Windows tablets are PCs, and sometimes that's the problem

Windows tablets are PCs, and sometimes that's the problem

Summary: Windows tablets have an advantage over competing slates as they are also PCs. Sometimes that's not really a good thing.

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FFOD
Frowny Face of Death (FFOD) (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I adore my ThinkPad Tablet 2, it's a great tablet. As Microsoft is fond of pointing out, like all Windows tablets it's also a PC. Unfortunately, that's not an advantage over the competition when things don't work as they should.

Tablets are very different from other forms of PCs. They are designed to be pulled out of the bag and have the user doing needed tasks in just a second or two. That's the way Android tablets work, and the way iPads work. That's usually the way Windows tablets work, except when things go awry.

Take my Tablet 2. It had always worked the way it should until recently. Three times I've taken it out of the bag to find the Frowny Face of Death (FFOD), shown in the image above. The tablet was dead with that screen frozen in place. Each time it required a manual hard reboot with the power button to get back to business. Not the way tablets are supposed to work.

In addition to this new problem, the Tablet 2 has started taking up to 10 seconds to wake up from sleep with the display flashing. It used to wake in a second or two but recently started hesitating before waking. Again, not the way tablets are supposed to work.

A fair bit of investigating has pointed to the sources of these two new problems. The FFOD seems to be the result of the microSD reader hanging while the system is sleeping. It worked before, works most of the time now, but occasionally fails completely.

Sources online think it's a driver from whomever makes the reader. Some with the problem (and there seem to be quite a few) claim a driver found outside of the Windows ecosystem fixes the problem, but others say it doesn't. I will have to do additional research and experiment with drivers to see what fixes it. That is hit and miss since the FFOD only occurs sometimes.

These tablet problems that interfere occasionally with operation are due to the PC under the glass. They are full PCs, which is a good thing, but that leads to grown-up PC problems.

The hesitation in waking problem is a bad video driver, according to Tablet 2 owners who have been troubleshooting the issue. They've uncovered a video driver from Intel, the company that makes the integrated graphics, that they claim fixes the problem. The support forum has postings from those now free of the issue, but also from others who state this didn't fix their problem. It's not clear what I need to do to address my own situation but I'll do further research to figure it out.

I've used over a dozen Windows tablets and have run into issues like these on a number of them. The fact is, these tablet problems that interfere occasionally with operation are due to the PC under the glass. They are full PCs, which is a good thing, but that leads to grown-up PC problems from time to time.

To be clear, I don't blame Windows for these problems. The problems can probably be laid at the feet of Lenovo. Or maybe the component makers. I am beyond the blame game and just want the tablet to work as intended.

Taking a Windows tablet out of the bag to do something quickly, only to find the tablet won't wake up, runs counter to the whole tablet thing. When the PC inside raises its ugly head and prevents the owner from using the tablet as intended, the PC inside becomes a problem and not an advantage.

I've used dozens of Android tablets and several iPads and they have all worked as expected when waking them up to do stuff. There have been no reboots, hang-ups, nor driver issues. They have all turned on in a second and let me check my email or whatever.

Tablets must be easy maintenance and easy to use or consumers will run away. One single PC issue and the whole experience is ruined. I love my ThinkPad but I no longer recommend Windows tablets to family and friends. I have no desire to support them through problems like the ones I am having. 

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Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Tablets, Windows 8

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119 comments
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  • I've already decided to avoid the Surface fiasco...

    this is just confirmation, why would anyone put up with such a flawed OS?? I have zero issues with Android and my wife has zero issues with her iPad. If M$ is going to release such a poorly designed OS as W8, they should have at least made it stable.
    FrankInKy
    • Yawn.

      Of course, Frankie, of course... ;)
      William.Farrel
      • At least you explained why the Surface is a good buy anyway...

        ...oh, wait you didn't.
        FrankInKy
      • Oh look,

        the Google propagandists are back here, vomiting all over.

        I'm sure you're going to tell us how believable your anecdotes are, seeing the spelling of M$ as unbiased refernce, and all...

        :)
        William.Farrel
    • Agree and Disagree

      I haven't decided about tablets, but the Surface is out for me because it really needs the keyboard and a flat surface. As for the rip on MS they just released a material upgrade - I am inclined to give them some slack. The Surface's complexity is its blessing and curse.
      Luke Skywalker
      • incorrect Luke (use the force Luke)

        You certainly can use a Surface tablet exactly like an Android or iOS tablet without the physical keyboard. Where did you get the silly notion that it really needs the keyboard. That's incorrect and completely preposterous. However, you can use a keyboard if you choose and its fully functional unlike the hobbled mess on those other platforms.
        greywolf7
        • Microsoft marketing.

          "Where did you get the silly notion that it really needs the keyboard"

          It's all over Microsoft's marketing as an advantage over say an iPad. I could see how some consumers would think it needs a keyboard always. They don't even show the thing in portrait mode. I guess that's partly because of how extra elongated it would look holding next to an iPad.
          dave95.
          • Keyboard

            It being marketed as an advantage in no way means or implies that it can't be used without a keyboard does it? It's marketed as an advantage because it was designed to pair effortlessly with one and not because you have to have one plugged to use it. Why don't u test drive a device before knocking it. What is funny is that this post doesn't even mention the Surface.
            oscardetoy
          • Geek the place up

            You're kidding yourself. Average people out there most certainly will assume that the Surface requires a keyboard if that's all they see on TV. Not only that, most of them will never "test drive" one. They'll ask their friends, they'll ask their go-to geek, and then order the thing online.
            Robert Hahn
          • Then why Apple is selling keyboards for iPad stores?

