Ok, here's the thing, I didn't attend the Build conference but I watched the videos, I did a lot of research and put plainly, I wanted this slate and I wanted Windows 8...now. Why? Because it's going to revolutionize computing without actually revolutionizing it. It's an evolution, a next step, an obvious direction but it's so amazing that it has to be revolutionary. Now, I'll try to hold back on blindly talking about Windows 8 with the Slate and just try to focus on the Slate itself but let's be honest, the Slate's hardware...what brings this thing to life is the software so you can't talk about one without mentioning the other. So....
The device itself has a noticeable amount of weight to it. I find myself having to shift around, not a lot but still a noticeable amount but to be fair, I have to do that with a laptop too but a laptop also has a keyboard attached. I've played around with iPads and they (i have no idea if they actually ARE) feel lighter. That being said, it's still awkward to hold something this big in your hand for a couple of hours on the couch without propping it up. Now, I think I've found the perfect position for "my" couch...my wife has her couch, I have mine. I lean back against a pillow or two, kick up the one leg, leave the other extended over the arm of the couch, and lay the slate against my propped up knee. If I'm not doing that, I'm kind of cupping the device (since it's obviously meant to be used in landscape mode) with my left hand (I'm a righty) and using my right hand to interact with the device. That combo seems to work really well...but I'd say that's an issue with slates/tablets in general and not so much with the Series 7 Slate.
A few things I would have liked are another USB slot (I'm amazed this came with 1 though), a full sized SD card and a 3G modem. I've done some research and I think the Build conference models came with 3G built in. I see a slot cover for it but sadly this model/line? doesn't have it. For something that's meant to be portable, I think this is a missing feature. Of course, there are ways to get around this...tether to your phone, use a wifi ap at Starbucks/McDonalds, get a 4g wifi ap and bring it with you, etc so it's not a show stopper but this thing runs windows...if it had a 3g modem (or LTE would be even better...obviously), i could just enable ICS and everyone near me could use my net conection.
As far as the USB connector goes, it's straight forward but that usb cover is a PITA to get out...I think I left a minor scratch removing the stupid thing and just because its such a hassle, I left it off as I use the USB constantly anyways for my Plantronics Bluetooth headset combo. The memory card slot seems to work ok. I haven't looked into pricing on cards but I expect that I will soon just because the space gets eaten up quickly with random things that you just seem to generate over time. Of course, I have enough space now...but what about in a year or two?
The speed...nice and quick. Boots quick. Restarts quick. Resumes quick. It's quick. The Core i5/SSD combo really pays off on this device as it's snappy. That being said, if you're watching videos...the back will get toasty. It won't burn you, but you'll notice it and you'll hear a slit whirring noise from the fan (ejects air veritcally above top of tablet). If every slate that comes out featured this combo along with the incredibly snappy Win8, these things will sell like crazy. I'm running Win8, spark, bria3 (voip softphone), Zune, Office, browsing the web, etc and everything opens quickly, runs quickly, etc so they've got the right combo with the i5, 4GB of RAM and the SSD. No complaints from me as far as performance.
Power connector. I've been trawling the forums and it's hard to find an extra power supply. I bought a $12 foldup stand thingy from Amazon and it'd be nice to leave the charger with it. I passed on the official dock. The only advantages are RJ45, a dedicated power port (no supply), HDMI and I think audio...totally not worth $100. I'm also hearing about the screen raising from the bezel a bit and i suspect it may be related to that dumb dock putting pressure on the bottom of the screen but I'm not sure. The stand I bought provides tons of support evenly across the bottom and the back of the slate so I recommend it. It's $12, just search for "iPad stand" and you can't miss it. I think it's got a 5 star rating with 450 reviews...
HDMI, haven't used it. Headset jack, use it all the time for streaming music using Zune. Bluetooth, sync perfectly with my Microsoft 6000 keyboard and mobile mouse, no problems there. Wifi signal seems to be pretty good, decent signal strength and reliability (often a problem with mobile devices). The auto rotation works really well (better in win8 than win7 - once you load the sensor drivers). It's nifty.
Battery. If I'm not using bluetooth and just browsing the web, checking stuff out, listening to some tunes and watching the random video...I get 3.5-4 hours which is fine for me. I end work around 5pm, I have no kids so I lounge around until 9 or 10 so when I go to bed, I charge it up. When i wake up, I dock it so it's charging all day. I have, in my situation, no issues with the battery. Now, on an extended flight or a long trip, that could be a problem so take it into account.
There are some Win7 specific things that I can't touch on because well, I didn't use it win7...what's the point? Win7 is not a touch OS. You can shoehorn functionality into it but at it's heart, it's not meant for slates which leads me to win8 :-) There are some things you should know:
1. Win8 is not ready for everyone. At this point (11/2011), it's just avaible as a dev preview. It's buggy, not all of the apps work, you have no way to load more "metro" apps other than to build your own or download source code and compile. It's a test version and it's not ready for general consumption yet.
