Connectivity is decent, with a microSD card reader along the top, and a full-size USB 2.0 port (covered by a tiny loose rubber flap that’s very easy to lose), headphone jack and micro HDMI port on the left. We have no idea why Samsung downgraded from the USB 3.0 models it gave attendees at the Windows 8 developer conference, and it’s a real shame. We also miss having a second USB port as was found on the Asus EP121: just imagine wanting to connect a mouse, 3G dongle and memory stick (a likely enough scenario) and you’ll know why.
And indeed you’ll need a dongle for 3G as, unlike on the aforementioned developer sample, it’s not included. Again we have to wonder why something that is clearly possible has been omitted, even as an option, and can only hope it’s planned for a future model. At least other wireless bases are fully catered for with Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0.
Thankfully, the media dock does improve things where connections are concerned, giving you a full-size HDMI port, a second USB 2.0 port, headphone jack and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The dock is built like a brick and finished in the same brushed metal as the Slate, with a rubberized base to prevent scuff-marks and slippage. A securely-hinged flap opens up to uncover the proprietary docking connector, which slots into the underside of the 700T and holds the tablet at a comfortable angle. The dock is powered from the tablet.
It’s a great accessory which you can leave permanently on your desk to – when combined with the keyboard and a mouse – turn the Slate into a ‘proper’ desktop PC. However, it’s hardly ideal when you need it at home and at the office, not to mention wanting to use its features on a plane or train.
Samsung should have followed Asus’ lead with that company’s Eee Pad Transformer. Even without the extra battery, if Samsung had just integrated the keyboard and dock in one, that could slot onto the Slate to make it like a laptop (protecting the screen as a peripheral benefit), it would have had a real winner on its hands. Talk about missed opportunities…
As far as the current solution goes though, the dock is superb and the wireless Bluetooth keyboard is pretty decent too. Like the dock, it’s very well-built; its entire body is metal with a brushed finish on top, while the well-spaced Chiclet keys are matt black plastic. Key feedback is lovely and crisp, and layout is logical.
Getting back to the Slate 700T, its controls are well-placed and easy to operate. On the left is a volume rocker switch, while to the right resides a handy orientation lock button and a recessed power button. With a single short press, this puts the tablet into standby, and resume is virtually instant (nicely replicating the experience of Android and iOS tablets). A longer press is the equivalent of choosing the ‘Shut Down’ option from Window’s start menu.
A round button under the centre of the bezel launches Samsung’s custom touch interface, which runs within Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (or the optional Win 7 Professional OS you can choose if you live in the US). Again it’s reminiscent of Android but that’s no bad thing; it’s attractive and provides a very smooth experience indeed.
By default all the usual apps like Media, Calendars, Notes, Social and Weather widgets are provided, and you can add shortcuts for any program of your choice. The only notable lack is touch-oriented games. Unfortunately, aside from a few custom apps this interface provides only a thin veneer over the not-so-finger-friendly Windows OS. Still, it does demonstrate the potential that Windows 8 might tap.
Playing a touch-crafted game like iBomber Defense on the Slate really goes to show that the experience for individual apps certainly doesn’t need to be inferior to that found on an iPad, and the wealth of superb touch-friendly titles already available for a Windows PC (such as World of Goo and Crayon Physics to name but two) is simply staggering.
Of course, Flash games and movies are also at the tips of your fingers, another potentially major bonus over Apple’s tablet. Perhaps the single biggest advantage of the Slate over non-Windows tablets (when used as a media consumption device) is its ability to play any format or resolution of video with consummate ease, including high bit-rate 1080p video on or off-line.