Windows 10 on a Low-End Windows Tablet

There aren’t enough pain relievers for crap like this…

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I have a 32bit Dell Latitude ST2 Windows Pro tablet. It came to me as a review unit while I was writing at InformationWeek’s BYTE. I’d point you to that URL, but unfortunately, UBM has finally retired it (along with most of the writing and editing staff. Boy do they like to do “strategic shifts” over there…) Originally, the device ran Windows 8.0. It got upgraded to Windows 8.1 and then Windows 8.1 Update before finally moving to Windows 10 in October of last year when the Windows 10 Technical Preview began.

As you may recall, I put Windows 10 on it, and its performance with the new OS in ALL builds so far has been… well… yeah. To be blunt, it’s been painful… at best.

So, while I was having issues with my Surface Pro 3, I was also having issues getting Windows 10 Build 10041 on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2. That was a particularly bad couple of weeks or so. In order to resolve the bricked state that the Dell was in, I had to contact Dell Support and was fortunate enough to have them send me a Recovery USB Stick. It put the tablet back to Windows 8, which, again, is what the tablet originally shipped with; but at least it was working again, and I could do SOMETHING with it.

After I had Windows 8 on it, I could have gone through the entire upgrade path again from Windows 8 to 8.1 and then to 8.1 Update; but with the prospect of installing well over 200 individual updates, I passed. Instead, I tried putting Build 10041 on it. I was able to get the build on the device, after booting from a USB stick that had the ISO burned to it. I then updated it to Build 10049, but that update failed and auto rolled back. That, unfortunately bricked the tablet again.

I restored the tablet back to Windows 8 and put Windows 10 Build 10041 back on and left it there. Please note that I was able to install Windows 10 Build 10041 from a USB stick with NO issues.

Queue the other evening when Build 10061 was offered as an upgrade. The Dell tablet downloaded the update and attempted to install it. Initially, the installed failed without upgrading to Build 10061 and tried to roll back to Build 10041. This, again, NEARLY bricked the tablet. The tablet would NOT connect to the internet after that and had a great deal of problems even booting up. So… back to Windows 8 via the Dell stick again.

I wanted to get to Windows 10 Build 10061. So, I built a bootable USB stick with the 32bit version of official Build 10041 ISO and booted the tablet with that USB stick. I ran into several ,very strange, new issues with that install :

1.Touch screen is disabled

The touch screen is totally disabled when booting from the USB stick (created with Rufus 2.1.649). In order to complete the install, you must connect an external keyboard and mouse to the docking station that is available for this Windows 8.x Pro tablet. The tablet seems to have frozen once you get to the initial setup screen (choose keyboard, language, etc.) due to the touch screen not being recognized.

2.The onboard USB 2.x port Works Intermittently

This may be appearance only, due to the touch screen issue above, but there are times when trying to boot from the on-tablet USB port that the tablet simply does not boot from the USB stick and goes right into Windows 8.x

3.Many Drivers Missing, Device Not Functional

I found that with both Builds 10041 and 10061, Windows 10 would install clean from an ISO, but many of the drivers for the device were missing. Wi-Fi does not work, as the drivers for the built in wireless card did not install. There were roughly 10-12 “Unknown” devices in Device Manager. The tablet is unable to connect to the internet via wireless OR the LAN port in the docking station, as drivers for both did not install. The Wi-Fi card is obviously, one of the unknown devices. The LAN port on the docking station is identified, but drivers for the device didn’t install with the build and are not found when you try to install them manually.

The only way I was able to get ANY connectivity was through a USB Ethernet dongle that the tablet was able to recognize and install drivers for, but ONLY via one of the USB ports on the docking station (and not the one on the tablet, as it didn’t work). Unfortunately, drivers for the unknown devices would not install, even when attempting to download and install one via Device Manager. None of them were identified or found.

Upgrading to Build 10061 via a wired connection through the USB Ethernet dongle did NOT fix the problem. The touch screen was still disabled. All devices that were unknown were still unknown.

This wasn’t an issue in previous builds, nor in initially joining the Insider’s program with earlier builds.

I was able to get Build 10061 on the tablet, however. Instead of going through the update and upgrade process, however (as that proved not to work…AGAIN), I wiped the tablet and restored it back to Windows 8.x. I copied the ISO for Build 10041 to the tablet’s Downloads directory. From there, I mounted the ISO and ran setup.exe. The build installed and ALL of the device’s drivers installed as well, meaning that the touch screen works, the on-device USB port works, etc.; AND there were no unrecognized devices in Device Manager.

After that worked, I did the same thing with the ISO for Build 10061. It also installed over Build 10041 without issue and ALL of the devices on the tablet are recognized and seem to be working appropriately. After this, however, I have come to one very clear conclusion:

Windows 10 on older, less powerful devices seems to be a huge problem. My Dell tablet has an Intel Atom Z2760 processor running at 1.80Ghz. It’s a bit underpowered, and Windows 10 seems to have a huge problem performing well on it.

Given that Microsoft is realistically targeting July 2015 for the RTM of Windows 10, there are many who believe – me included – that July is an unrealistic release time frame. Windows 10 isn’t ready for prime time at this point and July, even for Desktop, seems unrealistic and overly aggressive.

Are you running Windows 10 on a budget tablet? There are a number of them out there. My Dell is one. Microcenter makes a couple – the TW700 Series and the TW800 Series. HP offers the Stream 7.

All of these are running low-end Intel processors. While they may have dual or quad cores, they don’t really have a lot of punch. They also don’t have a lot of RAM. The Winbooks are a bit better as they are running Baytrail processors as opposed to Atoms in the Dell and HP, but in the end, I suspect that ALL tablets that are running Windows 8.x and eventually the DESKTOP version of Windows 10 (because that’s their upgrade path…) will have performance issues.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as the WinBooks, the Dell and the HP are all GREAT offerings for a cheap way to get into a Windows tablet, but if their performance is so horrible, they may end up being used as Frisbee’s more than actual computing devices. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me what you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as I kinda feel as though I’m eating my own dog food on this one.

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