Mecer LUCID – review

The world is getting smaller. Cliché. I know, but it really is. It means nothing to have a perfectly normal friendship with someone who lives somewhere across the world or over the rainbow. Our technology has progressed to the point where we can walk around holding an eleven inch screen in our hands while video conferencing a friend in London, Singapore or Texas.  iPad 2 has an app called FaceTime that allows this functionality, but it was already available (with the right application) on the Mecer LUCID Slate.

The Mecer LUCID is a tablet PC with all that makes tablet PC’s wonderful. It’s eleven inch screen, 14mm width and less than 1kg weight. All great tablet features, but what sets it aside from its rival iPad and Galaxy, is the fact that it is actually a PC. iPad has the great iOS4 operating system. It is fantastic. It’s smooth, quick and dynamic, but it is Mac based. So if you’re already running an Apple network, it’s fine. The problem is that, pretty as Apple is, it’s not the platform of choice for business (unless your business is a creative one). Most businesses run on Windows servers with Exchange or Notes as their email system. Enter LUCID. It runs full Windows7. I was running the Professional version (which is pretty resource intensive) on the device I tested.  Windows runs smoothly and quickly thanks to the Intel Pineview Atom N450 1.66GHz 512K Cache 667MHz FSB ß the processor that one would expect to find in a normal netbook or laptop. It also doesn’t hurt that it comes with 2GB DDR2 RAM. eleven inches of work and playThese are specifications that you’d expect to find in a laptop. Only now they come in a tiny 14mm slate. Local storage is supplied by the 32GB solid state hard drive, which allows for silent operation (since there are no moving parts). But if it’s storage space that you’re after then you can simply plug an external drive, with as much space as you desire, into one of the two on-board USB 2.0 ports. That is one of the reasons I’ll be buying a LUCID before an iPad, it is accessible. There’s also built in SD card reader and a mini-HDMI output. So you can seamlessly connect your LUCID to your HiFi or TV or projector without the need for an extra (proprietary) connector. You simply plug in your device and use Windows to configure it. That holds true in general for the operating system. There’s no learning curve. It is full Windows, you use it every day. Now it is impossible for there to be no flaws. I did find a few, but they’re minor or have a workaround. Firstly, the screen rotation is a little bit slow. I found myself rotating 90 degrees and waiting for the screen to turn. Then again, the iPad’s quicker rotation has it’s drawbacks too. If you turn your head to speak to someone, the slight shift in your body triggers a rotation, and when you look back you’re upside down and have to make a big gesture to correct it again. Maybe the slight delay is a bit of a blessing after all. Then there’s the on-screen keyboard. It is responsive and resizable and it works, but it’s a Windows application. If you are connecting to a domain, you’re most likely to have to press CTRL+ALT+DEL to log on. But since the keyboard is a Windows application, it lies BEHIND the log on screen. Fail. Fortunately, it’s Windows. Microsoft has some accessibility features built into Windows. One of which is an on-screen keyboard. So you can activate the Microsoft built in keyboard for the CTRL+ALT+DEL bit, and then the Mecer keyboard takes over (although for a short period you two keyboards). It’s a little tacky, but it works.

Once you’re into Windows you have access to anything available to Windows. So if you want video conferencing, install Skype. For an extra R500, the LUCID comes with a built in 3G modem, so the walking around web conferencing thing is ready to go. iPad’s FaceTime may possibly easier to configure.  I haven’t used FaceTime, but the rest of the apps are simple enough, making it appealing to the consumer market. It’s basically a R6000 toy (unless you are plugging into an Apple network).

At the end of the day the Mecer LUCID fits a Windows-based network better, and at R5999 (identical to the iPad of the same size), it’s about the same price as a new desktop PC, but with much more flexibility.

So for business purposes, this reviewer is of the opinion that the LUCID trumps the iPad.

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