Kupa K11 Pro
After years of being relegated to pricey (and heavy) business convertibles, touch and pen are showing up on cheaper and lighter PC slates again, and with longer battery life. But most of the Atom slate PCs have been underperformers with poor touch screens.
Windows 7 has some great tablet features and some problems with touch; the better the touch screen though, the easier it is to use. Can the K11 Pro deliver as a Windows slate that won't break the bank or your back?
Big, like most Windows tablets
There's no mistaking this for an iPad or Galaxy Tab. The case is sturdy, rather than chunky, but it is a hair under 15mm thick, with a metal back complete with quirky, quote-shaped air vent, visible rivets and a bevelled edge along one side. There's a fingerprint reader to save you tapping passwords in on screen, plus scroll buttons and an enter key - mostly useful to control BIOS settings without plugging in a keyboard.
Along the top is another vent and the power button, with a multicolour LED embedded so you can tell when it's charging, on, off, or in sleep mode. Twin speakers are on the bottom - which improves the bass very slightly when you have it in the stand - along with separate physical switches for Wi-Fi and 3G, and all the ports, such as they are, together on one side.
And the ports are a little disappointing: mini HDMI, headphone and microphone sockets, a slot for a SIM plus two USB 2 ports. There are no USB 3, Ethernet or memory card slots though, which is a blow. Having said that, this is never going to be your primary PC, so USB and HDMI may well be all you need.
The screen is smaller than the screen area leads you to expect when it's off. The wide bezel is useful for letting you get a good grip on the slate, but with the slanted edge of the case you might think there was already plenty of space to hold the K11. Despite the model name, this is a 10.1-inch screen in a 12-inch case.
It's a very nice screen though. The resolution is excellent; the 1366 x 768 that makes a screen this size crisp and detailed - and you'll need that for the full Metro experience in Windows 8. It also means you can watch HD video and get all the detail. The screen is bright, vivid and colourful, without being too saturated. The viewing angles are reasonable, but the extremely glossy screen is a little more of a problem if you're near bright light, where we saw reflections and fingerprints rather too clearly. Contrast is only fair - with little detail in dark areas.
Both 1080p video streamed from YouTube and 720p video streamed from the local network play back smoothly with excellent crisp detail. The audio doesn't quite match up - it's pleasant enough, but the volume is unusually low.
Multitouch and scrolling are fast and responsive, and if you have steady fingers you can touch even the small icons in Windows with some accuracy. The pen is also excellent, producing smooth digital ink in both Journal and OneNote, or if you write in the tablet input panel rather than using the on-screen keyboard. It has (oddly) two buttons, for left and right click, though no eraser button on the other end. There isn't a slot for it in the case either, but it does have a clip for keeping it in the pocket of the suit jacket Kupa seems to assume customers will wear.
Stand, and deliver
The K11 comes with a handy little stand that folds up for travel and folds out to support the slate at an angle. The slanted edge fits in perfectly in landscape view; if you want to switch to portrait it doesn't fit as snugly but you can refold the stand to extend further at the back, to balance the weight, and the K11 still perches on top fairly securely.
This isn't a dock - it doesn't have any extra ports or a power connector, but it's enough to turn the K11 into a screen you can use on your desk with a keyboard - or just a second screen on your desk.
The 1.5GHz Atom Z670 in the K11 is the same processor that disappointed us in the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550, but here it performs well, helped along by 2GB of RAM and a fast 64GB SSD.
Touch and pen performance are both fast and responsive, applications don't hang while you're handwriting notes the way they do on the Q550 and you can switch between applications without noticeable lag.
Screen rotation is excellent; neither so slow that you're waiting for it nor so jumpy that it rotates when you don't want it to. The Atom also delivers the kind of battery life it's always promised. With a balanced power plan, at medium screen brightness, with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and streaming video and music for the majority of the time, we measured six hours and six minutes of battery life. Turn on some power-saving settings, turn off the rather awkward BlueSoleil Bluetooth software when you don't need it, dim the screen a fraction and you get close to the ten hours Kupa promises. The K11 takes 4-5 seconds to wake up from sleep; hibernate it to save power and it wakes in 30 around seconds.
That's helped by the minimal amount of bundled software: Windows Live, PDF Creator, Authentec TrueSuite for the fingerprint reader, Mobile Partner 3G software, BlueSoleil Bluetooth management - although we prefer the standard Windows tools - and a trial version of Office 2010 rather than Office Starter. That’s a reminder that if you want a Windows slate now you’re most likely to be a business user, but this is a nice little media PC as well.
Atom Tablet PCs were supposed to be cheaper, cooler and have better battery life than Core i5 models like Samsung Series 7. Most of the examples we saw last year were disappointing; heavy and underpowered, without delivering good enough battery life for the compromises they made. Kupa has done a far better job. We have few complaints about either performance or battery life - the fast SSD makes up for a lot of the sluggish performance we see with some Atom systems and the battery really will do you a full day for most things.
If you want a thin and light slate PC and you're happy to have Windows 7 now and upgrade to Windows 8 when it comes along, there isn't much choice - especially if you want the 1366 x 768 resolution for the full Metro experience. The K11 has the right resolution and it's a nice tablet, with the usual Windows tablet drawback; it's thicker and heavier than an iPad or Android tablet, with shorter battery life and more expensive than a netbook. But it has a great touch screen and the pen is excellent for inking, although still a little fiddly when working with tiny elements of the Windows UI.
There's going to be a much wider choice of Windows tablets whenever Windows 8 comes out, including ARM systems for the really thin and light option. If you want a good Windows tablet now and the Samsung Series 9 is out of your budget, the K11 is the best option we've seen yet.