Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hanvon B10

Slates, Pads, Tablets, UMPC's, Touch Screens

There is a lot of names for the latest keyboard-less PC craze, and while the iPad may of kicked of the mainstream push to capacitive touch computing at home, they are not the only ones.. Hanvon or HannWang Corporation is a Chinese based technology company started in 1984 and specializing in Handwriting and Touch recognition software and hardware. Hanvon have a lot of E-Book and Pen Based computing technologies included in their portfolio. The Hanvon B10 is the first consumer based Windows 7 multi-touch tablet on the market hot on the heels of the iPad.

The Hanvon is a 10.1" Windows 7 based Multi-Touch Tablet device running an Intel Celeron M 743 1.3Ghz ULV, or Ultra Low Voltage processor. And while it's significantly faster than any Atom based processor and offers a few niceties like x64 capable instruction set as well. Unfortunately the ULV portion of this chip is a little over pronounced IMO.
Intel® Celeron® M Processor 743

The reason for this is the 743 does not support any type of speed-step technology to allow a lower power state, its constantly running at it's intended maximum 1.3Ghz, most modern CPU's have the ability to downclock the CPU to a more modest speed when idle, unfortunately the Celeron ULV is not one of them, and that unfortunately leads to a 3.5hour average battery life on the Hanvon B10 under Windows 7, which is not quite in the same league as the iPads or other Arm & Atom based tablets. At the same time the Hanvon B10 offers a lot of ability compared to those other Tablets.The newer and more efficient Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 is a similar spec 1.3Ghz ULV with the same TDW of 10watts, however the dual core design along with larger cache and instruction set enhancements such as SSE4, speedstep and Vt, make it a much better choice for future tablet models.

This leads us to the next concern with the Hanvon B10, and indeed an alarming trend in electronics manufacture in general at the moment, which is to only include sealed and not removable batteries in there products. The 4800Mah battery should be removable and replaceable with OEM and 3rd party replacement batteries. It's a pet hate for Apple products and why others would want to replicate that stupidity is beyond me. Removing of the 4 torque screws will allow access to remove the battery, but it's not a nice easy job as it is for most notebooks or mobile phones, a higher powered and likely heavier 7200mah battery would of been preferred.

The removal of 4 torque screws on the back plate leads to a host of things to see, such as the included 320Gb Toshiba 2.5" 5400rpm drive, 3DSP WiFi B/G + BT2.1 Mini-PCI-E card and antenna, and a DDR2 200pin SODIMM 2Gb 800Mhz Memory module. This means unlike the CPU the HDD, WiFI and Memory are all upgradable too.

For example :
*Intel 5300 WiFi A/B/G/N - Half-Height Mini-PCI-E Wireless card = $40
*1x4Gb Corsair 800Mhz DDR2 SODIMM -VS4GSDS800D2 = $185
*Kingston V+ 64Gb SSD - SNVP325-S2/64GB = $265

Those listed upgrades would make a nice improvement to every part of the Hanvon B10's performance, which BTW is quite exceptional already and miles in front of any Atom based netbook. Obviously one of the concerns with the Hanvon, is indeed the extremely high price point and although the B10 is unmatched in features and specifications, the price should of included a couple of features the competition already does....

* Accelerometer
* WiFi N
* 3G

All the above options should be included for the almost $1k asking price, but some things that the Hanvon B10 does include for the price are nice, like the SD Card slot which not only provides the useful SDHC card slot (duh), but actually allows you to boot from the device as well. Most Notebooks's force you to use an additional USB flash drive to boot Operating Systems etc from, but the Hanvon allowed me to load Windows Ultimate x64 directly from an SD Card.

Other ports and slots include 2x USB2.0 ports, 1xMini HDMI output (with adapter), 1xVGA output (with adapter) and the standard 3.5mm Headphone and Speaker output ports. It would of been nice to see an extra USB port on the left hand side personally, as it seems you can never have to many.

Apart from the ports, the Hanvon features 5 buttons on the left side for such things as:

*Power On/Off
*WiFi & Bluetooth On/Off

*Brightness Up
*Brightness Down

Above those is the rocker switch which allows simulates the Up/Down and also the Enter key is achieved by pressing the Rocker inwards. All of these buttons are a nice inclusion, and their hardcoded functions mean you can enter the Bios and makes changes, as well as select options in Windows all without a keyboard. Although advanced options like F8 can be a little tricky, not to mention console xconf hacking in Linux, so consider a USB, Wifi or BT Keyboard.

This does lead to some issues however, the lack of a dedicated rotate screen button or accelerometer does mean that the Hanvon is a little awkward to rotate into Portrait/Landscape and vice versa. As a workaround, using Microsoft's gestures or Flicks to rotate the screen is likely the easiest solution, or using a 3rd party utility called "AutoHotKey" to make a script to switch the buttons around. I'm now using the Rockerswitch to rotate back and forth, but this leaves my arrow keys modified, which is not ideal. One extra button for Rotation, would of been very nice to include. I have now added a Suspend Toggle to the rockerswitch making it a breeze.

Here is the script for AHK:
$Up::Send ^!{Left}

$Down::Send ^!{Up}


Another unique feature of the B10 is the Avago LaserStream optical mouse system, the small square sensor is a touch based optical mouse that tracks your finger as you move across it, it's a very handy mouse alternative and a welcome addition to the package.

Also included is an integrated 1.3Mp Web made by eMPIA, which is a standard affair unless you are a vegetable like logo wearing tablet.

