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Review: Dell Latitude 10 Windows 8 Tablet Review

The Dell Latitude 10 is the first Windows 8 tablet (as of this writing) that makes sense to me… despite the P33K price tag (it runs Windows 8 Pro; the Windows 8 config is cheaper at P30k). You will buy a Windows 8 tablet for work, and work is often MS Office, switching between apps and open windows, and running legacy apps. And that kind of “light” work is what this tablet is designed for, not graphic-heavy games, not video editing, not over-large multi-layered image tweaking (though it can run Photoshop and tweak images).

It doesn’t hurt that the Dell Latitude 10′s frame is made from reinforced magnesium alloy wrapped protectively by soft rubber, one that’s both nice to touch and provides a good carrying-grip. It’s not bad that it can out endure your smartphone, with its 8-9 hours of battery life (which you can swap out if you buy an extra battery). And it’s no big deal that it’s 10.1″ 1366×768 wide viewing angle’d and wide screen format display (great for movies) brings crisp, bright, and sharp images.

Default Modern Video Player

You’ll be watching a ton of movies on this thing, believe me. The Modern video player, above, plays a limited amount of video types, excluding .mkv. But the UI is clean. In case the movie file can’t be read, by all means switch to the familiar and ugly desktop VLC player, which plays anything thrown at it. (Notice: not a single mark of Dell branding on the front of that tablet, which I think is great. Makes it look more rugged.)

Of course, you can’t have everything. You can’t make it your torrent station or use it to store your entire music, movie, and image collection – it only has 64GB of storage. And it doesn’t come with MS Office 2013 preinstalled (!!!) or a Bluetooth keyboard or even a sleeve that acts as a stand.

Twitter and Facebook

Social media multitasking, Windows 8 style. Because of that wide screen display, you can SnapView – load two full screen apps at once – without the screen looking congested. Above is Twitter on the left, and Facebook on the right. If you’re wondering why this is so plain black border and no highlights, that’s because the Dell Latitude 10 was designed for the corporate environment. 

Since the only difference between the P33k and the P30k configurations is Windows 8 Pro, I want you to pretend that we’re reviewing the P30k variant. Because Windows 8 is enough for mere mortals like us. If you think that’s still expensive, just note that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 sells for P38k.

Skype and Excel, Bluetooth Keyboard

Typical workstation scene. Skyping with your boss or client while sorting through the figures on a spreadsheet. You can substitute that spreadsheet for a contract being edited, or the behavioral problems of a website being tweaked, or a presentation that’s due tomorrow. Paired with the Dell Latitude 10 above is a Belkin Bluetooth keyboard (sold separately), which is slightly dwarfed by that long tablet: it was designed for iPad and Galaxy Note 8.0 proportions. But of course, you can just slum it, avoid expensive choices, and get a CDR-King Bluetooth keyboard.   

Specs Shot

Again, please pretend we’re reviewing the P30k version. 

GREATS

Incredibly responsive either in Modern mode (formerly known as Metro) or Desktop mode (the aging Windows 7 look). You wish every app was in Modern format.

Tap-and-hold-to-select-an-item substitutes for right click functions. You’ll itch for a physical right click button early on, but you’ll get used to this.

Familiar and Ugly Desktop

Familiar and ugly desktop. This is where you’ll be doing most of your file selection and MS Office work, the old and seemingly outdated desktop mode of Windows 8. Or should we say the unskinned side of Windows 8? Anyway, tapping and holding takes the place of right click.

Great display, with non-oversaturated vivid colors (bright, natural, and not washed out) and you can’t complain about the top and side viewing angles (movies, images, and websites look good; documents, crisp). 1366×768 wide screen provides a lot of space, and is great for on-screen typing, for reviewing track changes in Word, and for seeing lots of columns in Excel.

MS Word Track Changes

MS Word Track Changes. Probably a good reason to use MS Word 2013 on a tablet. Document in the middle, changes on the left column, comments on the right. When you’re burned out from copyediting, you sometimes just want to scroll up and down on a document on your lap and maybe see things anew. Except that here, you can make small changes because of the on-screen keyboard. And if big changes are needed, just pair up with your keyboard and sit right and type away. Better than staring at a screen with a painful back all day.

Long battery life, 8 to 9 hours. The Dell website says up to 10 hours. Sure if you do nothing but surf. It’s more like 5 to 6 hours if you watch videos along with surfing. Stand by is two days if you do nothing but ignore it.

Back and Battery shot

The Dell Latitude 10 has a removable battery that’s easy to pull out and snug-fits right back. As of this writing, it’s the only 10-incher Windows 8 tablet that offers this kind of feature, and is actually a tried-and-tested yabang factor (at least to fellow geeks). Above is a shot of the Dell 10′s back, with the comes-with 2-cell battery and comes-with SD card proxy removed. 

