps not compatible (for various reasons) with the Lenovo A1 tablet:

  1. Opera Mini Web Browser
  2. Posterous Spaces
  3. QRDroid
  4. FXCamera
  5. Google+
  6. ES File Explorer 1.6.1 update (1.6.0.4 is already installed!)
  7. Dolphin Browser HD (Mini is compatible)
  8. AirTickets.gr

It seems that other people started wondering about the same issue, but still I haven’t found any solid answer to the cause of this incompatibility.

A1-dolphinhd

Strange, huh? Can be installed in my cheap Android phone but not in A1… 

**EDIT – 06/02/2011**:  It seems that a large part of the incompatibility of A1 with Android apps was due to a strange combination of changed screen density to 200dpi (instead of the native 240dpi) and the new version of the Android Market. So, when I changed the screen density back to 240 dpi & uninstalled the Market update, I could install my long missed apps, like Opera Mini, Airtickets.gr, FXCamera, Google+ etc. The issue was solved by XDA user TippyTurtle, to whom I am grateful!

**EDIT – 21/02/2011**: I just installed Popsci and realized that it works both in 200 and in 240 dpi! Yay!

Apps still incompatible with Lenovo A1:

  1. Quill (Requires Android 3.1)
  2. Google Goggles
  3. Handy Scanner Free PDF Creator

List will be frequently updated; please make sure that you come back soon and contribute to this list with your own incompatible Android apps!

 

** Last Update: 21/02/2012 ** 

 

Lenovo A1 tablet: Facts

Ideapad-a1-tablet-hero1
Pros:
  • CPU: Cortex A8 1 GHz – fast enough for common tasks.
  • 16GB of storage
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 7-inch capacitive screen, 1024×600 pixels
  • Charging via micro-USB port – no additional chargers/plugs/ports.
  • Sturdy construction, feels solid in hand.
  • Hardware GPS receiver / works without 3G/WiFi

Cons:

  • No HDMI port /no video out (so no watching on large tv screens…)
  • Android 2.3.4 – it should be upgraded at least to 3.2 for tablets. A rumor exists about upgrading directly to ICS!
  • Annoying Skype issue, which shows the users video image upside down. The issue has been acknowledged and the Skype team says that they are currently working on it.
  • No USB host functionality (so far, maybe it is the cable so still investigating it…)
  • Various useful apps are not compatible with A1, such as Posterous Spaces, Google Goggles and Popsci (apps already installed in my ZTE Blade mobile phone). See a detailed list here.

How to solve various issues:

  1. USB Host mode: There is at least a post at Amazon by a user stating that even Android 2.3 devices without native (hardware) USB host mode support may be able to connect to other USB devices and transfer data from them, but a really special cable will be needed… too hard to even test that!
  2. Incompatibility with apps: It seems that a large part of the incompatibility of A1 with Android apps was due to a strange combination of changed screen density to 200dpi (instead of the native 240dpi) and the new version of the Android Market. So, when I changed the screen density back to 240 dpi & uninstalled the Market update, I could install my long missed apps, like Opera Mini, Airtickets.gr, FXCamera, Google+ etc. The issue was solved by XDA user TippyTurtle, to whom I feel grateful!

Everyday use includes (Updated 13/3/2012):

  • Checking emails: I download my last batch of emails before leaving home/office and check them on the road (in the train), so that I can be ready to reply as soon as I get home. Sometimes I reply on the fly and send the emails when I connect to my home/office network.
  •  I catch up with the latest Lifehacker/PopScience/Engadget articles using the corresponding free apps, doing the same trick: Updating them before I leave home/office so I have all the time to relax and go through the full text articles while I am offline in the train.
  • I read some ebooks using Kindle app or a pdf viewer. Mostly manuals and handbooks that I can refer to, while I am away from the office, as well as literature.
  • I browse heavily the web while I am at home, sitting on my couch and too bored to use my laptop.
  • Retrieving files that I have shared/uploaded using Dropbox or Sugarsync (this has been a lifesaver in a couple of project meetings, when I didn’t have my laptop with me).
  •  Web 2.0 tools: Updating my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. status and checking updates of my friends using the corresponding apps.

