Last week, in the wee hours of the morning … the darkest hours before the dawn … I ordered a Dell XPS 10 tablet that runs on Windows RT. Windows RT is not Windows 8, though they certainly belong to the same family. Kissing cousins. RT was designed as an operating system for a tablet. It does not let you install any standard PC software anymore than an iPad lets you install standard Mac software. It is a nifty tablet.
Immediately after I bought it, I went to the Dell website and read some dreadful reviews. Mostly I discovered people bought it expecting it to replace their laptop. They were disappointed. It is not a replacement for your laptop. When all was said and done, I knew it wouldn’t satisfy my mobile computing requirements, not because it is a bad piece of hardware or a bad operating system. It’s simply not what I need.
So, I bought the Inspiron 14Z which only cost a little bit more and arranged to return the XPS 10 when it arrived. As it turned out, the day it arrived — the day before yesterday — Dell was upgrading their systems, so I had to wait.
Today, I called Dell, explained I wanted to return the XPS 10 because I didn’t believe it was right for me. He offered me a $50 discount. I hesitated, then said, “No,” because I have already ordered another computer. I mean, how many computers do I need, really?
He offered me $100 discount, which also meant a refund of some of the sales tax … bringing the whole thing in for under $400. I had ordered a pretty high-end configuration, including the keyboard which doubles the battery life to 18 hours, and the 64 GB flash memory. And it came with Office RT installed … everything except Outlook.
“Maybe,” he said, “Your husband would enjoy it?”
I gave that some thought, but he really doesn’t need it. On the other hand, I have a son. I told Owen about the tablet. He could try it. If he didn’t like it, there would be no problem returning it.
- XPS 10 Tablet – Windows RT
- Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5 GHz DC processor with 64GB Flash Storage, WiFi Only
- XPS 10 Mobile Keyboard Dock – US English
- 10.1″ HD Display (1366×768) with capacitive multi-touch
- Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT
I handed him the box, he opened it and set it up. It asked questions, Owen answered them. The email started working immediately. It took 5 minutes to figure out how to use the home screen, get into desktop mode, set up the weather and the maps (it has a fast GPS).
The keyboard has a great feel. It locks securely in place with a satisfying click. With keyboard attached, it becomes a small, well-built laptop. The keyboard is heavy enough to hold the XPS 10 upright so you can watch movies or videos hands free. The keyboard is 92% of full size, large enough for email and whatever documents you may want to create on it. If you have huge hands, well … you know who you are. For most of us, the keyboard is fine. The screen is bright and responsive, the speakers work.
And off he went to work, taking the XPS 10 with him.
By the time he got home, it was obvious that the only way that tablet was going back to Dell was if I pried it from his cold dead hands. He was in love.
What’s are the problems?
The cyber world has not embraced this tablet even though the XPS 10 is a great little machine. After using it, I think I understand the issues, the reasons people are not flocking to it, nor “taking” to any of the new Windows operating systems.
(1) Most people have no idea how to use them.
(2) Microsoft has failed to explain the capabilities and limitations of the operating systems. There’s a black hole of ignorance being filled with rumor, innuendo, and lies.
(3) Microsoft has done a terrible marketing job. Instead of reassuring customers, they adopted an antagonistic big brother attitude.
If you’ve heard this song before, feel free to join in the chorus. Touchscreen technology is not new. It has its place, but under the best circumstances, touchscreens become insensitive through use. Big, little, no matter how it’s made, touchscreens have a lifespan much shorter than non-touchscreens. If you get a few good years out of a touchscreen, you’re doing well. Not everyone wants to replace their equipment every two or three years. It’s not merely inconvenient. It’s costly.
Touchscreens are inappropriate and hard to use in a vertical position. Terribly hard on wrists and shoulders.
Fingers are not precision devices. The cheapest mouse, trackball, or stylus is more accurate and versatile. Not to mention easier to use. Touchscreens in an office environment? Why? What advantage does it offer? Telephones? Okay, but I preferred the keyboard on the Blackberry. I hate my iPhone.
