When Microsoft first released Windows 8, not many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) caught Microsoft’s vision for tablets running its new OS. As a result Microsoft launched its own range of Windows 8 tablets starting with the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. The former used an ARM based processor with a special ARM version of Windows 8, while the latter used the full Intel version of Windows 8 that runs on desktops and laptops. Slowly, other companies have started to release Windows 8 tablets or Windows 8 2-in-1 devices, giving consumers a greater choice. One such company is Cube. Known more for its range of Android tablets and Android smartphones, Cube has recently started shipping its iWork 10 (U100GT) Windows 8 tablet. The iWork 10 gets its name from its 10.1 inch, 1280 x 800, IPS display and is technically a 2-in-1 device, which means it can be used as a tablet as well as a laptop. I recently had a chance to use the iWork 10 for a few days and this is what I discovered.
At the heart of the U100GT is an Intel Atom Z3740D processor. This 64-bit, quad-core chip is based on Intel’s 22 nm Baytrail architecture and is specifically designed for tablets. It runs at 1.3GHz and has advanced features such as Intel’s Virtualization Technology (VT-x) and the new AES instruction set. According to Intel, the chip performs better than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 when running the SPECint benchmark.
Besides the quad-core processor, the tablet packs 2GB of memory and 32GB of internal storage, plus all the normal connectivity options like WiFi and Bluetooth. Along the side of the tablet are a range of different ports and slots including an HDMI port, a micro SD card slot, a headphone socket, a micro USB port and the charging socket. The tablet charges using an external charger rather than via the USB port.
The tablet has an 8000mAh battery that performs excellently. I did some tests and found that you can watch over 7.5 hours of locally stored video on one battery charge. Likewise, you could watch a streaming video from YouTube for over five hours. In terms of gaming, I installed Fifa 14 from Microsoft’s store and one battery charge will give you over six hours of game play. All these tests were performed with the screen at half-brightness and with WiFi activated. For mixed use including web browsing, email, video and music, I estimate that the device will run for about seven to eight hours before needing a recharge. I repeated some of the tests with the keyboard attached to see if it caused the battery to drain quicker and the good news is that it doesn’t!
The tablet also includes two cameras, one on the back and one on the front. These are primarily designed for use with video chat. At 2MP each, you aren’t going to get any great photos from them, but for chatting with Skype, they perform admirably, however beware of low light conditions as the picture can quickly become very noisy.
Since the iWork 10 is a 2-in-1, it also comes with a keyboard/case. The keyboard (with trackpad) is built into a wraparound case. Down the spine is the connector which sticks to the tablet via some magnets. When you bring the tablet near the connector, the two click together. The magnets are strong enough that if you pick up just the tablet the keyboard remains attached.
The back cover also acts as a support and can be folded to prop up the tablet making the whole setup look more like a laptop. Once the keyboard is attached, the iWork 10 functions just like a laptop, but a laptop with a touchscreen! The trackpad is responsive and the keyboard is adequate. Like many laptops, the keyboard isn’t full size; however it is more than sufficient for getting work done on the move.
Once you have finished using the device, the keyboard/case can be closed around the tablet offering it a level of protection when being carried around. There are two minor drawbacks to the design of the keyboard case. The first is that the tablet can’t tell when it is closed which means the screen is liable to remain switched on as even the slightest pressure from the outside is enough to trigger a key press and wake the device. I found that the best answer was to shut down the tablet before closing the case. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as the tablet boots in less than 10 seconds!
The second problem is that there is potential for the keys on the keyboard to scratch the screen of the tablet. To avoid this, I quickly got into the habit of putting a piece of cloth between the keyboard and the screen as a layer of protection.
The tablet comes with 2GB, which is the most that the Z3740D processor supports, but the default configuration assigns 512MB as video memory. This means that Windows only has access to 1.5GB of system memory. Fortunately this can be altered in the BIOS. With the keyboard attached, press DEL during the initial moments of boot to enter the BIOS and then navigate to “Chipset -> North Bridge -> Intel IGD Configuration” and change the “DVMT Pre-Allocated” parameter to a lower value. I tested the tablet with 128MB of video memory and it worked fine including games like FIFA 14.
The processor in the iWork 10 is surprisingly capable. Since it supports Intel’s Virtualization Technology, I used Oracle’s VirtualBox to install a copy of Lubuntu (a derivative of Ubuntu that doesn’t require too many system resources). Both VirtualBox and Lubuntu worked perfectly, and I was able to run the virtual PC without any problems. The idea of a Windows 8 tablet running Lubuntu in a window is quite cool and not something you can do on an Android or iOS tablet!
Overall the tablet was responsive and a pleasure to use. I use Windows 8 on my main desktop PC, but for tablets I almost exclusively use Android. I was skeptical about running Windows 8 on a tablet, but once I started to see the power of the 2-in-1 approach, I started to warm to Microsoft’s view of the world. The tablet is shipping now and is available for just over $300 with a licensed version of Windows 8 and Office.