The Hybrid Mindset: Tablet Connectivity

Hybrids make these redundant

I’ve spoken a bit in the past about device redundancy. As you can see from the picture above, it’s possible to have a lot of machines that do the same thing. And they may not talk well, or sync entirely. It costs more money, and is wasteful – as well as less convenient. So recently I started to play with using my tablet as more than a tablet.

I got a powered Belkin four port hub and plugged in all sorts of external devices as a sort of docking. 2 TB external mechanical hard drive, Linksys Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, printer, wireless mouse, keyboard, display.

It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve found even with USB 2.0, and just using one port, that there are no real bottlenecks other than the hard drive speed. I expect one might add to that with an external video card. The reduced power consumption from wireless connectivity, definitely adds to the life of the battery, especially on charge.

Fast enough of a tablet, and you can happily use it as a desktop.

Slimline laptop space

The other potential of course with tablets is in the netbook, Chromebook, slimline laptop area. Of course many can be paired with keyboard docks, if not at least a Bluetooth keyboard case. The tablet I am using is the Chuwi vi10, which is a 10.1-inch tablet with two full sized USB 2.0 ports, one micro-USB, and a magnetic keyboard dock with trackpad.

So what I did was added to the 64GB internal space, with a 64GB microSD, and an external Lexar 128 GB USB nub (One of those micro USB flash drives). It’s USB 3.0, but still runs a bit quicker than other USB 2.0 drives when plugged directly into one of the ports.

The 3736F chipset is a tad faster than the old 3735 and comparable to the newer cherry trail 8300, with less heat. With that driving only a lower resolution screen, you get a pretty fluid experience, and with the added space, holding extra programs and increased media storage, it does start to feel more like a slimline or similar, even when using it in tablet mode – It feels more like a computer, mobile.

Potentials

The other little gem I found was using the tablet on a tablet stand. With the extra space, and just a wireless mouse and keyboard, it could be turned into a sort of decent couch, or bedside computer that swings round when you want to use it.

So what things can you actually use such a set-up for? Well, with the increased storage on the device, I could set up some VMware virtual computers, and essentially store several machines with different OS’s, setups, on the tablet. They wouldn’t run fast, but it would enable me to emulate networks, or other environments.

What I have currently, is a series of video games that run without heat – that I wouldn’t have so many installed of, if I had less space. All full desktop games. I have Office of course, and as well I have Fruity Loops installed. With storage for sample memory, I can actually write music on the go, professional quality, using just the tablet, and/or a midi keyboard if I plugged one in. Higher CPU power might be more ideal for that, especially gigging, but I can still do it.

One could install something heavier than usual, full software, like say Adobe Illustrator, or Photoshop on a sufficiently powerful tablet, and create art on the go, using only the tablet and a stylus. Touch apps available on conventional touch devices don’t have this kind of power.

And if they did, without the storage, you couldn’t install a lot of them.

The other thing I have on my tablet right now, is Gigabytes worth of media. Enough to more than keep me entertained, where ever I go. And that is nice to also be able to share with friends what you have collected.

The Future of Computing

Bringing the power of the desktop, and the slimline to a more portable and flexible device like a tablet, really is kind of exciting. The potential will only be truly unlocked when USB 3.1 or thunderbolt is included, to allow fast hard drives and fast video cards to dock into the tablet, making it truly run like a desktop when used as one, but in the meantime, this 3736F chipset shows the potential to me, and there are chips available affordably that are even faster.

In a year or so, I think we will see small tablets with the power of a slimline, with ram and chipsets that stand on par. If we can see 3.1 or thunderbolt on some of these models, we will see the first next gen hybrids. When that happens you can expect Windows 10, as the only viable Hybrid OS, to go huge. I think we are close to the future of computing. The meeting point of fixed computing and mobile computing.

Exciting things coming for tablets in 2016

Cherry Trail 8500 Xiaomi

Okay, so I wanted to talk about the rest of this year in tablets. What the near future is like, particularly in regard to the mid range market I deal in. I think there are some really exciting things coming up.

Christmas and New Year are always exciting times in this market. You can bet on new chipsets, new RAM levels, different screen or battery technology – there is usually at least something new every time. But this year there is also a wider range of chip speeds, both in the SSD capable M-cores and in the cheaper and more common Cherry Trail chipsets. So the smaller devices and more mainstream devices may now be getting perhaps sometimes 4 GB of RAM, but still the lower clock speed cherry trail; the 8300. I think we can expect to see more 4 GB models with faster 8500s and 8700s very soon.

