PaceBlade Windows 8 tablets show ease of use, smooth interface, good performance

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HANOVER, Germany--As expected, Windows 8 tablets made their appearance at the CeBIT trade show here. The first to arrive came from PaceBlade, which builds its tablets in the Netherlands but sells them globally, including in the United States. The company is showing their PM240 Model, which has been shipping with a tablet version of Windows 7 but is now being upgraded with Windows 8 for testing.

The PaceBlade is a semi-ruggedized 10-inch tablet that works well with Windows 8. The Metro interface that seems somewhat clunky when operated using a mouse and keyboard is fluid and intuitive on the touchscreen PM240. While the PM240 is about the same size as an iPad, the case is significantly larger because it's been ruggedized. A model similar to the PM240 has been chosen by NASA for use aboard the International Space Station.

PaceBlade's PM240 operates as a standard touchscreen tablet but also supports a Wacom active digitizer pen and it has a fingerprint reader for security. Unlike most tablets, the PM240 supports wired Ethernet and has full HD resolution.

The Windows 8 implementation seemed to be better integrated than the Consumer Preview version, and PaceBlade was showing a number of enterprise-ready applications including Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office, although some of those applications don't feature the Metro interface. The PaceBlade Windows 8 implementation featured animated tiles, some of which showed a rotating view of the content within, similar to those on Windows Phone 7.

The tablet version of Windows 8 still offers the traditional Windows Desktop, but when used as a part of the Windows 8 touchscreen environment it's significantly more intuitive than it is with a mouse and keyboard. For example, the start menu opens with the flick of a finger rather than the annoying pause of a mouse pointer over an ill-defined spot on the screen. The HD screen of the PM240 holds most of the Metro screen in one place, minimizing the need to scroll.

The PM240 reacted instantly to the touch of a tile. Program execution was nearly instantaneous, and the screen moved smoothly when swiped. Overall, the integration of Windows 8 on the PM240 seems extremely successful, and it makes clear what Microsoft has in mind for this mobile platform. While it remains to be seen exactly what will happen with the interface on computers without a touchscreen, on the right machine, Windows 8 works extremely well.

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