Sahara I440D – a Tablet "Mac"??
The REVIEW THAT ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN!!
This morning, as I sleepily wombled around the house.. I managed to do something.. something very very STUPID. I spilled and ENTIRE FULL CUP OF COFFEE on my new laptop. The I440D! AAGGGHHH!!! I immediately turned the power off, but it was too late. The machine was running, but the screen was black. Agh!! I had to send it back to TabletKiosk for repair! The review is definitely postponed.. I thought..
You see, I can be a very clumsy guy. I do stupid things. OFTEN. I once spilled an entire glass of wine on my uber gamer nerd DECK LEGEND KEYBOARD.Â (US $120.00 new) Agh! When the LED backlit keyboard would heat up after about 10 minutes of use.. the sticky wine that I had tried to clean up would just start fusing circuits, and thena;lkfdupoiafu a[oiwu o4iuar5wojslodjhflkdsjlsdkfj fsdffjd.. .sÂ (you get my drift) The solution? Hot soapy water. Yep, I immersed the whole keyboard in warm soapy water.. rinsed, and set the thing out to dry in the late summer sun all day. And you know what? It worked! Good as new. I'm typing on it now as a matter of fact.
On with the Sahara: Later in the day, I thought.. well.. not a LOT of coffee got into the machine.. it seems dry.. and I flipped the switch. To my total surprise, the screen flickered, and bam! I was back in business. Whooey.. thank the fates! New laptop is OK, and has been running for hours with no problems.. phew! (I have no warranty.. but more on that later)
Well, the Google G1 Phone review will have to wait, but I thought I'd do my brief review of my new laptop, the TabletKiosk Sahara I440D!
I've always gotten a lot of attention when I go out to a cafe and take out my Motion Computing slate tablet pc.. Within minutes, someone will approach me and say.. "Excuse me! ..can I ask you.. what.. what IS that thing?" To which I always reply.. it's a laptop.. a WINDOWS laptop. About fifty percent of the time, people reply something like this: "..but.. does it run regular programs? Like the internet and stuff? Where's the keyboard??" It's hard to believe, but many years after the launch of the Tablet PC, there are still people out there who have never seen one in person. (At least, now with all of the convertible models, they may have seen many, and not known it.)
When I went to purchase a new laptop, I wanted something a bit more powerful than my old 997mhz single core XP machine. I.. I.. wanted a .. a.. *choke* .. VISTA tablet! The Sahara I440D also had the touch screen, and I had reviewed one in person earlier.. IN WHITE. Yes, the pearly WHITE that is the signature Mac LOOK. (It also comes in Black, and a few other special promotional colors..) For another review that shows the WHITE Sahara, click HERE.
If there was ever a tablet pc that might be mistaken for a Mac, the white Sahara I440d just might be it.
You see, a year and a half or so ago.. (maybe TWO years ago?) -I purchased not one, but TWO copies of Windows Vista Ultimate, one for each of my main workstations. I installed.. I uninstalled. It was terrible.. nothing worked. I had blown a bunch of cash, and nothing worked. Boy was I ever mad..! Vista was banished to a dusty corner until Service Pack 1 was released.. hmm.. perhaps Vista was worth another try. Being an inquisitive lad, I broke out my old Vista discs and tweaked, and upgraded, and tweaked.. and finally.. something strange happened. Something I never thought would happen in a million years.
.. I actually started to LIKE VISTA.
So, naturally, the best thing to do was to next upgrade my laptop! A nice, fast dual core machine that ran Vista comfortably... but enough about Vista, this review is really about the Sahara. More about Vista in a future post.
I'm a total bargain hunter when it comes to electronics, and I happened to find a Sahara I440d, used, for more than half off of retail price! Too sweet to pass up! At $1200, and a few clicks, the tablet was on it's way! IN WHITE. (or so I thought, from the website description) I could live with white, I thought, although the whole "What is that thing.. is it a MAC?!" factor at the local cafe was going to be truly unbearable.. To my surprise, the demo unit that I had purchased arrived, I tore open the box, and bingo! Much to my elation, I received the BLACK unit! Woo! I prefer my electronics in black, and the Sahara I440D in black, has a nice rubbery outer coating to the casing that makes for a great non-slip grip and just lends another bit of wow factor to the device when you hold it. This machine is over a year old, but perfectly capable and not at all behind the current technology curve for a Vista tablet.
The tablet feels light in my hands, around three pounds with the built in six cel lithium ion battery. Perfect for slipping into it's neoprene zip on case, and sliding into my backpack, along with my other gadgets..! Animation and digital paint station on the go!
With a click of a button, the active digitizer becomes a touch screen! A bit useless, really, but now that I've got it, I don't know how I've lived without it. It's extremely handy when you've just grabbed the machine, and don't want to bother with the pen. Couch web surfing just got a lot easier, and punching in web addresses into the tablet pc TIP keyboard is just really quick & intuitive with the touch screen.