Graphics in Midrange Tablets

The other thing I wonder about is either usb 3.1 or thunderbolt. There are some core-m mini PCs with thunderbolt and that opens up the capacity to use your device as a mid range gaming rig when at home, a true hybrid device. USB 3.1 should also open this up when someone develops an external graphics card for the protocol.

It seems using high end iPad screens has become the norm. We rarely see many devices with low resolutions now, and sound quality and screen brightness have been improving, so at least in the mid market, with reputable brands I think at minimum screen quality is becoming more standard.

Which also means there is less area to compete here- 4k isn’t visible on such small screens, even retina is only technically visible at limited ranges. That leaves drive speed, battery, lightness, CPU, RAM, storage, ports and other features as more central to product differentiation- standing out of the pack and being competitive.

Budget Tablet Variety and Surprises

So while there are some things that I might expect, I also expect some pleasant surprises. The Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 features a nice 8500 processor. It lacks micro SD card and only has the conventional 2 GB of RAM, but still comes in both Android and Windows, the windows has more storage is a premium style device in terms of build. I shall be getting a few of these in with my next stock order.

I expect this signals a wide release we will see coming soon of devices with more RAM, bigger CPU, larger battery etc. But these could be quite varied. I could imagine for example a 8700 with 2 GB of RAM, versus a 8500 with 4 GB being presented as options. Perhaps even m-cores with 2gb of ram as budget variations. One might be tuned for long battery life, another for maximum processing power. With screens becoming standard, and battery levels being similar, we can already see more of this diversification emerging in the market; compare the Mi Pad 2 with the Teclast Plus 2 versus the Pro.

All more or less in the same market. The Plus is solid, fast enough, fluid but geared for battery life. The Pro is so performance driven its prone to overheat without DIY mods or software hacks when gaming. And the Mi Pad is high CPU like the Pro, but lower ram than the other two, giving it good gaming and speed capabilities but not as good for multi-tasking.

More and more I suspect it will become a situation when the users needs will need to well matched to the device.

Hybrid Devices and Hybrid OS

And with the popularity of larger hybrid laptop style devices, increased ports and such, as well as the release of Windows 10, as I predicted we are seeing a slow steady rise in Windows devices and dual boot devices. Full desktop apps start to shine on screens big enough to handle the smaller windows icons (probably about 8.9 inches and above, although in a pinch eight can work, especially in tablet mode, or with much enlarged icons). I can do things on my device such as write music. Write articles (like this one). I’ve got my system set up with both an applications/RAM cache, and a drive caches both running through the eMMC. The other day when I was writing to my usb 2.0 speed microSD card reader in this tablet, I was getting a 180 mb/s speed for the transfer. Which might not mean much to techy people, but its more like the speed of the cache drive the actual drive – you can’t do half the things you can in windows on Android.  And that’s particular significant when tablets are speed wise catching up with laptops – it creates a world where you really can have one device (or two devices) to rule them all, a world that is literally just around the corner.

That said, touch designed apps, games and social apps are still king within Android – if those things are your ‘jam’, then Android is a fine system that is very touch friendly, a big app market and it has evolved a lot in recent years in terms of finally getting gestures in there.

I only mention Windows 10 because the touch, tablet, hybrid, mini PC, ultrabook marketplace is where they still look to grow the most, given the benefits of the OS. So that is a part of our future, and I think with device overlap, a big one.

To me it all looks very exciting, and there are some models right now that looks exciting, like the Chuwi Hi10, the Cube i7, and the Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 – and I am going to get in some of these models soon, stock the store up again.

Let us know what exciting things you are looking forward to in the comments. Or anything you’d like to see me stock in my next order too. Have a good one!

The Chuwi vi10

So, I’ve been using the Chuwi Vi10.

It’s last years model, but it’s material design is a little more deluxe than the majority of releases and the 3736 chipset that it employs, especially given the modest resolution gives the slower cherry trails a run for their money. So overall it still stands up.

The full sized USB ports seem honestly like a dream coming from tablets with only micro ports. I’ve been using them for remote mice, hotplugging usb sticks, and for an external hard drive set up that converts the tablet into a desktop like experience.

The magnetic keyboard attachment works very well. The keys are pretty soft touch, and the magnetic connector basically connects the two for you. It has pretty generous internal space, and with the full ports, plenty of room for expansion if you add a micro flash drive (these come pretty cheaply up to 128gb, and I hope to stock these a little later on).

