Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Portables Hardware Technology

What Kind of Tablet PC to Buy? 546

Posted by Cliff
from the beyond-stone-and-chisels dept.
nic barajas asks: "I'm going to be attending college this fall, so I have been looking into a computer to use on campus. My preference has been to looking at the Tablet PC, although they are still in their proverbial infancy. I have been looking at a multitude of vendors, including Sager, Acer, and Toshiba. I'm looking for something that has a sizeable screen (at least 12"), decent storage (40GB+), and a long battery life. What are some of the better models on the market with these characteristics?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What Kind of Tablet PC to Buy?

Comments Filter:
  • God... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Romothecus (553103) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:21PM (#8300099)
    How about none at all? Would you WANT a really crappy computer with a short battery that crashes all the time?

    Sure, you can carry it anywhere, but it still performs like crap no matter where you take it.

    • Re:God... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NemoX (630771) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:40PM (#8300280)
      I agree. Of the 3 people I know that own them, not one is happy with it. Battery life and crashes are the reasons, too. Although, the crashes tick them off more, cause it usually happens at a seminar or meeting when it is most needed.
      • Re:God... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thisisjoex (518508) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:25PM (#8300671)
        Well, I for one LOVE my Tablet -- I have a Motion Computing M1200. It's a slate tablet at only 3 lbs, and the battery lasts for 3.5 to 4 hours. MUCH longer than my wife's heavier and bulkier laptop. It's perfect for research, reading, surfing and jotting down notes. I use it for what it shines at and I love it (I use it a few hours everyday). It has never crashed either... So I don't know which one your friends had that "constantly crashed" or had "bad battery life"...
    • Re:God... (Score:5, Funny)

      by c1ay (703047) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:41PM (#8300289) Homepage
      Here's [etch-a-sketch.com] the only reliable model that I know of...

      • Re:God... (Score:5, Funny)

        by gooru (592512) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:18PM (#8300588)
        Just keep in mind there's no patch for the shaking bug.
      • Re:God... (Score:5, Funny)

        by eddie can read (631836) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @07:30AM (#8303279)
        Here's [etch-a-sketch.com] the only reliable model that I know of...

        This was making the email rounds a few years ago:

        Frequently Asked Questions for Etch-A-Sketch Technical Support

        Q: My Etch-A-Sketch has all of these funny little lines allover the screen
        A: Pick it up and shake it.

        Q: How do I turn my Etch-A-Sketch off?
        A: Pick it up and shake it.

        Q: What's the shortcut for Undo?
        A: Pick it up and shake it.

        Q: How do I create a New Document window?
        A: Pick it up and shake it.

        Q: How do I set the background and foreground to the same color?
        A: Pick it up and shake it.

        Q: What is the proper procedure for rebooting my Etch-A-Sketch?
        A: Pick it up and shake it.

        Q: How do I delete a document on my Etch-A-Sketch?
        A: Pick it up and shake it.

        Q: How do I save my Etch-A-Sketch document?
        A: Don't shake it.

    • Re:God... (Score:5, Informative)

      by enrico_suave (179651) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:02PM (#8300476) Homepage
      huh... that's weird... Battery life on my transmeta based T-1000 from compaq/hp has like 4/5 hours of life. Although now the latest model uses an intel mobile chip... harumph! t1100 [hp.com]

      Here's why I chose the tablet I did.

      It was a TRUE tablet, not just these pansy convertibles. I could disconnect the keyboard completely not just fold it over.

      Built in wifi (should be a given for any tablet but wasn't at the time of purchase)

      Light and sexy form factor.

      Ample ram / chipspeed

      Here's what I didn't like:

      Tablet edition of windows XP feels like a desktop os shoe horned in with scribble recognition/etc into the tablet. It "feels" like a PC with a Pen instead of a tablet (if that makes sense --> haven't put linux on it... yet...)

      The screen on this model sucks ass in the sunlight, near useless (which is what we wanted it for -- mobile, outdoors GPS/GIS w/wifi... no love there if you can't see the screen)

      if you do use the keyboard, it's counter weighted funny... the screen is heavier than the tablet portion so unless you put the screen at a 90 degree angle it's top heavy and prone to tipping over (or worse *gulp*)

      We were kinda hoping to use it as an "uber" handheld, but found it was more an "uber" portable laptop with scribbling enabled.

      *shrug* ymmv but figured some of those thoughts would help. Good luck!

      E.

      • Re:God... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by enrico_suave (179651) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:05PM (#8300504) Homepage
        I almost forgot, It's handy for playing vertical mame games flipped on it's side. I plug a usb port and go nuts with galaga =P

        I've contemplated putting counter-strike on there for headshot's with the stylus/pen, but bet steam would suck on it.

        *shrug*

        e.

      • Re:God... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Qzukk (229616) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:23PM (#8300651) Journal
        We had one of these at work for "testing" our software to see how tablet-accessible it is (we complained at the time that there was no real point to this, as the whole thing could be done by mousing through the program. The boss took the thing home in the end so now we know what the real point was).'

        Your points are pretty good but I'd like to add the stylus itself as a gripe, even after calibration we had problems with its behavior, especially around the edges of the screen (making using scrollbars difficult to do). The stylus was also not quite at one pixel resolution, many times you would hold it to the screen to try to right click (the button on the stylus was nonfunctional) and the pointer would twitch back and forth rapidly between two pixels.
      • Re:God... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:38AM (#8301748)

        For the most part, I agree.

        It is my job at my college to support ~65 of the HP TC1000 Tablets that we received as part of a grant. I have used this tablet as my only on-campus computer for the last 10 months. I use my tablet throughout the day as my (only) note taking device (mainly in Journal) in my classes.

        The good:

        The TC1000 is nice for taking notes on. In addition to a wide variety of colors to draw with, when the prof decides to change a drawing or insert something, it is very easy to move objects on the page around. This results in more clear notes, without scratch outs.

        The battery life of the TC1000 is excellent. With an aggressive power saving setup, I routinely get 3.5 hours of battery life. It's enough for all my classes and then some.

        The TC1000 is very light and easy to carry around. At my college we have a mandatory laptop program. Many students will not bring their laptops to class because they are too heavy and they also have to bring a power adapter, which takes time in class to setup. In addition, taking engineering notes by typing is about impossible due to equations and drawings.

        The tablet is wonderful for use at times when using a laptop would be difficult, like standing in the hall waiting for class. Try standing, holding a laptop and typing at the same time! The on-screen keyboard (much like on a Pocket PC) is fine for short URLs, though it certainly isn't the most effecient way to type.

        Handwriting recognition, while not perfect, is very usable. Writing big and cleary helps. I don't really use it that often.

        Being able to annotate power point during a presentation is really useful. This is something not easily done with a standard notebook. Office 2003 integrates nicely with the Tablet's features.

        The bad:

        The integrated wireless, while a nice idea, is poorly implemented. The reception quality is not good. In areas of campus where I have no problem getting a wireless connection with an iPaq 5450 or an N800w laptop, I have a poor signal or no connection on the TC1000. I attribute this to poor antenna design. Save yourself the money on the intergated wireless and buy a PCMCIA or CF wireless card.

        The pen. Maybe I write too hard, but I have broken my pen to the point where it will not stop writing when you lift the point off the screen twice now. At $40 per pen (if I had to pay for it), this can get expensive. Apparently this has been fixed on the TC1100, and I'd like to get my hands on one to try it out.

        Performance is less than ideal, but it depends on what you want. The Transmeta processor is slow. The HD is slow, but I haven't seen one crash yet. I wish I could say the same for all our laptops. The new TC1100 uses a Pentium M, so I'm hoping it will be faster.

        The base model does not come with enough memory (256MB). The software for the pen and other utilities takes up lots of memory. Add on a virus scanner and you're using ~160MB. Also note that because it is a Transmeta, you loose 34MB off the top. The result is predictable: Windows is forced to swap too often and lag is noticable when switching between Journal and IE. Adding another 256MB helped a lot.

        The ugly:

        Cost. Perhaps part of the reason these do not sell well is the cost. For $2200 you can get a much better laptop or a really really nice desktop.


        Overall, the TC1000 Tablet PC is good at what it was designed to do: it's ultra-portable, has excellent battery life, and is useful for note taking. The hardware (minus the wireless) is high quality. It is a very well designed computer. But, if you intend to use it for Matlab simulations or don't have oodles of cash, buy a laptop instead.


