Microsoft Announces Windows 8 Surface Tablet


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In a surprise announcement this morning, Microsoft announced it would be manufacturing its own Windows 8 tablet, known as the surface.

The Windows 8 Surface tablet is only 9.3mm thin, with a full magnesium case and weighing 576 grams, this is the first PC product that Microsoft will be offering outside of its traditional PC manufacturing partners.

Along with Windows 8 on board, apps such as Netflix will be preloaded, and it will include expected features such as semantic zoom, which allows a two finger gesture to show the entire Metro layout.

The Windows 8 Surface tablet has a built in stand that Microsoft claims does not add any thickness to the tablet. An optional cover converts into a touch type keyboard for productivity sessions, with the keyboard turning on and glowing when clicked onto the Surface.

Windows Surface Tablet

Microsoft enters the PC Hardware game with Surface for Windows 8.

Ports on the Surface include USB 2, HDMI, front and rear cameras, plus Gorilla Glass 2 protecting the Full HD display.

The Windows 8 Surface tablet will come in both Windows RT, which restricts apps to the Windows Marketplace. The Windows RT model will come in 32GB and 64GB capacities and powered by nVidia ARM processors.

Surface for Windows 8 Pro will be powered by Intel Core Processors and will provide the full computing experience including third party programs. These will be released in 64GB and 128GB capacities, and priced along Ultrabook PC lines.

The Windows RT model will be available from the launch of Windows 8, with the Windows 8 Pro model expected around 3 months later.

 

Asus Transformer Infinity First Look

We’ve been following the Asus line of Transformer products ever since they were released, from the first Honeycomb tablet to include a keyboard dock, to the Slider, and then to the Transformer Prime, which set new benchmarks for the Google OS line of tablets. Now, we have the latest model - the Asus Transformer Infinity.

Asus Transformer Infinity Tablet
Anyone up for a quad core high definition super bright super-slim tablet?

 

This release is an important one, not just for Asus, who have been flexing their innovative muscles in the Android tablet domain since the introduction of the category, but for the tablet market as a whole. Why? The Asus Transformer Infinity can truly go up against the new iPad, the incumbent market leader in this category, and offer a substantial answer to all of the iPad’s propositions.

As you’ll see in the following videos, the Asus Transformer Infinity has great hardware, software, a robust operating environment and is supported by a maturing app store in the form of Google Play. Asus have addressed areas like wireless connection issues and GPS performance to produce a tablet all-rounder.

Asus Transformer Infinity GPS
The Asus Transformer Infinity has a plastic strip on the top rear to maximise GPS performance.

 

The hardware component of the Asus Transformer Infinity is far from flimsy, with a metal casing ensuring no flexing or bending on any part of the device. Despite the screen upgrade (which we’ll get to in a moment), the tablet on its own does not gain any weight, staying at 586 grams, exactly the same as its Prime predecessors.

The Asus Transformer Infinity also retains the ports that made the Transformer series so attractive, with Micro-HDMI and Micro-SD slots on the tablet body, and a further full size USB port and SD Card slot on the keyboard dock component.

Asus Transformer Infinity with keyboard
The usefulness of a tablet with a keyboard cannot be fully appreciated until you have to type an full length article about one.

 

Inside the Infinity is an upgraded quad core Tegra 3 chip, quoted at 1.6GHz but benchmarked at 1.9GHz. The OS is snappy, with Android functions and App commands all working unhesitatingly.

Just in case we thought we were being a little biased because of our fondness for the Transformer line up, we thought it prudent to quantify this and to see just how the Asus Transformer Infinity could handle the pressures of the job compared to another fairly popular tablet… say, the iPad?

This is where we became REALLY intrigued. Not only did the Infinity beat the iPad in many benchmark tests, but some by a huge margin. The graphics test, which saw the Prime pale beside the iPad in our earlier experiences, still showed Apple to have a command in that particular area. When it came to browsing, Java script handling and computational processing, the Asus Transformer Infinity swept the field.

