An enterprise slate tablet is like licorice: not everyone likes licorice, but the people who do, really like it. The TabletKiosk eo a7400 Ultra-Mobile Tablet PC is the wrong tablet for most users, but for select enterprise users, it's a tasty treat.
For most users -- and all consumers -- its screen is too small and its price is too high. Plus, thanks to the the long product life-cycles of enterprise organizations, the vast majority of of TabletKiosk's customers are using Windows 7 (or, gasp!, XP) so you can't configure an eo a7400 model with touch-friendly Windows 8 just yet.
Thankfully, our eo a7400 test unit features a dual-mode display that lets you navigate via your fingertips -- up to four at a time -- or with a Wacom active digitizer pen. The combination of a 7-inch screen and Windows 7 with its small icons and menu options meant to be clicked with a mouse makes navigating by touch a challenge; you'll want to keep the included stylus pen handy. And if you are moving from a Sahara Slate PC i500, you'll also want to keep its accessories; many are interchangeable between the two tablets.
The eo a7400 is built around an Intel Atom processor and features 2GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD, and twin batteries. Both are 3-cell units; one is an internal battery that is not user accessible, and the other is a hot-swappable external battery. With this battery arrangement, you can carry an extra battery for all-computing. The external battery is tiny, making it an easy add-on in your bag.
The twin batteries along with a sub-two-pound weight and a bright display that remains readable outdoors will make the eo a7400 attractive to certain mobile professionals. Still, this is not a tablet for truly tough jobs. It does not feature any of the military-grade specifications that you get on a rugged tablet such as the Motion Computing CL900, but it still feels durable. The bigger obstacle to purchase likely will be the small, 7-inch display. If you can comfortably run your applications, whatever they may be, in such cramped quarters, then you'll find a lot to like about the eo a7400. You'll find more to like about the eo a7400 next year, however, when it offers both Windows 8 and mobile broadband connectivity.
Build & Design
Frankly, most enterprise tablets are ugly, but that is not the case here. The TabletKiosk eo a7400 does not feature the military-grade protection found on truly rugged tablets. This means that it won't withstand the drops and dust and water it might encounter in the wild, but it also means the tablet is less bulky and awkward-looking. Instead of looking like a huge brick, the eo a7400 at just over an inch thick and with pleasing rounded corners that lend it an appeanrance nearly akin to a consumer device.
The 1.9-pound eo a7400 is well put together, with a rubber strip surrounding the screen bezel and four meaty bumpers on the bottom. The rubber bumpers not only help protect the tablet against bumps and bruises, but they also help keep the system from sliding around when on sitting on a stand or lying on a desk. And the rubber surround on the front edges makes the tablet comfortable to hold in your hand while also providing additional protection. The screen bezel inside the rubber frame is thick, especially on either side. The bezel makes the screen appear even smaller than it is and may make you wish TabletKiosk squeezed in a larger display, but the thick bezel allows you to grip the tablet without worrying about a thumb straying onto the touchscreen.
The screen is quite bright. It features LED backlights and is readable outdoors. We took it outside on a sunny day and text remained legible and photos visible, though we would remiss if we didn't point out it was a weak, winter sun under which we ran this anecdotal test.
The 7-inch display features a 1,024x600 resolution and features two touch modes; you can use your fingertips (up to four) or an active digitizer pen. While four-finger multi-touch might be useful for certain applications, we found the screen too small to navigate Windows 7 comfortably. With the included Wacom active digitizer, however, it was a snap.
TabletKiosk sells a touch-only (no pen support) model of the a7400, which costs $1,300, or $100 less than this model, but we can't see purchasing such a small tablet without pen support. And on the dual-mode display model, there is a small switch hidden underneath the external battery that you can use to disable touch, should you want to use only the pen.
One last note on the pen: the tablet does not offer a slot in which to stash the pen when it's not in use. We don't know about you, but the lack of such storage means we'd end up purchasing a string of $29 digitizer pens.
Other Buttons and Ports
Despite its small size, the eo a7400 offers an impressive number of ports and connections. On the left side you'll find a mini USB 2.0 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, headphone and mic jacks, a media card reader (SD/SDHC/MMC/xMMC), and a Kensington lock slot. On the right side is a full-size USB 2.0 port, the power connector, and four buttons, only one of which is labeled. The SAS button (Secure Attention Sequence) performs the Ctrl-Alt-Delete command, while the button next to it locks and unlocks screen rotation. The other two buttons are user programmable. On the top of each side is a small bracket hole that can be used to attach a shoulder strap. The docking connector port is located on the bottom edge, while a covered modular expansion port sits on the top edge that can be used for a variety of accessories such as a magnetic stripe reader.
Also on the top edge are three switches, each of which features a blue status LED. The switches are used to power on the machine and toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off. The LEDs are one of our least favorite features of the tablet; they are blindingly bright, especially the LED next to the power switch that blinks when the tablet is in standby mode. When the tablet is sleeping in a darkened room, a passersby might mistake the tablet for police activity.
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