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Review: Compact, Cost-Effective Media Wrangling Tools

In this article, I'll take a look at three cost-effective and compact mobile media wrangling tools on the market today: the RAVpower RP-WD01 portable media device, as well as the WinBook TW800 and WinBook TW100, which are Windows 8 tablets featuring a full-size USB 3.0 port on the edge.

4K Tests

I tested these two WinBooks with 4K video, which tasked the internal processor with downscaling the 4K video on the fly to present it on the display. I tested usability, transfer speed, and playback quality. 

Both of these tablets run Windows 8.1 and have access to Windows applications, such as VLC. However, I tried to load Red Giant's media management app "Offload" to facilitate copying footage from one card to multiple apps, and I was disappointed to find that it appears to require a 64-bit OS and it wouldn't complete the install (Figure 4, below). So the breadth of apps available may not be as wide as initially anticipated. 

Figure 4. Red Giant Offload wouldn’t install on the Windows tablet. Click the image to see it at full size.

I tried a few different solutions to play back 4K H.264 files from my camera. The built-in Video Player had some issues with my 4K video test. It started with a very low frame rate, but playback got smoother as I let it play. However, it never achieved smooth 24 fps playback.

Next, I downloaded VLC from the Windows App Store. With VLC, 4K playback was very jerky--one frame every few seconds. The video was unusable, but the audio continued just fine. Then I tried a different media player called, unimaginatively, Media Player. This one played my 4K video just fine. However, its fanciful and distracting design was not very businesslike, or intuitive. 

Android Devices

I had initially planned on adding a Dell Venu 8" tablet that also has a USB 3.0 port, despite the Android OS, but when I saw that it was a Micro USB, the concept of using that to connect multiple media storage devices became a little far-fetched. Also, in several days of searching, I could find no media management tool made for Android, so it's pretty clear that the production industry is not so big on Android. There are some video editing apps, but those are primarily for video created in the device. 

However, an advantage with Android is camera remote control software. Android and iOS have apps to wirelessly control various DSLRs. Finding comparable tools for Windows “desktop” OS was far harder. So there is no clear winner on the software end of this comparison. You'll have to decide what's more important to you. 

WinBook TW100

The 10" WinBook (Figures 5 and 6, below) is a nicely spec’d tablet that feels good in the hand. The large size makes it easy to type and manage your way around with the tile interface.


Figure 5. The 10" TW100 copying files from the SD card to the external HDD. Click the image to see it at full size.



Figure 6. Copying my SD files to external HDD at 66 MB/sec on the WinBook TW100. Click the image to see it at full size.

In desktop mode, I was surprised at how accurately it interpreted my touches, given the small size of the text and links on the screen. The Windows logo on the bottom of the long edge means this tablet is designed for use in landscape mode. 

My initial usage of the 10" tablet was hampered by the fact that the built-in Wi-Fi seemed to be quite unable to find the various Wi-Fi access points in my office. In fact, when I put my cell phone right next to the tablet, my cell phone could see eight different hotspots while the tablet might find one. It also had difficulty connecting and getting an IP address.  In doing some research, it seems that this was a known problem for the 10" tablet and there was an update for it.  But when I went to get the update and loaded onto my 10" tablet, I found out that my tablet was already up to date. 

So for the entirety of the review, whenever I needed to download software or look something up on the 10" tablet, I had to be within arms’ reach of my access point in order to get decent speeds.  This does not bode well for using the 10" tablet in corporate situations, say in a convention center where there is a lot of different RF flying through the air and it takes a good Wi-Fi receiver to be able to hold on to a signal amid all the interference. 

Because the actual resolution of the two WinBook tablets was the same, and the 10" spread that resolution out across a much bigger surface than the 8", it was much more comfortable to use. The keypad was bigger, the text easier to read, etc. However, in hand-holding it, I became fatigued faster with the 10" because it's always hanging out of my hand, and I just wanted to put it down somewhere. Of course, that covers the rear speakers unless you have the folio cover to help it stand up on its own. 

WinBook TW800

The higher number doesn't mean a much better model, it just means an 8" screen (and presumably, a smaller battery), as shown in Figure 7, below. The processor, screen resolution and all the other aspects were (or could be) identical between the two tablets. However, I chose the "budget" 8" model that saved $40 and had half the RAM and storage space as the 10" model. Pay a little more and it would have the exact same RAM and storage specifications. 


Figure 7. The 8" WinBook copying SD to HDD. External power added to augment the internal battery. Click the image to see it at full size.

The 8" model had a much easier and more reliable time connecting to wireless access points in the office. It also downloaded updates and test apps faster, without hesitations. So in the wireless respect, the 8" clearly performed better (Figure 8, below). 


Figure 8. Even with the lower RAM and storage specifications, the 8" model copied files just as fast as the 10" WinBook. 

In setting up the 8", I found myself walking around and holding it in my hand and never really noticing it. It fits nicely in my hand despite the somewhat chunky bezel. Inasmuch as I would like the bezel of these devices to be a lot smaller, you still need space for the battery, speakers, camera, processor, USB hardware, etc. But as it was, I found the 8" model to be much more convenient to use. 

Given the better-performing WiFi, lower cost, and exact same USB 3.0 functionality, I decided to go with the WinBook TW800 as my mobile media management tool. 

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