The other big news was the high definition display. The big visual test was to see (literally) if there was a marked difference in the Infinity’s screen and the iPad’s highly praised display. And yes, there was a huge difference – the Asus Transformer Infinity was way brighter. Other than that, at normal viewing proximity, both screens delivered great detail and clarity. At massive zoomed enlargement, the iPad didn’t stray from its perfected image, and the Infinity showed some signs of pixelation. But that’s not how we view a tablet in normal circumstances.

If we seem a little lathered up in our praise of the Asus Transformer Infinity, it’s because this release shines a bright light to a competitive market across ecosystem platforms, where hardware vendors are creating innovative new products. As we always say, competition is a great thing for the industry and the smartphone, tablet and Ultrabook markets are hotbeds of design and technology fusions.

Asus Transformer Infinity lid closed
The future of mobile computing in our hands?

 

If you have any questions, please leave them below and we’ll find out the answers for you.

Until next time!

Asus Padfone, Padfone Station and Stylus – First Look

Ever since the first Transformer was unleashed to an unsuspecting Android community, we’ve been keeping an eye on the innovative releases from Asus. We’ve seen the Eee Pad Slider, the Transformer Prime, and have seen the TF700 in its prototype format at the CES earlier this year. Now, this Asus Padfone first look is another feather in the cap for the Taiwanese PC company as it ramps up its tablet range.

Asus Padfone - the smartphone that transforms into a tablet, which then transforms into a keyboard driven mobile product. No shortage of innovation here.

As part of the Asus Padfone first look, we have an unboxing video, which shows all the gear that comes bundled with both the Padfone and the large screen Padfone station - come back to see this in a few hours.

For those familiar with the delicious family feast consisting of a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed into a turkey, the Asus Padfone does feel a little like a technology turducken. Each added element adds a little more functionality but also obviously pads out (forgive the pun) the Asus Padfone’s dimensions and weight. Here’s the overview segment that we think gets across all the cool things about the Padfone:

As you could see, the Padfone is a pretty stock standard ICS build in a nice Ultrabook/Transformer Prime style case. The more I use the native Android 4 environment on mobiles, the more I like it, and the same applies to the Asus Padfone, which is light, comfortable in the hand and should have enough grunt to run whatever Android apps you throw at it, courtesy of the Snapdragon dual core 1.5GHz processor.

Then we have the Asus Padfone Station, which is the 10.1″ inch screen that comes to life when you insert the Padfone into the cradle in the back. The screen looks just like any other Asus ICS tablet product with the familiar home page graphics and Asus-specific widgets. The trick here is to remember that this isn’t a tablet, it’s just a screen displaying the output from the Padfone, which has all the grunt.

The next trick up the Padfone’s sleeve is to then connect the Padfone Station to the Asus Padfone Dock, which is essentially the keyboard dock that we have come to know and love from Asus. With all the same Android shortcuts as on other Transformer keyboards, a second SD card slot after the Micro-SD slot on the Padfone, and the ability to pump out well-typed messages and documents, you can see that Asus have pulled no punches to take this concept as far as it can, including a stylus that doubles as a bluetooth headset.

The Asus Padfone is a superb example of an idea that could well have stayed in the design and R & D labs. Kudos to Asus for showing just what is possible in the Android environment. Without taking away anything from this concept, one must be wondering what wonderful toys are lurking in their Windows 8 testing room.

Our local contacts have left the Asus Padfone with us for a few more days, so there is an opportunity to test or demonstrate a few more things for you and create more content around your feedback. Let us know what other details you’re interested in and we’ll come up with a few more segments around your comments.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Acer ICONIA A700 HD Tablet First Look

Ever since the release of the new iPad back in March, the rest of the tablet world has been conspicuously quiet, with only a few major announcements amongst the seemingly unbreakable stranglehold Apple continues to have on the tablet market. Shortly though, the new A700/701 Acer Iconia Tablet may be one of the first shots fired in response to Apple’s latest release.

Although we haven’t seen much information come out about Acer’s Full HD display tablet, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on an early pre-production model for a few hours of hands-on experience. This new Acer Iconia Tablet, known as the A700 Wifi or 701 3G, is Acer’s answer to the new iPad’s high pixel density offering, and as far as Android tablets go, Acer have pretty much shoehorned everything they possible could to go up against the incumbent.

