The Windows 8 release is just around the bend, and it may be Microsoft's great hope for making a dent in a tablet market dominated by the iPad. But if any device can presently make a case for Windows 7 tablet PCs, it's the Samsung Series 7 Slate. It's by far, the slickest Win 7 tablet I've seen to date, as it borrows design and UI elements from its mobile counterparts, and combines them with Core i5 power and a full operating system.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate features the same hardware build as the Windows 8 reference tablet Microsoft handed out to BUILD conference attendees, with two slight differences. The device that ships next month for $1,099 (64GB) does not feature AT&T 3G like the BUILD Samsung tablet (press notes indicate it will support WiMAX and HSPA), nor does it support Near Field Communications.
But that doesn't mean the Series 7 Slate is lacking in features or impressive specs. It has an 11.6-inch capacitive touchscreen (1366 x 768) with what I gather are up to four touchpoints (at least in the Paint app), 1.6GHz Core i5 processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, and either a 64GB or 128GB solid state drive. It also supports a Wacom stylus, however, Samsung reps could not confirm pressure sensitivity. It features rear- and front-facing cameras (3 and 2 megapixels, respectively) 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1. Samsung claims the battery can go 7 hours between charges.
At first glance, the LED display is extremely impressive (Samsung knows a bit about displays. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still the best display on any mobile tablet). It boasts 16 million colors, 400 nit brightness (about the same as the iPad 2, less than the Tab 10.1), and at 11.6-inches, is large enough that I don't feel claustrophobic using Windows as I do with smaller Windows 7 devices.
Smooth and Snappy
That aside, there are two import features that set this slate from other Windows 7 tablet PCs on the market. First, it offers the smoothest Windows 7 experience I've seen on a tablet. It's snappy, thanks in part to the Core processor, and it is extremely responsive to touch.?
Windows requires a certain amount of precision, which makes sense considering it was designed for a mouse. Until now, Windows tablet users had to rely on a pen to for accuracy, or they could clumsily poke around in hopes of hitting the proper icon or shortcut. Some manufacturers have tried tacking on touch-friendly overlays, often in the form of larger icons and shortcuts, and have largely failed. The skins either bogged down the OS and strained processors already struggling with Windows (certainly the case with Atom-powered tablets), or simply did not work as intended.
Samsung seems to have borrowed heavily from the new Windows Metro aesthetic, and the Series 7 Slate features varied touch-friendly tiles at various points in the OS, giving me high hopes for touch navigation on Windows 8, which will heavily incorporate the Metro design.
Samsung also wisely moved the Windows task bar up from the bottom of the device and placed it on the right-hand short side. The result is a tablet suited for landscape operation, with more display real estate, north and south, reserved for programs.
Second, the Series 7 Slate boots extremely fast for a Windows 7 device, thanks again to the Core i5 processor, and of course, the SSD. While it is not nearly as fast as the Windows 8 boot demos Microsoft has been touting on YouTube as of late, it still rivals Android tablets and the iPad for load times from a cold start.
Finally, the tablet design is stellar. This device looks like a Honeycomb tablet. It features only one full-sized USB 2.0 port (additional full-sized ports are available on a dock, including USB 2.0, HDMI, and Ethernet), but retains microHDMI and microSD inputs and weighs just 2.1 pounds. It's also less than half an inch thick ? putting it well within range of the larger 10.1-inch mobile tablets, like the Toshiba Thrive.
Unfortunately, with that slickness comes inaccessibility. From our quick time with the device, it's apparent that the Samsung Series 7 Slate is sealed. There is no access to the RAM slots, nor can the user replace the battery. To some, that may be a deal killer, especially if Samsung's claim of a 7 hour battery doesn't hold up to real-life usage.
Coming in October
Samsung reps claimed the device was weeks away from the market, so it should be available in October, and it will be primarily targeted toward enterprise users. While the Series 7 Slate should make its way to Best Buy, I expect TabletPCReview readers will have better luck finding it online. It will be priced $1,099 for the 64GB base unit (Windows Home Premium 64), $1,199 for the same configuration with Windows Professional, and $1,349 for the 128GB SSD Slate with Windows Professional or Home Premium. Samsung claims it will also offer a bundle that includes the dock, a wireless keyboard, Wacom pen, but there is no word on pricing.
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