The Hanvon is using an Intel GS45 chipset with Intel 4500MHD videocard using 128Mb (Bios Maximum) of the 2Gb system memory. The 4500MHD is the latest incarnation of Intel's bog standard and highly lacking videocard and while it does perform adequately at the tasks it's assigned, it's not about to output 1080p HD video to your TV or play Crysis at Supermax, this is still reserved for anything Nvidia at the moment. The lack of the DDR3 ram in the Hanvon however does cost the 4500MHD some performance and it's capable of running at a higher clock speed and with more shaders when using DDR3 memory.

The 10.1"1024x600 resolution LED Backlit screen is manufactured by HannStar while the ColorFilter Capacitive Multi-Touch elements are sourced from Taiwan based Sintek Photronics, which features some snazzy multi-touch abilities combined with some less snazzy or rather average horizontal viewing angles, and if you are lucky enough (which i was not) a screen protector is also included in the box. The B10'screen will likely need that protection as it does tend to show up every fingerprint and speck of dust it can at all times, but the included microfiber cloth is indeed a good one.

I would say the iPhone/iPads screen has the better viewing angles and touch accuracy along with the famed oleo-phobic coating but the Hanvon is very nice none the less and it's good to see a company actually get the capacitive touch part right as most other Asian manufactures have been insisting on resistive screens. It would of been nice to see Hanvon screen support more than two fingers like more modern systems. The screen however remains one of the highlights and is more likely let down by the sometimes clumsy Windows 7 implementation of touch and gestures, which although works and is quite good, is perhaps not as fleshed out as other touch-screen technologies, however the ability to run MeeGo, Android x86, Jolicloud and other touch linux based touch OS in the future is a nice bonus.

The Syntek/3DSP WiFi and Bluetooth card or perhaps the placement of internal antennas, means that WiFi performance is quite a concern, not only is there a lack of WiFi N, but the WiFi G is struggling to transfer at any more than 2MBps, I would of much preferred to see something like an Intel 5300 card included instead. I have already gotten a Broadcom for testing.

Hanvons website lists carbon fiber as a possible option, but my version alas is the standard aluminum affair. I'm not sure how this would affected the temps, of the B10 which while running HWMonitor shows the CPU runs around 32-42c, and the HDD a little cooler at around 30c. There a few small vents at the back which allow some heat to escape. It does get warm in the hand which is expected considering the performance and form-factor, although the fan has seemingly kept the hand-warming to a minimum lately as the fan seems to work better sometimes than others. The 1kg weight makes it quite comfortable to hold easily one handed as well. An included stand would of also been a nice addition perhaps as would of a leather case... ;)

So there is my overview of the Hanvon B10, I've had mine for a about a week and it's generally a nice and useful Tablet device that will see my laptop have a little less time in my lap. This device is a little expensive and a little unpolished for what it should be, however there is simply very little on the market right now that can be compared to the Hanvon. Unlike the iPad it can run Windows 7, MacOSX, and even boot many Linux distros from the SD Card, or run a bevy of peripherals like USB TV Tuners, and XBox controllers, the iPad is a pure toy in comparison.

Unfortunately the rest of the market will likely add Atom CPU's to their Tablets, which mean it could take sometime before we see the B10 bettered and with MeeGo and Android for x86 coming soon the Hanvon, we will also have some interesting choices for future OS choices too.

Summary Pros:
Great Performance
Multifunctional x86-x64 CPU (unlike iPad or ARM processor based Tablets)
Expansion Slots - USB, SDHC, HDMI, VGA.

Summary: Cons:
WiFi performance is woeful.
No 3G
Battery Life

The Perfect Revision of the Hanvon B10 would include the following to make it better.

Intel SU7300
Nvidia Geforce 310 with Optimus Switching.
10.1" LED Backlit Multi-Touch PixelQi screen with 1366x768 res.
2x USB Ports + 1xUSB/E-Sata Duo port, 1xHDMI, 1xVGA.
2x DDR3 slots.
64Gb SSD
Built in stand
3G+WiFi N,+Accelerometer + UWB.
6hour removable battery

I have tried running various versions of Linux from the SD Card, they include Linux Mint, Ubuntu, OpenSuse and MeeGo, So far unlike my previous feelings on the matter, i generally seem think that Gnome is more stable, faster and better than the KDE desktop these days.

I also think considering the support that it's likely to get most mileage from Ubuntu, the 3DSP wifi driver is a pain to get working and although i did get it compiled and loaded, I remained without WiFi, worse it only seems to support TKIP and not AES encryption with the Linux driver which makes it incompatible with my current 2.4/5Ghz network without changes.

Linux does have Multitouch support in the Kernel, however so far getting the touchscreen to work is likely to be a while away, it will have to wait until i get the WiFi driver working.

sudo bash

You may have to change the details to suit the Kernel version in the script above and also the directory names.

1 comment:

  1. I bought the same tablet and Can't complain about it that much.
    There are a few things I would change IMHO. I bought mine in Hong Kong, so I don't have the switch for the wifi/bluetooth. The physical switch is not there, instead ON/OFF and wifi keys are the first and second buttons of the five on the left side.
    I haven't had the chance to open the tablet, but I imagined there would be room for upgrades.

    The SSD upgrade would be great... but since it's not proved the SSD improves battery life, it con turn out dangerous.

    Wi fi upgrade sounds great... but upgrading to the Intel 5300 mantain Bluetooth?

    More RAM sounds good... but the device is good as it is, plus as i said before, battery is a problem.

    GPS... I'm pretty much sure GPS module could be added by soldering it to the motherboard or maybe even adding a card. (

    The battery... i was wondering if you know which battery model its included (I would surely buy an upgrade for it).

    Finally, the FAN. it's too noisy, and tends to get hot!

    Anyways, if you know anything about the battery, I'd appreciate if you reply back:

    gemini (at) live (dot) com (dot) ar