RM Slate 100 review
The Apple iPad was announced way back in January 2010, yet here we are in 2011 with the tablet excitement gathering pace rather than slowing down. Although Apple may have gained most of the publicity, other manufacturers are fighting back: Google is putting its weight behind Android-based tablets, RIM will be releasing the PlayBook later this year, and HP is also set to produce a large device based on its own webOS 2 (which was formerly Palm’s).
But we shouldn’t forget there’s another company with an interesting offering in this area: Microsoft. It built touch into Windows 7 to make it easier for hardware manufacturers to create devices that took advantage, and it’s widely believed that – even if consumers are more likely to pick Android or Apple devices – sectors such as industry and education will lean towards the operating system they know so well.
It’s taken a while for Windows 7 tablets to appear in volume, and for schools the most interesting offering comes from that well-known brand: RM. To be wholly accurate, RM hasn’t designed the Slate 100 from scratch. It’s built upon the same chassis as Zoostorm’s SL8 device, for instance. But there’s nothing wrong with that, because this is a high-quality device.
This becomes clear from the moment you touch it. Unlike many tablets we’ve seen, the magnesium alloy chassis, combined with a rubberised finish, lends the Slate 100 a rugged feel. RM told us the tablet has been drop-tested up to 30cm and pressure-tested on a 3cm pressure point: up to 25kg on the bottom side when switched off, up to 15kg switched on. The glass side has been tested up to 5kg when switched on, too. This is reassuring to an extent, but we’d still take measures to protect these slates in general use. RM sells three cases, ranging from the “Hard Case” for £10 exc VAT to a TechAir carry case for £19 exc VAT.
The screen itself doesn’t make the greatest first impression, but that’s due to the insane auto brightness feature: the levels went up and down so frequently we switched this off as soon as we worked out how (via the pre-loaded Millennium applet). The screen’s other major foible is due to the touchscreen layer: it adds a graininess that you particularly notice against solid-coloured backgrounds, such as a white Microsoft Word document.
The viewing angles are respectable rather than great. While it’s unfair to compare the RM Slate to the iPad in general – these two devices have very different capabilities – Apple’s screen is far superior in this sense, as whichever angle you hold the iPad at you can see its contents. We can imagine three children crowding around the Slate’s screen and the ones on either side tilting their head to see the image more clearly. Position the Slate correctly, though, and photos do look good. In terms of image quality, it’s certainly superior to the majority of tablets.
You can choose whether the Slate automatically rotates its screen or not, and again this reveals a lack of slickness compared to Apple’s device: on rotating the screen, you’ll typically have to wait three seconds for it to reappear.
Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, Windows 7 isn’t tuned to finger input either. The first step anyone should take is to change the dpi (dots per inch) to 125%. It’s simple enough: keep your finger on the screen until an animated circle completes around it; this reveals the right-click options. Click Personalize and then Display, then choose the “Medium” option to increase the dpi. Theoretically, the Slate supports multitouch as well, but we found this awkward and unresponsive compared to the slick pinch-and-zoom effects of Apple’s operating system.
The iPad – an elephant in the room we simply can’t ignore – also benefits from a relatively mature set of educational software. There are already award-winning packages ready for download, from Star Walk for wannabe astronomers to Pi’ikea St’s Interactive Alphabet. This highlights the main fault of Windows tablets: the lack of touch-friendly software. RM assured us it would be providing “a range of education software that supports the use of touch”, but couldn’t disclose what that might include.
|Dimensions||295 x 195 x 14mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Display type||Colour touchscreen LCD|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1,660MHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
|Mobile operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium|