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Tablet computers are all the rage right now and everyone wants in on the action. Although it might feel like there are endless options for the consumer, most of the devices are more similar than they are different, especially in terms of software. While iOS is limited to Apple's products, Google's Android can be found on just about all other mobile devices – tablets or smartphones.
Although you may not realize it, there exists a third competitor in the tablet OS market: Microsoft. Over half a dozen manufacturers offer Windows 7 tablets, including the ViewSonic ViewPad 10Pro, Acer Iconia Tab W500, Fujitsu Stylisitic Q550, HP Slate 500, EXOPC Slate, Asus Eee Slate EP121, Motion Computing CL900 and of course, the MSI WindPad 110W. With so many Windows slates in production, why don't you hear about them more?
Like pre-Honeycomb Android builds, Windows 7 simply wasn't developed for tablets. Android 2.x was meant for smartphones that have smaller screens, so the software didn't scale up properly. Windows 7 can display various resolutions and it features native touch support, but it was still primarily designed for keyboard and mouse input. This shows. Using it with your fingers can be awkward and downright frustrating.
Manufacturers have attempted to address this shortcoming by shipping their devices with various interface tweaks and enhancements. For instance, the WindPad 110W offers "Smart Tracker," which provides users with a more conventional way to navigate the operating system while hotkeys make it easier to access frequently used functions. Windows 7 isn't perfect with these additions, but they certainly make usage more enjoyable.
Along with offering a familiar user experience, devices such as the MSI WindPad 110W are granted a broader selection of hardware. Whereas virtually all Android Honeycomb tablets utilize an ARM-based SoCs like the Nvidia Tegra 2, Windows 7 tablets are free to choose from a wide range of Intel and AMD processors. This flexibility will only expand in the future as Windows 8 brings full native compatibility with the ARM architecture.
The WindPad 110W is powered by the 40nm AMD Z-01 dual-core Fusion APU, which is specifically built for tablet computers and features a thermal design power rating of only 5.9 watts. This is currently the only tablet we're aware of that utilizes the Z-01 as the vast majority use the Intel Atom range, which is largely comprised of single-core processors. With that in mind, let's proceed to analyze the WindPad 110W's finer details, along with impressions after installing Windows 8's Developer Preview on the tablet...