Windows 8.1 Tablet for just $59?: WinBook TW700 Review

WinBook dropped a bit of a bombshell this week, launching the TW700 (also labeled TW70CA17), a 7″ tablet running Windows 8.1 at a price point of just $59.99. It’s a full Intel-powered PC, from an American brand, at a US retailer, with US warranty, for half the price of an Amazon Kindle e-reader. Heck, it’s cheaper than a Furby (sidenote: they’re still around?).

So, what’s the TW700 like? Check out our unboxing / hands-on video below to find out!

Review

WinBook?

What’s WinBook? Turns out it’s an in-house brand of Micro Center, a tech retailer that, in most of the markets it’s present in across America, is the only remaining physical retail store where one can buy computer hardware, DIY electronic components, and the like. Micro Center has from time to time brought out the brand for its in-house laptops (and now tablets), alongside its PowerSpec desktop brand.

So while it’s not a well-known brand, WinBook at least has the backing of Micro Center, if you happen to live near one.

Context

Let’s put the WinBook TW700 in a bit of perspective. Apple’s current iPad Mini 3 starts at $399, and the two-generation-old original iPad Mini sells for $249. Google’s Nexus 9, too, is $399. Samsung’s 8″, Android-powered Galaxy Tab 4 is $199, and the 7″ version, with just 8 GB storage, is $149. Even the 7″ member of Amazon’s famously zero-margin Kindle Fire HD line goes for $110 and up.

Over the last year, most 8″ Windows 8.1 tablets have started in the $200-300 range. Microsoft’s decision to make Windows free for small-screened devices (hoping to push volume and consequently boost App Store sales to make up for the loss of up-front cash) has, however, triggered a race to the bottom, with the likes of Toshiba and HP launching 7″ Windows 8.1 tablets closer to a $100 price point (the Encore Mini and Stream 7, respectively).

The sub-$100 tablet arena is full of no-name Chinese vendors selling low-quality Android tablets with weak ARM Cortex A5 or A7-based Allwinner or Mediatek CPUs, 4 or 8 GB flash, terrible, low-resolution screens, and flaky software, likely never to receive an OS update– not to mention zeroes in the tech support and warranty service columns. In other words, it’s a bunch of junk, and you really don’t want to use any of them. The bar, then, is pretty low. If WinBook can produce something decent at $59, that’ll be pretty shocking.

Specs / Features

The TW700 is the smallest and newest member of WinBook’s family of tablets, all of which share almost identical internals, built around an Intel Bay Trail System-on-Chip (SoC). The TW700 includes:

  • 7″ IPS LCD display (1280×800 resolution)
  • 5-point multitouch capacitive touchscreen
  • Intel Bay Trail-T Z3735G 1.33GHz Quad-Core CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB flash storage
  • microSD card slot (for storage expansion, up to 128GB)
  • Full-sized USB 2.0 port
  • MicroUSB port for charging or data (USB OTG supported)
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • Stereo speakers
  • 2 MP front + rear cameras
  • Ambient light sensor, accelerometer
  • Micro HDMI video out port
  • 3000 mAh Lithium Polymer battery
  • 5V / 2A (10W) AC adapter
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • 1-Year Office 365 Personal subscription (license key card in box)
  • Dimensions: 7.44″ x 4.76″ x 0.43″
  • Weight: 350g

The first thing to highlight here is the full-sized USB port, which is incredibly useful yet nowhere to be found in most 7-8″ tablets. Even among 10″ tablets, only the Microsoft Surface line has one. Next is Windows 8.1– this is the full, x86 version of Windows, not Windows RT; that means it can run almost every x86 app around. We played some almost 30-year-old DOS games without a hitch on the TW700. The combination of these two means the TW700 can literally do anything your PC can– it is, after all, just a touchscreen PC stuffed into a 7″ tablet form factor.

An interesting side-note is that the MicroUSB charging port apparently supports USB-On-The-Go (OTG), meaning if you plug it into a Micro-USB-to-full-USB adapter, you’ll basically get a second USB port. We haven’t yet tested this, but if so, that’d make this the first 7″ tablet with more than one USB port.

Also, the TW700 comes with a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal (which provides the Office apps and cloud services for one PC/Mac and one tablet), which alone retails for $69. So if you were looking to buy that, you could get the WinBook and have a tablet for -$10. Alternatively, you can eBay the license key for $40-50 and have a $10-20 tablet on your hands. Incredible, either way.

Exterior / Form Factor

At 0.43″ thick, the TW700 is not exactly svelte by late-2014 standards, and its 350g weight is a bit chunkier than, say, the iPad Mini (308g). But it’s still possible to hold in one hand, and the form factor is really not a problem. The back side of the tablet is finished in a rubberized plastic, which is easy to grip and feels much better than the flimsy parts on almost every other sub-$100 tablet. Overall build quality is pretty decent– as good as, say, the HP Stream 7 (which,. at $100, is 67% pricier).

The screen bezel is a bit large, though we didn’t really notice it until we placed the WinBook TW801 (the higher-specced 8″ variant, with 2GB RAM and 32GB flash) next to the TW700. They’re very similar in size, but the TW800/801 fits in an 8″ screen (for $99-139) via a smaller bezel.

The other TW700 vs 800/801 difference to highlight is the placement of the Windows Start button. The TW800/801 have a capacitive Start button on the front panel, but the TW700 follows the lead of tablets like the Dell Venue Pro in instead having a physical Start button on the side. We much prefer the capacitive layout for speed, but passionate supporters of physical buttons may opine otherwise.

 

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