TabletKiosk eo a7400|
7-inch ultra-mobile Windows tablet for business with procap multi-touch and optional Wacom pen
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
TabletKiosk, headquartered in Torrance, CA and operating an engineering facility in Taiwan, has been providing tablet computers (and only tablet computers) since its founding in 2003. On October 2, 2012, the company announced the latest addition to its substantial lineup of mobile touch screen solutions, the eo a7400. It's a small and handy business-oriented tablet designed to run Windows. That alone would be sort of old hat, but the a7400 brings projected capacitive multi-touch combined with an (optional) active Wacom pen to the table, and that changes everything, especially with Windows 8 coming up.
But let's take a look at the eo a7400. At a time where the iPad rules and everyone wants monolithic, sleek tablets, it's hard to come up with something that looks different or innovative, and TabletKiosk hasn't. The a7400 measures 8.9 x 5.8 inches, is an inch thick, and weighs 1.9 pounds. So it's a bit larger and heavier than most consumer tablets in this class, like the Google Nexus 7 or Amazon's latest Kindle. But those aren't the eo's competition. The competition is the business-class tablets from the likes of Motion, Getac, Unitech, Panasonic and so on, tablets that are sturdy enough to handle the occasional drop and spill on the job.
The a7400's 7-inch display uses the 1024 x 600 pixel WSVGA wide-format design found in tens of millions of early netbooks. Since most Windows software these days is optimized at least for 1024 x 768 pixels, WSVGA can be a bit annoying and we'd have preferred 1280 x 800 pixels. But WSVGA is not a bad fit for the smaller 7-inch screen, especially when used with apps in Windows 8.
This being an iPad-era design, the a7400 comes standard with projected capacitive multi-touch. That's mandatory for Android devices, but not that much for Windows 7 which, while retrofitted for touch, wasn't designed for it. Here again, it's clear that the a7400 will probably work best with Windows 8 (though Microsoft really wants the 16:9 display aspect ratio and higher resolution for their own "Surface" class tablets). But spring for the optional (US$100) dual mode procap plus Wacom digitizer setup and you have a tablet that can do it all. Definitely the way to go.
In terms of tech specs, TabletKiosk and everyone else making tablets was probably facing a tough decision. In order to provide "real" Windows with access to all the legacy Windows software, frugal ARM processor hardware was out. And Intel just a few days ago announced the very latest Atom chip, the Z2760 that was supposedly specifically designed for Windows 8 tablets. That might have been the logical choice, but perhaps it wasn't available yet and so the a7400's designers picked the next best thing, the Atom N2600. It's by far the best overall Atom chip for mobile devices that we've tested yet, and it should provide more than adequate punch for this tablet.
On the storage side, the a7400 had 2GB of speedy and frugal DDR3 memory, and a 64 or 128GB SATA solid state disk. There's the usual Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR and dual band WiFi, and you can get optional 3.5G mobile broadband. There are dual cameras (2mp front, 5mp rear), and also dual batteries, one inside that you can't remove, and one that is accessible from the outside. This way you can swap a fresh external battery in without powering down. Battery life is up to six hours, not that great, but par for Wintel hardware.
For wired connectivity, there's a full-size USB 2.0 port on the right side (see below).
And below is a peek at the left side of the a7400 where you find a standard RJ45 LAN jack, separate 3.5mm audio in and out jacks, a mini-USB port, and a SDHC card reader. No HDMI, though. The bottom of the device has a special docking port, and since there is an optional magnetic card reader that snaps onto the top of the tablet, there must be another interface up there.
When we first saw pictures of the a7400, we thought it looked quite rugged, but the specs suggest business class rather than rugged or even semi-rugged. The operating temperature range is a modest 41 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and TabletKiosk doesn't provide drop, vibration, sealing or any other ruggedness specs, which is a bit disappointing. After all, much of the reason for getting a business-class machine is that you need something that not only runs Windows, but that is also tougher than an iPad or Samsung tablet.
We haven't had hands-on with the new TabletKiosk tablet, but it looks like it may well fit the bill for many deployments that require a small, handy Windows tablet with plenty of storage and the capacitive touch interface that hundreds of millions of smartphone and tablert users now expect. Pricing starts at US$1,299, which seems the going rate for business-class tablets.
Phone (US): 1 (310) 782-1201