The A700 Acer Iconia Tablet is the first Android tablet we've seen with a Full HD display, and we're pretty impressive.

On paper, the A700 Acer Iconia tablet sounds pretty impressive. Tegra 3 quad core processor, GPS, Android 4.0 off the bat, and all the connectivity you’d want – Bluetooth, Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB, Micro-SD card slot, and for the A701 3G variant, a SIM card slot.

The big news for this yet-to-be-revealed Acer Iconia Tablet is the display. This is the first Full HD Android tablet that we’ve had an opportunity to spend quality time with and the 1920 x 1200 screen does look fantastic. Like the new iPad, individual pixels are not visible to the naked eye, and even the home screen pops out in comparison to previous Android models that employ the standard 1200 x 800 display.

We tried out some HD content and it looked superb on the A701 Acer Iconia Tablet display. Of course, one feature consistent across Android tablets is the native widescreen display that lends itself to video content with minimal black bars, and at this pixel density, movies should look incredible.

As this was a pre-production model, we didn’t subject this new Acer Iconia Tablet to any rigorous testing. In fact, it’s only just been reported that this model has gone through FCC approvals. This was really just an opportunity to share what may be the first of many premium Android tablets to hit the market this year. As a pre-production model we were pretty impressed, and we’re looking forward to spending more time with the models when they hit the street.

Look out for our next article, where we compare the A700 with the new iPad to see how the Full HD Android model stacks up against the most popular tablet in the market. Until next time, let us know what your thoughts are on Acer’s latest entry to their line-up of Android tablets.

iPad Compared to the Acer A700 Android HD Tablet

Here at Ritchie’s Room we love creating content based on what our viewers and readers suggest. We knew even before we posted our article on the upcoming A700 Iconia Tablet from Acer that the first request would be to pit it against the new iPad – after all, this is the first Android Tablet with a Full HD display with we’ve had in our hands since the CES earlier this year. So here it is – the iPad compared to the Acer Iconia A700 video.

Knowing the A700 that Acer provided us was a pre-production model, we have stayed away from any performance-based tests that may be skewed by the fact this unit is not retail-ready, which would produce an unfair results. For this segment we kept the iPad compared to the A700 on a physical, display and connectivity level.

Still, having the iPad compared to the A700 made for interesting work as the A700 is the first model that we’ve had in studio since the release of the new iPad, and the Full HD display is a defining battleground now because of Apple’s absolutely eye-blowing display.

The iPad compared favourably against the A700 in some areas. It was lighter (642 vs 705 grams), thinner (9.4 vs 10.9), and both had a very different design. The iPad has a natural portrait holding position whereas the Acer is definitely designed to be held in landscape.

When the iPad compared to the Acer A700 in terms of display, we were in two minds about the result. Apple’s pixel density comes to an incredible 264 pixels per inch, versus the Acer’s 224 pixels per inch. But the question is, how much more does a tablet need to be, especially ones with the screen ration of the Android models. After all, at 10.1 inches the 1900 x 1200 display is already free of visible pixels. Text looks sharp, and movies, at this stage anyway, can’t look any better at their native Full HD definition.

With the new iPad compared to Acer's latest tablet offering, we find Acer pulling no stops in connectivity and display.

Of course, when we looked at the iPad compared to the Acer A700 in terms of ports, the A700 was light years ahead. Direct connection to flat panel TV via Micro-HDMI, memory expansion via micro-SD card and file transfers via Micro-USB are elements of Android tablets that might not win over Apple loyalists, but are appreciated by Android users.

As we’ve said many times before though, the hardware is only part of the story, and with Apple’s closed ecosystem it needs t be a compelling argument to extract users from that environment. However innovation, open connectivity, diverse manufacturer support base and an ever growing content library may yet make products like the A700 a success in the overall tablet market.

What are your thoughts? With the iPad compared to the A700, would you switch to Acer’s latest Iconia Tablet offering?