I haven’t tried to watch any movie yet, but I am pretty sure that it will happen within the next weeks. I have read a guide on optimizing the file before sending it to my tablet.

Rooted in order to install specific useful apps:

Useful links:

 

Lenovo A1 and Android ICS!

 

This post will be updated often, so make sure that you come back and see any additions/revisions

** Last update: 13/03/2012 **

And the winner is… Lenovo A1!

After about a year of checking out tablets and waiting to see the prices drop, I decided to make a present to myself and get a tablet. The choice was really hard and included the unsuccessful attempt to buy an HTC Flyer on sale from Dixons (199 GBP) and from Amazon (210 GBP). Being a big fan of HTC devices, I was really disappointed that I could not get one of these workhorses….

Then I started looking around, collecting information and asking users about their opinion for a 7-inch Android tablet below 250 euros. I had some basic specs in mind, being:

  • 7-inch capacitive screen: Since the tablet is going to be used mostly in the really crowded Greek public means of transportation, it had to be compact and light.
  • CPU at least at 1GHz
  • RAM at least 512MB / Storage about 8GB
  • High-res, more than 800X600 which was that case for the majority of the 7-inch screens around
  • GPS, HDMI would be a nice bonus
  • Didn’t mind about the 3G option, as I consider data plans to be expensive in Greece and apart from that, I am always online so being offline with the tablet would be a nice change!

I wanted the tablet in order to check my emails, surf the web, read books and watch movies while I am on the road or on the couch. I am not demanding, so I could compromise in some aspects in order to achieve a nice balance between cost and performance.

I heard various opinions, ranging from unknown Chinese products to really expensive models. Some of the specific models suggested by community members included the Archos 70 internet tablet, Archos 80 G9, Turbo-X Hive, Bitmore Tab 88. Archos models were rather powerful and sturdy; however, they did not have Android Market installed (a workaround was needed) and some really nice video codecs had to be purchased individually… Archos 80 seemed to suffer from a minor (?) screen issue as well, which brought it out of the competition.

The winner was… Lenovo IdeaPad A1: A 7-inch tablet with 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU, 512MB RAM, 16GB storage, 1024×600 reolsution and Android 2.3.4 (rather obsolete) for only 170 GBP (about 205 Euros) from Amazon.co.uk. It came from a well-known brand and had most of the features that I needed. It still had an old version of Android (but I hoped that it would be upgraded in the near future) and a GPS receiver but did not have an HDMI port, stereo speakers or a set of custom ROMs…

It was bought from Amazon, along with an 8GB micro-SDHC card and a case/stand from Ebay, to protect it from scratches in my backpack, which is usually full of cables, pens and books.

Sucker for tablet

I have to admit that I am a sucker for a tablet: During the last months I have been searching for information on specific models, reading reviews, checking prices… they’re still damn expensive! After evaluating two different iPads (9.7 inch screen), I think I will go for a 10-inch Android tablet, probably no 3G (to save money – it adds to the price) but with a dual-core CPU @ 1GHz (at least) and 8GBs or more of storage (apart from the SD card).

There are some rather cheap solutions out there (like the ZTE V9 and the Huawei S7 Ideos) but they feature a 7-inch screen, low resolution (480 x 800) and a rather slow processor. Since I haven’t seen any of these in action I am a little worried about their performance. On the other hand, these may be sufficient for my everyday use, therefore saving me a significant amount of money!

Huawei IDEOS S7 (photo taken from http://www.gsmarena.com)

It seems that I will have to wait for some months more… in some cases, these weak machines are even more expensive than a fully-featured laptop! I think that this will changed in the next months…