    • Re:God... (Score:3, Informative)

      by vapspwi (634069)
      We've got three Compaq tablets at work, and they suck. They're painfully underpowered, even with a 1 GHz Transmeta processor. They crash CONSTANTLY, and when they're not crashing, you have to battle with them to get them to awake from hibernation, or to get the screen to maintain the proper orientation.

      Tablet PCs seem to be a decent idea that's as yet poorly implemented. You're much better off spending the money on a good laptop.
    • by clustercrasher (675663) * on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:13PM (#8300563)
      I read an average of 1 paper per day and like writing in the margins and would love something where I didn't have to rape trees. Can't do it until someone makes a screen that fits 8.5x11" page without zooming/scrolling. Why is that so hard?
    • Re:God... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by darnok (650458) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:52PM (#8300912)
      Agreed. I know 2 MS consulting guys who got Tablet PCs about 30 seconds after they were released, and now they're both back on normal laptops.

      If these guys, who are both gung-ho MS shills, can't make Tablet PCs work in the way they want, then there's no way I'd consider buying one. These guys both have access to all the pre-release internal MS software, so they aren't even satisfied with Tablets using software that's 1/2 - 1 generation ahead of what us mere mortals are using.
  • Troll Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:21PM (#8300101)
    Who wants a tablet in reality? Laptop yes. PDA yes. Tablet? No redeming features...
    • Re:Troll Question (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fatgav (555629) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:32PM (#8300203) Homepage

      I suppose if you are going to take notes in lectures, something that is quick to write with and enables you to draw sketches as and when necessary can be more than easily found in a tablet.

      Then, in the really boring lectures just whip open Spider Solitaire and away you go!

      Is it obvious I was a bum at Uni? ;-)

      • Re:Troll Question (Score:5, Interesting)

        by npietraniec (519210) <npietran@resisti[ ]net ['ve.' in gap]> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:35PM (#8300237) Homepage
        Still not as nice and easy as paper and pencil. Unless you simply have to have everything in electronic format. Let's be realistic here... Wouldn't you rather study of physical paper notes? I would.
        • Re:Troll Question (Score:5, Insightful)

          by atheken (621980) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:03PM (#8300484) Homepage
          I really have to say, I don't like to have so many paper notes, and furthermore, I study better when it's available on my laptop (which I have on me almost 24x7) I really don't like the tablet PCs that are out, I'd like something less klunky than what's out there now.. maybe 6x8.5 inches.. Apple, where's my MacInTouch?! if Apple wants to use that name, they're more than welcome to use it. (I know, it was formerly called the Newton).
        • Re:Troll Question (Score:4, Informative)

          by pioneer76 (753444) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:51AM (#8302147)
          The best response I ever heard to the advantage of pen and paper vs tablets/laptops question was from a French Canadian newscast on the subject. The journalist asked a student standing inline at a campus bookstore about why he wasn't using a laptop for notes. The student held his paper notebook over his head, emphatically said "l'avantage d'une cailler!" and dropped the book on the floor.
    • Re:Troll Question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by npietraniec (519210) <npietran@resisti[ ]net ['ve.' in gap]> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:33PM (#8300214) Homepage
      Yea... When the MS tablet pc came to market I thought "who wants that?"

      Was there a demand for this product or is this a market that Microsoft thought should exist? The last thing I read about those (maybe about 6-12 months ago) was that they were bombing.
    • Depends. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trillan (597339)

      I admit, a lot of the tablets out there are useless. But a minimalist (or maybe maximumist) tablet would be a notebook with a rotating screen and pen input.

      I'd be very pleased to spend an extra couple hundred dollars over the cost of a notebook for that. (Apple, are you listening? Because my preferreed laptop to add this feature to would be my 12" Powerbook G4!)

    • Re:Troll Question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RoshanCat (145661) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:46PM (#8300336)
      Lets see,
      i) Read thousands of e-books on my couch, while making notes on it
      ii) Browse in a comfortable position, while watching TV
      iii) Take Notes in a meeting / classroom.
      iv) Pass it around easily to show something
      v) Design/Architect solutions while not having to worry about transfering it to PC(the monkey coders at /. wouldn't understand that anyway)
      vi) Reduce endless clutter of sticky pads

      and surely each person will have a niche use

    • Graphic Artists! (Score:3, Informative)

      by jcsehak (559709)
      As a graphic designer, I can say that the prospect of drawing directly on the screen is a holy fucking grail. It would make so many things so much nicer. I don't care if it comes in the form of a laptop or just an LCD that you plug into your desktop that you happen to be able to draw on, but dammit, I want one.

      Gabe of Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com] got one (hp, IIRC), and he loves it. His workflow is now entirely digital.

      In theory at least, that's a very compelling reason to get one.
    • Artists. It remains the best solution for many art tasks... at least in theory. The implementation stinks, but only because of the weight, heat, and cost issues. Serious problems, but not insoluble in the future.

      A sketchbook with unlimited colors, the thousands of tools available in Photoshop, Illustrator, and such, the ability to undo a mistake, to work on a sketch for as long as you like without wearing out the paper....

      Yeah, sure sign me up for that. Art can be fantastically frustrating in that to do

  • Me too (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sklein382 (615377) * on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:22PM (#8300105)
    Seeing as I am now in the same shoes as you, I have been thinking about this too. At first I was going to look into tablets, and the obvious choice looked to be a tablet/notebook crossover. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered how much I would actually use the tablet functionality, and what the overall advantage would be over a pen and paper. But it seems like adding the notebook stuff to a tablet kills all the advantages of the tablet, such as the really small size. I've been developing some apps for my high school that we're running on a Fujitsu tablet (I think it runs for about 2G), and that seems like a really nice just tablet, if you want to go in that direction. But what I think what I'm going to do for next year, is get a lightweight centrino book, and a 19" or so LCD monitor for my pc. I can use the laptop for portability, and the computer/RDC for anything more.
    • Re:Me too (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Saint Stephen (19450) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:47PM (#8300345) Homepage Journal
      Stay away from Tablet PCs. When I was at Microsoft, we *begged* for one, because they seem so cool: they aren't. What you are going to get is an underpowered laptop for the same price as an expensive laptop. As laptops, they suck. As tablets, they are too bulky to carry usefully.

      Don't believe the hype. KISS.
    • Re:Me too (Score:5, Insightful)

      by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:52PM (#8300390) Homepage
      I wrote a tablet PC review [epinions.com] which might be interesting in this context.

      Summary: for anything other than truly unique situations, it's not worth it.

      D
      • Re:Me too (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fred Ferrigno (122319)
        Speaking of unique situations, one of my instructors [calpoly.edu] uses a tablet with great success during lectures. Rather than simply reading a boring PowerPoint slide or attempting to draw out a complex diagram on the board, he mixes it up and handwrites additional notes on top of a prepared slideshow. Also very, very helpful when you're trying to follow the lecture: his slides are black text on a solid white background.

        (BTW, if you go to his website, you'll see he is quite the geek. He spends lab time reading overcl
  • I predict (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:23PM (#8300114)
    the majority of the posters here will try to steer you into a different direction than tablet-pc's.
  • by cujo_1111 (627504) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:23PM (#8300118) Homepage Journal
    Notepad and pencil... so much easier to edit on the run.

    The bonus is that when transcribing your notes into a computer for safe keeping a filing, you are effectively reprocessing the lectures you go to. One of the best study methods i know of.
    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:29PM (#8300183) Homepage
      The bonus is that when transcribing your notes into a computer for safe keeping a filing

      No, the bonus is notepads and penciles don't cost FOUR THOUSAND FREAKING DOLLARS.
    • by rockmuelle (575982) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:43PM (#8300303)
      I'll second this. I'm doing my second round of school (PhD after years of working) and am using a clipboard and paper instead of my notebook (computer) for notes. I had bought a nifty Vaio to take notes on and quickly abandoned it in favor of the tried and true pen(cil) and paper approach.

      Three other advantages are:

      1) Paper notes don't disappear when your hard drive crashes
      2) The resolution of paper and ink is still better than computer monitors (save for the IBM Bertha display)
      3) Layout flexibility - it's much much much easier to just draw something on paper inlined with your notes than it is to do it in a word processor (though ASCII art in Emacs can be fast ;) ).

      Get a good notebook (or desktop) computer for other uses, but for taking notes, experience has taught me that you still can't beat a pen and paper.

