ExoPC slate

If you're not a Windows 7 fan, the ExoPC Slate won't make you throw up your hands and praise Microsoft for inventing the tablet PC in the first place.

Compared to the iPad, it's heavier, the battery lasts half as long, the ExoPC interface doesn't do enough to keep you out of Windows for ever and there are plenty of places where Windows and Windows apps betray the fact that they were designed to work with a keyboard.

But if what you're looking for is a Windows tablet that gives you the freedom to run your familiar applications (and any Flash games you want on a decent-sized screen), then the ExoPC Slate does a very nice job – particularly if you're already comfortable using touch with Windows.

We liked:

The beauty of Windows is that if you want the Slingbox Player to watch your TV remotely, or BBC iPlayer, or the Sky Windows Media Center app, or the full Microsoft Office, or Remote Desktop for checking a work system, or Skype or just about any other application, you can get it (Angry Birds is on the way for Atom too).

The touchscreen is responsive enough to make the touch keyboard usable even if it doesn't stop it being fiddly.

Windows Media Centre comes into its own on a touchscreen (the big buttons work even better than with a remote control) and while it needs more work, the ExoPC interface simplifies launching and navigating apps – and doesn't pretend that Windows 7 doesn't need any help.

We disliked:

You can't get away from the fact that battery life on lightweight PCs is disappointing; the Broadcom accelerator and SSD help as much as they can, but for this size and weight we want to be seeing nine or ten hours, not four or five.

The power button is sometimes a little too fiddly and we'd like either a hardware button to rotate or automatic rotation with a button to lock the screen in place when you want to.

And handwriting with a capacitive stylus isn't yet the fluid and intuitive experience we're used to on tablet PCs with active styluses.

Verdict:

If you've been waiting for a usable Windows 7 slate, the ExoPC Slate is close to what you've been waiting for. There are some rough edges (especially in the ExoPC user interface) but the company is busy smoothing them out.

It's possible to make a better Windows tablet than the ExoPC Slate, but (unless you're happy with a keyboard you have to fold out the way) no-one has done a better job yet.