            Please tell me Master Hahn.
            Ram U
          • "Then why Apple is selling keyboards for iPad stores?"

            Apple also offered an optional keyboard for the original iPad back in 2010. But unlike Microsoft, Apple is not making keyboards an integral part of the use case for tablets. They know the way the majority use these devices and are targeting these users.

            Have you seen that Glee-like commercial for the original Surface? The keyboard was the main attraction! Since then every marketing material Microsoft put out and every ad they've ran had the Surface connected to the keyboard. Some of us that's been following this company knows exactly what they were trying to do with the Surface "tabletPCs".
            dave95.
        • Microsoft marketing.

          "Where did you get the silly notion that it really needs the keyboard"

          It's all over Microsoft's marketing as an advantage over say an iPad. I could see how some consumers would think it needs a keyboard always. They don't even show the thing in portrait mode. I guess that's partly because of how extra elongated it would look holding next to an iPad.
          dave95.
          • I never use my iPad 2 for work

            Each time a new iPad comes on the market i consider for about 30 seconds that I might upgrade my old one. Then I realize that since I don't play games and other than Facebook I couldn't care less about social media, I really don't use the iPad for anything. I am still often on my laptop. Browsing the internet in way faster on a laptop. The keyboard and mouse make it highl efficient to type in search, to sub searching, click around, and the mobile we layouts that are touch-based are climsey to navigate around in.

            Touch works when you have a few buttons that you need to press through to start a netflix video, but I'd put my skills up against anyone that i could create a Excel spreadsheet in at least half the time if not three times as fast as someone doing the same thing with a touch interface. Try entering a 1000 numbers in a column while reading off a ledger using a touch keyboard. Try drilling through data using mining tools and writing SQL using a touch keyboard.

            Its all possible. It all will work. There's nothing wrong with it. Then again, there's nothign wrong with eating soup with a fork. You can do it. by why would you?
            A Gray
          • Nobody cares about winning your business.

            "I'd put my skills up against anyone that i could create a Excel spreadsheet in at least half the time if not three times as fast as someone doing the same thing with a touch interface."

            Get this through your head. Nobody cares about winning your business. You can do all that on a $300 laptop. That's a bottom-feeder low-margin market. Consumer tablets running Netflix is EXACTLY where Microsoft wants to be and they're failing epically.
            Retterdyne
          • I agree AGray.

            So funny, I read so many news and tech blogs, and you can tell immediately which are typed on a Touch device, especially phones.

            No punctuation, all lower case, no paragraphs.

            At some point I can see a contest between them. A real contest with the best, and see who wins, both at the top and at the average level.

            I see a big advantage to having only one device.
            RayInLV
          • Re: I see a big advantage to having only one device.

            Jack of All Trades and master of none... is this what you promote?
            danbi
          • Sorry, but...

            More like Jack of all Trades, AND master of them all.

            There are a half dozen things I can think of off the top of my head which are important, but can't be handled efficiently by any mobile device.

            The only advantages to mobile devices is that they are exactly that - mobile.
            louishelps
          • "More like Jack of all Trades, AND master of them all"

            Tell us how that Surface 2 is the master at being a laptop. Could this master laptop run Photoshop? Autocad? iTunes? How about that 10.1" screen size? Is that large enough a screen to be productive running all your productivity PC software (master of all trades).

            Tell us how well that 2 lbs 10.1" Surface Pro functions as reading device in bed for instance. With internal fans blowing and all.
            dave95.
          • Asus Transformer T100

            While there is no such thing as a "master of all" device and every device has its own form of compromises, tell us what this device fails at. What have other tablets "mastered" that this can't do also?

            Photoshop, check
            autocad, check
            iTunes, check
            1.2 lbs for reading in bed, check
            touch screen tablet, check
            movies, music, games, apps, desktop programs, 3d desktop games, full powered web browser with extensions, USB 3.0, SD card memory expansion, keyboard dock included, 11 hour battery life, fanless operation.... the checks keep going.

            So what does this not do that other tablets do?
            What does this not do that other laptops do?

            For $350 it certainly packs a massive amount of functionality that look to blow away other devices.

            Just because some idiot keeps repeating a cliché about 'jack of all trades, master of none', hoping that people believe it doesn't mean it is true. Ask him to qualify his statement and then listen to the silence of his non-answer.
            Emacho
          • Why not ask yourself?

            You claim there is "Jack of all trades, masker of all"?

            Do you also claim there is Perpetual Motion machine?

            Many claim, the iPhone design changed the mobile landscape. You must have missed the early interviews with those participating in the project -- where they explained at length that most of the time spent designing the new product was not what to add, but what to remove and how to simplify it in order to make it very good at some tasks.

            We all know there are amphibious vehicles, that can drive, float and fly. Yet, when you want to go from one place to another, you drive a car, take a train, an plane or a boat. Very few use the "jack of all trades". So is with computers.

            You need to understand what you are so excited about is niche usage. The rest of the people chose differently.

            No offense taken for your qualification by the way. You are free to resort to personal attacks, when your arguments run out. Your choice.
            danbi