Apple iPad 3 The New iPad

It seems that all everyone in tech land wants to talk about right now is the new Apple iPad 3 The New iPad – Apple. Sure it’s only called the “iPad” from now on, but we’ll have to use something to denote the different versions. After picking up the unit yesterday and holding it, using it and most importantly looking at it, away from the hype and hyperbole of the launch, I’ve come away with a perspective on the new iPad that talks more to Apple’s business model than the product itself.

Apple iPad 3 the new iPad

You'll look, and then you'll look again... the new iPad with 2048x1536 resolution screen.

After all, the new iPad was always going to present a conundrum for Apple. After trailblazing the tablet path to dizzing heights of success, the original iPad was seen as a revolutionary shift away from traditional PC use into a more mobile, touch-oriented gesture activity. The second iPad added incremental improvements like a faster processor, a thinner and lighter body, and front and back cameras.

The new iPad takes a similar incremental upgrade path, essentially looking and feeling the same as the previous iPad, but improving the processor, upgrading the camera and moving to a mind/eye-blowing display that can’t be recreated on paper or on film – it has to be seen in real life to be appreciated.

The new iPad, and each iPad before it, was never just about the product, even though articles, blogs and segments are devoted to the intimacies of the hardware. The key word here is usage.

The original iPad made it easy to consume books, internet pages, movies and games without having an awkward keyboard attachment. With the second iPad, gaming became more important and FaceTime became an activity that could be achieved on the larger screen.

Now, with the upgrades Apple have made to the new iPad, the Cupertino company now seeks to change and modify usage again, and in doing so expand its base. Imagine how many millions of school kids around the world could replace their multiple-kilogram text books with an iPad? How many doctors and technicians around the world could be using the hi-res display to analyse X-rays, look at circuit diagrams or engineering models?

And that is really the core of the changes that Apple has made to the new iPad. It looks like they have gazed on the world, decided to play in new markets (or was already planning to), and worked backwards until they settled on their new product.

It could have gone something like this – school kids, doctors and engineers would all use the iPad if it were able to mimic the printed word and image in terms of quality. So, let’s make the pixels dense enough that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. To do that, we’ll need to improve our processing power, and to do that we’ll need to improve the graphics processor. And while we’re at it we’ll add the lens system from the iPhone 4S to give a better quality on board video recording to round out the feature build-up.

The publishing and entertainment industry must be unable to contain their excitement, because what Apple has done is potentially overhaul the digital content business model – not in distribution terms, as they’ve already created and made that model a success.  It provides movie houses and magazine/education/technical publishers an opportunity to expand their revenue stream, and in doing so make the Apple iPad 3 the new iPad the default device for not only web browsing, games and reading, but also reference aids for countless industries that struggle to deploy information other than printed magazines or newsletters.

The product is the vehicle. The new iPad is that vehicle, and all because of the new display. But don’t take my word for it, check one out yourself. And through that display, the 3 million pixels staring back at you are representative of the massive opportunities for Apple as a content distributor and for content developers/creators the world over.

The New iPad Release date is March 16th, Boasts 4G, Quadcore and High Res Display

This morning Apple officially revealed what we’ve been calling the iPad 3. The moniker for the 3rd generation tablet won’t be called that; it will be called simply “the new iPad”. The new iPad release date has been set as March 16th for Australia, the States and other countries and the 24th for the rest of the world.

New iPad release

Apple has announced the new iPad release, launching 16th March. (image courtesy Apple website)

The new iPad retains the same screen 4:3 ratio and size, but increases the resolution of the display to an incredible 2048 by 1536 pixels. This brings the pixel density to 264ppi, up from 132ppi for the original iPad and iPad 2. This makes it the highest resolution and densest display for a tablet yet.

Processor-wise, iPad has also taken up the fight to the new breed of Android tablets, boasting a new A5X chip with quad core graphics and a quoted four times superior performance to the Tegra 3 chip. I’m sure there will be plenty of benchmarking happening once the new iPad is released to quantify that claim!

The back camera has been improved, with 1080p recording up from 720p for the iPad 2. It’s very similar to the iPhone 4S but with a 5 megapixel camera instead of 8, and it does have the 5 element lens as well.

