The bModo 12G is squarely targeted at those who desire the full-blown functionality of Windows in a slim, portable, touch-screen form. Does this device succeed were other Windows tablets have failed before it? Read on to find out if the $799 slate can hold its own against the competition.
We did a double take when we first saw the bModo 12G. That's because it's virtually identical in size, shape, and weight to the ExoPC Slate we recently reviewed. Measuring 11.6 x 7.6 x 0.6 inches, the bModo 12G is big and bulky. It's also heavy, tipping the scales at 2.2 pounds, making the iPad (1.5 pounds) seem light. The 12G is also more than twice as heavy as the Samsung Galaxy Tab (13.6 ounces). Still, the 12G does boast a much larger screen and needs extra chassis space to keep its Atom N450 CPU cool; in fact, we could sometimes hear the distracting whir of a fan. Holding the 12G in one arm caused strain pretty quickly.
Encased in black plastic, the 12G has a conservative style that's sleek and attractive. The tablet's black back, which sports a subtle bModo logo, is rubberized, providing a solid grip that we appreciated. We didn't enjoy, however, how quickly the tablet's glossy screen showed fingerprints and smudges.
Ports and Webcam
Around the bModo 12G's edges are plenty of ports and connections for a tablet. On the left side of the device are a micro-HDMI and two USB ports, plus an SD card reader. A SIM card slot allows the 12G to access 3G cellular data networks, though you'll have to configure the settings yourself. The tablet can't be charged over USB, but must be attached to its cradle via a proprietary port or with its AC adapter. The dock itself is sturdy and features three USB ports of its own, along with Ethernet, microphone, and headphone jacks.
Equipped with a single front-facing 1.3 megapixel Webcam, we observed decent video quality on Skype calls but callers reported that our transmitted images were often blocky, pixelated, and had unnatural colors. The bModo 12G lacks a higher-res rear-facing camera found in other tablets.
Display and Sound
The bModo 12G's 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display provides a vast viewing area and, aside from its twin the ExoPC Slate, is the largest screen currently available on a tablet. Having a big canvas isn't everything though. We found the tablet's display dim even at its highest brightness setting. Due to its glossy surface, the screen also easily kicked back reflections. Contrast was high, however, with deep blacks that were especially pleasing while streaming Hulu and Netflix videos. Viewing angles were also acceptable at 45 degrees both left and right.
The 12G is equipped with an accelerometer that automatically rotates the display. Unfortunately, the device was sluggish to respond, taking at least a second or two to reorient the screen from landscape to portrait view when we turned the device 90 degrees. Also annoying is how the screen went black for a few seconds when we rotated the tablet while playing a stock WMV video. Unlike the ExoPC though, the 12G did recover and reorient.
The two stereo speakers were surprisingly strong when viewing videos and listening to music. When streaming the Indie Electronic station over Slacker Radio, the often bass-heavy tracks sounded clear, did not distort, and volume was loud enough to fill a small room. Bass was predictably lacking.
Equipped with a capacitive touchscreen, the 12G allows two-fingered gestures to control the tablet. We were able to pinch-to-zoom within photos, and scroll through Web pages. Response was smooth enough, though we did sometimes see lag zooming in and out of pictures. Drawing two separate lines with Windows Paint wasn't a problem, either. Evidence that Windows 7 is more stylus than finger-friendly, trying to hit the OS' small icons or interact with menus was tricky. We often had to tap repeatedly to select desired items.
To address the fact that Windows 7 is not optimized for touch input, bModo installed its BossaNova interface onto the 12G. Sitting on top of Windows, users can quickly activate BossaNova by placing a finger over a sensor on the tablet's top right side. To be frank though, the UI feels a bit slapped together, and it's not as novel as the ExoPC interface.
The BossaNova software consists of four main tabs that are large and easy to tap: Windows, MyApps, Settings, and Views. The Windows tab switches the 12G back to the main OS. MyApps pulls up a tab of quick-launch icons for common apps and websites. For example, there are symbols for Facebook, Browser, Twitter, Flickr, Music, etc. For example, tapping Facebook and Twitter icons simply opens browser windows to their corresponding Web pages. You can also add your own shortcuts, which is useful.
We like that BossaNova lets you have multiple apps open at the same time; tabs representing each open app line the left side of the screen. A long press on a tab closes the app. Using Views, you can switch between this layout or one where each app has its own little window, sort of like Windows Phone 7 Tiles.