Replaceable battery. That means, in theory, if you buy a replacement battery (2-cell and 4-cell variant both cost around P3,500.00), you can have Windows 8 tablet that lasts on the field beyond the 8 hour work shift. You can also charge it via a powerbank because of the micro USB charging port.

Size comparison with iPad

Size comparison with iPad. Just to give you some idea on the Dell Latitude 10′s size, the tablet behind the Dell 10 above is an iPad 1. The Dell 10 is wider and “thinner”.

Good enough ports – one SD card and one USB 2.0. Photographers and bloggers will not have excuses not to upload their stories immediately after coverage.

Desktop mode makes up for Windows Market’s lack of apps and allows older apps to be installed. That means your Firefox and Chrome add-ons will work, as well as some legacy apps you’re attached to. If you don’t like MS Office 2013, install the 2010 version instead.

Make items bigger

Make items bigger. You’ll want to bump up the icons and text size on the desktop, to make them easier to see and tap on. You want to do this, believe me. 

Desktop mode default size is big enough for clunky touch input, but can be enlarged 125% -  this is good because it seems desktop mode is not going away any time soon, so you might as well ‘get by’ with it. Don’t blame Dell for not having a ton of Windows 8 apps, blame Microsoft.

Handwriting recognition

Handwriting recognition. One of the unsung heroes of Windows 8 tablets is its ability to recognize handwriting input and convert them to text accordingly.

As with the intro of the first gen iPad, the limited storage and processing speed forces you to decide which apps to install and keep and run, and which files to store (save everything else on a USB drive, and external hard disk, or an SD card). That mindset is great for work. Less file-clutter that way.

Physical keyboard comparison

Keyboard comparison. See? There’s not a lot of between-key space difference. I actually touch-type on the Dell Latitude 10′s on-screen keyboard, though not as fast. 

In practice, you can survive with only the on-screen keyboard plus a Bluetooth mouse or a P30 CDR-King stylus. But a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse are recommended for long typing and desktop mode use. I’ve propped up the Dell Latitude 10 on egg cartons, book stands, and even scotch taped the bottom to the surface of the table with books behind it, and then plugged in an old keyboard, and got to work.

Full keyboard on screen

Full keyboard on screen. But if you need a full keyboard, complete with the Ctrl, Alt, and Fn keys, there’s one, too. And you can Alt+F4 and Ctrl+V there, just like on a normal physical keyboard. Yes, it’s cramped, but it’s nice to have that option. Tapping on the Fn key brings out the F1 to F12 keys. 

Snap View, which is running two full screen apps side by side, is perfect for wide screen format. It was okay with the usual 10″ Windows 8 tablet screens, but really shines on wide screen.

Games

Games on a serious tablet – there are, but not a lot of good ones. Tutorial for Halo Spartan Assault Lite.

A vivid screen means you can really sit with a client or with your boss and go over the numbers or the legal points in the Microsoft document you want to finalize. Because you’re viewing the real format-accurate document, and not just a compatible version, as with Android’s office suites and with iWork on iOS, you can make changes there and then.

Small touches

Small touches. Ignore that rectangular hole, it’s sealed off, perhaps something available in the higher config version of this tablet. Instead, look at that curve, which guides your hand in holding the tablet and tells you which end is up when your grabbing the Dell 10 in the dark.

The rear camera is surprisingly good enough. You’ll still look silly taking pictures with it, like a parent at her kid’s stage play jostling to get a good shot, but it’s good to have.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Taking good enough pictures with a camera as big as a picture frame. Using the rear 8MP camera, you can quickly tweak a photo you took and upload it. There’s not a lot of options on Adobe Photoshop Express, the app above which shows a pic shot with the Dell 10 rear camera, but you can always use Adobe Photoshop on the Desktop and do some heavy tweaking there. Pictured laptop above is the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S, an i5-powered 11.6″ Windows 8 hybrid touch screen laptop that folds all the way back (review in the works) selling at P45k. 

That slight heft in concert with the soft rubber skin covering that tough magnesium frame is great. Good grip. You will sometimes hold the tablet a bit too hard, but there’s no plasticky flexing anywhere, and that’s good. It seems built for warehouse people who will pass the tablet around shift after shift.

Reduced on screen keyboard

On screen keyboard. The default on screen keyboard is surprisingly okay to use. If you can learn to tap type on the iPad, you will, too, on a 10″ Windows 8 tablet. 

 

GRIPES

MS Office 2013 doesn’t come preinstalled, unlike with the Acer Iconia W3 and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. But you can always install MS Office 2010 on the desktop side.

MS Office not optimized for touch

MS Office not optimized for touch. What that touch option, above, does is space out the icons just a tad more, and that’s it. The familiar pull down menus are still there, still familiarly desktop-ish, and the whole suite is just begging for a keyboard and mouse to use it right. MS Office wasn’t re-designed as a Modern app, unlike IE10, that’s why.