From a mobile broadband perspective, the exciting news here is that the new iPad will boast 4G capability here in Australia. The 4G network is developing quickly in metropolitan areas in Australia so we can imagine that the 4G network will start to get a real workout with new iPad users.

Alongside the 4G speeds for its own data network, the new iPad will also be able to share its internet connection with Wi-Fi hot spotting available. At the 4G speeds, connected devices are sure to experience some great online performance through the hot spot connection.

So what does the new iPad release represent for the manufacturer, its customers and developers? For Apple, it continues the trend of releasing progressive hardware with exciting improvements and more than combats the growing number of tablets in the marketplace. It’s hard to see how the new iPad and iPad family as a whole won’t continue to dominate the tablet category.

For users and potential buyers of the iPad, the screen was probably the most wished for improvement in the iPad 2, and for those that had held off upgrading from the original iPad, the new iPad makes a compelling reason to own one. The high resolution screen, quad core graphics processor, 4G mobile speeds and improved camera are all more than incremental changes to the previous iPad. To users they will represent a massively different on-screen experience in performance, display and online connectivity.

For developers, the new iPad release remains as attractive as ever. With the new resolution and processing power, developers are able to create even more detailed and commercially attractive content to increase their revenue and success within the Apple ecosystem. Not to mention HD content from movie and television houses, which may be able to charge a premium for upgraded content.

We can’t wait to see the new iPad release for ourselves. As enthusiasts of the technology industry, we’ll be doing comparisons with other tablets and pitting the new iPad against some of its future competitors as well. Stay tuned for more!

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Windows 8 Release Date Getting Closer with Consumer Preview Launch

This Wednesday in Barcelona, Microsoft will be releasing their Consumer Preview of Windows 8, giving users a taste of what the latest version of Windows will be offering. Although an exact Windows 8 release date hasn’t been announced, the timing of the beta version, as it is more commonly known, does indicate a possible release around September/October this year.

The launch of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the Mobile World Congress is telling, as it appears to be in line with the ramping up of the Windows environment across many device types. This includes smartphones and tablets in addition to the traditional PC and notebook market. Although Windows 7 has appeared in some touch screen tablets, these have been mostly commercial models and retail versions have not sold in massive numbers. This should change with Windows 8.

The Windows 8 Release Date firms up with the Consumer Preview announcement.

The next big milestone in the Windows 8 development is the Consumer Preview, but how far away is an official Windows 8 release date?

As we’ve already seen on the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows phone, the latest Windows OS for Smartphones is powerful and easy to use. The developer preview of Windows 8 also showed the Metro-style approach, moving away from the traditional desktop environment as we’ve known it for many years. (read our report on the Windows Phone from Nokia here.)

The tile-style grouping of programs and apps works well across the vertical swiping of the smaller smartphone screen, and the horizontal real estate of a widescreen display. How Microsoft intends to lock this down for the Windows 8 release date will be made much clearer as the Consumer Preview is distributed.

The Metro store is also expected to be opened in line with the Consumer Preview. These apps will probably be free previews ahead of the official Windows 8 release date. Apps would then be available to purchase as they are on the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace.

There is plenty of speculation about the final look and feel of Windows 8, including the removal of the iconic “Start” button. If this proves to be true, the Windows 8 release date will mark the end of a love-hate relationship with a desktop OS the world has used for decades. Microsoft could possibly re-invent Windows as a superpower OS integrated into people’s lives in business, leisure and social communication.

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iPad 3 release date draws closer

Ok, the word is out, Apple has just invited a whole bunch of media outlets to an Apple event, where almost everyone is certain they will  announce the iPad 3 release date and its new features . The event is being held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco at 10AM PST, on Wednesday, March 7th (which would mean 5am on March the 8th for us in Australia). So mark this date in your calendar and until then, it’s anyones guess what the next iteration of the world’s most popular tablet will be.

