Review: Acer W500 Windows 7 Tablet PC

When I was shopping for a new PC for Janelle for college, I asked her what her biggest concern was when looking for a PC. Her response was light weight over all else. This somewhat surprised me as she is very fashion conscious and quite tech-savvy. I thought about this long & looked at a lot of PC’s. I set an initial budget of $500 for her PC thinking it would be pretty easy. After all, there are always a lot of ads in the Sunday paper for laptops.

Boy was I surprised. We bought our last laptop, a Toshiba Satellite, from Best Buy for a grand total of $400, including the extended warranty.  But despite having some nice specs for an entry level laptop, it certainly isn’t light weight.  It’s just flat heavy.  My girls complain about lugging it from one room to another, so there was no way I could see Janelle lugging it from class to class if she needed to.

First thing I did was return to Best Buy.  Just as I thought, lots of laptops under $500… but none were what I considered portable.  In researching online, I discovered the category was called “ultra-portable” for the weight class I wanted (under 5 pounds).  I also discovered that class comes at quite a price premium.  A typical laptop in this range was in the $700 to $1,000 range, which I wasn’t thrilled about.

To make a long story slightly less long, after a lot more searching I found a Windows 7 tablet on that looked like it might fit the bill.  Comparatively speaking, it’s very similar to a netbook computer, except that it’s in a tablet form factor.  The Acer Iconia W500 has a 10.1” capacitive touch screen, AMD dual core processor (operating at 1.0GHz), 2 GB RAM, 32GB SSD, SD expansion slot, 802.11b/g/n wireless, 2 USB slots, Bluetooth, front & rear facing cameras (3.0 MP front, 1.0 MP facing) and an HDMI output.  Most netbooks now come with 200+ GB hard drives, so I was a bit concerned.
The biggest plus on this device is the included USB keyboard “dock”.  TigerDirect listed it for $499.  Hmm, nice price and a nice exchange policy meant this could be an option if it didn’t work out.

Ordered on a Wednesday, it arrived Saturday (good on ya, TigerDirect!).  Initially unpacking the device (see pics below) I’m struck with how small 10.1” looks.  But still, I’m completely geeked about the form factor and how slick the
overall design is.  Turned it on (came with a decent charge on the battery) and Windows began prompting me for setup information a minute and a half later.
Well it’s not an iPad or a Galaxy Tab, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected an “instant on” experience?  It is loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium, which likely means a lot of extra bloat to the operating system.  Sure enough a
good look around the device showed Windows and all its pre-loaded sample
programs consuming fully half of the 32GB onboard SSD.

The first week I didn’t mess with installing any new software, deleting any OEM software, or registering anything beyond what I had to in order to try it out.  We just used it.  My initial uneasiness later turned to being quite impressed.  After the first week I decided I was keeping it so I uninstalled all the bloatware and programs we had no intentions of using.  Cleared of all the extras took the drive to less than 14 GB used.  I added a cloud-based anti-virus/internet security package (small local install footprint), installed Office 2010 Home & Student, ordered a Bluetooth mouse, 32GB SD HC card, and an external USB 2.0 DVD-RW.  I set up my daughter with a Windows Live account and linked her Office suite to save all files in the cloud instead of locally on the tablet.  Oh, and I gave her an external 40GB hard drive too, just in case.

The real test came a few days later when Janelle started playing with it.  Initially, she wasn’t impressed with the speed of the device.  It took her some time to get used to the touch-screen operation of Windows 7.  She has an iPod Touch and since it was “different” it frustrated her at first.  She looked at it, used it, carried it around, and came back to me with her list of frustrations and pain points.  We worked through the ones that were either setup or training issues, and then I took her to look at the other laptops in the size she wanted, tablet in hand.

Here was the eye opener.  Compared to the other tablets we saw, this had many superior features: USB ports, SD card slot, and the USB keyboard.  She loves the iPad, but it didn’t have the productivity software she was used to using (that is, MS Office).  The Android tablets just didn’t interest her at all, mainly because of the lack of productivity software altogether.  I know Apple & Android have a great marketplace, but you can’t beat the sheer volume of software available for the Windows platform.  All you Apple/Android fans can banter all you want about the superiority of your platforms, but in terms of overall compatibility,
you can’t match the Windows platform.  Don’t give me any lip about the Open Office platform, either.  It sucks, and I don’t care what anyone says it is NOT MS Office compatible like they claim.

