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Issue 9.5



Issue: 9.5 (July/August 2011)
Author: Tam Hanna
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 5,985
Starting Page Number: 17
Article Number: 9504
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Full text of article...

Tablet computing is not new—Windows 3.1 had tablet driver extensions. The real breakthrough of the category came in the iPad. Apple was the first to offer an affordable tablet with strong content consumption capabilities.

The German WeTab was announced to tackle it. While the Apple device offers but one way to get content, WeTab partner Neofonie tried to suck up to the traditionally highballed German media houses. That didn't work out too well, leaving us with the somewhat strange supply chain shown in Figure 1.

First impressions

The WeTab ships in a huge, flat box—it is, in fact, larger than the box used for most laptops. Inside, you find the WeTab (with a decent screen protector included sans duct tape), a charger and a sock to cover the device when not in use.

When starting the tablet up for the first time, better be close to WiFi—the device will self-update itself, and force you to agree to the WeTab OS license which permits the manufacturer to spam your desktop with ads (has not happened to me so far).

The hardware

Two versions are available: a WiFi-only 16GB edition and a 32GB edition which includes a graphic accelerator and a 3G radio. Both have an Intel Atom N450 CPU, one GB of RAM, and an 11.6" capacitive screen with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels.

Speaking of the screen: it will lay the camel flat for some. Even at the highest brightness, the glossy screen cannot satisfy—outdoor users will be frustrated.

Other than that, however, the hardware is good. The fan is audible, but not annoying. The two USB host-capable ports, HDMI output, and headphone jack are nice; the SD card and SIM card slots don't give reason for complaint. The Pegatron-manufactured device even includes a usable webcam, speakers, and a headphone jack.

Even though the manufacturers promise a run time of six hours, I never reached that—with UMTS on, two hours are realistic. In addition, charging the device while it runs is dead slow—I once used the device for two hours, and refilled but 20%.

The software

Even though the WeTab can run Windows 7, it comes preinstalled with a MeeGo-derived operating system called WeTab OS.

Its desktop, Pinnwand, is fun—each app is shown as a small tile, and some apps have elaborate native (Qt) widgets which offer intelligence of their own. The bar on the right side is shown system-wide, and it allows you to access the keyboard, the Internet and an overview of running tasks.

The web browser provides another bar on the left, which lets you scroll the web site. I tested it on Flash web sites, and had a bit of lag when looking at videos in full screen mode—other than that, the browser managed to impress.

Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are handled excellently by OpenOffice, whereas PDFs are handled by the notorious productivity trap better known as Okular (which, while an excellent viewer, cannot move PDF comments into the file so that they can be seen on other computers).

For me, the most-important tool is the root shell, which must be downloaded from the WeTab Market. Once installed, you can use yum to add additional packages of choice like on a desktop (use the Widget Creator to create desktop icons)—I run Qt Creator on mine.

This, unfortunately, also is the major weak point: due to the use of desktop apps, some widgets are frustratingly small to tap. Furthermore, some apps are laggy at times—this is both due to lack of graphic acceleration and an inexplicable "loss-of-focus" issue.


The WeTab is not an iPad killer—if you are looking for a simple media consumption device, look elsewhere. But: having UNIX at your hands makes difficult tasks possible—at the cost of significantly worse usability. WeTab OS has loads of kinks, and third-party apps are not optimized for tablet use. Additionally, the box lags for no apparent reason sometimes.

This takes some getting used to. But once you know your way around the device, the tablet becomes a valuable companion for viewing data on the go.

If the idea of having a full, multi-tasking UNIX workstation in your tablet sounds appealing, definitely snag the box—this is where the WeTab truly excels.

End of article.