What It's Like Running Solid Edge on a Cheap Windows Tablet
Issue #883: Merry Christmas!
by Ralph Grabowski
Intel CPUs are even less popular in smartphones and tables than ones from nVidia. To make an end run around the overwhelming popularity of ARM-based CPUs, Intel decided lately to concentrate on the Chinese market. There are dozens and dozens of small makers of portable devices in the country, all of whom are forever looking for a way to lower costs and beat competitors. Ah, capitalism at its finest.
An Intel CPU has one advantage over an ARM-based one: it runs full Windows as well as running Android. And so there are tablets manufactured in China that run both operating systems. I bought one of the dual-OS, Intel-equipped tablets for $275 (shipping included) to see what it is like. Summary: it works well!
The Teclast tablet I bought from China (through eBay) comes with the latest versions of each operating system, Windows 10 and Android 5.1 November's major Windows update installed no problem. (See figure 1.)
Figure 1 Teclast TPad X98 Pro tablet with 9.7" screen running Windows 10 (Image credit Teclast)
The Intel-Inside tablet has the following specs: Model Teclast X98 Pro Operating systems Windows 10 in desktop and tablet modes Android 10.1 with Google Play CPU 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Atom X5 Z8500 Screen 9.7" at 2048x1452 resolution 260dpi; 10-point touch Operating RAM 4GB for Windows 4GB for Android Storage RAM 64GB divided into 15 partitions: 33GB for Windows 20GB for Android 11GB for other partitions Ports MicroSD slot for up to 64GB card MicroHDMI output MicroUSB 2.0 for charging and OTG 3.5mm mic/headphone plug Dual rear speakers and mic Cables Included microUSB to female USB A cable microUSB to male USB A adapter cable Cameras 4.9 megapixel front 2.9 megapixel rear Both offer poor picture quality, little functionality, no flash Sensors Tilt; no GPS, light, or other sensor Communications WiFi b/g/n Bluetooth 4.0 USB and Bluetooth tethering No SIM card slot Battery 30,000mAh or 8,000mAh (depending on which spec sheet) 5-7 hours typical run time Includes 2.5A microUSB wall charger Size and weight 240mmx170mmx7.9mm (9.5"x6.7"x0.3") 520g (1.1 lbs)
The build quality of the TPad is as high as an iPad, something I have come to expect from China-designed tablets. The back is a handsome titanium-colored aluminum but with a rough finish. At first I found the coarseness annoying, but then I realized it provides a better grip than more slippery finishes.
The Intel CPU is pretty fast, according to the Windows Experience Index, which rates the CPU at 6.7. (See figure 2.) However, I am not sure if I trust the results, given the 9.9 rating for gaming graphics: this tablet doesn't have a gaming GPU, just the default Intel GPU.
Figure 2 Tablet benchmarked by Windows Experience Index
Under Android, the Qudrant benchmark reports a stunningly high 172,568: 176,568 This tablet in Android mode 6,466 My Nexus 4 phone (1.5Ghz 4-core) 8,718 Generic 8" Android tablet (1.3Ghz 4-core) Again, I wonder if the tablet is gaming the benchmark.
Dual Booting: Android or Windows
When I turn on the tablet, it presents me with the choice of running Android or Windows. (See figure 3.) The ability to dual-boot is built into the BIOS. The icon that is colored is the default one, meaning the tablet will boot into it automatically after 10 seconds. Both OSes sport a utility program that reboots the tablet into the other OS without going through these icons.
Figure 3 Tablet providing a choice in operating systems
After that, it's a pure Android 5.1 or pure Windows 10 experience. There is nothing more to say, because everything works as I expect in both environments.
Both OSes have three storage locations: operating RAM, storage RAM, and a microSD slot. (Well, plus any USB drives you attach.) While Windows recognized the microSD card as drive D:, Android did not, saying it did not recognize the file system (exFAT). In Android mode, the tablet can access four more USB drives.
Files are hidden from each other. In Windows, I can't see any Android files, and in Android I don't see any folders related to Windows. From Disk Manager, I learned the reason: the storage RAM is 64GB divided into 15 partitions, such as 20GB for Android main storage and 33GB for Windows main storage. (See figure 4.) Some of this RAM is used for the 4GB each OS uses to operate in.
Figure 4 Disk Manager reporting partitions of the storage space
External Monitor and Peripherals
I attached a microHDMI adapter cable between the tablet and an HDMI monitor. Under Windows, the tablet had no difficulty driving it own 2048x1536 screen and the added 1920x1080 monitor. In Android, however, the tablet displays to one screen only; when the external monitor is attached, then only it works.
Peripherals can be attached to the sole microUSB port in both Windows and Android. I tested several and most of them worked. The peripherals that worked included a portable Logitech keyboard with built-in trackpad, Bluetooth keyboard, Bluetooth mouse, several USB thumbdrives, an SD card reader, a remote presenter, and a USB hub. (The hub is useful for extending the single USB port to four.) What did not work was an external CD drive; perhaps it was unable to draw sufficient power from the USB port.
