Sunday, 13 March 2011

Windows 7 Slate/Table - one week of use

Had a busy week but managed to get some time in using the Win 7 slate for music.

First, and foremost, I cannot stress how incredible it is to have full music software running on something so thin and portable with a touch interface. In one instant it shows just how far behind mobile "studio" software is. I've been running Ableton Live Lite 8 and Virtual DJ Pro and almost re-falling on love with them as they are available to use within seconds of pressing the power button on a quiet, slim device that is always to hand.

It's not all sweetness and light though. These apps were never designed for use on a touch screen and all too often I get frustrated by clicking on something that I didn't mean to, or wishing for a mouse. Coupled with my Keysonic 540RF wireless keyboard it all makes so much more sense. Obviously that reduces the portability so I tried my tiny bluetooth keyboard (not much bigger than an iPhone and weighs almost nothing) and was just as pleased when moving through Ableton's interface.

Performance isn't up to the level of a non-Atom powered laptop, and battery life isn't iPad-bothering at about 4 hours, but it is perfectly happy running two tracks in Virtual DJ with effects and some attempts at turntablism. I haven't hooked up a turntable yet to try it with virtual vinyl so I can't comment on performance there. In Ableton recording audio was solid and using a few virtual instruments and VSTs was also great. Again, the improvement over iOS virtual synths (Nlog aside!) is phenomenal.

What really brings the device alive though is hooking up my Behringer UMA25s. It's not a great keyboard in terms of key action (my Novation Remotes are miles better) but it has a good onboard audio interface with ASIO drivers and is amazingly portable. The performance of mic and guitar input is much better than the built-in soundcard on the slate. Of course it also works happily for both MIDI and sound duties without complaint, unlike my iPad with CCK that only works with MIDI unless I provide mains power as well.

So far then I love the portability much more than the touch aspects of it. Touch is great for web surfing etc but Win 7 is about as far removed from the touch friendliness of iOS as you can get.

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