2. I'm an IT Consultant. I have a Core i7 with 6GB RAM, Radeon 6970 with 3x24" HP LA2405wg monitors. It's not the best but its pretty darn good but I have a Lenovo Core i3 laptop with hinges that seem to get looser by the day (no offense to Lenovo, as far as laptops go, they build some of the best) and an HTC Arrive (/me hearts WinPhone7). This slate is meant to replace my laptop and for the last 3 weeks...it has and then some.
3. Driver support and application compatibility. It's an issue. Windows 8 isn't out yet so not everyting works with it. Finding and installing the drivers for this slate with win8 wasn't that bad of a hassle as long as you do some research (install everything in compatibility mode, etc). Some things, like VZAccess, DisplayLink monitors, etc simply will not work (i'm working on VZAccess...that ones important to me) but many thing simply will work once you figure out the process.
4. Windows 8 has 2 modes... Desktop and Metro. Desktop is your normal windows experience. Metro is your tablet/slate experience. It's like WinPhone7 but better because of course the screen is larger and it's meant to be developed for with flexibility in mind. WinPhone's have to be strictly bound to a set of design ideals because of the form factor. Slates/tablets/desktops are much more flexible so the developers will have a lot of leeway with how they design their apps but there is still going to be some consistancy to how they function in Metro mode. So, metro mode = finger friendly, desktop mode = legacy and keyboard/mouse. You can of course use touch in desktop and k/m in metro but who really wants to?
So here's how I use my device...
When I'm on the couch, I use metro and switch to desktop apps if I have too (Office, Zune) because there aren't any metro equivalents yet (win8 isn't released, there's no appstore yet (there is a tile for it though) but there will be when win8 comes out so metro will get much more usable). Apps that were developed for WinPhone7 can be easily imported back into Metro on Win8 so there should be a huge amount of apps available immediately or shortly after Win8 comes out. That being said, you can fall back to your old traditional applications in Windows Desktop until the Metro equivalents come out so you're not completely SOL. I found myself to be content with what I had in front of me...I mean, most of what i do when I'm on the couch is browse and IE Metro was up to the task and then some. It was easy to open new tabs, type the url's, browse normal (non-mobile) websites...pinch to zoom works perfectly...nice and fluid. Actually, nice and fluid pretty much describes metro mode in a nutshell on this slate. I haven't run into a single performance issue other than graphics. This could be corrected by updated drivers but if I leave the Zune software running in its graphical mode on the desktop, switch to IE Metro and browse the web, IE Metro starts to stutter a bit when scrolling. Again, I think that'll be eliminated when Win8 full comes out so I'm not concerned...just minimize Zune and the rendering speeds will return to normal.
Now, when I'm not on the couch is where the flexibility of this device and win8 really shines. I "dock" the slate with the stand and use Mouse without Borders to turn the slate into a virtual screen on my main pc. I launch my chat software, softphone, etc on the slate and do my work on the primary monitors. I can drag and drop files between the two devices, share a single keyboard and mouse on them, etc and then when I'm leaving to go somewhere, undock the slate and bring it with me wherever I go (meeting, client, lunch, etc). I have a laptop case that I fit the S7 into (the S7 is in a sleeve too), along with a BT keyboard, mouse, headset, etc and if I need to setup to do some REAL work, I can. I put the slate in the stand, break out the keyboard, mouse, headset and I have an instant win8 workstation in desktop mode running all of my traditional software and I can do practically anything I could do on my main workstation minus the screen real estate. When i start walking around, I switch to metro and browse the web. When i return to my "station", I open the desktop and pick up where I left off.
When it comes to mobility...what mobility is all about and what it's meant to me, this is it. If you're in the enterprise, ditch your iPad for a win8 slate, any win8 slate, when it comes out. You'll have the fun casual media consumption of an iPad in Metro mode and the full functionality of a workstation in Desktop mode. That's what Win8 on slate's is all about. It's an iPad and a workstation all in one...one device to rule them all.
To sum it up, Win8 is meant to be on this tablet and this tablet, it's hardware, it's functionality and everything about it does NOT stand in my way and that's good design. So why 4 starts out of 5? Because there are some QA issues apparantly. If you check the tabletpcreview.com forums, there are some complaints about screen separation from the bezel. Also because it doesn't have 3G/4G(at least mine doesnt) and because of the no full size SD slot. Apart from that, it's a pretty slick slate or at least, it will be when win8 comes out but I just can't seem to give it that 100% out of the park 5 star experience. The battery's a little light on the power, the unit is a bit heavy and I really think that for the price, it should have come with a folio, dock and possibly a keyboard like the HP 500 did (I think it did). Once you have all the pieces to the puzzle though, the experience is amazing but I'll attribute that mostly to win8 and not the device. The device like I said, doesn't stand in your way but you do feel a little caged in by the battery.
Take from it what you will.