LS800 Review

Sunday, September 11 2005
 I had previously mentioned that I wanted to purchase a LS800 tablet…..well, my willpower is very week (and my wife is very kind) and so I've had one now for about three weeks.  So far I'm pretty happy with it.  I thought I'd provide a nice summation of my thoughts on the device.  This is pretty long.

 

The Tablet

 

The LS800 is the fourth generation tablet from Motion Computing.  The model is the fifth tablet Motion has released, but is in many ways a miniature version of the LE 1600.  First of all, the LS800 is a full PC running the Windows XP Tablet Edition OS.  Even though the device  has about the same footprint as a small notepad it is definitely a full PC. 

 

The size is what attracted me to this model vs. the LE1600, and it doesn't disappoint.  The unit is very light at ~ 2.2 pounds and is easy to hold.  The battery is attached along one of the longer sides and it's exterior feels like rubber.  When you hold it in portrait mode with the buttons at the top of the device this improves the grip and gives you more comfort about not dropping the unit.  For a complete display of the device and all the locations of ports and buttons check out the Users Guide, which you can download from Motion's website.  The website also has the full technical specifications, which I won't rehash here.

 

Reading some forums and reviews on the LS800 the biggest complaints appear to be screen size and heat issues.  The screen resolution of the tablet is maxed at 800 x 600, which seems to be the biggest complaint.  The screen itself is only 8.4 inches across.  In using the device for the last week I can't imagine running it in a higher resolution.  I would think 1024 x 768 would be pretty hard to read on a screen that small (but this comes from someone who wears glasses from time to time and even on their desktop doesn't run higher than 1280 x 1024).  As far as I'm concerned the screen resolution is fine.  There are also complaints that the external monitor is limited to 1024 x 768.  This is apparently a driver issue, so hopefully that will be fixed soon.

 

I have come up with more space saving means of reserving real estate.  For example, I have added gestures via Shorthand (a software application bundled with the "Motion Pak" to allow gestures to drive commands) to hide/show my folder list in Outlook.  This way I can jump to my folder list when necessary, but then hide it for more room while navigating email.  I also have found that I'm adding more icons to toolbars that help in navigation and real estate, such as the reading pane in Outlook.  I also run Internet Explorer in full screen mode while browsing and move most toolbars to not display text (just icons) and show small icons.  What I have found is that I navigate faster on the LS800 with these adjustments than I do on the desktop or even my older tablet.  Makes me think I needed to have done this on my older tablet.

 

As for the heat issues I have only really had the machine heat up to what I would consider very hot once.  The unit was plugged into its mobile dock, which was powered via AC.  Now, I don't lay the tablet down on flat surfaces for long periods of time (usually only during meetings) and I rarely lay it on fabric while it is on (like the couch when I get up to get something to drink).  When I'm using the device and not holding it, it is propped up.  Up until I received the mobile dock (see below) I was using the stand that originally came with my M1300 (the cheap plastic thing).

 

The device does get warm to the touch, but I've had laptops that would scald you if you actually had them in your lap, so the heat this device is producing usually isn't bad.  If it does get to overheated the machine will shut itself down.  The vents for the device are on the back and there is no internal fan, so the more air you can get around the back the cooler the unit will run.

 

The performance of the unit has been pretty satisfactory.  The LS800 can only have a maximum of 512 RAM (at least that's the amount of RAM that Motion will support…and if you go over that and overheat the device to the point of damage, you're on your own). EDIT: Motion will now support and load up to 1 GB of RAM.   Being a developer I maxed the RAM to the 512 (at the time that was the max) when I ordered it.  What I found with my last tablet was that as a consultant I did minimal coding on the Tablet device and used the client provided desktop hardware 90% of the time to do hard core coding and development.  The tablet was used for taking notes, communications, drawing up designs, managing projects, and jotting requirements during meetings.  This entails using Outlook, OneNote, Visio, Project and Office.  These apps run just fine on 512.  I've loaded the device up with VS.Net, SQL 2000 Developer's edition and VPC for when I want to put something together for myself.  These have run just about as well as they did on my previous tablet, which is to say serviceable.  My VPC image of VS.Net 2005 runs well enough to be serviceable.

 

To help with performance the first thing I do on all my mobile machines (laptops and tablets) is to set the machine to work with performance in mind.  Under the Properties of the "My Computer" icon you can pull up the Advanced tab.  Click on the Settings button in the Performance section and choose to configure the computer for best performance.  Note that this shuts off the XP themes and many UI animations.  Your experience UI-wise is remarkably more like Windows 2000 than XP (grey toolbars, square windows, etc).  I do notice a pick up of performance from this though and it looks just fine to me.  I also disable several of the NT Services that aren't necessary in my day to day use.