Settings lets users adjust brightness, volume, and location for the Weather widget that sits below settings.
While BossaNova is intuitive, it's hard to shake the feeling of loose Windows integration here. For instance, we couldn't pinch-to-zoom within the Photo app as we could on the Windows side of the tablet. Also, the master volume level can't be controlled by apps such as Video and Music, but must be set within the BossaNova Settings area. Another annoyance is the lack of a signal strength indicator to check network connection. Stability was an issue too, as we experienced a few UI crashes navigating Hulu Web pages. Also note that BossaNova only works in landscape mode.
Text entry is handled by the standard Windows 7 virtual keyboard, which while large can cover areas of the screen you're viewing. It also lacks haptic feedback found in other tablets such as the Galaxy Tab. As with most Windows 7 tablets, to type you have to press a text field and then touch an icon to launch a keyboard; it should be just one step.
The Browser app within the BossaNova UI is a skinned version of Internet Explorer that allows for quick and easy surfing. Big finger-size icons for Forward, Back, Refresh, Home, and Favorite occupy the top edge of the browser window. Tapping a plus symbol will add current pages to the favorite site list. There's an address bar, too, which lets you manually enter URLs for direct navigation. All in all the bModo 12G provides a slightly better finger browsing experience than the stock Windows 7 environment.
Apps and Software
The bModo 12G runs the 32-bit version of Microsoft Windows 7 Premium. Though no "apps" are included per se, you do get a few interesting extras. The Amazon Kindle for desktop software provides access to eBooks. Just don't expect a tablet-like experience; the program had difficulty orienting correctly in portrait mode. There's a GPS applet, too, which provides the status of the tablet's GPS sensor. While we couldn't find Adobe Photoshop, as the company site claims, the full version of Microsoft Office suite is included.
Using a 1.66-GHz Atom N450 CPU typically found in netbooks, 2GB of RAM, and a 32GB SSD, the bModo 12G has decent processing power, but anemic graphics and storage scores. During anecdotal use, the tablet alternated between being responsive and a little slow to react. For instance, we noticed some lag while trying to perform multitouch gestures. On PCMark Vantage, a synthetic benchmark which measures overall performance, the 12G scored 1,432, much higher than the CTL 2goPad (1149) and a bit better than the average netbook (1,299). Still the ExoPC Slate bested it with a score of 1,530.
The 32GB SSD booted into Windows 7 Home Premium in a short 51 seconds, 16 seconds faster than the average netbook (67). The ExoPC Slate started up faster, ready to roll in a mere 40 seconds. The bModo 12G's write speeds were achingly slow, taking 7 minutes and 44 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed media files. That translates to a low rate of 8.9 MBps, the same rate as the ExoPC, and much slower than the current netbook average of 19.8 MBps.
The Intel GMA 3150 GPU in the 12G provided lackluster video playback. A 1080p Quicktime trailer of Avatar was very jerky while both YouTube clips and Hulu videos at 480p delivered the same shaky performance. Even dialing down to a 360p resolution didn't improve matters. Still, streaming Netflix video was enjoyable, perhaps since the service adjusts video quality based on network and device capabilities. Unfortunately, our 12G failed to output video to our test TV via HDMI, though we think it may be an issue with our particular unit.
The tablet's mediocre score of 156 on 3DMark06, a benchmark that measures graphics strength, was slightly faster than the 143 turned in by the CTL 2goPad, and was similar to those provided by 10-inch netbooks with integrated graphics such as the Samsung NF310 (147).
Windows 7 tablets using Atom processors are notorious for unimpressive battery life, and the bModo 12G keeps that streak going. The system lasted 3 hours and 53 minutes on our battery test 9 (continuous surfing over Wi-Fi). That runtime is longer than the ExoPC Slate's time of 3:44, but it's pretty sad to the iPad's marathon-like 9 hours and 28 minutes or the Galaxy Tab's 8.5 hours.
At the time of this writing, the bModo 12G costs $799, which also includes the docking station and support for 3G cellular access. A bModo 12 model is also available for $749 that is identical save less RAM (1GB).
The bModo 12G makes a decent stab at trying to bend the Windows 7 OS into better shape for slate computing. Even so, those looking for a seamless touch experience will be sorely disappointed. Aside from video performance issues, UI crashes, and poor endurance, there's the 12G's steep $799 sticker price. If you really want Windows on a tablet, wait for longer-lasting devices powered by Intel's Oak Trail processors.