The touch screen: Contrary to popular belief, the Sahara has a thin layer of fairly tough plastic covering the entire screen. The touch screen is made by Pan JIT International, and is a capacitive SINGLE TOUCH overlay. It's a very sensitive, high resoltuion overlay, but none the less, an overlay, and there is an ever so slight give to the screen. It's hardly noticable, but definetely more noticable than writing directly on the pure glass screen of say a Motion Computing tablet pc. It does not seem to scratch easily at all, and I can't imagine a day where it's totally scratched up like a traditional wacom tablet sometimes ends up. (But on those, you can order a new plastic overlay, easily installed.) I'm not sure what would happen if the plastic touch screen was ever damaged / scratched by someone who makes millions of marks on the screen like I do in my animation and drawing work. Guess I'll find out eventually.. I'm not a fan of extra screen protectors at all, either. They hinder my drawing process.
The touch screen has a calibration application, and you can use from as little as four points of registration, to 25! So the touch screen is very very precise and sensitive. Not at all like those pesky touch screen voting machines.. (nyuck nyuck nyuck!) Underneath the plastic, the screen is glass. The pen is actually white, and has a nice little eraser on it, which works in most drawing apps that support it. Neat! The pen bay is not spring loaded, but the pen clip serves to hold the pen into place, and when in it's dock, the pen has no danger of slipping out onto the floor.
There are a series of buttons on either side of the Sahara, on the left, you have a SAS key, (sort of a crtl-alt-del key), a screen rotation key, and volume up / down keys as well as the left speaker. On the right side of the machine, you'll find the fingerprint reader sensor, three function buttons, seemingly assigned to .. nothing? And the Touch / Wacom switch button, along with the right speaker.
The speakers are actually really great for laptop speakers. Loud and placed nicely on the front of the case and right / left sides of the screen. Perfect for presentations.
Aero / Glass:
Windows Aero / Glass runs great on the GMA 950 pci express graphics card. I'm not going to be playing 3D games on this thing, so I really don't care about the wimpy on board graphics that most tablet pc's including this one, have, but I bet it would play counterstrike or team fortress at 1024x768 just fine, details turned down and whatnot.. Vista zips around with no visible slowdown for me.
I run this machine with 3 GB of ram, and rarely see any kind of slowdowns in performance. It's a great dual core little workstation, and faster than many of my older destkop computers.
One little thing that bothers me, is the fact that there isn't a DVI (digital video) port OUT.. only VGA. In my opinion, I would have dropped the MODEM port ( Whaa?? ) and made room for a nice DVI port in there. Firewire fans will be happy to see a full sized firewire port, a rarity in laptops, as well as dual USB 2.0 ports, and an external sata port on the left side of the machine, as well as a headphone and mic jack. The headphone port sounds great, with no buzzing or machine static noise, on my Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones.. (ahh bliss!) It's my little cone of slience when I flip that switch. I finally have a machine with the ports in the right place! No more flipping the screen orientation around to plug in a thumbdrive..
The top of the machine has three switches, one for on/off, one for bluetooth on / off, and one for wifi on/off. Great for saving on battery. There is also a full size PCMCIA slot if you wish to add on an EVDO or other expansion card.
The machine has two cooling vents, one top, and one bottom, along with a fan on the inside of the machine that kicks inÂ once in a while. It's not loud, but it's there and you notice it in a very quiet room. In the normal din of a cafe, you won't even hear it. The machien gets warm, but never overly hot, like my Motion machine did. I could have cooked breakfast on my old M1400! Ram is easily upgradeable via a trap door on the back of the machine, as well as the hard drive, which I'll be replacing with a 7200 rpm model in the next week. I imagine that the machine will be even faster at everything,Â once it's installed. This 5200 rpm drive is terribly slow compared to the old IDE 7200 rpm drive in my old M1400 . .Â It was a cheap upgrade, ($50) - so I ordered one up! (Updates on that in a later post.)
The Sahara ships with a great little plastic folding stand, with nice rubber feet, and a long rubber grip to stand the tablet on, upright at a slight angle. Great for presentations or using it in "laptop" mode, if you have a nice wireless / Bluetooth keyboard. Folds flat and is very very sturdy. Nothing like the laughable "plate holder" that the original Motion M1300 / M1400 used to ship with.
However, for my use, I tend to need more of a flat angle to draw at, so I stick to my old trusty metal red BookHug. (www.bookhug.com) A device used to hold open cookbooks in the kitchen. Very handy, and well worth the $10 price.
Thoughts, and conclusion:
I love this little machine, with the bright screen (decent viewing angle.. not quite as good as my old Motion machine) and the handy touch screen. It's a little power house, and a great desktop replacement.
The only thing that could make this tablet greater is a combination wacom / CAPACITIVE touch screen with multi-touch! That would really blow the doors off of anything out there, in my opinion..Â Also, as I mentioned, a DVI out would be fantastic plus to have.
Now here's where a few readers may differ with me. I'm not the guy that goes and buys a brand new car. No way! Let someone else pay that big up front cost! I'm fine going with the instantly de-valued price that a well cared for, used device brings, but my limit is around $1000. If you're ok with buying used, and not having that 3 year extended warranty.. it's no secret that you can save a ton of cash buying used merchandise, but in this case, I feel that this model can't possibly be worth the going price of $2400 or so, as I've seen them.