 

What I like about the device itself is the size and the layout of ports.  The previous models of the Motion tablets had most of the ports on the "bottom" of the device when viewed in the primary landscape mode.  With the new design of the LS800 only the network jack and the docking station port are along the "bottom" edge.  The rest of the ports are on the "sides" when using the device in landscape mode.  With the rest of the ports on the sides you don't have to go looking for L shaped USB adapters and such.  The universal security lock is now situated on the side of the device instead of the back, like the previous models.  This allows you to lay the device flat while still having it locked.  That was one of my biggest complaints of the previous design. 

 

This model also has finger print scanner.  There is OmniPass software that is part of the "Motion Pak" software bundle that manages the fingerprint security.  So far I have really liked the fingerprint scanner.  It reads well and in the tests I've done with other fingers or other people, it has never allowed a breach of security.  The software also allows you to store usernames and passwords for web sites and other applications which can then be used to log you in with just another swipe of the finger (or even automatically).  Very cool.  The other use of the fingerprint scanner is to scroll documents and windows as well as bringing up the "scroll icon", like hitting the center mouse button.  This allows for easy document navigation.

 

The LS800 also comes with Bluetooth built in, which is the first Bluetooth device I've owned.  I purchased the Bluetooth mouse and keyboard from Think Outside and they work great!  I've had a little problem when I attempted to set the Bluetooth security to the highest level; the mouse stops connecting.  After a support email to Think Outside they suggested I just try the built in Windows XP SP2 bluetooth manager.  Once I had that working, everything works great.  When I asked Motion why they choose to install the Toshiba manager they gave a rather vague answer that the Toshiba manager allowed certain devices to work correctly and provided more features than the built in one did….not which devices or what features.  Check out this post I did on getting the XP bluetooth devices to show up after you uninstall the Toshiba manager.

 

The LS800 also has an IR port, which my previous tablet did not.  This only came up as an issue once or twice before, so I don't think I'll be astounded I have one; but I'll also not be missing one if I need it.

 

Now for the cons about the device, or things I didn't like/think could use some improvement. 

 

First of all, it's small.  While this is the biggest strength of the device and why I got it, it's also the biggest draw back I've found.  First of all the size of the device is just not like any other laptop device.  There aren't many cases that are designed to fit something this size.  It's too large for PDA cases and too small for laptop cases.  The Bump Case that Motion offers is just not want I'm interested in.  The other cases they offer work for the larger tablets too, so they aren't sized for the LS800 specifically. 

 

Second, the device didn't come with a stand of any kind.  The previous Motions came with a plastic stand that was pretty cheap, but got the job done.  The previous Motions also have their vents on the side of the device, so resting on flat surfaces for long periods of time during use wasn't an issue.  As mentioned above, the LS800 has the majority of its venting on the back, which means laying it down during extended use may result in a very hot device.  I wish they had sent a simple stand with the device.  The plastic one was cheap, but it worked…and still works for me as that's what is holding my LS800 right now as I type this.  The mobile dock provides a stand, but I have my own thoughts on it below.

 

Third, I miss the firewire port.  The Motion M1300 had a firewire port which I used in conjunction with my camcorder from time to time.  It was also how I originally connected my Addonics Pocket DVD/CD-RW drive to my tablet.  While I'll miss this port, it's not a deal breaker by any means.  I've gotten the USB adapter for the optical drive (which can be powered directly from the USB port with no additional cables!) and I didn't use my camcorder much with the tablet anyway.

 

Lastly, while it was nice that they moved the universal lock slot to the side of the device it would be really nice if there were two of them.  I made this same statement about the first Motion I owned.  One lock on the side where it currently is, and another position to be able to lock the mobile dock and the device together with one lock would be nice.  This was one feature I liked about the docking station of the M1300.  When the unit was docked you could lock the device and the docking station with one lock.  Very nice (but you couldn't lock the docking station on it's own).

 

The Peripherals

 

Motion sells several accessories that work with the LS800:

 

  • Optical Drive: DVD/CD-RW
  • Mobile Dock
  • Car/Plane charger, Battery Charger and Spare batteries
  • Bump Case and other cases
  • Memory upgrades

 

First off, what I purchased for accessories are the Think Outside Bluetooth Stowaway Keyboard and Travel Mouse, the mobile dock with AC Adapter, and a spare battery.  Here is my reasoning, but your preferences/mileage may vary.