      -Chris
      • by subtillus (568832) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:17PM (#8300578)
        I'm a double major in Microbiology and Immunology(Science) and East Asian studies (arts).

        for the sciencey stuff, nothing beats a legal pad and a stiff drink. Drawings come up frequently, diagrams, Rxn mechanisms, metabolism paths etc...

        for the Artsy type stuff, nothing beats my ibook, I can type much faster than I can write so I can get down everything prof of the day says. I can also write down a timeline as shown on the overhead projector, then add in details as we go along. Instead of (as with pen and paper) kind of guessing at where the hell the teacher is planning on going today and scribbling in the margins.

        for studying, I just pop down to the library, re-read the notes, put them into some sort of format that's presentable form and print them. While I'm doing this I add in my own ideas for good places to start essay questions and maybe future term papers.

        Studying in science (FYI): Memorize the fuck out of 400 pages of random acronyms... Promptly forget everything.
      • by RocketRainbow (750071) <(rocketgirl) (at) (myrealbox.com)> on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:46PM (#8301339) Homepage Journal
        At my school the preferred study tool is a blackboard. Consider the display area! I bought a shiney new Toshiba notebook when I started with CD-RW and all sorts of gizmos but after 3 years here is my advice: You won't use it as much as you thought you would.

        I went to law school and found the notebook was too bulky to sit on the desks properly but useful for self-study later in my room, especially given its compact size. I then went to maths/physics lectures and found I couldn't use Texmacs properly because I only had a yukky celeron processor that couldn't handle the stress. And in the odd programming project, forget about it! I borrowed my boyfriend's processor. Rather than getting around with work on CD-RWs, I found I lent them to friends to store movies portably in CD wallets.

        Now consider the hassle you're going to go through trying to find drivers and software for your funny little screen. And how the software you do want will be less flexible than just grabbing another pen or turning the page.

        Get a nice computer, absolutely, but travel light on campus with a little spiral-bound notebook for notes from each subject, all stored with note paper etc. in one of those folders with a zipper. At home you can have a clever filing system and I found that it helped to have a different coloured document envelope for notes for each current assignment.

        Don't even get a laptop before checking that your library has data points and so on. I assumed mine would and they still don't. Other aussie universities have campus-wide wireless or nice unix labs and we get the dregs and pretty scenery. I usually manage to grab a desk near a power point (they need to plug in the vacuum cleaner somewhere I guess) and work there which helps because I live way off campus. Usually I'm only in the library preparing notes anyway and use paper. A tablet would be utterly useless to me.

        I do enjoy my palm pilot, but I don't use it as a study tool, rather as a very clever and flexible organizer.

    • by ejaw5 (570071) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:27PM (#8300688)
      Use a spiral notebook and a pen to jot down lecture notes as the traditional way. If simple illustrations are presented either on a blackboard or projection, go ahead and copy them down into the spiral notebook.

      The above should work fine for most classes. With some exceptions, if you think you need a computer to 'type your notes faster than hand-writting them', you might be trying to take too many notes.

      If you're taking a class like my Microprocessor Applications course where lots of code is presented that is useful in the labs, a good digital camera comes very handy. Instead of trying to handcopy the code, take a picture of the projection (obviously, with the flash off). I'm able to manage at least 1/100 shutter speed, 1/160+ IIRC so it's not too prone to camera shake. For each picture you take, indicate you've done so in your spiral notebook.

      When you're done for the day, download any photo-notes to the laptop, and review your hand-written notes with them. If for some reason you wanted to archive your handwritten notes to the laptop, you could transcribe them or take pictures of them.

      If you can swing it, get a second battery with your laptop for longer mobility. Other things to look for are 'legacy ports' (parallel, serial). Many new notebooks don't come with serial port, (although you could buy a PCMCIA/serial adapter) and I've seen some lacking the parallel port. You should consider these if your area of study involves using development boards.
      • >If you're taking a class like my Microprocessor Applications course where lots of code is presented that is useful in the labs, a good digital camera comes very handy.

        Its even more useful if you take pictures of someone else's class notes.
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ameoba (173803) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:23PM (#8300122)
    Really, you probably won't use it much. I've known a lot of people who have picked up PDAs or laptops for the purpose of using them in class and, after the initial novelty wore off, reverted to pen&paper. I can't think of anyone who's kept using them.

    There's something to be said about a laptop for doing work while on campus, but I don't think that a tablet is worth the extra expense.
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by !3ren (686818) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:34PM (#8300228)
      The biggest problem I have seen with computers in the classroom, is the difficulty in reproducing illustrations. Tablets seem to solve this problem to a certain extent.
      Personally I would be happiest with a standard laptop with a touch sensitive screen so I could draw as well as type.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209)
      Pencil and paper are OK. The main problem is that handwriting is too slow, and you can't "touch write" (you have to look down). I feel the more time spent concentrating on the lecture rather than taking notes, the better.

      What I have found to work pretty well is a Palm + fold-out keyboard. This is also a pretty cheap solution; you can get the Palm and the keyboard for a couple hundred bucks, and it might make it easier to get by without a laptop. Go with a B&W screen model and you won't have to wor

  • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:24PM (#8300132) Homepage
    Unless you have money to burn on bleeding-edge technology (and in this case, it could quite easily be described as bleeding-to-death) as a college student, I would stick with a traditional notebook PC - you'll get much more for your money, and you don't risk being stuck with a possibly dead-end investment.
  • Also, (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:25PM (#8300141)
    Does anybody no which washer and dryer I should buy? I'm thinking about a Whirlpool or a Maytag. What do you guys think?

    Thanks in advance! Get back soon because my wife is in the car waiting to go ...
  • by Phosphor3k (542747) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:25PM (#8300145)
    And returned it very quickly. Wait another generation or two if you really need to buy one. Give time for kinks to be worked out. Likely by then you'll find yourself not needing one and will have saved yourself a few bucks. If you seriously feel you need to have a computer in the classroom, there's no reason a small laptop can't do what you need better than a Tablet PC. Baring that, hadwritten notes will be easier to take and study with later on.
  • Why a tablet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by john82 (68332) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:26PM (#8300149)
    What is the driving force to spend extra dollars for a tablet over a good laptop? What do you want to do with it? If you can answer that, it might help some of the folks here provide more relevant answers. If you can't answer that satisfactorily, that should tell you something.

    Check with your prospective school. See what their requirements are and what sort of discounts/deals they offer to students who buy through the university. That should factor into your evaluation.
  • tablet comparisons (Score:5, Informative)

    by segment (695309) <<gro.xirtilop> <ta> <lis>> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:26PM (#8300150) Homepage Journal
    Try checking out the comparisons here [tabletpctalk.com]. Why? Check out the links on the comparisons, as well as the owner of the domain via whois... At least you know this (unlike Computer Shopper magazine) site is not being whored out by some vendor. It's a pretty detailed site on specs, vendors, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:26PM (#8300154)
    The Tablet PC's aren't nearly as usefull as they are touted as being. Sure, you can draw driectly onto the screen.

    They are like giagantic PDA's in that respect. If you want a good PC for college, get a VERY powerful system that will last you a good three or four years before showing it's age.

    Take a look at one of the high-end gaming Laptops from Dell, Alienware or other high-end laptop manufacturer.

    I considered tablet PC's for some of our sales staff, after taking a look at a few models, I found them quite lacking in terms on long-term performance, long-term durability as well as usability. Some of them DON'T have keyboards at all.

    If you need serious portable computing power, a Tablet PC is nothing but a really fancy toy.
  • Get a Laptop (Score:5, Informative)

    by modnemo (670684) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:26PM (#8300157)
    I own an older Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet and can honestly say they aren't worth all the trouble you put into them...get a laptop. Here @ Purdue they are piloting a test program of the Acer pen tablets and they are nothing more than a fancy laptop w/ a stylus and a keyboard that folds back. They ran slower and seemed very flimsy than other laptops I've used, even ones a few years old. They also have alot of software that is needed for all the "special features" that in all honesty doesn't get upgraded that often. Just my 2 cents
  • uhh, (Score:5, Informative)

    by mm0mm (687212) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:27PM (#8300165)
    Powerbook, if you can afford it?

    Since I don't have extra $$$ to burn (and I'm not a mac user), I use Thinkpad and am happy with it. I'm running SuSE on it. :p
  • Why tablet? (Score:5, Informative)

    by demonic-halo (652519) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:28PM (#8300169)
    I've used the Acer one. It's pretty nice, built in ethernet, wireless, and pretty easy to use, but I don't feel it's practical.

    I used one for software compatibility testing (it basically is as compatible as an XP laptop would be), but I did find myself using it in laptop mode most of the time though. Passwords and login information are really hard to enter in in tablet mode. Since the pen input usually assumes you're typing in words, it'll tend to add extra spaces when writing login information and passwords. As for other types of writing, it's easier just to type in keyboard mode.