For video and general use, the resolution is perfectly capable, and the screen is very bright. I only feel it could be better when reading magazines or books where sharp images or text shine.

Overall this is a very solid tablet I think. I have just one other vi10 left in stock, and because I am really looking to get in some more tablets, I am going to give the last one away for a steal $259.99 NZ dollars for the tablet and the attachment – a more than 30% saving. Someone else should be enjoying this.

Website outtage

We got attacked with some malware, and it took awhile to correct the issue. We are back on board now, and better protected and apologize to any customers who were left short!

Fortunately exciting times lay ahead. I’m looking forward to particularly the new edition of the Chuwi Hi10, which is a hybrid with a swivel keyboard that stacks up very nicely. I think coming towards the end of the year, especially Christmas, over winter we will see progressive variants with faster chips, especially the new cooler intel revisions coming out soon.

There are already plenty of models that run like a laptop in essence, providing that true 2 in 1, 3 in 1 type of experience that Windows 10 can afford – a single device to rule them all – but I think we will see greater power, in smaller sizes very soon, and at this lower price point, that will really open up the possibilities for everyone.

An update at last

It’s been too long since I last updated everyone about the store. Some financial issues have stalled new stock intake for a month or so, but things are going well, and the store has a bright future 🙂

I wanted to talk briefly about some of the newer models that I will be getting in next, when it happens.

The first up is the Xiaomi MiPad 2. This is solid Android tablet, with a lot of premium style features, like wireless AC, laminated display and a higher end x8500 chipset. It’s iPad mini sized, and I think will be a solid option for a lot of people.

I’ll definately be getting in also the Chuwi Hi10 or similar. This has 4gb of RAM, usb 3 port, and has a transformer style docking system for the keyboard (It’s a hybrid) that allows some swivel. Very nice. There is a new model coming out soon, that has either 3g or 4g, and I think it’ll be pretty exciting.

The Teclast x98 plus is also on the list. It has 4gb of Ram, and a USB port, but it also has one of the most impressive practical battery life levels in the market. I’ll be looking for a dual boot version.

If there’s anything else anyone is interested in, including cheaper western models like Toshiba, mini PCs, anything in the ballpark, hit contact on the bottom right of our main page, and let me know.

Mp3, lossy audio, vinyl and studio masters

The modern mp3 format was developed primarily on a song called ‘tom’s diner’ by Suzanne Vega (also a terrible choice of song. Very little nuance). In 2015 Ryan Maguire released a song called “moDernisT” an anagram of tom’s diner, which is the sounds that are lost in the mp3 coding process. The following video also features what remains left behind after mp4 video compression.

And you can hear what is missing. Environmental sounds such as reverb in the vocal recording, elements of the voice, breath, transient elements of the percussive sounds. Once you add in the inaudible parts of bass, that you feel with your body, and that shake the room – in a concert, or on a record (even with less lossy mp3s) – you can really see why people are turning back to vinyl and HD flac and apple encodes. Whether you can pick it or not, yourself, its there. And as studies have shown, many can pick the difference between 320kpbs and flac, let alone vinyl or 24 bit and 320kbps.

I did a little blog post a while back, about loseless audio, and the difference that makes. Well it turns out, that the experience of listening to something in 24 bit, 96 khz, is exactly as rich as listening to vinyl, whether the source is a vinyl or even better, a studio master.

Muse and the glitch mob noteably have studio masters available for purchase for their albums. There are several online specialists in HD audio. If anyone is keen to hear that warm, full bottom end, the nuance of an acoustic guitar, strings or piano – that warmth, and sparkle – I highly recommend checking out 24 bit flac files. Be warmed, they are often about a gig for an album. But these days that’s much less of an issue.

Latest update

Apologies for not checking in here as often. I have had a busy holiday period catching up with some family that I have not seen in a long time.

On the technology front we have some new core-m releases coming out in China – the Cube i9, and the Voyo vBook, both of which feature the same M3-6Y30 processore that the Microsoft surface has – and the vBook, which is a flip, or Yoga style hybrid, had a tasty low price. Not sure how long it will be until tap that stock this higher priced more premium hybrids, but I would like to see some in that space soon, so people have cheaper alternatives to the high end hybrids.

