The idea of a tablet playing a central role in a family's day-to-day life isn't exactly a new one. We've seen any number of manufacturers give this a shot, to varying degrees of success. Now it's Alcatel's turn, with the 17.3-inch Xess. Yes, you read that right, it's a 17-inch Android tablet. But it's also decently thought out, even if we're in the early days on execution.
Let's take a quick look.
The Xess — that's pronounced "excess" — is a big tablet, sure. But Alcatel has done well to make it both portable and standable thanks to a unique adjustable stand and handle on the back. The bottom half folds so you get any number of angles with which to elevate the tablet (or none, if you really want to use this thing as a tablet), and the carrying handle telescopes back down below the bezel so it's out of sight when not in use. Or you can leave it extended — it actually looks like a nice little accent.
The back of the Xess also is where you'll find a decent pair of 3-watt speakers — they get pretty darned loud — a stylish stylus and hidden USB ports. The charging port is tucked away back here, too, and it's very much like one of Apple's MacBook MagSafe charging ports. (So much that it's called a MagTouchPort.)
The display is 1080p resolution — that's about 127 pixels per inch at this size, which mostly works given that you'll be viewing this thing at a distance. What suffers — and you'll no doubt notice this in our video — is graphics performance. This is unfinished software on prototype hardware, but we've got to hope that the MediaTek Processor (MT8783T) and 2 gigabytes of RAM will perform better than this when the Xess goes on sale later this year. Alcatel also plans to offer a version with a blue light film over the display to mitigated the purported ill effects of electronically-generated blue light (it has the unfortunate side effect of reflecting back a lot of blue light from the environment too).
The Xess is running Android 5.1.1, and Alcatel has a few tricks up its sleeve for this sort of "gather-'round-the-tablet" experience. There's a family mode dashboard that plops things like the weather and time and notes and multimedia — and it's got placeholders for things like home webcam video feeds and fitness trackers. (Presumably Alcatel's smartwatch will work, but we'd love to see something like this pull in other manufacturers' data, too.) There also is a kitchen mode that brings meal suggestions and recipes front and center — and you can control them (and media playback) with hand gestures, so you can still control parts of the Xess without cleaning up first. It's a neat trick, for sure.
The big questions we have concern price, which hasn't been set yet but likely will be somewhere around $800. And for that kind of money we're going want to see much better performance than what we experienced in the prototype. (But, again, prototype.) Still, the idea is solid. It's the execution that's going to be what we look for later this year.