    I've only found it useful in Tablet mode for tapping out check lists. Maybe someday I'll find a better use for it.
    • Re:Why tablet? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:48PM (#8300359)
      I have the Acer Travelmate C300. Battery life is around 5 hours and it comes with a cd-rw and wifi.


      I use mine all the time and would definitely recommend it over a regular laptop. A huge benefit of taking all of your notes with this is being able to perform keyword searches over your entire notebook and (depending on how clear your handwriting is) having it return lecture notes on that topic.

  • I'd like one... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mondoz (672060) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:28PM (#8300174)
    If I had money to waste on such a thing, I'd love to have a tablet pc for wireless web surfing on the couch while watching TV or playing games... Being able to look stuff up without having to go to the PC and print it out would be rather nice...

    A tablet would be less bulky than a full blown laptop, and a bit more appropriate for this.
  • iBook 12" (Score:4, Informative)

    by GrahamCox (741991) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:29PM (#8300185) Homepage
    It's small enough to be truly portable, powerful enough to do more or less anything reasonable you want to do with it, and it's OS kicks ass. Or you can run Linux on it if you think you'd prefer it, though my guess is that after a while of using it, you won't.
  • by IANAAC (692242) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:30PM (#8300192)
    You say you need a computer at college. Get a large screen laptop (15 inches are well under 1G now). That way it can act as a decent desktop too. You'll spend far more time at your desk studying than anywhere else.
  • Only if. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pu'be (618443) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:33PM (#8300218)
    Only get a tablet PC if you will be taking a lot of graphic design oriented classes. Or just art in general. But if you have never played with a regular ole tablet on a PC, do not go out and by a TabletPC! They have specialized art based uses, and are not useful for anything else then that (maybe except signing your name). If you do not need one, save the money from a TabletPC and get a better laptop, or more batteries.
  • Go Convertible (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:34PM (#8300219)
    You are doing a smart thing. The full touchscreen on Tablet PC's is what drew me in, and honestly I wouldn't have it any other way- the ability to surf the net with just a pen to scroll, or just clicking things with it, it feels MUCH MORE natural. Make sure you go with a convertible, however, because it sucks when you get stuck without the keyboard.

    Other than that, I can recommend that you stick with a Centrino-powered model- the models based on other chipsets/processors will not be as fast. Centrino gives you a much faster notebook with good support and battery life and you get the performance of the Pentium-M, which is a very impressive processor.
  • Tablet PCs (Score:4, Informative)

    by yar (170650) * on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:36PM (#8300241)
    I have an early version HP from work, and I also tested the Acer tablet and briefly tried out the Motion version... all in all, I wouldn't recommend using the tablet PC unless you a) give lots of presentations or speeches, as I've found them more portable than laptops, or b) like to draw a great deal and don't have extra money to spring for a Wacom. When I use the tablet, I often find myself needing to attach the keyboard to get things done quickly. I've all but given up using it in favor of a regular notebook, which has a longer battery life, more memory, and... well, more of just about everything, for a smaller price.

    That being said, the handwriting recognition for Windows tablet is pretty good. If I was going to purchase one for myself, I would probably try to evaluation the Motion Tablets [motioncomputing.com]. I was fairly impressed with them, and I wish I had more time to use it. Battery life is a KILLER on these things, and they had a nice little back attachment available (about the size of a notebook, so increasing the width) that would greatly extend the life.
  • by The Lynxpro (657990) <lynxpro@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:43PM (#8300305)


    Ducks for cover! Shortly thereafter, a thousand Voodoo2 PCI boards were thrown in his general direction... :)

  • Why??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by PSaltyDS (467134) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:44PM (#8300313) Journal
    Why a tablet??? Get a decent laptop. My PHB got a tablet with XP on it, and has had nothing but trouble with it. The WiFi is intermittent, the battery life is short, and the handwriting recognition is unusable. It also has lower specs and twice the price of a laptop with same weight/screen size. I just don't see the point in the things at all.
  • I have the aforementioned Toshiba, and, to be honest, think it's a great machine. It is absolutely awesome for classes where the professor gives you a copy of his notes (like my thermodynamics class). All I had to do was "print" the notes to a Windows Journal file, and was able to mark them up with no fuss.

    I'm going to suggest that you keep below US$2200 though. The price deprecation on the machine will hurt if it's much more than that. Trust me on this. I bought a $3000 laptop (thanks, Uncle Sam for the Tax Credit!) and within 6 months the machine was valued at about 2/3 that. Stay in the middle of the pack, regardless of whatever machine you buy, tablet or notebook.

    Also, be sure to consider a convertible tablet, i.e. one with a keyboard. There are many times when it's simply more effient to whip the display around and type out notes in MS Word or whatever. However, at the same time, in certain classes it's much, much easier to draw diagrams, derive equations, and things with a pen. Having both options is very much worthwhile.

    Also, think long and hard about an extended warranty. The machine supposedly will travel with you for at least three years, taking quite a bit of abuse along the way. Mine was VERY handy on another machine (Sony VAIO GRX-520), which experienced a sudden failure due to some hardware issues. After 20 minutes on the phone with a tech, they fedexed me an empty box and label, I fedexed the machine, and two days later, I got it back in perfect working condition (Sent it out Thursday, got it back Monday (FedEx only delivers on Weekdays). If I had not purchased that warranty, the service would have cost about $800 and who knows how much heartache.

    Oh, and one last thing: Don't splurge and get a machine capable of playing the latest, greatest games. It'll be outdated within a year, and you'll have no upgrade path. Again, buy the middle of the pack and save some money for a replacement battery in two years or so.

    That reminds me: Don't buy generic batteries, or old batteries off ebay. Lithium Ion batteries start to decay from the day they're manufactured.

    Just my two bits...
    Mike Hollinger
  • by ParadoxDruid (602583) * on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:45PM (#8300323) Homepage
    As I said when a similar topic came up in October:

    I use my Acer Travelmate T102i every weekday for about 8 hours a day.

    I'm a college student and researcher in Biochemistry.

    Tablet PCs are _perfect_ for this setting. I can take notes without having to lug around huge notebooks, I can reference professor's webpages on the fly, and most importantly: I can include all the diagrams and drawings needed in my field in with my notes, saved on a computer to search and reference.

    You can't type a lot of college notes- there are too many diagrams, drawings, and weird flowcharts to do that.

    I haven't used a notebook since November 2003, when I first got my Tablet PC, and it's completely changed the way I get my work done.

    I'd reccommend the lightest weight one you can find-- using it like a notebook means often holding it or resting it on your arm for extended periods of time.
    • by timothy (36799)
      You wrote: "I use my Acer Travelmate T102i every weekday for about 8 hours a day."

      Curious, do your classrooms have electric outlets all over? If not, how do you handle battery life? Do you carry spares, or does your schedule just work so you can recharge at the right points?

      Battery life is my biggest complaint about nearly every notebook I've owned; the lead-acid battery in the Toshiba from which I type has actually been surprisingly hardy, better than any of the Li-Ions I've had in other laptops. (Who kn
      • Part of that day is spent working in a lab, so it's plugged in.

        But yes, I carry a spare battery around. With wireless on, my laptop lasts around 3 hours / battery, which is more than enough time.

        As for brightness- that is an issue I've encountered when using it outside, but in classrooms, which are almost universally fluorescently lighted, I've never had brightness problems.
  • by drklahn77 (599154) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:46PM (#8300339) Homepage
    My company is currently evaluating Tablet PCs as a potential platform for one of our software products. We have 5 of them, most from different vendors. We have a couple that are slate only, and a couple that are convertible. I'm one of the primary designers for the product, so I've been using a Toshiba M200 [tinyurl.com] for a few weeks now.

    My initial impression has been favorable, though you're right on in your assessment that tablets are still in their infancy. Microsoft's handwriting recognition is excellent, definitely the best I've seen. They also have some limited support for gesture and shape recognition, though they don't appear to be using them for much at the moment.

    As far as I can tell, there is not yet a "killer app" for the tablet pc platform. The only thing that comes close is OneNote [tinyurl.com], which is pretty damned cool, but not really worth the extra money, imo. The tablet platform still has quite a few warts, the biggest being the lack of decent integration with existing apps. MS's solution to ink input for legacy apps is a rather clunky keyboard/writing area applet that sits above the task bar and transmits your handwriting as text to selected text input controls after a short delay. I suspect that this will get better and better with future revisions of the tablet pc operating system services.

