Tablets are feeling more at home in our kitchens. The latest company to bring a slate into the home is TCL, which showed off its Xess 17-inch tablet designed for kitchen use. The Xess is finally making its way stateside, launching online on April 22 for $499. We had a chance to preview the Xess, and were intrigued by its potential.
First announced at IFA last year, the Xess is a sleek 17.3-inch tablet with a unique circular kickstand that props it up at a variety of adjustable angles. When we checked it out at CES earlier this year (and got a preview of the final version more recently), we were impressed not only by the Xess's modern look, but also by its interface.
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The tablet offers two software modes — full Android and Xess. The latter has been customized for household use.
The main Xess page is divided into three columns. A video feed takes up most of the leftmost column, showing you what the included IP camera is looking at. That's great for busy moms and dads who need to keep an eye on sleeping babies as they prepare dinner.
The middle column displays content from recipe apps and websites, or shopping lists via Amazon Fresh and other content partners. Since it's a browser, you can also use the middle column to show any Web content you'd like. On the right, you can launch video apps such as YouTube and Netflix to catch up on shows while you prepare your meal.
What's really intriguing — and fun — about Xess is the tablet's hands-free gesture recognition system that lets you scroll through your device's onboard videos and images by waving your hand in front of the camera. You can also mute the tablet by making a shush gesture in front of the tablet.
This worked most of my time with the Xess, especially in the final version. The device quickly paused, muted and skipped videos when I held up my open palm, shushed and waved my hand to the side, respectively. I can see this being very useful in the kitchen, when my hands are covered in grease or raw food, and I don't want to make a mess touching a tablet's screen.
I wish TCL could bring this gesture recognition to all aspects of the Xess' software as opposed to only having it work with the Gallery app, and I'd like to be able to start playing videos without having to touch the screen as well. (Right now, you have to tap on a video to start playback before you can use gestures to pause and resume).
When I played Cake By The Ocean by DNCE on the Xess, the tablet's dual 3-watt JBL speakers pumped out the song loudly and clearly. The Xess could also really stand out if it had an always-listening feature that let you ask it questions anytime. That'd make it more like Amazon's smart speaker Echo, and greatly increase its usefulness.
The Xess is very similar to Samsung's Galaxy View in that it's a large tablet with a kickstand and a handle that's designed for at-home use. But I find the Xess much better looking, thanks to its cool circular metal hinge and handle. It was easy enough to carry the Xess from one end of our small meeting room to another, and although I wouldn't lug it around outside, the 17-incher was light and small enough to fit in a laptop bag for easy transport.
We'll have to wait till we get a unit in for a full review to determine if the Xess is worthy of taking up residence in your home, but in the meantime, it sure looks like a promising new member of the family.