 

The optical drive they offered back when I got my Motion M1300 was over priced and was originally advertised to only work off AC power as the USB ports couldn't power it.  Back then I purchased an Addonics Pocket DVD/CD-RW for about $50 less and it could be powered by a special Y cable that pulled power from both USB ports (which looks remarkably like the one that Motion now sells for it's new optical drive).  Once I got my LS800 I ordered a $30 USB connector for my Addonics drive and have discovered it powers the drive directly from the USB data cable.  So, less cables (requires just the data cable, not a power cable or Y cable), and was cheaper than the Motion alternative.  Even now the Addonics drives are cheaper for the same functionality.  If you want more functionality, like a DVD burner, they offer those as well.  So, my suggestion is take a look at other portable optical drives before buying the Motion one just to save some cash.  I say this, but I've not owned a Motion optical drive so I can not say that they are bad drives…I'm sure they work great.

 

I received the mobile dock last night so I don't have a lot of time in using it yet.  My first impression is that this is definitely designed for travel.  It's decently light weight and the included "travel stand" makes it reasonable to travel with.  Not like the docking station for the M1300.  The "normal" stand included with the dock is a bit big and can be used to vertically mount the device to a wall or other surface (a L bracket for the VGA is even included) or hold the mobile dock like a normal docking station.  Connected to the "normal" stand it can be set upright like you would expect, but it can also be set at a low angle to act more like a writing pad on your desk, which I thought was very cool.  The mobile dock even has a universal lock slot of its own, which was missing from Motion's original flexdock.

 

I couldn't find any reference to what the port replicator looked like on the mobile dock until after I purchased the unit.  After that I found that they had some documentation on the Motion website that had the same picture as one that came with the dock.  The ports are shown on the second page.  They have a port labeled "Motion Accessory Port".  According to a Motion Rep, this is a power port to help power some external devices like the optical drive.  I found this was an odd answer when the y-splitter cable they sell specifically states it should be used with the mobile dock.

 

I was a little disappointed in the mobile dock, though it is exactly what it is advertised to be.    First of all while the inclusion of a universal lock slot is great, the ability to lock both the tablet and the dock with one lock is gone.  This was a great feature of the previous docking solution.  The travel stand can't be used to put the tablet into a low angle like the "normal" stand can.  This is too bad as I like the idea of the writing pad mode, but don't want to lug the bigger stand around.  It also would have been nice to have a little more "grippy" material on the main part of the dock to help keep the device still on a bumpy plane ride, on the plane ride out to LA I felt like I had to hold onto the dock and device when we hit some slight turbulence.

 

Again, it would have been nice to have included some sort of plain stand for the device.  Something in basically the same form factor as the mobile dock with the travel stand, but without the port replication.  If they made that for about $30 I'd buy one for actual travel time and leave the mobile dock at home.  I'll use the mobile dock more as a stand than an actual docking station.  One thing to note that while I was using the mobile dock with the tablet engaged and plugged into AC power the device got hotter on the back than I've ever felt it.  The digitizer screen also became warm near the bottom.  A minute or so after it was undocked it went back to about the normal temperature.

 

I purchased the mobile dock with the AC adapter included which isn't all that necessary, but nice.  Now I can leave one AC cord plugged in at the client site, or home, and still have one to work with elsewhere. As far as I can tell they have used the same AC adapter for all their machines, so if you own an older Motion you can use the AC Adapter with the newer machines.   I will note that I really like the design of the AC adapter on the Motion machines.  They have the main adapter part that plugs into the tablet to supply power.  The main adapter can have a power cord extension plugged into the other end to extend the length of the cable, or it has a special plug adapter than can plug directly to the end of the adapter and be plugged into the wall.  This can save on cord space in your bag, or if you want to leave the AC cable plugged in at work and still power the tablet at home.

 

My suggestion for the mobile dock is to think if you really need a port replicator or a stand.  If you just need a stand, then the previous Motion stands, or even a picture frame stand may suit your needs and save the couple hundred bucks.

 

Motion also sells various chargers, including additional AC adapters if you want to get one without the mobile dock.  They have auto and plane chargers as well.  I've read reviews of all sorts of Universal power providers, such as "I go" that may be cheaper or at least more useful.  I did purchase a spare battery, which is probably a good idea if you plan on using the tablet a lot during the day without periodic power charges.  So far I've noticed about two and a half hours of power in a battery before it gets low enough that I plug it in.  I've not run one till it dies yet, so you may get three hours or a little more out of it.