    As for the hardware, the Toshiba is a nice machine. It's fast, being Centrino based, though not as fast as some of the other Pentium M machines out there because they've pushed it as far in the battery life conservation direction as possible. Mine gets about 4 - 5 hours under normal conditions. The display is good, and I like the high resolution (1400 x 1050). The graphics accelerator is middle of the road for current laptops. Overall performance is decent, though noticably slower than my Thinkpad T40p.

    That said, I do have a few gripes with this particular model. It's much larger than you might expect, especially given that it has a curiously cramped keyboard. It's very thick, and fairly heavy for a tablet. I vastly prefer the form factor of my T40. It is, however, leaps and bounds above the 1st gen HP/Compaq tablet we have, which was based on a suck-ass tranmeta processor and just felt cheesy as hell. Apparently the newer ones are much better.

    As for competitors, we have one of the Motion Computing slates, which definitely wins in terms of sex appeal. It's thin, good industrial design, and very appealing. I haven't had a chance to play with it, though, and I think I would sorely miss the keyboard in short order.

    To summarize, I think my advice would definitely be NOT to buy a tablet right now . For the extra money, you can get an absolutely kick ass notebook that really blows the tablet away in terms of overall capabilities. I like my tablet, but I like my T40 even more. It's much friendlier to use, and I find myself wishing that I were typing when I take notes on the tablet.

    If you just have to have the tablet because of the cool factor, make sure you have an opportunity to play with both types (slate and convertible) before you take the plunge. Buying a convertible is a concession to practicality. When you stop using the tablet features after the first month, at least you still have a decent laptop to use. With the slate, you're pretty screwed unless you use the docking station all the time.

    - adam

  • how about no? (Score:4, Informative)

    by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:47PM (#8300343)
    Others have said basically the same thing, but as someone who's just wrapping up his college career, I can basically second this: Don't bother.

    I have a laptop. An honest to goodness, actually portable, quiet enough to use in class laptop. This is an important point, because everyone at universities nowadays has a laptop, but most of them are of the ~8lbs./non-mobileCPU/1.5 hr battery life flavor. My handwriting is atrocious, and I'm an English major. Those two things together meant that I could actually read my notes (in classes where the class structure lent itself to massive notes on some days), and I could work on papers during the hour or so between classes that I might have otherwise wasted. To be brutally honest, I never, ever wished that I had a tablet, mostly because they don't seem to have any redeeming features for people other than comic artists.

    Get a decent desktop. Something small enough to bring into the dorms, maybe one of those Small Form Factor machines, or a mini-tower. Get a nice, 17" flat panel monitor to go with it. Unless you want an uber-gaming machine, you should be able to do this pretty easily for about $1,200. If you really want a laptop, might I suggest an iBook. The 12" models are light enough to carry around (5lbs., which is pretty close to my ceiling for what I will carry around in addition to the big-ass book that that one professor will always want you to bring), they get a good 4 hours or so in the real world (provided you aren't hitting the hard drive or optical drive too frequently; make sure to load it with RAM), and while the polycarbonate finish will get minor scratches, they're very durable notebooks. You can (at least last I checked) get the G3 models with few frills (CD-ROM, 30GB Drive) for $800. Toss in another $125 or so to max it out with RAM, and I managed to get my airport card for $50. At $1,000, it is ever so slightly more expensive than the ludicrously cheap after Mail-in-rebate jobs at some of the retail stores, but it is significantly more lightweight and significantly less noisy.

    Honestly, though, outside of a few classes (generally the giant lecture hall ones), I rarely used my notebook. It was mostly for time between classes, but that was only because I lived off-campus and couldn't get home to work on my desktop. If you are absolutely positive that you need a tablet, go ahead and snag one, but I'd otherwise recommend grabbing a desktop and waiting to see if a notebook is something you really want after you've been there for a few months.
  • by John Murdoch (102085) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:53PM (#8300401) Homepage Journal

    Hi!

    My oldest daughter is a sophomore in college [lynchburg.edu], and she's had both a desktop and a laptop. I've been working with various kinds of portable computing initiatives since 1995--including working with a predecessor of the Fujitsu Stylist in Japan.

    How will you use it?
    Unless you're going to tote spare batteries with you all day, chances are you won't take your computer to class. There are very few notebook options with real world (as opposed to advertised) battery life records of longer than 2 hours. There are very few college days with fewer than 2 hours of class. Do the math: you either carry extra batteries, or leave the computer in your room. (A survey of Daughter #1's dorm mates: nobody brings a computer to class.)

    So a desktop is a good idea?
    The big advantage of a desktop is the price--a desktop these days is extremely inexpensive. Taking a desktop to school will save your parents (or you, if you're financing college with loans you'll have to pay back) a ton of money. The down side of the desktop is that it pretty much stays on the top of your desk. So when you're in the library--you're stuck. You take notes by hand, or you stand in line at the photocopier. A laptop makes an enormous amount of sense at the library--and you'll find that most schools have wired the carrels in the library for the campus network. So you can work on your laptop in the library, access Internet resources, and use whatever local file & print resources you have set up with your roommates. Getting a laptop makes a lot of sense.

    Do you need a tablet?
    In a word, "no." The business case for tablets assumes that the end user either a) doesn't know how to type, or b) isn't in a position to type. If you have enough typing aptitude to submit an article to SlashDot, you know how to type. You will enter a lot more data, with a much higher rate of accuracy, using a keyboard. And the gee-whiz features of a tablet (the reversible, touch-sensitive screen) adds a whopping amount to the price. It's kind of like buying an air-conditioner for your igloo: the feature is undoubtedly cool, but you're not likely to get much benefit from it.

    What you should buy instead
    First, you should buy a notebook. Second, you should buy an inexpensive, lightweight flatbed scanner. While you will want to take notes at the library, you will also find zillions of times where you will need to photocopy or type information that you find in a reference volume. If you have a scanner with you, presto! Just scan the pages. I strongly recommend the Visioneer 9020 USB scanner. It is very lightweight, it is extremely easy to use, and the work flow (what steps you have to take to scan pages) is very, very simple. The one concern that might surface is that an overzealous librarian might question whether you're violating copyright law by scanning. I'd suggest that you're not doing any more than you would be using the photocopier, but the library may "have a policy" about it. Let me suggest packing the scanner in and out in your backpack, and not make a point of drawing attention to yourself.

    Bottom line:
    Skip the tablet. Buy a laptop. Buy a cheap scanner (the Visioneer 9020 is $99). Spend fifty bucks taking your parents to dinner to say "thank you" for all they're doing for you, and put the other $950 you'll save aside for other, better uses.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:53PM (#8300409)
    I'd say don't, get a laptop instead. Reasons:

    1) Unless you are quite a slow typist and quit a fast writer, you can probably type as fast or faster than you can write. Also probably far more accurately than the computer will recognise your penmanship.

    2) You can get laptops plenty portable. Dell offers lots of nice, light, but respectably powerful laptops.

    3) Laptops tend to cost less, for what you get. So either save the money or invest it to get more computer.

    4) All the tablets I've used have quirks and problems that laptops don't. You don't want to be dicking around with something that will cause trouble when taking notes, you just want it to work.

    5) You'll find that for papers, typing is much, much better. It is a much superior interfact for composing, organising, and editing large amounts of text. A large part of what you will be doing is writing papers, so keep this in mind.

    6) Depending on your major, you may want to load specialised software to work at home. For example our engineers load a student version of Pspice on their systems so they needn't work in the labs. You are more likely to have compatibility problems on a tablet than a full blown PC.

    So, unless there's a real compelling reason, get a lightweight notebook. You'll be far happier in the long run. DOn't let the wow factor of tablets draw you in. They are neat, but not ready for the prime time yet.
  • by herrvinny (698679) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:54PM (#8300412)
    I go to the University of Wisconsin Madison, and I would advise you not to bother. Very rarely is a Tablet PC a useful accessory. I have a Dell Inspiron, and sometimes I wish I had a regular desktop PC. Fact is, you can't carry around a laptop/tablet; it gets bumped, scratched, etc in the bustle of the college world. I leave my laptop on my desk much of the time; the only time it leaves there is when I go home for the weekend or go on Student Council trips.

    If your heart is really set on a tablet pc, I would advise you to grab an older generation tablet pc from ebay (like this) [ebay.com]. Or, see if you can salvage one from local companies or relatives.

