Price (RRP): $199
You’ve seen cheap Android tablets, now brace yourself for the onslaught of cheap Windows tablets, starting with the Pendo Pad 8, a Windows 8.1 computer in an 8 inch form factor that can be had for $199.
A new tablet from a fairly new name, Pendo has been found in Australia for at least a year, but this model is the first computer we’ve heard of from the brand to carry Windows 8.
While Pendo computers are generally bargain machines delivering computers and cameras on the cheap, Android slates have generally been the focus, and from what we can tell, the Pendo Pad 8 is the first time Windows has graced a Pendo slate.
For this tablet, you’ll find an 8 inch high definition screen, running the high definition resolution of 1366×768, which in turn results in a pixel clarity of 195 pixels per inch, higher than the Apple iPad Mini without Retina, but lower in pixel count than the Retina-equipped iPad Mini.
Under this screen, Pendo has equipped the Pad 8 with an Intel Atom quad-core Z3735E processor clocked at 1.33GHZ, and running alongside 1GB RAM and 16GB storage.
Connection options are pretty standard for a tablet, with 802.11b/g/n WiFi, microUSB, miniHDMI, and a microSD slot for expanding the storage labelled with the old “TF” moniker for TransFlash (the same as microSD), with a 3.5mm headphone jack also included.
Cameras are also provided, with 2 megapixel shooters on either side, neither with autofocus or flash.
Buttons are also here, with a power button along the left edge, and the Windows button up top next to a volume rocker just to the right of it.
Despite earlier suggestions that the Pendo Pad 8 might have a SIM card slot, we can, in fact, report that it does not.
Need a computer and don’t have a lot of cash? Your options aren’t many, but now that tablets are dropping in price dramatically, slate computers are within reach of most wallets, even the ones that are particularly frugal.
No longer do you need a good $500 or so to buy a piece of touchscreen tech, because right now, you can spend a hundred bucks and grab an Android tablet. A couple hundred more will even net you an Apple tablet, but both operating systems are designed for content consumption, rather than many of the applications that workers need for work and that students may need for school.
For that, you need a desktop or laptop-class computer, such as a Mac or Windows machine, and when you start to talk computers, things get expensive, and we’re back to the $400 or $500 machine tablets used to sit in.
But a recent initiative from Microsoft seeks to change this, cutting the cost of Microsoft installations for manufacturers and bringing Windows to computers for budget prices.
We heard about this earlier in the year, and already Toshiba and HP have chimed in, and so has a local supplier of computers, with Pendo in the picture with its Pendo Pad 8.
If you’re unfamiliar with the name, Pendo is one of the budget computer manufacturers based in Australia with a tendency to release its wares through Officeworks and Target. Generally, the tablets are among the least expensive on the shelf, and cater to being fairly barebones, providing the technology without the frills.
For the Pendo Pad 8, the company has taken an Intel Atom-based slate and loaded it up with Windows 8.1, also throwing in a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 in the box.
From the get go, it’s easy to see the Pendo Pad 8 won’t win any awards for looking good, because, well, it looks so basic. Black plastic on the back, and a glass front, with numerous ports and a few buttons.
It’s a simple and rather generic tablet, and if that’s all you need, that is all you get, so don’t expect a slick and sexy design like Apple and Samsung use with their machines.
In the hands, it’s not much to feel, with just plastic and glass, plastic and glass. The Pendo Pad isn’t overly grippy, but it’s not remarkably slippery either. Your fingerprints will show up on its matte black surface, however, especially if there’s even a hint of grease, which is something to remember when you’re using it.
Clean hands, people, and we’ll get through this.
After this, it gets a little nicer, because when you switch it on, you’ll find an 8 inch 1366×768 HD screen staring at you, which isn’t the highest resolution we’ve seen on a small tablet, but does provide better pixel clarity than some of the 10.1 inch tablets we’ve seen from other companies.
Windows loads fairly quickly, too, thanks to the Intel Atom 1.8GHz quad-core chip from the “Bay Trail” generation, though there’s only 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage, and most of that isn’t even available to you.
And yes, the Windows here is the Windows with the tiles of squares and rectangles of sorts, because that is Windows 8. Fortunately, it’s a full version of Windows 8 — not that RT stuff Microsoft uses on its Surface RT and Surface 2 tablet — and that means you can run the apps made for Windows 7 here also, with a desktop mode still here that will take those apps.
But the main tile interface will load first because this is a tablet, and that means using your fingers all over the screen and getting used to that interface.
