Pendo Pad 7 Windows Tablet Review

Earlier this year I did an experimental purchase of a Pendo Pad 7” Windows Tablet from Australia Post for $99.  The Pendo Pad 7 came with a one year Office365 subscription which in itself retails for at least $89 so I reckoned even if the tablet was “shite” I could use the Office365 subscription which I have done.

The major reason I bought the Pad was to start to get some experience with Windows Store apps to see how they compared with other app stores like the Android App store and the price seemed right.

The Pendo Pad 7” came with Windows 8.1 (Standard, non-Pro) and the full Tablet specs are here:

http://www.pendo.com.au/pendopad/pendopads-windows-8/pendopad-7-intel-quad-core-windows-tablet-pndppw81q716blk/

In short, it’s a challenging device to use and I have probably spent way too much time working around minor and not so minor issues with the Pendo Pad 7 Windows Tab.

My high level observations are:

  • Microsoft Windows is not meant to be used on a small screen and even the annoying Modern (Metro) interface in Windows 8 doesn’t address that.
  • The Tab only comes with 16GB or storage and Windows 8 and a recovery partition take over 13GB of that so there is not much C:\ drive left for actual applications. If you then install Office 2013 which is available as part of the included Office365 subscription it takes about 1.5GB of the 2.8GB you have available so you are left with just over 1 GB for any App store apps … getting kind of a close to useless.  You can install an SD card as a D:\ drive (and I have a 32GB card in it) but sadly when you install Office 2013 over the wire from Office365 you can’t nominate where it goes.  It goes on C:\ drive whether you like it or not.  There are posts from people who have managed to move the Office 2013 files after installation to a D:\ drive by hacking the registry but I haven’t yet been brave enough to try that.
  • The WiFi drivers are crap. The Tab uses a Realtek RTL8723BS aggregated WiFi and Bluetooth radio chipset and the WiFi and Bluetooth interfere with each other.  I’m not completely sure whether the problem is that the Tab is underpowered or if the drivers are bad but the WiFi will regularly drop out and lose packets.  It’s worse (almost unusable) when Bluetooth is on, almost useable if you turn Bluetooth off.

Other than that, it’s a semi-functional low end Tablet.

A bit more about my experiences.

Office365 Subscription Issues

When I first tried to “activate” the included Office subscription I kept getting error 0x803D0006.

When I tried to access the Windows Store I kept getting “Error 1053 Service would not start”

Multiple reboots eventually seemed to fix it.  I never actually worked out what was going wrong but it did come good and I was able to activate the subscription.

After I got it running seemingly ok Windows Update offered me 78 Windows 8.1 updates which I installed but it took a fair chunk of time … I basically had to leave it running overnight.

 

Windows 8 (Std, non-Pro) limitations

The Pendo Pad 7 Windows Tab comes with Windows 8.1 (standard, non-Pro) which is basically the “Home” version equivalent and this version has some reduced/cutdown functionality.

It’s actually really annoying not having some of this functionality.  Things that are missing are:

  • No Users and Groups GUI

You have to manage your users through the Control Panel User Accounts setting dialog boxes which are not as easy or as functional as the Windows User and Groups GUI in Computer Management MMC.

There is actually no way to manage groups through the Control Panel User Accounts functionality, but you can use the Net USER and Net Localgroup command line commands.

  • No RDP for remote management but you can do Remote assistance

In Windows 8 (non-Pro), Remote Desktop (RDP) is disabled so you can’t remote into the Tab from another machine.  It would be handy to do this when you are doing things on the tablet like installing and configuring stuff that you need a keyboard and mouse for. The onscreen keyboard and touch screen are a poor substitute for a proper keyboard and mouse in Windows.

You can use programs like ThinStuff that provide this functionality but once the ThinStuff trial version expires it becomes annoying to use and the cost of a non-trial version of ThinStuff basically doubles the cost of the Tab.

  • No GPEDIT.msc

GPEDIT functionality is also disabled in Windows 8 (non-Pro).  This is not generally a big deal unless you are trying to adjust something that is only adjustable using Group Policy

Windows 8 (non-Pro) also can’t be added to a Windows Server Active Directory Domain but this is not really a problem for a personal Tablet device.

Power Profiles Missing

Windows 8 Tablets seem to have a new power setting called  Connected Standby (CS) … I believe that this is to allow the tablet to go into standby mode but still stay connected to something and wake up for events like alarms.

Connected Standby seems to obscure other power plan profiles such as High Performance.  It looks like if you disable Connected Standby in the registry you can choose High Performance (where you lose the sleep setting) and then re-enable Connected Standby and you get sleep back and also retain visibility to the High Performance profile.

How to disable connected standby:

https://forums.lenovo.com/t5/ThinkPad-Tablets/How-to-disable-connected-standby/m-p/1367197/highlight/true#M27364

Connected Standby also seems to adversely affect Tablet power consumption. There is a bit of a discussion about it here:

http://forum.tabletpcreview.com/threads/disable-connected-standby-get-advanced-power-profile-access-and-reduce-cpu-power-usage-by-25-by-undervolt.62929/

The High Performance power profile becomes important when we talk about the WiFi performance below.

Power Charging

While on the subject of Power, the Pendo Pad 7 needs greater than 500mA to charge properly so a normal USB charger may not do it. The power adapter that comes with the Pendo Pad 7 is 1500mA output and you need to use this or another high power USB charger to keep it charged.

The WiFi networking seems to regularly drop packets

This is probably the most annoying issue with the Pendo Pad 7 Windows Tab and one that I had hoped would be fixed by just getting the right network drivers but after a lot of effort I still can’t find drivers or configuration settings that make it work as reliably as I would like.

The “out of the box” Realtek drivers are really old – like 2006.

I couldn’t find newer drivers for the Realtek RTL8723BS on the Realtek site (http://www.realtek.com.tw)

I installed updated Realtek drivers (Aug 2014) from the Dell site

http://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/04/Drivers/DriversDetails?driverId=CFMTN

I had to extract the drivers and manually install them because the Dell install program won’t work on this tablet.

Some other drivers are also available from HP

http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/softwareDownloadIndex?cc=us&lc=en&softwareitem=ob-140101-1

These seemed a bit older so I went with the Dell ones.

One thing that does seem to make a difference is running the Pad on with the High Performance Profile (see discussion above on how to enable this).   It drops fewer packets on High Performance.

The RealTek RTL8723BS has a parameter setting called WiFI Config.  Setting the RTL8723BS NIC WiFi config parameter to “WiFi” reduces the number of ping packets it drops but the Rii Bluetooth keyboard I use then stops working.  Basically all Bluetooth stops working.

If you set this parameter to “Performance” it seems to drop more packets but the Rii Bluetooth Keyboard and track pad I use seems to work.

Turning off QOS settings also seemed to make a difference and reduced the dropped ping packets by about 75%.

I’m out of ideas on how to fix this dropped packet issue so I’m going to investigate upgrading to Windows 10.

If you are thinking of getting one of these or another Windows Tablet think very carefully.

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