The other thing I tried was attaching an Android smartphone. This required two adapter cables, both with microUSB at one end, but male and female USB A connectors at the other. The tablet began charging the smartphone under both OSes. Under Android, neither saw each other as a storage device, but Windows saw the phone. I can use this connection to directly move files from one device to the other. Make sure the Android phone is in MTP mode.
Running Solid Edge
At the last several Solid Edge Universities, Siemens PLM executives extolled how well their software runs on Microsoft Surface tablets. Now, there is nothing special about a Surface, except for its thin form factor -- 8.4mm for the new Pro 4, a little bit fatter, actually, than the 7.9mm of my new X98 Pro. The Surface is, after all, just another keyboard-less laptop (a.k.a. "tablet"), albeit w-a-y overpriced. I wonder if the extolling stems from a transfer of marketing dollars, a practice not uncommon in the computer industry?
I decided to test Solid Edge, because of the Surface claims, but also because Siemens provides 30-day versions that run on computers and through a streaming service in Web browser. Would Solid Edge run on a tablet that costs 5-10x less than a Surface?
Solid Edge does run on the tablet, but slowly given the Atom-class CPU. (See figure 5.) Startup took 40 seconds. When using Solid Edge, I always had to wait for things to happen, even ones as simple as dragging a part from the library into the drawing.
Figure 5 Solid Edge running on a $275 tablet, slowly
Solid Edge includes Keyshot, an external rendering program. It took ten seconds to launch, but then renderings went quickly and produced a nice job, even if shadows are poorly rendered -- this would be due to the lack of high-end graphic capabilities in the tablet. (See figure 6.)
Figure 6 Keyshot nicely rendering a wineglass with poor shadows
Streaming Solid Edge
The other way to try out Solid Edge is by streaming it over the Internet and displaying it in a Web browser. Here is how it works: Siemens has arranged for Solid Edge to run on servers hosted by provider Frame (formerly Mainframe2). Their servers run nVidia's GRID array, which pushes raster updates of the Solid Edge screen very frequently to the Web browser.
Google Chrome is the recommended browser. I logged in athttps://siemens-solidedge.fra.me/launchpad/solidedge/loginand then provided my email and password to create a Frame account. The initial screen lists the program(s) to which I have access under Frame streaming. Because it runs in a Web browser, streaming Solid Edge works equally well in Windows and Android.
To maintain a reasonable streaming speed, the trial version is limited to computers whose IP addresses are in USA or United Kingdom. Since I am in Canada, I used tunneling software to pretend I was in USA. As a result of the geographic distance, it took a while for Frame to connect. The further a computer is from a server, the slower the connection's response time ("latency"), even if the Internet connection is otherwise fast.
When I finally accessed the streaming service, Frame's monitor reported a latency of 118msec, which it warned might result in slow response: that was true. My network bandwidth, however, was rated "High," 4 out of 5.
To save files on my tablet, I needed to connect Frame to my Dropbox account. (Dropbox is the sole option.) The benefit is that when files are saved to Dropbox they are also saved to any device connected to my Dropbox account. When saving files in Solid Edge, Dropbox was listed as drive G:.
Solid Edge ran faster in the Web browser, because the heavy duty calculations were being done on strong hardware. (See figure 7.) Now it was the UI interaction that was slow, due to latency.
Figure 7 Solid Edge streaming in a Chrome browser
When Frame detected that I was not using the software, it disconnected after a 10-minute warning. This frees up slots for other users. The Solid Edge demo is limited to 10 hours per session, and a total of 20 hours over 30 days; there is no long-term access to stream Solid Edge available. Keyshot is not included with the streaming demo.
And One More Thing...
HP Inc. (that's the new name of the printer-producing company) last week began shipping five newDesignJetlarge-format inkjet printers, one of which HP is calling "half the size of competitive large-format MFPs" -- multifunction printers, meaning it scans, faxes, and prints. Specifically, it's the 36"DesignJet T830 Multifunction Printerthat's at least half the size (without the legs) based on HxWxL specs.
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Letters to the Editor
Re: Tailor Made Software
Dang, when Isaw Tailor Made in the subject I thought there might be an article on TaylorMade Golf’s adoption of Autodesk’s PLM 360 which, ironically, is programmed in HTML 5 (and AngularJS). Close, but no cigar. - Tom Fay, National Strategic Account Manager KETIV
The editor replies: Sorry that your pre-Christmas present turned out to be a lump of JavaCoal.
@upFronteZine #SVG vector graphics becoming the defacto standard on WWW now supported by all modern browsers so where's CAD vendor support? - Clinton Gallagher @screenDepotTV via Twitter
Interesting read! Sotell me, what do you think the purpose of this is? "The sensors detect movement, which shows occupancy: how many seconds ago someone moved within the realm of the sensor. Our system is updated in real time, so users can watch as people arrive at work and go home." - Cadman 777
The editor replies: To save energy by turning off the lights and heating in unused areas of office buildings. But it really did sound creepy to me. OTOH, an office is not your home, and so there should be no expectation of privacy.
Re: When the Result of CAD is Failure
@upFronteZine Great readand great analysis! - Jim Wright @JimWright2 viaTiwtter
Very interesting readby @upFronteZine: "When the Result of CAD is Failure":http://eepurl.com/bGfOjb - DHCAE @dhcae viaTiwtter