Introduction and design
I'll forgive you for thinking that Windows tablets are still clunky, overpriced, and the ugly ducklings of the tablet market, as just a few years ago this was most certainly the case. Whilst they may not have caught up with the Apple iPad or some of the more pricey Android tablets around such as the fabulous-looking Dell Venue 10 7000, they are most certainly hot on their heels.
Now that prices have significantly dropped, and Microsoft has dumped the woefully prohibitive version of Windows that was RT, Windows tablets are starting to become a purchase that warrants genuine consideration for many people.
The Linx 10 is one of this new breed, and at £160 (around $238, or AU$307), is not the very cheapest 10-inch tablet around, but it's not very far off at all. If you're thinking it looks rather familiar, well, that's because it is – the Linx 10 shares almost identical hardware with the Schenker Element 10.1 that we looked at back in September last year. Save for a minor spec bump in the processor department from a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740D to the newer generation Z3735F, which can burst at faster speeds of up to 1.83GHz, telling these two tablets apart is a tough task indeed.
There's also an 8-inch version called the Linx 8, which despite the smaller package, features almost identical specifications (apart from 1GB less RAM), and it comes in at a very appealing £90 (around $134, or AU$173).
Setting yourself apart from the rest is a difficult task in the overly saturated tablet market, especially when there are identical counterparts sold under other brands, but that doesn't mean the Linx 10 isn't a robustly put together bit of kit.
Apart from a small amount of give in the chassis on the left-hand side where all the ports are situated, the Linx 10 feels solid and doesn't give off the vibe of a budget tablet.
Paired with the optional keyboard case which conveniently docks onto the foot of the tablet and holds it upright with an ingenious folding rear flap, this 10-inch variant of the Linx is most definitely an adequate replacement for the netbooks which were once so popular.
The front of the tablet is fairly non-descript: there's simply a capacitive Windows button centred below the screen, and a 2MP front-facing camera above it. Next to the camera is a small red LED which does little more than light up when you turn on the tablet, and indicates when the front-facing camera is in operation.
The left edge of the tablet is where all the action occurs, so things do appear a little crowded. Starting at the top we have the power/wake button, followed by a 3.5mm audio socket, mini-HDMI output, microSD card slot, micro-USB socket, microphone and the DC power socket.
In comparison to the smaller 8-inch Linx, the additional DC power socket is used to juice up the larger built-in battery, whilst the micro-USB socket is strictly for data only – Linx has had the foresight to include a USB 'on the go' cable so that you can plug in full-sized USB peripherals straight out of the box.
Linx has also chosen to increase the size of the HDMI output from the micro variant on the 8-inch model, to the mini version found here. Not that it really makes any difference – they both do the same job.
On the top edge, the volume bar sits at the very far left corner, which is easily accessible, and cannot be easily confused with the power/wake button – as is the case with many other tablets. I wish this device could have been given a more similar design to the Linx 8, as both the volume and power keys were significantly more tactile than on this 10-inch variant.
Turn the tablet round and you'll find a rear with the same rubberised plastic that is often used on slightly more premium devices which feels tactile, and not too slippy. The Linx logo takes pride of place in the centre, with a 2MP camera just offset to the right. In the top left corner, two speaker grilles give away the positioning of the stereo speakers – an odd placement that is surely limited by the internal hardware, as they would have been much more welcome spaced further apart – or even up front instead.
Still, small niggles aside, the Linx 10 is a well-designed – but not particularly inspired – budget tablet.
It may not be the thinnest tablet, or have the smallest bezels surrounding its 10.1-inch screen, but the Linx 10 still feels relatively compact, and is far from the chunkiest 10.1-inch Windows tablet around. Measuring 258 x 172.6 x 10.5mm (H x W x D), it comes in slimmer and not as wide as the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, albeit packing considerably less punch.
Here's the full spec sheet:
- Processor: Intel Bay Trail-T Quad Core Z3735F up to 1.83 GHz processor
- Operating System: Windows 8.1
- Memory: 2GB LPDDR3
- Display: 10.1-inch 16:9 IPS HD (1280 x 800) with 10 point multi-touchscreen
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics
- Storage: 32GB eMMC
- Camera: Front 2 MP and rear 2 MP
- Networking: Integrated 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0
- Connectivity: 1 x mini-HDMI, 1 x micro-USB, 1 x microSD slot
- Audio: Built-in stereo speakers and microphone
- Battery: 7,900 mAh li-ion
- Dimensions: 258 x 172.6 x 10.5mm (H x W x D)
- Weight: 0.83lb (601g)
- 3D Mark: Fire Strike: would not run; Sky Diver: 318; Cloud Gate: 898; Ice Storm Unlimited: 11,223; Ice Storm Extreme: 6,178
- CineBench 11.5: CPU: 1.08 (multi), 0.29 (single); Graphics: 4.55fps
- PC Mark 8: Home Test: 1,014; Battery Life: 10 hours
Much like its 8-inch equivalent, the Linx 10 packs a passively-cooled quad-core Intel Z3735F Bay Trail-T Atom processor, but surprisingly – unlike the smaller sibling – it actually idles at a lower clock speed of 1.33GHz, bursting to speeds of up to 1.83GHz. It's exactly the same processor that features Gen7 architecture with Intel HD graphics that support DirectX 11, despite being clocked at a lowly 646MHz. In a step up from the similar Schenker Element 10.1 and Linx 8, the Linx 10 doubles the RAM from 1GB of LPDDR3 up to 2GB.
This means – above all else – that whilst it may be no more powerful in some respects, the marginally newer processor and additional RAM does show better performance in multi-tasking and some memory-intensive applications.