    If you're going to Madison, Wisconsin, contact me so you can get a students' view of things.
  • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:54PM (#8300416)
    As per subject; looked into the tablets from Motion Computing? Okay, I don't know that they sell to consumers -- but we've been evaluating their tablets at work, and we're generally quite impressed. (We make medical software intended to be used from tablet PC hardware, and have been working on it quite some time -- actually, the company's first incarnation about 5 years ago had among its primary risk factors that nobody would have hardware akin to modern tablets on the market by the time our code was ready, which is happening right now).

    Second choice is NEC's tablets -- they're light and have good battery life, but the accessories that come with them (stands and such) are cheap and of questionable quality, and they can't convert into a laptop form-factor. The Compaq tablets, like the Motion Computing ones, *are* convertable, but the Compaqs are relatively heavy.

    If you're going to be running Linux, I'd look into FIC's Crusoe-based tablets. They gave us a few preproduction units, and we had nothing but trouble with them -- until we tried running Linux on one as a research project; its performance is dramatically better there than it was on Windows XP Tablet Edition! (Granted, it was a *prerelease* of WinXP Tablet; the whole reason we played with Linux on the system in the first place was that its OS had expired).

    All that said, though, I'm with (most) everyone else here -- if you want to do the practical thing, get yourself a laptop.

    [PS: In Austin? Good with Java, or an exceedingly excellent sysadmin with some system-level programming skills? Willing to work mostly for stock, at least for a while? Drop me a line].
  • Get a Tablet. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:56PM (#8300425)
    I have a Motion Computing M1300 and it is probably the most awesome computing device I have ever purchased.

    I bought this tablet after around a month of research into them. I also demoed alot of the alternatives to the one I ended up purchasing. The most obvious difference in tablets is obviously the difference between the hybrids and the purbred slate tablets. Yet you really don't realize how profound this difference is until you go down to a Gateway Store or CompUSA and try both out yourself.

    What I'm saying here is do not get a Hybrid Tablet. If you want a laptop get a laptop, if you want a tablet get a slate tablet. Hybrids are bulky and obnoxious. They pretty much take away all the advantages that a tablet gives you. A tablet is ment to be more of a device then an actual computer and these hybrids are attempting to be desktop replacements as well as tablets, which is probably why they don't do so well at both. If you absolutely MUST get a hybrid I would suggest the Toshiba M200 if you are not on a budget or the Acer C110 if you are. The M200 has the highest screen resolution of any tablet, slate or otherwise, out there. If you want to go slightly cheaper then the M200, get the Acer 300Xi (I think thats the model.) It is slightly cheaper and has basically all the same features as the M200, except resolution.

    If you want to get a slate, which is the path that I recommend, go for the Motion M1300 or the Electrovaya Scribbler 2000. The scribbler is the same speed, has a better screen, slightly less ram (256 or 512 MB built in, then an upgrade slot for one DIMM) then the Motion, but kills the Motion on battery life with a whopping 9 hours. It is however $2600, so that may make you think twice about buying it. The Motion has fully upgradable RAM and a slightly worse screen, however it is older and you can probably get one for around $1700.
    • Motion rocks! :-D (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sadfsdaf (106536) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:22PM (#8300646)
      I also have a M1300, but the argument against hybrids is very apt, BUT the M1300 is EXCELLENT with a keyboard too! There's a snap-on USB keyboard made by Motion Computing. What's good about a detachable keyboard is that you have the benefits of a convertable AND a slate. Keyboard when you need it or, when weight is an issue, you can shed off the 1LB keyboard and only have a 3LB computer. The only issue I have with it is the tiny weirdly-placed backspace key, but using it for a while makes it a non-issue after a month.

      When using a tablet, THE biggest issue is weight. Nearly all laptops are heavier than the Motion slate (with the exception of the insane Japanese Sony). This is essentially a NOTEBOOK REPLACEMENT, which means it's going to be carried EVERYWHERE. A 5LB convertible is a big difference when you've got to walk 20 minutes to class.

      And for those that claim that a pen and peice of paper is like a tablet, then they obviously haven't tried OneNote. OneNote allows me to RECORD lectures and all I need to do is highlight a sentence and it'll play back exactly what was said at the time the sentence was written. No need to synchronize between paper notes and a tape recorder :-D Looking over a scribbled chart/diagram afterwards saying "WTF IS THAT?!" is moot just by highlighting the diagram :-)
  • by Steven.Brady (544862) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:57PM (#8300445)

    ...from someone who is an IT Manager at a University.

    Actually, in many of the Business, Science, and Engineering classes at the University where I work, notes are distributed in powerpoint or PDF format, and the students usually end up printing out full page copies of the slides/PDFs, and marking them up. Then students file those marked up prinouts away, and end up having to look through hundreds of pages of prinouts when studying for finals. A tablet PC is perfectly sufficient for doing what it was built to do. You can check e-mail, browse the web, and use "ink".

    We also use have faculty use them in Distance Education classes, because it is the perfect alternative to pointing a camera at a whiteboard or chalkboard, and the electronic notes can be saved and distributed to the students for later reference.

    Tablets are also being piloted in our regular Engineering classes. Students don't have to worry about copying down every bit of information before it is erased from the board, because it will be made available to them later. It allows them to focus more on the lecture instead of copying down every little formula.

    In short, I would recommend that you don't worry about a huge screen or fast processor. A tablet will handle 95% of what the average will want it to do without problems (nobody is going to use it to compile the nightly Mozilla build). Just pick the lighest model you are comfortable with holding and using the stylus on, and make sure you get Office 2003, since it has native pen support.

  • by shadowxtc (561058) <shadow@beyourown.net> on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:00PM (#8300466) Homepage
    Over a year ago now, my company bought 4 Motion Computing M1200 tablets. I took one, my business partner took another, and we each gave one to our parents. I can definitely say I've been very pleased.

    The specs on two of them are 80GB HD, 12.1" 1024x768 screen, 800MHz, 1GB of RAM. You can get a slightly better [motioncomputing.com] system now.

    THE PROS:
    • The pen interface is awesome, whether using it as a mouse or for writing. Writing is just incredibly rewarding, especially with all the neat features like copy and paste, delete stroke, convert to text, etc. There's an updated version of XP Tablet Edition coming out this year for FREE too with new features.
    • The connectors (100baseTX/POTS/usb/firewire), portability, weight, speed, flexibility (ie: use as desktop via docking bay or notebook with clip-on keyboard/hardshell cover) is wonderful. I've found myself using my tablet as my primary system over my 3GHz desktop many times.
    • The battery life is superb, it's ability to play a DVD or a CD-based game from a disc image on the hard drive is acceptable, and overall the "Centrino" optimization is very noticeable.

    THE CONS:
    • The screen is notably bad if you aren't at a "sweet spot" of an angle - it seems too bright. They do have a solution for this [motioncomputing.com], though.
      XP Tablet edition isn't as stable as XP Professional. The mouse cursor gets laggy/jumpy sometimes and consume 100% CPU randomly. I've experienced the "blue screen of death" numerous times, and had system freezes even more frequently.
    • 802.11b built in and only one PC-Card/PCMCIA port. I wish they would've provided a 3-way 802.11a/b/g as the built in wireless - for something this expensive already it'd make sense. I would like to have all 3 802.11 specs while having a celluar modem in the PC card slot.
    • As with all the tablets I've seen without an integrated keyboard (and thus all the compact, lightweight ones), it does not have a built-in CD/DVD drive - a major issue to me.
  • Toshiba M200 (Score:3, Informative)

    by chas7926 (513140) <charles@ryancent ... 926.org minus pi> on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:05PM (#8300496) Homepage
    I purchased the new Toshiba M200 in December and I have been extremely pleased with it. I am also in class and I have had no problems with speed or crashes at all; 60GB drive, 512MB of RAM, 12inch screen and the best Video card/resolution of any Tablets currently on the market. Your best bet will be to check out TabletPCBuzz.com and do some research. It is quiet so it does not interrupt class, and the M200 comes with Microsoft Office OneNote which is IMHO the best note taking program out there.
  • by lavalyn (649886) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:09PM (#8300531) Homepage Journal
    When you're working at the Tablet range, every ounce matters.

    (I'm assuming you have a desktop of sufficient use for your "power" needs.) It's worth nearly every tradeoff to get those pounds off. How often do you REALLY need a CD-ROM drive when you're out? Or floppy disk? Serial port? Parallel port? Firewire? ZV (rca) port? Heck, 2GHz and the associated bigger battery?

    I used to use a 7lb laptop. Now switched to 3.5lb. Still calling it heavy. But much better than before ^^. Drool over the Thinkpad X40, 2.9lb
  • Portability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by man_ls (248470) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:09PM (#8300533)
    I really can't wait for wearables to become mainstream.