You notice a slow down when you’re running a lot of apps, and even with some games. But that’s nothing a little discipline can’t handle. Don’t open and leave open a ton of browser tabs – bookmark them or save browsing sessions. If a Skype call comes through, don’t pause the movie you’re watching, close it. The default movie player will resume where you last left off. Save and close MS Office apps if you’re just going to clear your mind on Facebook. These will ease up the slow down and reduce pointless battery consumption. I mean, hey, your on Windows to work, right? Yes, pause your torrents, too.

Blue screen of dismay

Blue screen of dismay. Of course, Windows 8 retains the “familiar” Blue scene. Thankfully, Blue doesn’t mean death this time, just dismay. Be sure to keep updating your Windows 8 tablet the moment you get it, to prevent instances like this. 

Outside of the Modern interface, desktop mode is plain ugly and annoying. Modern means tap or swipe and something happens. With desktop, it’s double tap to run or open, tap and hold to select or bring out the right click menu. It’s slower and not as slick. Sadly the desktop platform remains ugly-forsaken-wtf.

VLC

Old apps just work. That’s one nice thing about Windows 8, it runs legacy apps: everything that works and Windows 7 works here. Like VLC.

Desktop mode needs this 125% enlargement, as the windows and icons are hard to tap accurately, and the Dell Latitude 10 comes with no stylus, and desktop mode is designed for mouse interface, not your pinky, which is annoying. When the wow subsides, you’ll end up attaching a mouse and keyboard and you’ll notice that the Modern side of Windows 8 seems fancy and not needed, because you will get more work done on the desktop side than on the modern side.

Running apps on the side

Running apps on the side. You can view apps running in the background on the side, like with Android. Unfortunately, individual desktop apps don’t appear: if you have three desktop apps running, they’ll just be seen as one instance of the desktop. Instead, all desktop apps appear “inside” desktop mode and on the desktop taskbar. That just shows you that Windows 8 is of two minds – an optimized for touch Modern mode, and the legacy desktop mode. An awkward mix.

There’s no default file browser when you’re in Modern – you see Windows 8 is schizophrenic, half old desktop, half new Modern. It can’t let go. Because of how glorious using Metro apps can be, you may get pissed when you’re forced back into desktop mode, as when you plug in a USB drive. But, you can download free file explorers from the Windows Market, which come with adds and may not be as robust.

GO FOR IT?

If you don’t need specs for graphic-intense PC games or for video editing, if you store media files away from your work files, if you’ll just be doing document-editing, if you want a good media player, and if portability and comfort (you don’t need a full-fledged i5 laptop or work station for social media) are important, then the Dell Latitude 10 is a good investment. Investment because Windows apps have somehow ceased to develop into graphic and memory hogs since the advent of the iPhone and iPad (which ate into PC sales). So these specs will be fine for years. Besides, you probably already do a lot of your social media on smartphones anyway. So, in a word, it’s a good secondary PC, one that’s not likely to be crushed in your bag, or bend or flex like some other plasticky tablet.

But if you’re making the Dell Latitude 10 your main computer, you’re rewarded with sturdiness and potentially long battery life on the road (replaceable battery, remember?). As for caveats, instead of the instant and no set up keyboard your laptop comes with, the Dell 10 either has the nearly full-length on-screen keyboard or you can get a cheap Bluetooth keyboard for it. Instead of the large storage capacity, good enough as a torrent center which your laptop comes with, you only have 64Gb of storage (for crucial files and apps) and storage expansion comes only in the form of a single USB port and a single SD card slot (for which you can buy a dedicated USB drive or SD card and secure them with adhesive tape).

Final Shot

Hampogi. You have to admit, the Dell Latitude 10 looks pretty. And unlike the plastic keyboard it’s leaning on, the Dell 10′s frame is made from reinforced magnesium alloy. 

By comparison, the P30k Dell Latitude 10 goes toe to toe against the P26k ASUS VivoTab Smart which dons a chic and modern look, while the Dell 10 has that, depending on who you ask, either a drab and serious demeanor befitting warehouse people or a cool, rugged aura that matches the dark attire of people who work in clandestine operations at night. Hey, maybe it’s just me.

I think the advantages the Dell 10 has over the ASUS Smart, if you’re thinking long-term use, is that tough-rugged exterior (you’ll need that if you have kids around and if you’re a klutz like me) and the potentially long battery stamina because the battery is swappable. But these features mean adding P4k more.

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife's cooking so much he's now twice the man he used to be. He and his wife maintain www.storiesaboutph.com, where you can read the best short fiction in English, by Filipino authors, for free. Irwin's English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appears in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman - his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing full-time. His sudden fiction, "Notwithstanding Pigs," initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007).

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