Freescale Tablet Hands On: This Is Last-Gen

Illustration for article titled Freescale Tablet Hands On: This Is Last-Gen

The $199 Freescale Smartbook Tablet reference design was supposed to be the tablet design that OEMs could easily use to get a product to market fast and cheap. Maybe, but that doesn't mean it's very usable.


It has all the requisite hardware to be a powerful portable device:

7-inch touchscreen (resistive, unfortunately, to keep the design under $200-you'd go up to $250 if any OEM put a capacitive touchscreen on there), 512MB RAM, 4-64GB internal storage, removable microSD slot, an optional 3G modem, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, USB, audio ports, SIM card, speaker, microphone, 3-megapixel webcam, 1900 mAh battery, accelerometer and light sensor.

But the UI? No good. Freescale basically took a Linux build and shoved a couple apps—browser, doc viewer, gallery, media player—on top. They didn't optimize the interface for a tablet, which is evidenced by the fact that you kind of have to use a stylus to navigate. It's not like an iPhone or an Android where you can use your finger to swipe around a webpage, you actually have to use the scrollbars like on a normal computer.

This is the main problem with the device. It's not customized in any meaningful way to make it a good finger-only experience. Just substituting a capacitive touchscreen for the resistive won't solve the problem; you'll have to completely redesign the OS in order to make the interface easy to use without having to pull out a stylus. A prime example is the onscreen keyboard: the keys are small and unresponsive, you need to manually activate and dismiss it to use. Even the JooJoo managed to get a gesture-based OS on their tablet.

There's nothing wrong with the performance of the device: you can run 720p video decently smooth, and web pages render at an acceptable rate. But until Freescale, or one of its OEMs, puts a better OS on there, it's basically a keyboardless computer. And the tablets of the early 2000s proved that those don't work.



"...They didn't optimize the interface for a tablet..."

Well...isn't that the whole problem in the PC world?

While there is a huge ecosystem of hardware and software, there isn't a "creator" who dictates what "must be"...and we know how things turned out in the wetware world.

Wait...that wasn't the point we wanted to make. Ugh...we must be still dizzy from watching that "CES in 4 minutes video."