Onboard storage is available in either 32GB or 64GB varieties – I reviewed the 32GB version, which comes with 24GB out of the box, but only a little over 17GB available for storage. It's very easily filled if you start installing fully-fledged applications. I managed to run out of space simply by installing the suite of benchmarking software I needed to use for this review. Of course, you can equip the Linx 10 with a microSD card of up to 64GB for a plentiful amount of extra storage, should you require.
Screen quality is surprisingly good, if a little low-resolution. The 1,280 x 800-resolution, 10.1-inch panel makes use of IPS technology, which ensures good brightness, contrast and viewing angles, but the resolution feels a little limiting when viewing detailed web pages.
Turned up to the maximum brightness, the panel manages a pretty impressive 329cd/m2, but at this brightness, expect the battery life to easily run out around the six hour mark.
With the brightness turned down to about a third, it measures 120cd/m2, and at this point can easily break the 10 hour battery life marker – more than the quoted maximum of eight hours. Whilst the display is bright with good contrast, colour accuracy is not as good as I have seen on other tablets with IPS screens, with videos and photos lacking the vivid punch we've come to expect from AMOLED panels.
As I've found with most other cheaper Windows tablets, despite featuring a 64-bit Atom processor, the version of Windows 8.1 onboard is limited to 32-bit applications, meaning it doesn't entirely make full use of the CPU's capabilities. It's an odd decision, and likely to be largely down to cost saving more than anything else.
Where benchmarks are concerned, the Linx 10 was a bit of a let-down compared to the Linx 8. The lower clocked processor meant that visual quality and the framerate on 3D Mark and Cinebench's OpenGL test noticeably suffered, whilst Cinebench's CPU tests and PC Mark scores were also lower, and only propped up by the additional RAM on offer.
As you may have come to expect with the current generation of low-end Windows tablets, a year of Microsoft's Office 365 is pre-installed, meaning that the tablet can be used as a genuinely productive PC.
Other than this single extra bundle of applications, there's nothing else save for the standard suite of Windows accessories pre-installed. Of course, you can head to the Windows Store to find additional applications, but nearly three years after Windows 8 was first introduced, the selection is – at best – a relatively uninspiring affair.
Linx does offer 1TB of OneDrive storage, but I could find absolutely no details as to how long this cloud storage offer would remain in place. The company also advertises a £50 (around $74, or AU$96) cashback incentive when you trade in your old tablet, but on closer examination, this offer expired on March 31 on all but the 8-inch model (for which you'll get £30 – around $45, or AU$58).
Unless you are willing to spend almost three times the money on better specified, but far more expensive alternatives such as the Lenovo Yoga 2, there is little that competes with Linx's keenly priced Windows tablets.
Yes, there is the previously mentioned Schenker Element 10.1 that looks almost identical, but it's more expensive, lower-powered, and only available on the continent. Other than that, the Linx 10 is only really surrounded by budget Android tablets at the £160 (around $238, or AU$307) price point.
I was a little disappointed to find that the processor has been under-clocked, and can only assume that this was something to do with ensuring battery life remains at a reasonable level. Having used the higher-clocked 8-inch sibling, however, it simply doesn't make sense. Outside of benchmark scores, the Linx 10 did seemingly perform well, and multi-tasking felt like it was a little less taxing with the extra Gigabyte of RAM onboard.
With the extra 2.1-inches of screen real estate, I'd be looking for a screen with a higher resolution if I were laying down the cash myself, as frankly anything below 1080p on a 10-inch tablet looks overly pixelated next to the super high-res smartphones we are now all so used to. Despite this lack of pixels, the screen was bright and had good contrast, even if the colours weren't particularly vivid.
The USB 'on the go' cable included in the box is a thoughtful little addition – even if they do only cost mere pence on eBay these days. It means you can add much-needed extra storage from an additional hard drive, use a full-sized keyboard, printer, or any number of Windows-compatible peripherals.
Like its smaller sibling, the Linx 10 is a well-built tablet that offers a significant amount for a relatively small outlay of just £160 (around $238, or AU$307). It's the perfect tablet for kids to browse the web safely on (thanks to Windows' various parental controls), and get productive with the included Microsoft Office 365.
There is just about enough power to keep things running smoothly without any noticeable slowdown, thanks in part to the extra Gigabyte of RAM available in comparison to its rivals.
Plenty of connectivity comes as standard, with a mini-HDMI port, microSD card slot, and micro-USB socket with included USB 'on the go' cable all ready to offer up connectivity that rivals some laptops.
Though it's difficult to be too harsh on what is essentially a fully-fledged 10-inch portable PC for £160 (around $238, or AU$307), there are some areas of the Linx 10 that felt like a bit of a let-down, especially when compared to the Linx 8, which is another £70 (around $104, or AU$135) cheaper.
The processor showed that it's not quite got the required grunt for any 3D applications, and I never once saw it reach the supposed maximum speed of 1.83GHz – even when running benchmarks.
In an ideal world I would have liked to see a higher resolution screen and most definitely more in the way of storage space, as the 32GB advertised storage capacity is anything but – only 17.4GB being available when you first turn on the Linx 10.
There may be a lack of overall grunt and the storage space is pretty pitiful, but for a casual web browser or producing documents, the Linx 10 feels like a great alternative to underwhelming netbooks that flooded the market only a few years ago.
For only £160 (around $238, or AU$307), you're getting a full Windows PC that can run modern Windows Store apps and legacy 32-bit applications, as long as they don't require too much space.
If you're thinking that the Linx 10 might tick some boxes for you, I'd highly recommend investing a little more in the 64GB version (if you can find it for sale), or alternatively buying a 64GB microSD card to add some much-needed additional storage.
Keep an eye out for a bargain, and you might be able to pick up the Linx 10 for less than £150 (around $223, or AU$288), which starts to become very tempting indeed, especially when you consider the relatively uninspiring Android-powered alternatives that fall into this price bracket.