Cameras? I would prefer buttons and dials. When I’m shooting in cold weather I can barely feel my fingers much less hit tiny little points on a 3 inch LCD.
Tablets? Ah. The sweet spot. And the Dell XPS 10 is a fine example of how good it is when you marry two well matched technologies.
Customers have unrealistic expectations and are doomed to disappointment
After spending years trying to convince us — unsuccessfully — to believe that tablets (any tablet, take your pick, it doesn’t matter) will replace other computers, it isn’t true. Tablets are great for some things, useless for others. They are — not to put too fine a point on it — good for what they are good for, but that’s far from everything.
The propaganda that we don’t need our “big” computers and can do it all using a tablet convinced many (most?) people to buy tablets expecting they would be using it to do everything they used to do on bigger more powerful machines. If their primary computer activities are internet surfing, emailing, taking snap shots, Skype, playing music, listening to audiobooks or reading ebooks, it could be true. For the rest of us? Not really. It is a nice complement to bigger equipment, but not a replacement.
Last — far away from least
Hire some technical writers to produce documentation so everyone can look stuff up.
Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, we don’t want to call customer service to find out how to change the background on the screen. Make manuals as friendly as an average “Dummies” book and folks will use them. No manual for either new Windows OS is (thank you Benjamin Franklin, wherever you are) penny wise and pound foolish. There are professionals who know how to write this kind of stuff. I’m one of them. We work cheap. Hire us.
Would it have killed Microsoft to include a manual for the operating system? Acquainting people with how (and why!) it works before they bought it would have saved a lot of negative feedback because RT works beautifully on a tablet. I wouldn’t want it on my desktop or laptop, but on the XPS 10? It’s great.
So, what can (and can’t) you do with this tablet?
You cannot install standard PC software on Windows RT. You can’t use a wired router. It only works on WiFi or 3G if you ordered it.
You can’t store all your files, but there’s cloud storage available. It has two USB 2.0 ports and a slot to install a mini SD card. You can access other computers and download music and other stuff. There’s a Kindle reader application. Netflix runs on it. Music sounds pretty good, as do voices.
My son could not figure out how to change the background and asked why they don’t include documentation? The Billion Dollar Question. They have a couple of booklets and probably somewhere on the system, a manual. I wouldn’t be optimistic about how useful the manual is. Most of them are generated by software, not written by the likes of me.
I bet most problems people have with the operating system(s) and tablet is not having instructions on how to use it and not understanding what they bought. I found it easy to figure out, but I have a tablet and I’m computer savvy.
What you can do on the Dell XPS 10
- Surfing the net
- Playing music
- Netflix and other movies
- Take pictures
- Play games (lightweight)
- Light photo editing
- Listen to audiobooks.
If you are a photographer, don’t expect to do serious editing. You can view your pictures, crop them, fix them up a little. You’ll have to save the heavy processing until you get to your other computer.
Dell’s XPS 10 comes with MS Office RT installed. You can do most office tasks, smooth as silk. I wish I had a legitimate excuse to get one for me, now that I’ve given it to Owen, but I don’t need it. For me it would be a toy. For Owen, it will take care of most of his computing needs. We occupy different places in the cyber world.
I am an old dog, but I can still learn a few new tricks. I apologize, Microsoft. It’s a sweet operating system and Dell has made a smooth, functional tablet with superb battery life and a fine keyboard. You can even attach a mouse if you want.
I like it. The XPS 10 is a sweet little machine. I can tell from the gleam in my son’s eyes and the way he keep saying “Cool!!”
– – –
- So I ordered another one: Dell Inspiron 14Z Ultrabook (teepee12.com)
- Dell slashes its Windows RT tablet price by US$200 (computerworld.co.nz)
- How to unlock (jailbreak) your Windows RT device (digitaltrends.com)
- Windows 8 buying guide (reviews.cnet.com)
- Dell Slashes XPS 10 Windows RT Tablet Price (dailytech.com)
- Just what is Windows RT, anyway? (FAQ) (reviews.cnet.com)