Toshiba WT200 Windows Tablet (3G)
WT200 review: A Windows 7-based tablet with lots of features, but its performance is too slow to be enjoyable
While Windows 8, which will have a focus on touchscreen input, will be released possibly in August of this year, it seems some vendors can't wait so long for it and are continuing to persist with Windows 7 on their tablet devices. The Toshiba WT200 is the latest slate to use the desktop operating system (the 32-bit Professional version). It's a 10in device with a capacitive screen and not much grunt under the hood. It offers a similar computing experience to a netbook (remember those?) thanks to its Intel Atom CPU and is only useful for the simplest of tasks.
- Lots of features, including 3G
- 64GB SSD
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
- Sluggish performance
- Touch features aren't great
Toshiba's WT200 exists for those who require a tablet that can run Windows 7. It's perhaps better suited to business users who have a specific need for it, rather than casual tablet users looking for something to use as a media consumption device or for communicating online.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
Specifications and performance
The Toshiba WT200 uses an Intel Atom N2600, which has a 1.6GHz frequency, a 1MB cache, two cores and Hyper-Threading. It's a low-power CPU that's ideal for a device as small as a tablet, where heat management is a major concern, but it doesn't offer a lot when it comes to performance. Coupled with 2GB of RAM, a 64GB solid state drive (SSD) and integrated Intel GMA 3600 graphics, the overall responsiveness of the tablet when it's executing typical Windows moves is quite sluggish. At worst, it's a downright frustrating experience.
The WT200 has over 25 applications that reside in the background once Windows has booted, and you still have to put up with the same pop-ups and notifications that you would if you were using a new laptop. That sort of thing doesn't make for an enjoyable tablet experience — the Norton activation screen that pops up after boot-up is especially frustrating as it can't be killed unless you open up the Task Manager first.
While using the tablet, there was noticeable sluggishness in common tasks such as opening folders, and windows and file listings sometimes got drawn on the screen in slow motion. When we killed all of the background programs and restarted the device, it ran a lot smoother and felt more responsive. The downside was that a lot of the tablet's features became inaccessible, so we had to re-enable things like the on-screen keyboard utility and the program that controls the physical buttons for actions such as rotating the screen.
To gauge its performance, we ran our Blender 3D rendering test, which returned a time of 3min 54sec. This is a similar time to what the Acer Aspire One netbook achieved with its dual-core, Hyper-Threaded, 1.5GHz Intel Atom N550 CPU. Its graphics score of 369 in 3DMark06 is about three times faster than that netbook, which isn't saying much. The 64GB SSD is the highlight of configuration; it recorded a read time of 130 megabytes per second (MBps) in CrystalDiskMark, and a write time of 45MBps, which is acceptable.
The WT200 was adequate when used to browse Web pages. Scrolling using one finger anywhere on the page was possible, and flicks to move back and forth were also recognised, but not always. YouTube videos played relatively smoothly — even up to 720p — and we didn't have any problems playing local, standard definition video files. While we could stream Flash-based content from services such as NBA's LeaguePass Broadband, there was noticeable stuttering that made the video unpleasant to watch. The network bandwidth, plus the processing of the video made the Atom CPU work almost at capacity. A vent is present at the top of the tablet, and there is a fan installed to extract warm air. The unit can get warm when the CPU has to do a lot of work, which can make it a little unpleasant to hold.
Multitasking can be slow on this tablet, depending on the work you are doing, but you can listen to music while you view photos or type up documents, for example. It's not an ideal product for content creation, which means it shouldn't be used as a primary computer for writing articles or editing photos, but can serve as a casual machine for writing lengthy emails (as long as you use a proper, physical keyboard) while at your desk.
We found the screen to have accurate tracking for the most part, although small items such as menu entries were sometimes hard to hit with thick fingertips. We also found that the responsiveness was not always immediate. Oftentimes, we would double tap an icon only to wait for nothing to occur; we had to repeat the action using a little more purpose. Toshiba offers a stylus accessory that can be purchased for use on the capacitive screen, but it didn't always feel smooth during our tests and sometimes made embarrassing noises due to friction from pressing down too hard.
Toshiba hasn't implemented Windows' touch input features for use with its 10-input screen. Instead, it has loaded its own on-screen keyboard utility, which can be invoked by either pressing the physical button on the right side of the tablet, or by tapping the keyboard icon on the utility that sits in the System Tray (and which takes up a quarter of the Taskbar). It's a frustrating on-screen keyboard because you can't easily minimise it, and you also have to move it around the text box you plan on typing in so that you can make that box active before what you type will register in it.
In a "yo dawg, we herd you like pointing" moment, Toshiba has also installed an on-screen touchpad, which can be used to move the pointer around the screen as an alternative to just using your finger to do the same thing. It uses up 20 per cent of the CPU and is more of a novelty that a useful tool. Like the keyboard, the touchpad can be invoked by hitting an icon on the Taskbar utility.
That Taskbar utility also includes a couple of other touch features, such as the ability to see all open windows with one press, and the ability to bring up key system settings such as brightness, the Wi-Fi toggle, the webcam, and sleep and hibernate buttons. You can also perform a long press in the title bar of any window to see a pop up menu that can help you manoeuvre the window around the screen.
Screen quality and battery life
The screen has a native resolution of 1366x768 and it can auto-rotate depending on the way your holding it, or you can press the button next to the volume controls in the top-right corner to change the orientation manually. Its touchscreen matrix is visible as a grid pattern, and this is mostly noticeable on white backgrounds. Viewing the screen in bright lighting conditions proved to be a bit of a pain due to reflections. While watching videos with dark scenes, we resorted to holding the tablet under the desk. There is an automatic brightness utility that can change the level in accordance with the environment you're in, but we used the maximum brightness level for our tests.
With maximum brightness, an active Wi-Fi connection and an Xvid-encoded video looping in Windows Media Player, the Toshiba tablet's battery lasted 3hr 53min. It's not a bad time for a unit with a small, 3-cell battery, but it still means the tablet could require charging at least a couple of times per day unless you really clamp down on its power use — you can use its eco mode, or adjust its screen and communications modules manually to conserve life.
While it isn't really designed to compete with the likes of the iPad and Android-run tablets, the Toshiba does have a good set of features when compared to those. A dock connector at the bottom of the tablet can be used to sit the unit upright on your desk (with the optional USB cradle accessory) so you can watch videos easier, or potentially use it to type up documents and emails with a Bluetooth keyboard.
A concealed compartment on the right side opens up to expose a full-sized USB port, a full-sized SD card slot, a micro-HDMI port and a SIM card slot, and there is also an asset tag that can be pulled out, which has the Windows product key. Meanwhile, you also get a combined headphone/microphone port, front and rear facing cameras, stereo speakers (which are decent for many YouTube clips), dual-band Wi-Fi (Atheros AR946x) and TPM 1.2.
The SIM card slot works in conjunction with the installed Ericsson H5321gw 3G modem and we had no problems using it to get online with an iiNet SIM card, which works on the Optus network.
With all of these features, the Toshiba WT200 could potentially be a great tool for anyone who needs Windows features in a slate form factor, but unless it's used to run only one specific application, it will most likely offer a frustrating user experience. If you want this tablet as an alternative to a notebook for browsing the Web, interacting with others or just to watch videos, then you'll also probably end up in a field of disappointment due to the unit's sluggishness. We found it to be an awkward device overall, one that could use a better interface with a streamlined implementation, and more CPU power to make things run smoother.
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