When comparing the Acer to the “real” laptops, Janelle wasn’t impressed with the features or the prices compared to her tablet (That’s my girl!!!).  Granted, we could have picked up a netbook with 10 times the hard drive space for half the price… but in her words the netbooks felt like toys in comparison.

Performance is good. Battery life is surprisingly good – we clocked around 5 hours of constant use before it started warning us to plug it in. Streaming video over the web works well (from Netflix or Youtube), although web pages that are “busy” with multiple videos playing seemed to overtax the processor.  It never felt like it got overly hot while using it, at least not compared to our Toshiba laptop. My biggest personal complaint is around accessories. There are no
sleeves made for this device.  Acer makes an Android tablet with the same form factor, but yet none of the sleeves for that device (the A500, in case you’re wondering) fit.  It appears the W500 is about an 1/8th of an inch too big in width and height to fit – and ports in the sleeve for things like the cooling slots, USB, HDMI, camera, power plug, and power button all are in different locations or missing from the A500 sleeves.

Janelle loves it now.  She admits there are drawbacks, but when given the option to get a laptop and return the tablet, she chose the tablet (“it’s just cooler, Dad”).  Her semester is over in December, so perhaps a follow-up post will be in order.


Definition of Acceleration

My Dad sends me cool stuff via email.  He recently forwarded this content to me, but didn’t cite the source… if you wrote this please let me know I will gladly give you full credit for it!  This was too cool not to pass along.


One top fuel dragster 500 cubic inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower than the first 4 rows of stock cars at the Daytona 500.

It takes just 15/100ths of a second for all 6,000+ horsepower of an NHRA Top Fuel dragster engine to reach the rear wheels.

Under full throttle, a dragster engine consumes 1-1/2 gallons of nitro methane per second; a fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate with 25% less energy being produced.

A stock Dodge Hemi V8 engine cannot produce enough power to drive the dragster’s supercharger.

With 3,000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before ignition.

Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lock at full throttle.

At the stoichiometric (stoichiometry: methodology and technology by which quantities of reactants and products in chemical reactions are determined) 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture of nitro methane, the flame front temperature measures 7,050 deg F.

Nitro methane burns yellow… The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases.

Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each spark plug. This is the output of an arc welder in each cylinder.

Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass. After halfway, the engine is dieseling from compression, plus the glow of exhaust valves at 1,400 deg F. The engine can only be shut down by cutting the fuel flow.

If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the affected cylinders and then explodes with sufficient force to blow cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in half.

In order to exceed 300 mph in 4. 5 seconds, dragsters must accelerate an average of over 4G’s. In order to reach 200 mph (well before half-track), the launch acceleration approaches 8G’s.

Dragsters reach over 300 miles per hour before you have completed reading this sentence.

Top fuel engines turn approximately 540 revolutions from light to light! Including the burnout, the engine must only survive 900 revolutions under load.

The redline is actually quite high at 9,500 rpm.

Assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew worked for free, and for once NOTHING BLOWS UP, each run costs an estimate $1,000.00 per second.

The current top fuel dragster elapsed time record is 4.428 seconds for the quarter mile (11/12/06, Tony Schumacher, at Pomona , CA ). The top speed record is 336.15 mph as measured over the last 66′ of the run (05/25/05 Tony Schumacher, at Hebron , OH ).

Putting all of this into perspective:

You are driving the average $140,000 Lingenfelter ‘twin-turbo’ powered Corvette Z06. Over a mile up the road, a top fuel dragster is staged and ready to launch down a quarter mile strip as you pass. You have the advantage of a flying start. You run the ‘Vette hard up through the gears and blast across the starting line and pass the dragster at an honest 200 mph. The ‘tree’ goes green for both of you at that moment.

The dragster launches and starts after you. You keep your foot down hard, but you hear an incredibly brutal whine that sears your eardrums and within 3 seconds, the dragster catches and passes you. He beats you to the finish line, a quarter mile away from where you just passed him.

Think about it, from a standing start, the dragster had spotted you 200 mph and not only caught, but nearly blasted you off the road when he passed you within a mere 1,320 foot long race course.

…… and that my friend, is ACCELERATION!

New year, new start

I’ve had this Blog sitting around for a few years now.  Started out as a SharePoint-only Blog, but made exactly three posts in three years.  I guess I’m not the most active blogger on the web.  So I decided to broaden the blog out to other areas within my life as well.  I’ll still cover some of the interesting things I’m doing at work, but I’m also going to add other topics that interest me as well. Looking forward to it!