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Dell's Latitude 10: brilliant engineering in a drab package
I love this little tablet, which has the sort of gray-flannel, businesslike design Dell is known for. It won't turn any heads in an airport waiting lounge, but it works spectacularly well as a tablet and (with the optional dock, shown above) it fits nicely on the desktop.
The Atom processor in this device means it gets very good battery life, nearly eight hours in my typical usage, although the Atom's low power requirements also equal occasionally low performance. I've added a 64GB SD card filled with music, which means it plys as well as it works.
But the killer feature for me is that the battery can be swapped out (this feature is only available on the business edition of the Latitude 10, not on the Essentials model). I picked up an optional second battery that bulges out a bit from the back and allows the device to run another 12 hours. Even with that larger battery the device weighs well under 2 pounds.
For travel, I carry a Microsoft Bluetooth Wedge keyboard that also doubles as a stand, and this device is good enough to be the only one in my bag.
Acer Iconia W3-810 is tiny and flawed
This device is the first 8-inch tablet to appear on the market. It was made for the new specs of Windows 8.1, which lowered the minimum screen resolution for these devices, and I was really looking forward to testing this after picking up a review unit at the Build conference this year.
Alas, Acer needs to go back to the drawing board. This device might tick all the right boxes on the spec sheet, but it fails in practice, thanks to a fuzzy low-resolution screen that hurts my eyes after an hour or so of use. The price of this unit has dropped to $299 but I still can't recommend.
HP Pavilion Elite m9600t: Vista-era desktop flops on Windows 8
This tank of a desktop PC was my main workstation in the final year of Windows Vista and the first year of Windows 7. It has a first-generation Core i7 and plenty of RAM and storage. So in theory it should be just fine with Windows 8.
In practice, not so much. Windows 8's fast startups are lost on a device like this, which takes 20 seconds or more just on text-based startup screens. And the Windows 8.1 Preview has a terrible bug with this model that causes it to crash every time it tries to resume from sleep.
The real killer for me, though, is the terrible interior design of this box, which is a tangle of cords and cages where I have cut myself more than once. This one will be recycled soon.