Samsung’s Windows 8 Tablet Is Large (and That’s Good)

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Almost a year ago, in one of my first Techland posts, I said I liked the idea of tablets that were bigger than an iPad, which has a 9.7″ display. Maybe much bigger–like 17″. At Microsoft’s BUILD conference this week, the software behemoth unveiled a developer preview of Windows 8 (here’s my column about it). And conference attendees got a Samsung Windows 8 test tablet that’s more PC-like in design and specs than an iPad, including its screen size: a relatively capacious 11.6″, like a small notebook or a large netbook.

I keep saying that it’s too early to render anything resembling a final verdict on Windows 8, in part because there are no truly ambitious Windows 8 apps yet–just the demos, written by college students, which Microsoft bundled with the developer preview of the operating system. But I do know that an 11.6″ screen is worlds apart from a 9.7″ one, and the extra room has its advantages. One of the demo apps, for instance, is a finger-painting program that benefits from the larger canvas. The keyboard is easy to type on. And the whole Windows 8 user interface just feels like it has more elbow room than iOS as seen on the iPad. It feels a little more like a compact PC and a little less like a scaled-up phone.

(IMAGES: 50 Windows 8 Screenshots, Hardware Photos and More)

Like almost all tablets that aren’t iPads, the Samsung has a wide screen–a really wide one, in fact. It’s possible to use the device in portrait mode, but I don’t think Microsoft and Samsung expect you to: You get a weirdly skinny display with odd-looking fonts, and some Windows 8 features, like the ability to see two apps at once, don’t work.

(PICTURES: The First Windows 8 Tablet)

No, the idea is use the Samsung in panoramic landscape mode. I’ll be interested to see how Windows 8 apps take this into account–for one thing, e-book readers such as Kindle probably won’t want to fill the whole width of the screen with text.

I’m still intrigued by the idea of a much larger tablet than this one. Odds aren’t that great that Apple will ever make one for me–but I’ll betcha that there’s a Windows PC maker out there that’s wacky enough to try it. I’m looking forward to seeing what hardware companies come up with when Microsoft finishes up Windows 8 next year.

MORE: Windows 8: The PC Goes Post-PC