Nextbook 8 with Windows 8.1

I was recently given a Nextbook 8 with Windows 8.1 OS to review to see if it would be useful as a teaching tool. The unit has 2GB ram, a quad core processor and 16GB storage running full Windows 8.1 (Metro apps + Desktop programs available to install).


There is something magical about carrying around a full desktop version of Windows 8 in your bag or “large” jacket pocket. Having access to all your usual apps sounded fantastic. The screen is a bit of a fingerprint magnet compared to my other devices but is bright, clear and responsive.

However, that’s where the honeymoon with this device ended. As always, great on paper but less than average in real use – and this is marked down to one oversight only. Having only 16GB storage is not nearly enough to create a useful experience. Of the 16GB, almost 5GB are taken by the repair partition which leaves only 11GB for the Windows 8 installation and any apps and data. On first use, after setting up the device, only 3GB is left for data files and any apps/programs you need to install to make it useful. Having a microSD slot allows you to increase the storage for data and media files – however, this does nothing to increase the ability to install more apps.

For the price this device will sell many units but I think that the owners will soon feel disappointed with this major drawback. The manufacturers should have ideally increased the price and provided a unit with a minimum of 32GB of storage, thereby making it useful beyond simply browsing the internet.


Digispark “Arduino-Compatible” Microcontroller Board

I few months ago I came across a project on kickstarter that I thought would be perfect for my small projects. I often use Arduino development boards in my projects but they are usually too big to use permanently in the project. This digispark board based on the Atmel ATTiny seemed to tick a lot of boxes so I ordered three to test.


Well, it seems that I wasted my money. Even though I think that the designer had a great idea, the execution thereof is just not up to scratch. There are far too many large problems with the board to make it useful.

The first problem I encountered was trying to program the device: both my windows 7 and windows 8 machines refused to acknowledge the driver and hence the hardware when plugged in (and yes, I did follow the instructions on their website). After much fiddling and trying to upload a program to the board, I finally succeeded. However that success was short lived – the process is extremely intermittent and seems to work once every 5 to 10 times I try to program it. Changing boards did not seem to help at all.

Secondly, once programmed, I found that my board does not power up from a USB socket on a psu. WTH? Ridiculous because now testing becomes a problem.

This was a great idea but very poor execution. When it works it is useful. Unfortunately it works so seldom like it is supposed to that they have now been relegated to the bottom drawer on my cabinet with my other obsolete junk.