The ExoPC Slate: A Month Later

I suppose if I’m going to write a few how-to’s about the ExoPC Slate, I should really explain what it is, why I bought it, and what I think about it so far.

The ExoPC Slate is a tablet PC that runs Windows 7. Wider than the iPad, it also features multiple USB ports, a mini-HDMI port, and a built-in webcam and microphone. Because it runs the standard version of Windows 7 (rather than a tablet-specific type of OS), it doesn’t have any incompatibilities or restrictions as compared to a typical desktop/laptop PC (unlike the iPad which doesn’t display PDFs natively). Although you can use a stylus with the touch screen, you can also just use your own fingers to tap your way through the various applications.

The ExoPC has it’s own Grapical UI which runs onto of the Windows 7 desktop, and although it does look cool, it’s a bit clunky to use and customize. For example, there’s no GUI to allow you to add your own apps or links to popular webpages. To do this, you need to write a script, place it in a directory, and it’ll appear in the GUI display. It’s not difficult to do, it is a pain in the bum, especially since I’m not a coder. I’ll wait until the ExoPC guys update that application to allow you to add, edit, and customize the GUI to run applications.

In the meantime, I have added an skin-overlay that does exactly what I would’ve wanted the ExoPC GUI to do. It’s called Rainmeter running the Gnometer theme. It allows me to preview incoming Gmail messages, Facebook updates, YouTube updates, and BoingBoing articles, as well as real-time display of system information like battery life, disk space, and CPU/RAM activity. It also allows me to access the folders on my Slate with just a few taps.

The ExoPC Slate does take some getting used to. This is my first tablet, so it took awhile to learn how to tap the icons accurately (at first, I felt like my fingers had all the accuracy of small hams). The Slate is also a bit heavier than other tablets, so it took some time to find a comfortable way to hold it and still be able to tap my selections. I’m told I was supposed to get a free stand included in my shipment, but the suppliers ran out when my package was put together, although I’ve been assured that I’ll be getting my free stand soon.

So why did I get the Slate in the first place? My first thought was that I wanted a device to show off PDF samples of my work in interviews. As a freelance technical writer, I have written dozens of User Guides, Tutorials, Installation Guides, etc., but more and more of my clients are refusing to print the documents (opting to burn PDF versions on CDs or to be downloaded from their corporate websites). Therefore, I have very few printed copies of my documents to show in interviews. I thought having a tablet that displayed PDFs might solve that problem. Also, my laptops were getting a bit long in the Bluetooth, so I figured I could use an upgrade, especially since I learned that these tablets were compatible with Bluetooth keyboards and mice.

I was originally holding out for the HP Slate which is supposed to come out sometime in 2011, but then I heard about the ExoPC Slate being developed by a local company in Rimoski, Quebec. I’m a big fan of supporting local businesses, but the more research I did on the ExoPC and the company’s philosophy, the more impressed I was by both. The company execs and developers are extremely available to their client base via their Forums and respond very quickly to inquiries, comments, and calls for help or reassurance (especially when I was biting my nails about when I was to receive my ExoPC).

So I placed my order for the 64Gb version of the ExoPC in October and a little over a month later, I received it at work by Purolator. In less than an hour, I was happily tapping away at it and giggling like a school girl.

So now it’s been a month since I received my ExoPC and I’m pleased to report that I’m still happy with it. I’ve got it hooked into my WiFi router at home, tethered to my BlackBerry when I’m out, and I show it off as much as possible. It has been integrated pretty seamlessly into my life, although I still need integrate it into my worklife, but that should happen in the new year. The folks at ExoPC have been more than generous with feedback and support with all my questions and comments, and the Forums are a gold mine of information on how to make the ExoPC better and easier to use.

There is an unofficial ExoPC Wiki in the works, to which I hope to become a regular contributor (in addition to the articles I write on this blog). If anyone is looking for a tablet PC, I would highly recommend the ExoPC to them. Considering this is the 1.0 version of it, it has burst from the gate running at a madly impressive pace.

Here are some links for you to find out more about it:

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