We have a nice little sale on for just one week – a combo deal for the Teclast Air III, where you save over $40 bucks on already heavily discounted products. Honestly it’s a steal. Check that out here:

Teclast Air III combo special

Tech updates Jan 19th

This week we continue to see releases and announcements in the hybrid area. We have the Chuwi Hi12, and the Cube i9, both Surface 3 competitors. The i9 as with the i7, particular serious as a contender. The Hi12 has 4gb/64gb and a surface 3 quality screen, but it only is powered by a z8300 cherry trail. No doubt that will make it cheaper, but I’d have questions about performance at that resolution.

The Cube i9 on the other hand – Core M3-6Y30 just like the surface 3, same screen panel as the surface, 4gb of ram and 64/128 internal SSD. Definately exciting. It should also have stylus support. More details as we go I guess, and while it is going to be cheaper than a surface, it’s pricey compared to anything else chinese no doubt.

In the same way we are seeing announcements for a few tablets with the newer ASUS Transformer book like swivelling magnetic dock, there are also a host of announcements around a Yoga 2 2-1 type design. The Voyo VBook V3 Ultrabook Tablet PC is a particularly exciting offering. It has the basic z8300, but 4gb of ram and 64gb eMMC. And while that’s no surface, it’s still a competent machine and one of the better ones with the flip Yoga style laptop casing.

I’m still waiting for a core M in 7.9 or 8.9 inches!

 

The Next Generation

The end of last year saw the roll out of many new Cherry trail, and a few new Core-M chipsets. There are a variety of new possibilities, but the new chipsets are not without their issues.

Whether is a premium high end tablet, or a budget one, there are heat design issues with the Cherry Trails, they are hard to cool, and thus often throttle. There is a new intel revision coming out soon, that most likely will address this, as well as adding slightly to burst speeds.

The z8300 chipset, the most common to be found in the new generation of tablets can operate graphics 30% faster, and can utilize usb 3 speeds both for external ports, or for the microSD slot. Both pretty desireable advantages. As a CPU however, on benchmarks it tends to rank about the same as the old standard Baytrail z3735F, which did have a few superior chipsets such as the z3736F – with .3 Ghz higher burst speed than the z8300.  The z8300 is also capable of 4gb of RAM, but only in single channel, which blunts much of the performance advantage.

The faster 8500, and 8700 chipsets offer some real possibilities in terms of speed, and dual channel RAM. Some of the existing releases are very good experiences – however they also fall prey to the heating issues, and can throttle and get hot if you push them.

The surface uses very advanced cooling methods to power their Cherry Trail tablet. One should hope between more advanced cooling and the new revision, that we will see more smaller 8500, and 8700 tablets very soon without throttling.

And the core m’s while ahead in power, and in the expandability of RAM, and the potential to use SSD – are still floating at a price that makes it trickier for consumers.

However, all this is what makes this an exciting time. You see, usb 3.1 as a standard, is capable of powering an external GPU. It’s powerful bandwidth. And core M is bound to slowly come down, as 8500 and 8700 based chipsets become used without throttling in smaller tablets.

All this means tablets with more powerful chips, better connectivity and more RAM – offering us the potential of a true “3 in 1”. A tablet that can operate effectively as a netbook or laptop, a tablet, and a computer. Not strictly leaning towards any particular one – capable of full desktop tasks like sound engineering, video rendering, games, databasing etc, but in a form factor that can be held in one hand. And fortunately we already have a true all in one OS, Windows 10, to power it.

One device to rule them all, is getting much closer.

A thought for the holidays

I spent some time recently with family I had not seen in a while. We went through some very old photos, remembering the people and places we had been. There is something about this experience, and also reconnecting with family, that puts like in perspective, not unlike a near death experience.

You realize that the things that bother you about people, and the smaller daily struggles you face are not as important, in the grand scheme of things. That perhaps what matters, is how you grow, and the peoples lives you touch, and their touch on yours.

That maybe we should not burn bridges. We should be able to forgive, even if we are also discerning, and fair minded. That if enough time comes to pass, even a troubled time with a person with whom you no longer speak, may seem in retrospect like there was care shared. That brothers and sisters, and family, for all their fights, that there is a shining light beneath it all.

That what we have is precious, and that even when things are hard, there are some silver linings.

I should only hope that more people out there, have a moment like this over their holidays. A little magical transcendence of our sometimes normally expectant, fragile and judging selves. Be grateful for the people you love, have loved, and whom love or have loved you.  It’s what makes this whole show worthwhile 🙂