Posts Tagged ‘tablet’

Mobile Eve: Surface Pro 3 Edition

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So a few weeks ago I made the call to upgrade my Windows 8(.1) tablet from my old Acer W700 to a brand spanking new Surface Pro 3 (i7 252Gb). So I guess the obligatory question needs to be answered:

“Will it run eve?”

If you’ve read the previous post on running eve on the Acer, you probably know the answer, but the SP3 has a few tricks up its sleeve which might just surprise you. I’ll keep this post in a similar format to the original mobile eve test I ran so that a direct comparison can be drawn between the two tablets.

So let’s talk about specs first:

CPU: i7-4650U clocked at 2.30Ghz.

RAM: 8Gb

OS: Windows 8.1 64bit

Graphics: Intel HD 5000

As per the original post, I won’t be reviewing the tablet in general. But as a quick once over, its smaller, lighter and has a better screen than the original. The Type cover makes it far more useful in mobile situations (read the train) and the pen is a godsend. My only complaint is that the edge detection is inferior to the Acers, meaning that auto hiding the task bar makes it impossible to open with a finger. However despite that it’s an excellent tablets which I highly recommend. But let’s get onto the meat of the post. Eve.

The HD5000 (with the i7 version) has fixed the alt tab issue the older HD4000 had and so eve is at no risk of locking up your graphics. This was a pretty minor annoyance however, and one which I suspect will persist on the i5 version of the SP3.

So let’s looks at settings shall we? My first test was at full graphics. It took a pretty big toll and the system was noticeably slow to respond to mouse movements and clicks. Docked up I was getting an average of 18fps and 10fps undocked.

Next I removed the Anti-Aliasing and this gave me a few extra frames, however the system was still noticeably slow (18fps docked, 10fps undocked).

Then I optimised the graphics for performance (using the pre-set in the graphics menu). This was far more acceptable with 60fps in the hanger and 45fps undocked, without doubt the setting I would advise for playing with.

I tried dropping settings lower, but it made no difference what so ever. Heat wise the surface did start to get a little hot during the play testing but not so much as classify as “overheating”. It’s also worth noting that CCP have moved onto Dx11 from Dx9 since I last ran my test so the improvements I am seeing in this surface vs the Iconia may be either hindered or helped by that change.

So the tablet will still run Eve fine, and indeed marginally better than before. To the point now where I might be willing to play the game on the tablet in serious situations should the need arise (not going to get rid of the main PC however :P). But the real upgrade is the utility given by a minor change in the form factor. I mentioned in the previous review that eve does not accept touch input. A lot of games have this issue, where by UI elements expect a “mouse over” event before a “mouse click” event. This is expected behaviour of course for any interface using a mouse. However when you switch to a touch screen the “mouse click” and “mouse over” events happen in the same instant, meaning that 90% of the time the click will execute at the mouse’s old location rather than where you just prodded. A second prod will activate the UI element. However when you then click on the next thing you want to do, another click is executed on your old location and then the mouse moves. It’s not unique to eve, but it does mean that playing eve with your fingers won’t ever happen until there is a major change in the game engine.

Playing eve with a pen however is a different kettle of fish. Because the pen moves the mouse around when in proximity to the screen, UI elements get the “mouse over” event long before you click and I can confirm that using the SP3 pen works perfectly with eve. It’s even more precise than a finger, so the smaller UI doesn’t matter anywhere near as much, and indeed might even be considered better than a mouse for some tasks such as PI.

It really works fine on the move, anything you can do with the mouse alone, can be done holding the tablet (say on a train). Of course the moment you need to type something you’re going to need to use the type cover, which requires a flat surface to be comfortable. Skill training, PI, fitting ships, checking cargo, even flying can be done in slate mode however.

In summary the SP3 is an excellent secondary eve running client which might even work as a main in a pinch.

Fly mobile,

Hark

Post edit note: I have a friend with the i5 version of the SP3 I will confirm the FPS figures for that and report back soon!