    I would pay $thousands for something that slipped over one or both eyes with a decent amount of transparency (i.e. 80% transparency for the background and 25% for the active window) which took input from speech recognition and a cell phone keypad for data entry.

    There are too many situations where it's impractical to bring a laptop with me, and sync issues with PDAs annoy me.
  • by Little Brother (122447) <kg4wwn@qsl.net> on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:10PM (#8300541) Journal
    My recomendation would be to go with the Fujitsu Lifebook P1000 Ultra-compact notebooks. They will fit in your pocket, yet have a fully-functional keyboard for touch-type notetaking (which is much faster than handwriting). Furthermore, P1000 notebooks include a stilus/touchscreen for tasks that require diagraming or drawing. This device would take the place of a tablet, home PC (if you get an external monitor and arn't an avid gamer) and PDA for an under $1,500 Pricetag. And, if you customize it to the max for battery life, it will last an estimated 10 hours without recharging. That should get you through your classes easily. It has 802.11b, 10/100 wired Networking, USB and PCMCIA to connect to other devices/systems. Most importantly for a college student, (trust me) it weighs less than three pounds (less than some of your textbooks will). It will be easy enough to cary around you won't just leave it in the dorm room (like you might a 15-17" uberlaptop) because it is to heavy to carry along with all your books. This is the only specific system I would recomend for college use (at one time I recomended iBooks as well, but they were, at the time, much cheeper than the P1000).
  • 12" iBook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JeffTL (667728) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:10PM (#8300542)
    I use mine for college notes and stuff (including all my papers etc). Never crashes, runs MS Office (main thing you'll find yourself using) better than any machine I've ever seen. It's not a tablet, so you'll have to type, but that removes any odds of illegibility...besides, who can resist this [apple.com]?
  • by sbguy78 (149835) <<jason6> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:14PM (#8300570)
    My fiancee [apt-2.com] has been using the Scribbler SC800 [electrovaya.com] for almost a year, and she finds it very useful. Unlike the Toshiba or Acer models that she looked at, the Scribbler is more like a slab than a notebook. This keeps her from breaking an already fragile joint. The processor isn't anything special (866 MHz), but it is fast enough for most uses, including data analysis using MATLAB. The real advantage to the Scribbler is the battery: the Li-ion battery gets about 10 hours out of a single charge. After almost a year of use, the battery is holding up under daily recharge cycles after a full workday. DISCLAIMER: Neither of us is associated with Electrovaya.
  • by linuxguy (98493) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:21PM (#8300626) Homepage

    My wife and I noticed the cool tablets at the local CompUSA and thought we had to have one. Bought a Compaq/HP TC1000 after much looking around. A week later the coolness effect wore off and wife and I found oursleves fighting over who gets to use the Thinkpad in the house. I eventually ended up eBaying the tablet. I was shocked to see that some people wanted it and bought it from me right away.

    My advice is to stay the hell away. These things look cool. Very cool. But they are useless.
  • by tavon79 (163246) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:23PM (#8300655) Homepage
    Notes on a Laptop != Notes on a Tablet PC

    The guys who posted previously don't know jack squat about the benefits of a Tablet PC.

    First of all, taking notes with a laptop is not the same as taking notes with a tablet pc.

    In my economics class or my Psychology class, I take notes as the prof speaks and I'm able to keep up with 95% of the words that the prof. utters. Combined with Microsoft's OneNote recording feature, I have the whole lecture in audio and text. I'm able to INLINE graphs and diagrams as the prof draws them on the board and it's easier to organize them because I don't have to freak'n rewrite my notes after class - Just cut and paste them.

    Install the Office Tablet PC extensions and you can INLINE drawings in MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint and such. All my notes are in Word and I INLINE diagrams. Also, it's AWESOME especially in Powerpoint where ALL my Computer Science courses are done in Power Point. I can directly write on each slide and print them later. (Imagine that you can circle and add questions marks, notes to a powerpoint slide and save it)

    To answer your question, Toshiba's latest tablet pc is the most powerful and best in the market.

    Things to consider when buying a Tablet PC:

    1) Screen - Almost all are 12" except for Acer's 14" clunky monster. 12" XGA screens are 1024x768. With MS's virtual desktop manager, you can 3 additional screens and it's great. The reason Toshiba's the best is because it has an SXGA+ which sports 1400x1024 resolution, but still 12". It might be too small.

    2) CPU - get a centrino based 2nd generation Tablet PC model. The 1st generation just sucked and Pentium III and crusoe chips... My 1.4 Pentium M blows my desktop away.

    3) Get 1 GB of RAM if your doing development. They're coming out with 512MB as standard. My Tablet is my development station so I have alot of things running from apache/mysql, iis/msde, eclipse/visual studio.net...etc. 512mb should be enough for most other application. 1Gb is specially nice when doing art work.

    4) Video Card - Most centrino models come with Intel's eXtreme video card that's part of the centrino brand, but once again Toshiba blew the competition away by shipping their Tablet PCs with Nvidia's GeForce 4200 mobile card.

    5) Size - most are 12" and that's a really good balance between weight and size. the 14" Acer is huge and heavy. Any other will be very light and mobile.

    6) Hard Drive - 2nd generation Tablet PCs now ship 40GB+ to 60GB (Mine is 60GB).

    7) Wireless - Centrino will have either the 802.11b or g. the Fujitsu and Toshiba both offer 802.11g cards.

    Like I said Toshiba has the best screen and video card. My fujitsu is great and matches the toshiba feature for feature except for the screen and video card. I wish I waited 2 more months(I got my in Sept, Toshiba released theirs in Nov.)

    2nd generation Tablet PCs simple rock! They're not a desktop replacement but they're very powerful laptops nonetheless.

    Good luck
  • Since it seems like we have run out of the 'Ask Slashdot to do my homework' questions, it looks like we have moved on to the 'Ask Slashdot to do my market research' phase.

    I'll get the next one started: Slashdot - how do I design and install a network for an international comglomerate, integrate with legacy applications and ensure adequate security across the whole mix?
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:42PM (#8300824)
    When I started college I wanted to get the Biggest and Baddest systems I could get. Back in 1997 it was a Duel Pentium 200Mhz With a full 128 Megs of ram, and a 6 Gig Hardrive. At the time that was the killer system and running Linux as the default OS it really flew. But by a couple of weeks went by and my cool factor to the system left I decided to put my time and interests in more important things (Girls). Having a fancy computer will not get you any respect in college. Get what you need and what you truly know that you will use. Very few students in my college used laptops or PDA's in class because they shortly found out that it was more of a distration then a help. The Tablet PCs seem to be much more of a distration then a tool right now. Use the money and get yourself a nice laptop heck get yourself a nice new 17" Powerbook or something like that for the money. That way if you need it in class it is there, with a good screen and solidly built. Or even the $200 Walmart PC with that price you can get a new PC every year to stay up to date. Or if you find that everyone is using a tablet in your school and they all find them indespencible you can then go and buy one.
    For College the freshmans bigest mistake is to buy a bunch of stuff first. The real trick just get things you will know you need. Cloths, Towles, Toothbrush, Then when you are at College buy what you need when you need it. That way you save money and dont overpack.
  • by phoxix (161744) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:12PM (#8301088)
    Check these guys out:

    Element Computer [elementcomputer.com]

    They sell computers/tablets that natively come with linux only. So you never puchase the windows tax.

    Not only that, but currently they're openly adopting Debian has their main distro (this must bode well with the Debian bigots, heh)

    Sounds like solid Linux stuff to me

    Sunny Dubey
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:28PM (#8301206) Homepage
    "I'm going to be attending college this fall, so I have been looking into a mainframe to use about campus. My preference has been to looking at IBM's range of iron, although they are a bit out of my price range. I have been looking at a multitude of vendors. I'm looking for something that will fit within a small cargo van, has a decent support contract, and only needs one or two gas-powered generators to keep running. What are some of the better models on the market with these characteristics?"

  • my tablet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by enbody (472304) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:33PM (#8301236) Homepage
    I've had an HP/Compaq tablet for about a month and love it.

    There is a tremendous variety of things called tablets and they can be very different. For example, mine is very lightweight (3 pounds?) and the keyboard detaches so the tablet can be a true tablet. The built-in wireless and excellent battery life are significant parts of what make this useful. I go well over 3 hours with wireless on. Would I have been equally or more happy with a 3 pound laptop -- maybe.