 

As I mentioned earlier, finding a case for the LS800 is challenging.  The form factor just isn't normal for laptops and equipment like this, so the nice protective cases you can get for laptops are just too big.  They will still protect it, but the unit could move around inside a lot.  Motion sells what they call a "Bump Case", which is little more than a glove like case to protect the device from just what it says, bumps.  This isn't something you'd pack it up in to take on the plane.  Motion also sells a couple of other bags, but they are designed to fit the larger tablets as well.  I've ordered a Tom Bihn Brain Cell (size 5) to store my tablet in while traveling (recommended by Blazio on the TabletPC Buzz forums and got high marks from all the reviews I could find).  It's still pretty large compared to the unit, but meets my needs and can easily be put inside my existing business bag, or my backpack.  You may find the bump case very helpful, but I decided against getting one.

 

Motion also provides memory upgrades.  Since the unit can only be loaded to 512 from motion your upgrade is really going to 512 from 256.  You can buy cheaper RAM than what they are offering it at, so I'd look around before purchasing.  You can also load RAM with higher capacity, but Motion has stated that if a unit is damaged due to excessive heat from higher capacity RAM, they will not cover it as part of the warranty.  They explicitly state that the RAM limitation was due to heat.  There is a discussion of this going on at the TabletPC Buzz forum. [EDIT: They now allow up to 1 GB of Ram in their configurations. I'm still trying to figure how to get mine upgraded. It has been noted that switching the memory is not a light task as it is with laptops or the previous Motions.]

 

So, there you go.  Overall I would recommend the LS800 as a great device for people who want a small form factor to their tablets.  If you are looking at tablets for the first time, you may want to be sure that you'll like the form factor if you are using this as your primary device.  If you are looking to upgrade your current tablet to something new, then you'll probably know if you would like a smaller tablet or not.

 

As for where to purchase, there are several resellers out there in addition to Motion itself.   Alltp.com even has a trial program if you want to check out one of these units without purchase.  This time around I decided to purchase from Dell.  You have to search for the LS800 under their Healthcare section, but its there.  They have several variations on configuration of RAM and hard drive.  I also found the Think Outside mouse and keyboard at Dell.  All three were slightly less expensive from Dell than anyone else.  The mouse and keyboard were on sale for a significant discount at the time.  The great thing about ordering from Dell was that I had the tablet the next day (literally) and I could return it in 30 days if I didn't like it.  I ordered the spare battery and mobile dock directly from Motion since no one seemed to have a better deal on the items and Dell wasn't selling them.

 

Hope this helps!  Feel free to post comments on this review and I'll try to answer as many of them as I can.  You can also post questions over on the Motion topic board of TabletPC Buzz for a whole host of LS800 and other tablet owners.

 

[EDIT: Corrected url to TabletPC Buzz forum]

[EDIT: Motion will now support up to 1 GB of RAM!]

[EDIT: Corrected link addresses]

Comments

Wednesday, September 14 2005 1:54 AM Jip from Paris, France said:

Great review.Very helpfull.


I hope the LS 800 will be delivered in France very soon.


Jip


Saturday, November 05 2005 9:40 AM Scott said:

Thanks for this great review! I'm a programmer too; although this won't be my primary laptop, I am interested in doing tablet-enabled app-dev in .NET.



So after reading your review yesterday, I bought one from www.alltp.com. Lisa there was GREAT. It was nice working with a small company (compared to Dell, my other option). They know Motion Computing products really well.



Also, she said that MC released a bios upgrade that might fix your heat problem. All of their 800s go out with the new bios upgrade.





Sunday, March 26 2006 3:10 AM marc said:

my question is about the docking station. is it able to add a hot swap sata hard drive drive and an optical drive (dvd burner) to the station? what i want is a system that can use a mobile pc and a desktop replacement.


Monday, March 27 2006 5:35 AM mvwood said:

Marc,



The mobile docking station has two USB ports on the back. I can't speak for a removable SATA hard drive, but I have an addonics DVD/CD-RW drive connected via USB to the docking station and the tablet works just fine when pulling it from the station, or replacing it in the station. It usually takes just a few seconds for the tablet to register the drive and activate it. As for the removeable hard drive, I would assume it would be about the same since it would appear as a removeable drive source to the tablet, but I can't be certain of that without testing. I can say that one of the requirements for a tablet PC (from Microsoft) is the ability to be pulled "hot" from a docking station and not have any problems, and to be placed "hot" into a docking station and pick up on any additional hardware that station provides. Something I wish Dell would figure out how to do with their laptops (I've always had problems with pulling a dell out of a docking station).


Monday, March 27 2006 5:38 AM mvwood said:

Since I posted this review about six months ago it has seen a tremendous amount of traffic, and its fair share of spam comments. To help cut down on the amount of spam comments I'm going to turn off comments for this post. Feel free to contact me via the contact link at the top of the page if you have questions about the LS800, I'll still be happy to answer them for you the best I can.