Skip to main content

Acer Iconia W510 Tablet: A Tale Of Intel Vs. ARM And Acer Vs. Apple

Improving Touch Performance With Windows 8 And Better SNR

Even as Android and Windows 8 grow in popularity, Apple's iPad still enjoys a majority of the tablet market. We've found the iPad to be smoother-feeling and more responsive than even the fastest competitors. And we are correct.

One of the first things Intel did was take stock of the tablet space to see how the most popular sellers performed. This had nothing to do with Jobs' Reality Distortion Field; Apple's iPad was truly faster to respond to touch input than the best Android-based models. Windows 7-based tablet's powered by Pine Trail? The worst of the bunch. 

To address this challenge, Intel's engineers approached it like NASA and the Apollo program. They couldn’t change their lot by targeting one specific component or element. Instead, they knew they needed to re-think and re-engineer the whole process, optimizing from the moment your finger hits the screen to the moment your task completes.

The first discovery was that Windows 7’s desktop- and workstation-oriented approach to multi-tasking meant that touch input was given the same priority in the execution stack as everything else. On a fast CPU, waiting for the time slice wasn’t a big deal. On a tablet with a low-power processor, this turned into lag and inconsistent responsiveness. Intel says it worked with Microsoft to create a "fast lane" for user input, so that touch would receive the highest priority. This was implemented in Windows 8, and is featured on all tablets and touch-enabled notebooks (including those running Windows RT). Not surprisingly, Windows 8-based machines seem much more responsive than the slates running Windows 7 we reviewed in the past.

Intel then studied the way gestures were recognized and discovered two interesting points. First, electromagnetic interference from the device's LCD was causing noise in most capacitive touch panels, resulting in a lower signal-to-noise ratio. A poor SNR turned into wasted processing cycles to extract legitimate signal from the noise. Working with OEMs, Intel claims it helped improve the analog signaling involved in touch-capable screens.

Though most mainstream folks believe that claims from audiophiles that cable quality is nothing but a voodoo science, techies know that there are times when cabling makes a measurable difference. It was definitely important to SCSI-based storage subsystems. Then, cables became an issue for 80-conductor IDE cables. Even today, a MacBook Pro can crash with a SATA 6Gb/s SSD unless its cable is also wrapped in aluminum foil for shielding. On a tablet, shielding touch sensors from the noisy LCD panel improved the analog signal-to-noise-ratio to such a degree that latency dropped and accuracy improved, yielding faster and more precise input. Acer is one of the first OEMs implementing Intel's technical contribution, and this is little-known feature of the Iconia W510, W710, and Aspire S7. Not all shipping tablets feature this tuning, but an increasing number of OEMs are joining Intel’s performance optimization program. As an analog technology, this can be applied to any touch-capable device. However, Intel is aggressively approaching OEMs manufacturing x86-based tablets and helping them improve this aspect of their technology.

  • Priox
    "Because shipping was on my tab and only the keyboard was broken, I shipped it on its own."

    You made a massive assumption here to save yourself a few bucks in shipping costs. Your assumption was wrong, and the delay in processing your RMA is all on you.

    Acer manufactures and sells the dock together as a single unit. They separate physically but they are still both part of the same product. It is very reasonable and logical that they would want to examine both together in order to determine the cause of the problem.

    It is not reasonable or logical to compare the Acer W510 dock to a keyboard or mouse for a Mac Pro. Keyboards and mice are not system specific and are highly interchangeable. Your Acer tablet may function without the dock, but the dock does not function without the tablet; it's a system dependent peripheral.

    Next time you make an assumption that turns out to be wrong, I hope you'll accept some responsibility for it.
    Reply
  • ta152h
    What does "Since I never notebooks for repair with their hard drives, I spent time scrubbing my data." mean?

    As if the whining about having to send the full unit in wasn't bad enough (anyone with any technical knowledge would know to send the complete system, instead of being miserly), but then bad English.

    This was a really bad article.

    Reply
  • Bloob
    Not surprising, I have yet to buy anything Acer which works well. The products may just fill the exact function they are advertised to, but not a hair more.
    Reply
  • adgjlsfhk
    so pretty much what I got from this was that
    a. this is a good tablet, much better than an ipad
    b. it crashes if you try to do things that no ipad could ever do (full pc games)
    c. customer service sucks

    don't read the article, this has all the info
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    The Google Octane benchmarks are completely bogus for IE10 VS Chrome on SB-E .

    Chrome currently performs best in Octane. Nearly matched by Firefox. IE10 is nowhere near these two.
    Either you took a busted Canary build, or there is something wrong with the test setup.
    BTW, why are you testing a Canary build here ? Those are very unstable, and perf goes up and down.

    Could you try the latest release Chrome and retest ?
    Reply
  • hons
    so pretty much what I got from this was that
    a. this is a good tablet, much better than an ipad
    b. it crashes if you try to do things that no ipad could ever do (full pc games)
    c. customer service sucks

    don't read the article, this has all the info

    Plus -------- Acer needs him to pay the shipping charge!!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • xtremeways
    I agree, this was a bad article. Acer's customer service is widely known as crap. Nothing new there, but as someone in the IT field you should have already known this. Armed with this knowledge you should have done everything by the book and not assumed you could just send the dock. I rather had read one of those 20 picture articles than this one. Sorry dude.
    Reply
  • duckwithnukes
    Who is this guy? Why the rant? Very poor article.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I just don't get it. So many companies no longer understand, that service is everything. Niche consumers (e.g. do-it-yourself enthusiasts) may not need service, but they're a niche; a tiny percentage of the market. To everyone else, if the product isn't perfect, the service better be, or they'll find something else. Could this explain why so many people are willing to pay the "Apple Tax?"
    Reply
  • ojas
    I have performance numbers for an overclocked six-core PC in there just to remind everyone that the death of the desktop is still a premature proclamation.
    I have a 9 year old 1.7 GHz Single core Pentium M that can prove the same. Sunspider (0.91) score running Chrome (v24) was 544.6 +/- 6%. 1GB DDR RAM, Windows XP, Intel IGP. Don't remember the clocks.

    Sunspider's sensitive to IPC and clock speeds, doesn't seem to care much about core count, as the rest of my little test went like this:

    Core i7-3517U @ 2.4 GHz + Turbo = 208
    Core 2 Quad Q8400 @ 2.77 GHz = 210.3
    Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.4 GHz = 262.4

    All within a 2% error margin.
    Reply