The following is a device review written by James Pickett, Senior Systems Analyst, IT Services at the University of Surrey. He took a couple of our lost tablet devices, namely the Linx 8 and Linx 10, for an evaluation with a view to rolling out tablets at the University. So what did he think?
Linx tablets – Full Windows on the Go for the Cost of a Laptop Dock
Typically when I’m considering client hardware for use at the University of Surrey, I start with the technical specs, then consider aesthetics before seeing if I can get hold of some evaluation kit.
Using either of those gauges, it would be easy to overlook the Linx range of tablets – since they are neither processing powerhouse nor encased in acres of shiny aluminium and glass. In fact, even the seemingly ‘too good to be true’ RRP might be off-putting as you wonder if anything that inexpensive can even be usable.
Evaluate though I did, and after a few weeks of testing and lending out to users, I’m here to tell you that the disappointment on their faces when they’ve been asked to hand a Linx back is more reason to get some in for trial than any technical benchmark or pretty photo.
So what’s so good about them?
The Linx 10 costs £169.99 and the Linx 8 around £90. For that you get a 10″ or 8″ tablet with a 1280*800 IPS screen, a quad-core Intel Atom processor, 2GB RAM (the 8 gets 1GB) and a 32GB SSD (expandable via micro-SD).
Buy the ‘Education Edition’ and you get Windows 8.1 Pro pre-installed on the Linx 10. The consumer edition doesn’t include Pro, but instead the new owner gets access to Office 365 for a year, which is worth around £60 alone! It’s hard to argue the value proposition.
In 2015, a cheap tablet is not an unusual thing and yes, you can buy very serviceable Android tablets at this price point – but from the moment you take it out of the box, any sense of cheap is banished. These are well put together, solid devices that are smart enough to attend any meeting or conference. The soft touch plastic shell houses several useful ports including micro-USB (an OTG cable is also included in the box), mini-HDMI (micro on the 8) and a headphone socket. If you opt for the ‘origami’ keyboard (Linx 10 option only), then that magnetically clips to ports on the base of the tablet and acts as a protective case when not in use.
Booting into Windows 8.1 takes only a few seconds and the ‘modern’ UI is fast and responsive. Windows apps load as quickly as you’d expect and I wasn’t able to slow things down too much by opening lots of them. Yes, the Windows Store is not as chock full as the competition, but the major apps are generally there and, this being a full version of Windows, you can also install full applications and run them from the Windows Desktop. Office 2013 was deployed along with Google Chrome and they both ran well, even whilst multitasking.
I don’t find the Windows desktop particularly friendly for touch input, but the Origami keyboard does a good job of converting the larger tablet into a small laptop. It probably is the weakest part of the offering however. The folding mechanism that turns the case into a stand is clever, but it’s too deep for a train folding-table, not great on a lap and I can see wear forming in the plastic folds already. The keys are fine for note taking, as is the multi-touch mouse-pad. This is not a laptop replacement, so I’d still be inclined to buy one. I like the way it integrates with and encases the Linx 10, but a marginal improvement in design would really make the whole package sing. The Linx 8 is more portable, but its size lends it more to consumption with occasional bursts of productivity. I would use the desktop less, but Chrome and IE were fine.
Day to day, our users really liked the portability and the speed of operation of both tablets. The screen is bright and sharp enough to work on in comfort and full Office 2013 and Internet Explorer on-board meant that working with corporate web-apps and SharePoint didn’t require any fiddly workarounds as you’ll likely find on other mobile platforms. These obviously aren’t devices to try a spot of CAD on, but set your expectation and around the office they do a great job.
No Need for MDM?
From an IT Admin’s point of view, the fact that I can add the Linx 10 (sadly not the 8, although I guess you could reimage) to the Active Directory domain, which means that I can deploy a few things to help the user (home drive mapping, WIFI settings and so on) and a few more things to help me (asset/security agents and maybe enable Bitlocker).
There’s no Ethernet socket here, so keep a USB one or two about the place, depending on what your WIFI is like.
Whilst the Linx range clearly impressed us, it’s hard to ignore all of the compromises. First the disappointing keyboard and limited hard drive space. But these can be mitigated reasonably easily. The battery life is also a bit short, by tablet standards, at just under 7 hours. I found it a shame that the Linx 10 doesn’t support USB charging and instead you get an unusual charger that looks like someone has been at Nokia’s spare parts bin. I did find adaptors for USB chargers online, but this will add to the service overhead if you’re managing lots of them.
The Linx 8 does seem too small for running full Windows applications, but not everyone minded the fiddliness. The bezel is a little thin when you’re trying to swipe in from the side to access Windows charms, but again, not everyone noticed.
Where everyone agreed there was definitely room for improvement was with the cameras. Both on the front and the back, they’re bad I’m afraid. Even for video calling.
Full Windows on the Go for the Cost of a Laptop Dock
Suggesting a Linx to a customer who has their mind set on a premium shiny tablet may not work every time, but lending one out will lead to more than a few surprised faces, especially when they learn how much they cost. Schools could certainly consider these instead of Chromebooks and anywhere making good use of Office365.
I can see the Linx having a place at the University of Surrey and I do recommend you get your hands on one for yourself to see whether your users would benefit.