As usual, gestures work here — swipe from the right edge to the left a little bit for Microsoft charms, while the top edge to a little down gives you options in some apps — and you’ll even find the pinch to zoom working a treat here.
The screen is also quite surprising, though it’s missing out on brightness when you take angles, washing out slightly. It’s not the best screen ever, but Pendo even manages to out-do some of the first-generation efforts from other small Windows tablets we’ve seen, with a better screen than Acer’s W3 from last year. We guess this stuff is just more important these days.
Battery life is decent for the size, with around four to five hours likely, though we were relatively relaxed on usage, taking it for writing, web surfing, and emails. Get to using the processor even more, and you’ll find even less time, but at least Pendo isn’t forcing you to use the specifically tiny power port it encourages.
Yes, you can charge it with the supplied power charger, but you can also switch to microUSB, plugging it into the microUSB port on the tablet and getting the 8 inch Windows Pendo Pad charged, which will likely be far more helpful if you don’t have your charger in a pinch since microUSB is an international standard and found on so, so many devices.
But then there are the sour points, and it kicks you in the back of the head, reminding you that the word “budget” can mean so many things.
For instance, while the Pendo Pad 8 is inexpensive and obviously geared at consumers, it also comes with quite a few caveats, and these are things which seriously dent the performance of the tablet.
One is the lack of built in storage, and with only 16GB found inside the unit and yet a full version of Windows, you’ll find barely 2GB available to you once Windows is installed and ready to go.
That’s nothing, and while the Pendo Pad 8 is marketed as a 16GB device, you won’t get anywhere near that much to play with.
Thankfully, there’s a microSD slot to play with and expand this, but it’s a small comfort. Basically, if you buy the Pendo Pad 8, be prepared to buy a microSD card, because you’re going to want one.
Performance is also a bit of a problem, with a mixed bag of issues. On the one hand, you can use the tablet, but on the other, you’ll be using it slowly.
Some of the time, apps ran without any problems, and we were able to take notes and surf the web, but others, the apps loaded at a snail’s pace, with our keystrokes registering gradually but not fast enough on the screen.
We don’t expect the Pendo Pad to be on par with Apple’s new iPad Air 2 either, but we don’t want words disappearing into the ether as the computer struggles to deal with our statements, necessary since we’re recording them on the gadget.
As far as we can tell, you’ll more or less want to keep apps to a minimum on the Pendo Pad 8, because with only 1GB RAM, the Intel Atom powered machine struggles. You might get lucky with performance, mind you, but we didn’t have a whole lot of luck here, and even found as we were typing that the computer would occasionally switch off and be very hard to pull back from standby.
What would help with the typing would be a keyboard, because the screen sensitivity isn’t fantastic, with on-screen typing issues galore.
While the display is viewable from more than just dead on (though it does need more brightness), the excellent sensitivity you need for a tablet is a little lost in transmission, with strokes lost, words misspelled, and sensitivity in the lower left hand corner of the screen severely lacking, an experience that made selecting one of our email accounts a little difficult.
At least Pendo makes a keyboard case for its 8 inch Windows slate, and with a price of $40, it’s one of those accessories you’ll probably want to grab, since it will make typing less reliant on the weak touch panel of the tablet and more reliant of Bluetooth, which should handle its own far better than the screen.
There are some other things to note on the Pendo Pad 8, too, such as the strange placement of the Windows home button, which normally sits below the screen as a Windows icon, but on this model, it’s up top next to the volume button. Strange.
We’ve noted it briefly, but during a note taking session, we had the unit power down and was only able to be brought back when the power was plugged in. It wasn’t out of battery either, with around 20 percent left.
We expect this is one of those stray bugs you might find in your travels with the Pendo Pad 8, and if you do, hold the power down for a while or plug it back in. It seems to return to life after this, but it is an odd issue to say the least.
At $199, you can’t expect the Pendo Pad 8 to be an iPad killer, and we don’t expect it to be.
What you can get out of it, though, is a budget Windows tablet for people who need Windows and don’t want to spend much.
With a one year subscription to Office included in the box, and paired with a keyboard, the Pendo Pad 8 could well be one of the best budget student options out there right now, though more budget options are coming from the likes of HP (Stream) and Toshiba (Encore Mini), which should make the budget Windows area a little more populated.
For now, the Pendo Pad 8 is compelling if you need Windows on a budget, because that’s what is offered, you’ll just have to be prepared to put up with some performance issues and little space to work with, because both of those come part and parcel with the package, too.