A heavyweight tablet running Windows 7
The latest edition of Windows, called Windows 7, is a very good operating system, but it’s not designed for use on tablet computers.
Tablet PCs are small and portable, and use touch-sensitive screens for control rather than a keyboard and mouse. But although Windows 7 works better with touchscreens than previous versions, it requires a fairly powerful computer to work well.
The Novatech nTablet is a tablet computer than runs Windows 7 and as you can guess from our introduction, it struggles. Admittedly, for £350 the nTablet is available without Windows or any other operating system so you can install your own, but the process will be more complicated than installing one on a standard PC.
So the model we looked at, costing £440, pairs the nTablet with Windows 7 Home Premium (for £470 Novatech will install Windows 7 Professional).
We recently looked at the Samsung Galaxy Tab which runs the more suitable Android operating system, and Novatech told us an Android version is planned for next year, but as you can see from the Samsung review, even Android isn’t fully suitable for tablet computers.
The nTablet is fairly heavy: it isn’t practical to hold it for long periods of time and it’s not ideal for people who would need to carry it around in a bag all day. Furthermore, it’s less slender than its competitors, looking cumbersome when measured up against the iPad or Galaxy Tab.
Indeed, the device’s general finish was poor: the three buttons on the nTablet itself are labelled Power, Home and Back. Whilst Power did indeed switch it on and off, the Home button did nothing and Back, it turned out, switched the wireless networking on and off.
Sockets-wise, it felt like a standard laptop, with two USB ports, VGA connection for attaching a monitor and a micro-SD memory card slot to expand the storage space (it comes with 32GB built in). There’s also a webcam and it connects to Bluetooth devices and the aforementioned wireless networks. Like other tablet computers, the nTablet can connect to mobile networks for internet access - there’s a Sim card for you to put in your own card once you’ve signed up to an appropriate contract with internet access included.
The screen was good-quality with excellent clarity and colour reproduction, and video looked great on it. Unfortunately, the touchscreen let the computer down. There were lots of ‘dead’ spots where, no matter how much we jabbed the screen, it refused to register a press. Most infuriatingly, these were clustered at the edges and corners where the buttons to close and move windows were located, which made quitting programs a very irritating process.
That’s symptomatic of the wider problem – Windows 7 just isn’t designed for screens this small, and most Windows programs aren’t designed for touchscreens, with icons and menus too small to make out or ‘click’, so our experience of them was both irritating and disappointing.
The benefit of having Windows 7 is that the nTablet can and does behave like a full-sized computer. The nTablet’s Intel Atom processor (the same as on a standard netbook) was powerful enough even when we had several applications open at the same time. The nTablet is an impressive tablet computer but the addition of Windows doesn’t make sense – for most people, a ‘true’ tablet such as the Apple iPad is a much better idea.
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A hefty tablet computer with good specifications but an unsuitable operating system, making for an unsatisfactory experience Good points Good-quality screen; reasonably powerful Bad points Windows 7 doesn’t work well; confusing keys; heavy
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