Acer P3-131 and Windows 8–Owner’s Review Part 2

Windows 8 is not new, and with 8.1 coming in the near future, it’s not the latest either. I have been holding myself from really using Win8 for a while now since I really believe using it on a desktop, or laptop, is a waste. And I also believe many of the haters of Windows’ Metro (or Modern) UI are not using it in the right condition. Win 8, coupled with the P3’s SSD, only needs about 9 seconds to boot up. And it’s also the easiest to set up to date. Microsoft has really improved the UX in this department.

Using it in tablet mode, it is obvious that this is the natural habitat of the Metro UI. Everything’s fast and fluid, and seldom does a Metro app takes longer than 5 seconds to cold start (running first time since boot). It takes a little getting used to, as with all new things, and is not quite as intuitive as iOS, but it does its job well. The whole system ties with your Windows account (Outlook, Live, Hotmail, Skype), and provides a single sign-on environment for apps using Windows account, much like how Google does it in Google web services (Gmail, Youtube, Drive) and in Android. So much so, that I created another profile for my wife so her account does not overlap mine.

Running apps, is similar to running any other apps in other tablet environment. You tap an icon, the app appears full screen. to switch to another app, just swipe from the left. this is smooth even when watching movies. swiping from the right brings out the Charm and swiping from either the top or bottom brings the quick options.

Running desktop apps, however, switches the whole interface to normal desktop mode. The desktop mode is similar to the one from Windows 7, but with some additional features and (gasp!) missing the Home button. Using the desktop mode, touch is not celebrated, but supported. right click is done by long-pressing and many rudimentary mouse actions can be done with the touch screen. However, if some finesse is needed, a mouse, or even an active digitizer would be an obvious choice. Editing this article, for example. The P3’s screen does not support an active digitizer, however, but it works fine with normal capacitive stylus. Less accurate, but better than relying solely on the finger.

This duality is actually the biggest strength and weakness of Win8. The Metro UI is a beautiful UI, and fits into the touch experience nicely, but it does not play as nice with traditional keyboard and mouse. Microsoft handles this by enabling users to go to the desktop mode, where the keyboard and mouse feels at home, but not touch. buttons are not big enough, and on the whole, while smooth and responsive, is harder to use with touch only.

Apps are installed in 2 modes, desktop version and Metro version. I’m not saying that an app needs to have different UIs for each of the modes. It’s more like 2 separate apps altogether. Try opening a site in IE for Metro UI. then open the same app in desktop. You’ll see that not only the 2 apps, look different, it is 2 different apps running on 2 different modes. even the open pages on one app does not transfer to the other when switching modes. That’s ugly.

The Marketplace is largely littered crappy apps with a few gems in it, similar to Android’s couple of years back. The good side is, Windows has simplified the requirements to create an app: an app can be done with just HTML5, CSS 3.0 and Javascript. Even Microsoft’s own Outlook app looks like it’s using HTML5. While some of the mobile apps I use a lot is available, several notable ones are missing (Facebook, Gmail). But these can be solved by setting IE as the default browser, and pin these sites into the Start page.

Speaking of IE, until Chrome improves its look and feel in Win8 to optimise for touch, I’m sticking with IE. IE is a fast and fluid browser on metro and utilises all the gesture one should expect from a Metro App. Chrome does not. it does not run full screen (you’ll have to press F11, or in the P3 case, FN+F11) to go fullscreen, and from there, there’s no way to switch to other tabs other than to use the keyboard or to go back to windowed mode. I do hope the Chrome team would come out with something similar to Chrome for Mobile or better, since that has been my primary browser.

So what’s my take on the Acer P3 and Windows 8? Acer P3-131 (the one that I bought) is surprisingly good, especially for something that’s priced close to some high-end Android tablets. While the processor is not the best in the market (we shall see if I regret not getting the i3 or i5 version), it does its job well. The RAM and storage worries me though, since Windows took a lot of space. The I5 version does come with a 4GB ram, though. And the some international models have 128GB SSD. I do hope that this issue can be solved by Acer providing upgrade support, although I’m not sure if this is possible or not.

Windows 8 is a brave attempt by Microsoft, but it does miss out on some issues, which has irked loudly in the digital world. Traditionalists prefer to use the desktop mode while I believe the metro should be the only mode used in a tablet.

My suggestion is this, bring back the home button, and offer an option to force apps and softwares to remain on one mode only. if a desktop app is running on Metro, then it should be in fullscreen, without the taskbar, just as any other Metro apps. The same goes if a Metro app runs on desktop mode. The line between Metro and Desktop mode should be on how things are displayed and used, and should feel that it’s just a different layout, much like how Android Ice Cream Sandwich is to both mobile and tablets. The current situation where there’s a very distinct line between Metro and Desktop, as if they are 2 separate OS, just makes users confused.

We’ll just have to see if Windows 8.1 and upwards can improve this OS.

Part 1

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