Windows 10 on a cheapie tablet doesn’t actually suck

Sainsbury’s have recently had a bit of a deal on with Linx 10″ Windows tablets, and to my surprise they aren’t completely rubbish.

The 10″ version has a quad-core Bay Trail Atom processor running at 1.33GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB of flash, an OTG USB2 port (even though it’s a USB3 chipset – that’s annoying) and a 1280 x 720 display, but with a mini-HDMI port to add a second monitor or to hook it up to a projector. It comes bundled with a variant of Windows 8 that identifies itself as “Windows 8.1 with Bing“, which as far as I can tell means it’s the feature-stripped version that has the default search engine set to Bing. It doesn’t limit you to this as the end user, but it seems the manufacturer is prohibited from changing this default.

I ended up paying £99.99 for mine, although they’re available from the usual suspects for £149.99, but with the option to part-ex your old kindle for up to a £50 cash-back.

Within half a day Windows 8.1 was boring me (plus I wanted to see how this thing behaves in a work environment, which means having a version of windows on it that can connect to a domain) so the Windows 10 preview was installed. Installation was surprisingly bump free, but you have to use the 32-bit installer for typically obscure reasons, even though it’s a 64-bit processor. This is no real hardship, though, as the 2GB of RAM doesn’t exactly warrant the extended address space. Once you’ve worked out the magic incantation to boot into diagnostics mode, you can instruct the device to perform a USB boot which will then start the Windows 10 installer.

Only two things caused installation issues: the WiFi drivers supplied refuse to work under Windows 10, and it took a lot of hunting to find a variant that would play nicely with it. Second, the accelerometer appears to be 90 degrees out under Windows 10, resulting in a very sore neck. For the moment I’ve disabled the sensor until I can work out exactly what’s going on.

 

Linx 10 Bay Trail tablet running the Windows 10 tech preview

Linx 10 Bay Trail tablet running the Windows 10 tech preview

Boot times from cold are snappy – in the order of seven seconds or so – and Word launches in a similar amount of time. Windows 10 is, for the most part, responsive and blissfully crash-free, the only blemish being the on-screen keyboard occasionally not appearing on cue, but mashing the keyboard button on the taskbar eventually causes it to materialise.

It also has an integrated TPM which allows Windows BitLocker to do its thing and, due to the inbuilt AES instructions in the processor, appears to have little if any impact on disk performance.

For its role of exposing me to Windows 10 more often than I would otherwise, this tablet is ideal and is surprisingly capable for what it is. Given its price, it’s also very nearly a disposable asset: you’d certainly cry a lot less if the screen on this thing was stoved in compared to your nice shiny iPad.

I’m a Mac guy (I’ve served my time over the years on both Windows and Linux), but I’m really very impressed with this thing. As a “chuck it in your bag and take it to a meeting just in case” kind of thing, it’s absolutely perfect. The supplied OS probably won’t cut the mustard, but if you’re wanting to play with Windows 10 anyway, I’d strongly recommend giving it a go.

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