Tablets are the toast of the town right now, but we'd be lying if we said we'd ever found a Windows 7 tablet that struck us as particularly desirable -- the PC software just isn't designed for a touchscreen device. Samsung wants to change all that with the Series 7 Slate PC, a tablet with a powerful Core i5 processor, due out in October at £999.
Design and feel
Aesthetically there's rather a lot to like about the Series 7 Slate. It's a big, bold rectangle that looks more businesslike than the rounded Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and along the back there's a selection of grey grilles that lend this tablet a slightly industrial sheen.
It's 12.9mm thick, which isn't as thin as the iPad 2, but it didn't feel too chunky in our practiced palms. It is big though -- the screen measures 11.6 inches along the diagonal, so we'd hazard that holding this monster with one hand for lengthy periods will likely be out of the question.
There's only one button, which bears the Windows logo and sits underneath the display, hinting at the Windows Home Premium OS lurking within. Meanwhile there's a 2-megapixel camera sitting pretty on the front, and a 3-megapixel rear-facing snapper.
While the Series 7 Slate has a capacitive touchscreen, it also comes with a stylus. As a rule, we find these plastic poking pens massively off-putting -- they're fiddly to use, and you're guaranteed to lose them down the back of the sofa.
For jotting down written notes, or idly doodling during your commute, that stylus could be handy though. It'll also help you be more precise with your prodding at the Windows 7 interface, which contains its fair share of fiddly, smaller icons.
Windows 7 problems
Indeed, our biggest reservation about this tablet is that its operating system was built for mouse-operated desktop PCs, not touchscreen machines. That has made other Windows tablets hard to use in the past -- the small icons are made for a mouse, and swiping with your fingers won't produce the behaviour you expect if you're used to using an iPad.
Samsung has made some effort to put its own, more touch-friendly skin on the Windows OS, but to make the most of this tablet you'll have to brave the standard Windows interface.
There are benefits to using Windows 7 -- if you have to use software that'll only work on Windows, for example. If your needs are simple, however, we're not convinced you'll have more fun using Windows 7 than you would using an iPad or an Android tablet, and finding decent apps and games that are suitable for a touchscreen is actually considerably harder.
To make typing slightly faster, Samsung's deigned to include a dock that'll hold the tablet upright, and a wireless keyboard. We didn't have a chance to test that unfortunately, though once your tablet is held vertical with a keyboard stuck underneath, you might wonder why you didn't just buy a laptop instead.
Hardware and specs
One thing the Series 7 slate has over its rivals is an array of meaty components. For your cash (and you'll need a lot of it) you get an Intel Core i5 processor, a 64GB SSD drive and 4GB of RAM. That should put this tablet on par with a mid-range laptop in terms of performance.
It felt very slick while we were using it, though we'll wait until we've made this tablet run our gamut of benchmark tests before deciding how much performance grunt it offers. Samsung reckons you could squeeze around 7 hours of battery life out of this machine, though again, we'll wait and see.
There is another major fly in the ointment -- we're told that this tablet, with the dock and keyboard included, will set you back £999. You don't need us to tell you is a huge amount of money -- that's more than twice as much as the cheapest version of the iPad 2, and pricier than a powerful laptop to boot.
We're struggling to imagine why you'd be tempted to shell out that amount for this tablet, so we'll be scanning to check whether there's any area where this tablet comes into its own, when we get down and dirty in the full review.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate packs a good deal of hardware into a slim package, but at nearly a grand and with an operating system that's not built for touchscreens, we're have strong doubts that this tablet will offer much over its iOS and Android rivals. Still, it might impress us in the full review. Stay tuned.
Edited by Nick Hide