The  slogan by Apple for the invitation is “We have something you really have to see. And Touch”

ipad 3 release date draws closer with Apple March 7th invitation

ipad 3 release date draws closer with the March 7th Apple invitation

Speculation is rife as to what the new features might be and at the top of that list is a high resolution display, an A6 Quad Core Processor and 4G capable. if any of these rumours are not met then we think the iPad 3 will have lost its place at the top of the tablet pantheon and it would leave the door wide open for other manufacturers, like ASUS and Samsung, to take a big slice out of Apple’s current strangle hold of the tablet market. So we highly doubt they will come out with anything less than the above hardware improvements, but only time will tell.

We’ll keep a close eye on the March 7 event and provide a detailed post directly after it. We’re really  looking forward to the iPad3 release date and to finally pit the latest iPad against the ASUS Transformer Prime.

So what new features do you think the iPad 3 will have? Let us know in the comments section below.

And what comparisons tests do you want us to run against the ASUS Prime when we get our hands on the iPad 3? Again let us know  in the comments section below.

The iPad 3 release date is just around the corner.

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This article was written by Michael for Ritchie’s Room

 

 

 

 

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200: A Closer Look

After the popularity and interest in our video (that can be found below) and the article on how Toshiba have stopped selling the AT200 in Australia, which you can read here Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before it Begins, we thought we’d take a closer look at Toshiba’s new slimline tablet, as it will still be available around the world for some time.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

Just released globally, the Toshiba AT200 sets new standards in lightness and thinness for tablet devices.

Toshiba love being able to set new records and try new products that are a little left of centre.  Although some products aren’t successful in the mainstream, like the Libretto W100 Dual touch screen device, they do point to a company willing to take some risks to push the envelope.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is such a product. To call it the Ultrabook of the tablet world might be taking it a little far, but it does seem to go hand in hand with theZ830 as a companion in the thin and light mobile computing category, read that article here Toshiba Satellite Z830 Ultrabook First Look . At only 535 grams and 7.7mm it is currently the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet, matching the boasts of its Ultrabook sibling.

The overall design is of two slivers of silver being sandwiched together, with a black line running the entire way around the middle of the edge, except for the buttons and ports. It’s a stylish design and seems to be inspired in some part by its Ultrabook, with no tapering, just a consistent thickness all around.

The back plate has a metal finish with the Toshiba logo embedded, just in case there was any question as to what brand this eye catching tablet was. The back panel also holds the 5 megapixel camera. The front camera is 2MP.

What a great business model Gorilla Glass has now, becoming the go-to company for scratch and impact resistant display. The AT200’s 1280 x 800 display is protected by the Corning company’s mobile/tablet product.

Toshiba have kept the controls and ports very minimal but still manage to provide all the necessary outputs to satisfy most needs. The connection on the bottom of the tablet is for power and connection to a PC via USB, and the proprietary cable comes in the box.

It probably would have been easier to avoid duplicating the onboard connectivity of their previous 10.1”, the AT100, but they’ve gone all out and retained a full set of outputs.

The left hand side contains all the connections I mentioned earlier – headphone jack, micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD. It is interesting that Toshiba can provide such a comprehensive connection suite in a product with such dimensions, beating both the iPad 2 and Tab 10.1, both of which offer only a single proprietary connection that can be accessed with various add-on cables.

Interestingly, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 uses a Texas Instruments dual core processor, which is comparable to the Tegra 2 or A5 processor used in iPads and other Android tablets. This may mean that another tablet with Tegra 3 may be on the drawing board down the track.

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Software-wise, the Toshiba is still rocking the Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS, and no word on upgrades just yet. Given the amount of exposure Ice Cream Sandwich is getting now, read our article here Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet. I’m sure this question of ICS upgrade will be on the lips of any prospective AT200 owner.

In line with their pedigree in the commercial and enterprise space, rather than focusing on entertainment, Toshiba have included a few productivity apps. This includes Thinkfree Office for Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatibility; Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager (which surprisingly some tablets still don’t have out of the box), the popular Evernote and McAfee security.

When you look at the types of apps on board and the styling of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200, you do get a sense that this is more of an executive’s secondary or third device rather than a casual gaming and entertainment tablet. The absence of Ice Cream Sandwich may turn some users off, but we’ll ask Toshiba for an update on that and come back with details when available.

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s our video of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200:

What do you think of the AT200 from Toshiba?