Tablet eve 4G eddition (9 Months on)

Nine months ago I received my Windows 8 tablet (Acer Iconia W700) and immediately installed eve on it to test if I would be able to play. The result was my review of how eve played on a tablet and furthermore if it was a viable platform for playing games like eve “mobile”. The conclusion I came to then was that the tablet did successfully run eve, but that the touch interface was both aesthetically and technically challenging to use. Now that I have had the tablet for 9 months, I’ve decided to give an update on this, and discuss the honest usage I have gotten out of the tablet, and if my opinions on it for gaming (and eve in particular) have changed.

Let’s start with the broader stroke of windows gaming and the touch interface. A lot of games quite simply are not designed to be used with a tablet. Almost all of the games I own on steam either don’t work with a touch interface (requiring two pokes to click, similar to eve), or require more than just a left mouse Button to play. Some, such as Civilisation V and don’t starve work just fine out of the box, others are tolerable such as Revenge of the Titans or The Walking dead. Some require a keyboard and mouse such as Kerbal space program. Because of this I have purchased a Microsoft Wedge Keyboard and Arc Touch mouse (IMO the best travel kit on the market at the moment, despite the mouse taking up my one USB slot)

[Edit: during the process of editing this document the small USB dongle which connects to the Arc Mouse received a bump and has subsequently stopped working. This is a great pity as apart from the silly Wifi dongle the mouse is pretty much a perfect travel mouse. However because it used up an entire USB port, and now its discovered weakness (destruction of a 50p dongle ruins an otherwise working £50 mouse), I can’t say that I will be purchasing a second one).]

With these connected the tablet works just like a laptop would, but with more flexibility for where you place your K/M on the crowded commuter trains mine sees its most usage on. In the near future there is some software coming out which looks set to change this: Gameplay Gesture Works, but we shall reserve judgement on that for when its released.

This said, I rarely play steam games on the move these days, preferring to peruse my extensive list of RSS feeds on the go using NextGen Reader. This is where the windows tablets flexibility kicks in, on the train I tend to use it much like an android tablet, reading articles, perusing reddit, or playing the odd game from the Windows Store. But when it arrives at work the workout begins. Firstly I have several OneNote folders set up for various needs in the business, along with a good handful of Spreadsheets and Word documents. In customer requirements meetings, I can hook into the intranet and demo functionality, or remote onto my virtual development box and make minor changes to my code. When lunch time rolls around, I fire up eve and pop online to update my buy and sell orders, as well as organise my PI structure. Because the corporate network blocks eve, this is done over a Galaxy S4 configured as a portable 4G hotspot, it takes seconds to turn on and off, and the speed is plenty fast enough for eve, and I’m yet to have any connection issues.

Once my eve time is finished I boot up steam and spend a 20 mins or so in my current lunch hour game. This ranges from things like System Shock 2, through Mirrors edge all the way up into Skyrim. Lunchtime over its back to the grind, until I get home. There the tablet is hooked up as a 5th screen for the computer using Synergy. Here it gets used for stats tracking, or as a map for my roams in Faction warfare (using Dotlan’s Radar function).

For any one especially interested in playing eve over a 3/4G connections I can tell you that it uses far less data then you might expect. I found that is uses around 0.3mb per minute of light play (defined as flying about in a hauler, updating the market and doing PI, all in a relatively quiet system). I’m not sure I would want to attend fleets on it, or do anything of high-risk, but that is more my healthy paranoia of allowing technology to factor into the risk reward ratio of eve than any instability record. If there were a move op say when I was out of the house, I would certainly consider moving using the tablet.

So is it perfect? Simple answer is no. For a start I would like to see a tablet with a proper graphics card in it. Also if I were buying again right now, I would want a tablet with a Wacom Bamboo pen as an input option (taking notes at work would be quicker). Furthermore I am very surprised that very few tablets have a built in 3/4G modem which I could slot my sim into for mobile internet, but this is something I hope will be fixed with the next generation.

Despite these minor issues, I am still immensely pleased with this tablet, and it gets a great amount of use every day.

Fly a spaceship, in a plane,

Hark

Mobile Eve

Today the nice postman was kind enough to drop over a nice little package. My new Windows 8 Tablet arrived! So Extra Vehicular is taking a little sidestep into the world of mobile computing. Specifically the question which I’m sure every one reading is silently asking:

“Will it play Eve online!?”

