Windows tablets are finally here, and Ollie Bray is impressed by the Acer W510 from RM
I have to admit to being one of the people who was looking forward to the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 and I had an early release version running on an old laptop long before its official launch in October 2012. However, during my early testing I didn’t really ‘get’ Windows 8 and spent nearly all my time in desktop mode rather than using the 'metro', modern user interface.
I quickly concluded that one of the reasons for this might be because my laptop didn’t have a touchscreen and there is now no doubt about it in my mind – Windows 8 is designed for touch. And it gets a thumbs-up.
Just before Christmas I took the loan (courtesy of RM) of an Acer W510 Tablet PC (pictured) and was asked to put it’s though its paces. The W510 is a hybrid machine. This means that it is a tablet PC but is also designed to be used with a detachable keyboard dock.
Unlike the peripheral keyboards that you can get for some other tablets, the keyboard for the W510 is not optional or a hidden extra – they ship together in the box and are designed to be used together, when appropriate. As well as feeling like a real keyboard (with proper keys!) the keyboard dock is clever as it also provides the W510 with extra USB ports and an extended battery life.
'Exactly the sort of screen time that is required to support a day at school'
The battery life for this little machine is really quite amazing. I used it every evening (without a full shutdown in between) for at least an hour for over a week before it needed a charge. Which certainly supports the claim on the box that it boasts a battery life of 18 hours when connected to the Bluetooth keyboard dock, and nine hours when used alone. This is exactly the sort of screen time that is required to support a day at school.
It is pretty powerful as well with its Intel Atom Processor Z2760 (1066MHz) and Intel Graphics 64 MB Media Accelerator 3650. All of this in a unit that is only 0.35 inches thick and 1.27 pounds in weight. Microsoft Kodu (games design software) is one of the most heavy software packages that I use at school and it handled this with absolutely no problem at all.
During my testing the Acer W510 was the only machine I used for 14 days. Unlike my previous experiment with Windows 8 on an older laptop, the W510 is fully compatible with Windows 8 and I found the screen responsive to touch and the interface easy and intuitive to use. But the thing that I noticed the most was how I found myself using the keyboard, touchscreen, trackpad and an optical mouse all at various different times during sessions. The trackpad on the machine was pretty poor (and this is really my only complaint), but everything else just seemed to work and flow together nicely.
Downloading apps from the Windows 8 Apps store was easy, and within a few minutes I was running some of my old favorites such as Skype, Google, Khan Academy and Netflix. The Windows 8 Apps Store is still a long way behind the Google Play Store and the Apple Apps Store in terms of the amount of apps available for education but more are being added all of the time.
However, I did find a few little gems that I had not seen before such as:
- Physamajig – create and play physics games
- Mind8 – mindmapping tool;
- Periodic Table;
- My Study Life – a version of a traditional pupil planner;
- Lazy Paint – a very cool little painting app;
- Kno Reader – digital textbook reader;
- NASA Be a Martian – learn all about Mars and future missions there.
Of course Windows 8 also comes with a pile of other apps as standard and these include People, Photos, Music, Videos, Bing Search, SkyDrive and Document Reader. One of the nice things about Windows 8 is how it links your apps together to help unify your experience.
For example, you can use the Photos app to see all your photos from sites like Facebook and Flickr. You can then upload them to your blog or send them to contacts via email. The important thing is you can do all of this without leaving the photos app. It's worth checking out the blog of Ray Fleming, from Microsoft Australia, who has been doing a good job to showcase some of the best Windows 8 apps for education.
Windows 8 ships with Internet Explorer (IE) 10 which is a huge step forward from IE 9 and is certainly more HTML5 compliant. IE10 is fast, very fast, and I used it for a few days to give it a real test before deciding to go back to the convenience of Google Chrome which was very easy to install by following the advice from Google.
Shape the Future – simple, cost-effective route to 1:1
One of the reasons why I was keen to test the Acer W510 is because it is one of the PCs that is available though Shape the Future. This is an innovative, simple and cost-effective way to get all students using 1:1 devices at home and in the classroom. The affordability of this device and software package is supported by Microsoft's global digital inclusion programme, in collaboration with RM Education and Intel. Exclusively available from RM Education, this has been specifically designed to help provide a great value 1:1 device programme for all students and their teachers.
As part of the requirement for the Acer W510 to be part of Shape the future it comes with a standard software build which includes Microsoft Office Professional 2010 and Microsoft Learning Suite (more than 20 software tools to help students and teachers create, collaborate, research and teach). And these are free for all learners and teachers. A full list of the software that comes pre-installed on all the Shape the Future approved machines can be found on the RM Shape the Future website.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 4
Value for money 4
Acer W510 tablet
Tablet PC with integrated keyboard, Windows 8 Pro, 2GB memory, Intel Atom processor Z2760 (1066MHz), 32GB storage, 10.1-inch LED-backlit TFT LCD (1366 x 768) with integrated 5-point multi-touch screen, supporting finger touch and image auto-rotation, Intel® Graphics 64 MB Media Accelerator 3650, high-definition audio with built-in stereo speakers, connections (micro SD card reader; micro USB 2.0 port; USB 2.0 port in dock; Micro HDMI port with HDCP support; headphone/speaker jack, wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/5GHz and Bluetooth® 4.0+HS, quality front and rear-facing webcams supporting video, battery life up to 9 hours, dimensions 186.5mm x 258.5mm x 9.9mm (width x depth x height), weight 680g, one year warranty, £395 from RM Education.
Acer W510 Tablet PC
Shape the Future
Based in the Cairngorms National Park, Ollie Bray works internationally with teachers, schools and governments to improve education outcomes for learners through the appropriate use of technology and the outdoors. He has been a senior policy adviser to government, school leader, head of department and is an award winning teacher. He is currently depute head teacher at Grantown Grammar School in the Scottish Highlands and a senior associate of ‘the-learning-crowd.’
Ollie Bray is a former Microsoft Innovative Teacher and active member of Microsoft Partners in Learning. He co-authored 'Windows 8 in Education' along with Gerald Haigh and Alan Richards (see "Microsoft opens up 'touch to learn'").
Ollie Bray's Blog
Windows 8 in Education (ebook)
RM Education C160/170
Acer UK E100