After completing the review and a couple of other articles, the Windows 7 tablet went back to The Tablet Store; as a quirky and endearing little unit I missed it! Fortunately, it came back to complete some other articles – but with a difference. Jay’s been researching what can be done with the J-10, and in place of the Hitachi SATA Hard Disc, there’s a 64GB SSD drive.
Whilst there are no other charges to the J-10 currently, how does the SSD affect the J-10’s performance?
The first, and most notable aspect of upgrading to the SSD – currently listed as a “build to order” option for £180/128GB and £110/64GB extra – is the lack of heat and a slight drop in weight. Boot times are definitely quicker and I’m regretting not making a note of the boot time with the HD; from a cold start into Windows 7 Home Premium takes 38 seconds. Windows 7 has been designed to use different performance parameters when working from SSD, reducing the overhead of routines designed to optimise operation on conventional hard discs like prefetching and defragmentation. Loading applications is much faster, particularly the relatively small apps I use for controlling my digital camera (at present, the only reason the J-10 isn’t a permanent studio fixture is the lack of a case to protect it).
On the 1GB system the GeekBench score increased from 921 to 925 – a minor improvement, and I expect a similar improvement over 2GB performance. The Windows Performance Index is unchanged at 2.3 – tellingly however the HD benchmark scores 5.9. In real-world use the benefits are generally a more responsive system and lower heat; battery life has gained roughly 10 minutes or so over the HD equipped models in normal use, but can be extended by careful power management. In video and HD-intensive tasks, the SSD is a more significant improvement and can add around 20 minutes – if you optimise power settings it’s possible to get the runtime up to 2 hours at 30% brightness (still a comfortable indoor setting on the bright LED-backlit display); bearing in mind that these tests are performed with sleep and screen saver disabled.
Overall then, the SSD is a moderate improvement across all aspects of the device – rather than a dramatic improvement in a single area. In real world use the improved performance is most apparent in the overall responsiveness of Windows 7, and that alone brings the tactile interface into the same league as most smartphones and other mature touch-based devices.
For existing customers The Tablet Store is offering an upgrade service; if you sourced a machine elsewhere, the SATA drive replacement is easy and straightforward – suitable SATA SSD units are available from a variety of manufacturers (most notably Crucial, who offer a variety of capacities and speeds) and as the technology becomes more mainstream the prices have fallen a long way from the heady four-figure premium a solid-state alternative used to add to many laptops. In general if you want serious capacity it’s still an expensive option, but you can get usable space in a reasonable budget now.
The J-10 is definitely improved by the fitment of the SSD and it shows real promise – I’d like to see more improvements in the runtime, but for that it will need the OEMs to invest a lot more time and money in the battery technology being used, which could push the system out of the budget bracket it currently occupies (for the provided tech). Rumoured N455/DDR3 machines are unlikely to improve on the runtime, with chipsets that have higher power consumption and no indication of improvements to the 3000mAh battery. The Tablet Store is the only reseller with these tablets in the UK and all indications are that rather than merely importing and reselling, there’s an active interest in developing the product and improving the areas that the OEMs have neglected – and each territory around the world seems to be getting their own specialists rather than the flood of people that tried to resell the aPad devices. As such, whichever group of people produce the “Giant iPhone” should be encouraged by the feedback the system is getting from users and their distributors.