Lets find out:

First of the tablet itself I wont go into too much detail on my selection process. Needless to say I picked a windows tablet specifically the Acer Iconia w700 NT.L0EEK.002:

The important statistics are as follows:
CPU: i5-3316U (dual core 1.70Ghz)
RAM: 4gb
OS: Windows 8 64bit
Graphics: Intel HD 4000

Again I wont dwell long on the tablet itself, its very nicely made feels like a solid product. Its a bit heavier than the iPad (I held a friends one once), but not so much as to be unusable on the move. My installation was delayed slightly by the awful driver shipped with it (intermittent disconnects). With that sorted though the very first thing I did was install eve online:

Network issues sorted, it installed with no hitches what so ever!

So without further ado, I pressed play, and found a couple of minor issues.

Issue 1: scrolling through the EULA is VERY hard with your finger. eve scroll bars are tiny! I eventually resorted to using the arrow down key to skip past the EULA.
Issue 2: The tablet does NOT like you alt tabbing out of eve when its in full-screen mode, and indeed if you kill the eve process through the Task Manager (as I did) the screen will stay screwed until you restart the device (admittedly this takes a few blinks to do)
Having switched to full-screen windowed mode (from which alt tabbing works perfectly) I proceeded to log in:
Yup, thats eve on full high graphics, working just fine (18-20fps), sorry for the shitty picture, its only a phone camera, I can assure you that the screen looks great in real life. So as I was already in Jita I decided to undock and give it a real test:
Ok so maybe full settings is a little too high, 6fps doesn’t seem like a good level. So went into the menu and optimized the graphics to performance, this was the result:
Not bad, lets test it on the undock again:
Thats a bit better! So the simple answer to the question: “Can an Acer Iconia W700 i5 run eve online?” is “Yes!”, very well in fact; after an hour of running it was barely even warm and I’m confident I could tweak the graphics off the lowest settings and still run reasonably.
But there is a caveat:
The eve UI. on the 11.1 inch touch screen the eve UI just doesn’t work. Every thing is tiny (even on 125% UI scaling. Further more the buttons have not been designed with touch screens in mind. Every interactive item on the screen seems to take two prods to active; the first to select the button/dropdown/textbox, the second to actually make it do its function. Indeed I have to admit cheating while writing this by plugging in a mouse, to ensure performing the actions of changing a ship and undocking a few times didn’t take a year. 
Eve worse, some UI elements (like say the Character screen), once opened, seemed to take any further prods (such as trying to open the training window) as a signal to close… not exactly helpful.
So lets amend the answer:
Yes a W700 can run eve, however you cant really do much, and what you can do takes a year.
I have got a stylus in the post to me soon, so we will see if that improves the interface use, I dont really expect it to make any difference. For now I will be only running eve via a keyboard and mouse (plugged into the on-board USB). I wouldn’t beg CCP to go and re-factor the UI for touch-screen usage (there are far more important and wider used features to be sorted first), but I will warn CCP: If touch screen devices take off in the way that Microsoft, and indeed a lot of industry leaders seem to be predicting, eve is going to need a lot of work before it can compete.
Update: a couple of suggestions I wanted to test:
1. lower the resolution and see if the UI works better:
 Originally the Res was set to 1920×1080 so I scaled it down the the suggested 16080×1050. However I didn’t really see much of a difference. So going for kill or cure I scaled down to the lowest I could: 1024x768 interestingly UI scaling above 100% isnt possible in this mode. buttons were much easier to click however the smaller items were still impossible to use (i.e. moving windows, scrollbars). FPS on full settings however did shoot up to 26 average on the undock.
2. checking the onscreen keyboard
yup this worked fine. The W700 comes with a nice little bluetooth keyboard, but what if you were out and about? First of to use the windows keyboard in the desktop, you have to activate it on the start menu (above the system tray). This mean that I had to have eve in Fullscreen window mode, so I could alt tab out and activate the keyboard. However once this was turned on, it worked fine (apart from obscuring half the screen). The onscreen keyboard did have “windowed” mode of its own, so you can move the window out of the way of what your editing.
I tried getting a screen-grab of it, but sadly the keyboard doesn’t show up on it.
Fly while on the bog,
Hark¬