That just seems too much for a machine with these specifications. I could see it for a very fancy entertainment laptop, with a great 3d card for games in it.. but the tablet pc has always tried to tack on a large pricetag for hardware that lacks oomph, but I see that trend slowly changing.
In short, I'm glad I paid less for this machine than I could have.
If you're a person who likes the benefits and security of buying new, I couldn't reccomend this tablet more.
I give it five out of five stars, and it's easliy my favorite modern tablet pc out there.
In my next review, I'll be posting up my take on the Google G1 phone... Hope you've enjoyed this article, and it's helped you in your research.
IntelÂ® Coreâ„¢ Duo LV L2500
2 CPU Cores @ 1.83 GHz
32KB/32KB L1 cache, 2 MB shared L2 cache, 667 MHz FSB
IntelÂ® Virtualization Technology
Enhanced Intel SpeedStepÂ® Technology
IntelÂ® 945 GM Express North Bridge with 533 MHz and 667 MHz FSB Support
IntelÂ® ICH7-M South Bridge with 10 GB/s full duplex DMI, PCI Express 1.0a
ACPI 1.0b and 2.0 Compliant, supports C0-C4, S0, S3-S5 power states, IntelÂ® SpeedStepÂ® Technology
2x SODIMM DDR2 (Unbuffered, 64-bits/channel) slots with initial configurations of 512 MB - 2.0 GB
Upgradeable to 4.0 GB with 2.0 GB SODIMMs
(modules available Q2 2007)
Supports Single Channel, Dual Channel Symmetric, or Dual Channel Asymmetric DDR2 Configurations
Supports Reduced Power DDR2 (RPDDR2)
IntelÂ® Rapid Memory Power Management
Rechargeable 6-Cell Lithium Ion Smart Battery Pack
(3800 mAh @ 11.1 V, 42W/hr)
Over Charge Protection, Over Discharge Protection, Over Current and Output Short Protection, Over Thermal Protection
2.5" 9.5 mm, Ultra DMA SATA 150 MB/s
Configurations from 80 GB to 160 GB @ 5,400 rpm
Configurations from 60 GB to 100 GB @ 7,200 rpm
IntelÂ® GMA 950 PCI Express, 250 MHz Core Render Clock at 1.05V core
DirectX 9.1 Compatible, IntelÂ® Dual Frequency Graphics Technology, IntelÂ® Dynamic Video Memory Technology 3.0
Windows Vistaâ„¢ Aero capable
IntelÂ® Smart 2D Display Technology, High Performance MPEG-2 Decoding, VLD/iDCT Hardware Acceleration
Screen rotates 0Â°, 90Â°
1024 x 768 Landscape, 768 x 1024 Portrait
Dual Display Support
External Display up to QXGA (2048 x 1536) with CRT Hot Plug support
12.1" TFT XGA LCD Wide Angle Display
Dual Mode Active Digitizer and Touch Screen, Hot Mode Switchable
PanJit SRII Sunlight Readable Screen (Optional)
IntelÂ® High Definition Audio Interface (ICH7-M)
Independent Bus Master Logic for eight (8) general purpose streams: 4 in / 4 out
ALC262-VC2-GR HD Codec
AC '97 Compatible
Multichannel 32-bit / 44.1KHz/48KHz/96KHz/192KHz sampling rate output (DAC)
Multichannel 32-bit / 44.1KHz/48KHz/96KHz sampling rate input (ADC)
Built-in Stereo Speakers and Dual Digital Microphone Array for added fidelity and accuracy
3.5 mm Headphone & Microphone Plug 'n Play Jacks
IntelÂ® Pro 3945 Dual-Band/Tri-Mode 802.11 a/b/g Networking with Power ON/OFF Switch
802.11 d/e Quality of Service (QoS), 802.11h (Active Client Radar Detection) support
64-bit and 128-bit WEP Encryption, Hardware AES (128-bit, 192-bit, 256-bit key sizes)
Supports IEEE 802.11 Power Save Protocol (PSP)
BluetoothÂ® 2.0+EDR built-in USB module with Power ON/OFF Switch
Finger Print Reader
Patented TruePrint Technology for best Ability to Acquire (ATA)
High Definition 128x8 TruePrint Technology based pixels
6.5mm x .40mm 500 pixel per inch array
USB 2.0 High Speed interface with Suspend and Remote Wake-up
Full Support for C3 Selective Suspend Mode
Built-in Low Power Finger Detection with Remote Wake-up capability
Single-Chip Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
Embedded TPM 2.1 Firmware
TPM Administration Tool provides Owners/Users Management and Key Archive Policies
Trusted Group Computing (TCG) v1.1B / v1.2 configurable mode of operations
PCMCIA 2.1 Compliant, Supports one (1) Type II 32-bit PC Card Bus Architecture
1x RJ-11 56Kbps v.90 Fax/Modem
1x RJ-45 10/100/1000 Mbps Full Duplex (2.5 Gbps single-lane channel) Ethernet
2x USB 2.0
1x IEEE 1394a, 6-pin
1x 3.5mm Audio Out, 1x 3.5mm Audio In
1x VGA port, HD15
1x Cradle Connector