    I know people who have purchased much more powerful tablets (mine is only 1GHz) with permanent keyboards. They have a machine which is heavier with a fraction of the battery life. The result is that they aren't happy.

    I'm a professor and I can wirelessly control PowerPoint while writing on slides while walking around the lecture hall. I can hand it to a student to write something for others to see. In that mode I leave the keyboard off and it is easy to walk around with it in one hand and the pen in the other.

    I do use it for notes in meetings and I like being able to use handwriting to mark up documents.

    The true test seems to be at home. My kids want to use it all the time. Curl up by the fire with the tablet and surf the internet. My son's teacher requires a handwritten first draft so he can write it and then convert it to text for the later draft.

    Would I recommend it for college? Well, for my kid going off to college I'm getting a lightweight laptop. However, by the time my other kid goes to college in a few years, the choice may be a tablet.

    For the record, I'm not a gadget person who has to have the latest thing. For example, I never figured out a use for a PDA (yes I do know how it is extremely useful for some, but not for me).
  • by stinkwinkerton (609110) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:34PM (#8301244)
    And, contrary to proper opinion, it rarely crashes (I've had it since Nov '03, and I honestly can't remember it crashing or locking up) and the battery life is over 2.5 hours, and this certainly beats my previous laptop.

    Of course, it is running a centrino, and I turn off wireless whenever I am not using it.

    I have a docking station and I use it as my primary desktop at work, where I am a system administrator/departmental manager.

    It kicks ass during meetings for writing notes and diagrams. When someone sends me anything in electronic format, I "print" it virtually to the journal writer, and write all over it when I am in meetings with them.

    I did a lot of research, and the Acer series are really good, and have a larger screen than the tc1100 by HP that I am using right now. I kinda like the HP series of notebooks, and I read really good reviews about this Tablet. I also read a lot of good reviews about the Acer series, but have heard horror stories about their support.

    I think one of the things that has held them back is that there really isn't a "Killer App" for them yet. But it seems like MS may have come up with one-- they came out with this app called "OneNote" and it organizes your notes in a very good way. I friggin love it.

    Recommendations from experience: Centrino is the way to go. Get a screen protector. It will work well as your primary pc-- it is just as fast or not faster than my previous PIV 2ghz. The keyboard is definately too small for daily use on this one, but it can be replaced with a USB keyboard for daily use.
    Right now I wouldn't consider running Linux on it, but there is a project out there to get that all worked out.

    I read a lot of complaints from people knocking them in the thread, but I can almost gaurantee that in the future all laptops will be built like this as the technology gets less expensive.
  • Compaq T1000 (Score:3, Informative)

    by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:45PM (#8301331)
    I write software for doing inspections. We've used tablet PC's for about 5 years when they used to be about 5 grand and run windows 98. Since then we've gone to PocketPC's which are much nicer.

    Anyway, Compaq T-1000...

    The good.

    * Built in WIFI, Ethernet, Most any port you want
    * Very cool flip/fold keyboard that is detachable for true tablet PC usage
    * Decent handwriting recognition
    * Fast processor
    * Change between landscape and portrait mode was very nice for notes and reading.

    ... the bad
    * Screen sucks outdoors - total washout in daylight. Pretty good under indoor flourscent lights.
    * Heavy. After several hours cradled in one arm so you can write with the other it a pain. Only useful in laptop mode or on a flat surface. Walking and using not gonna happen easily.
    * Battery life averages 3 hours of constant usage with WIFI enabled.
    * The Pen. Only the magic pen works on the screen. You find yourself wanting to write on paper, or tap the screen with your finger, but have to constantly switch back and forth. The spring on the pen holder is quite strong and can launch the pen if you bump it in certain positions. Never would slip out, but could shoot out wrong. Don't lose it or your tablet PC will be just a laptop. Replacements are only mail-order in my area.

    I checked a few out at best buy, etc but they seemed the same.

    My opinion would be to get an ultralight laptop the 1" or less thick kind with serparate CD and floppy drives. They have a nice keyboard, long battery life, light weight, better screens, networking, etc. The other stuff you need like CD burner etc are in your base station.

    TabletPC's are not worth the money, and don't seem to have much of a future. To big to be portable, to flaky for a laptop. You have been warned.
  • by bpiltz (460092) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:53AM (#8302162)
    Check out http://www.tabletpcbuzz.com/ for a good source of Tablet talk from tableteers.

    I am a medical student and I love my Tablet.

    Pro's:

    Very stable platform.

    1.6 GHz P4, 512 Mb Ram, 60 GB HD, CD-RW/DVD,

    14" LCD, WiFi, ~5 lbs.

    Good battery life w/ hibernation.

    Paperless note-taking and patient physicals.

    Convertable, so I can quickly fall back to "laptop" if I need to.

    Internal optical drive - no wires.

    GW service replaced LCD, Keyboard and returned it in 5 days total w/ overnight shipping.

    LCD hinge is rock-solid.

    Con's:

    GW's intial shipping was delay, delay, delay....

    Dead pixels on LCD when Tablet arrived.

    Key hinges on keyboard flimsy and two keys came loose.

    Audio drivers need refinement - sound is either blaring or off when using headphones.

    No built in eraser on pen.

    Comes w/ MS Works w/ no option for Office when ordering.

    I wish it had a touch stick in the keyboard.

    Highlights
    When I take anatomy notes, I draw conceptually and I can easily switch colors and move objects around. If I get crowded on the page or the prof is disorganized in lecture, I can move ink around to make room or re-organize. The library has wireless, so I can run down there between classes and get my e-mail. I haven't written on paper for school-related reasons in several months. The equivalent of several notebooks and folders full of notes is on my HD and I only carry around one "notebook". I back up everything on my internal CD-RW often.

  • by larryj (84367) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @09:01AM (#8303645)
    Wow. I guess I'm in the minority.

    I've had a Motion M1200 for a little over a year now. I love it and use it every day at the office and at home.

    Yes, you can buy a notepad and a pen for a couple of bucks. I went through a lot of those. I started to realize that there was no point in taking notes in meetings. I'd write it down and flip the page for the next meeting. Eventually, the notepad would be full and I'd put it on my desk or file the notes away somewhere. Then when I actually *needed* that info, it was either impossible to find or just not worth the effort. Maybe my organizational skills are just lacking.

    With the tablet, I take notes using OneNote (yikes! a Microsoft product!). It has room for improvement, but since I've gotten used to it, I've switched to it as my exclusive note taking app. Many people also like the Franklin-Covey TabletPC vesion of their organizer app. I previously used Journal, which is a simple but very effective note taking program that comes with the TabletPC OS (a superset of XP). OneNote has a tabbed interface and makes it easy to create tabs for projects, with pages within that tab ('pages' can be of any length, it's just a term for the notes within tabs). I can also create sub-tabs, allowing me to create a tab called 'reference' which in turn contains tabs for specific topics, which in turn, contain pages). I can search my entire notebook from one location. It's great to be in a meeting when a topic comes up from a couple of months ago. Within seconds, I have the info at my fingertips.

    The handwriting recognition is surprisingly good. A free 'Dictionary Tool' PowerToy from Microsoft allows me to easily add words and acronyms to the recognition dictionary. For the most part, I rarely 'see' the handwriting recognition in action though. Everyone asks if it can convert handwriting to text. It can, but for my notes, why bother? I leave my notes in my handwriting. The search engine still uses the handwriting recognition to enable me to search *my handwriting* for any word in my notes. It's not perfect, but it's better than digging through piles of paper and regular notepads.

    As for the hardware, I would suggest deciding on a slate vs. a convertible. I went with a slate. Part of the appeal for me is that I can quietly sit in a meeting and take notes without pecking away on a keyboard. Maybe it's different at other companies, but whipping out a regular laptop and typing while someone is speaking seems a bit rude. Since I knew that the majority of the tablet's use would be in meetings, I decided to not tote around an attached keyboard. It's just a personal preference. Some people prefer the flexibility that a convertible tablet offers. They've really gotten thin and light so my next tablet will probably be a convertible. At my desk, I put the Motion in it's 'FlexDock' docking station and use it much like a regular computer with a mouse and keyboard.

    My Motion has an 866mhz Mobile Pentium CPU with 512 megs of RAM. Newer models have a 1ghz Centrino CPU. I guess I won't be able to run Doom 3 on my tablet, but for everyday use it is plenty fast enough. Office runs fine, with no performance issues (and it's ink enabled, allowing me to mark up word docs and excel spreadsheets). Mozilla runs fine, with no performance issues. OneNote runs fine, with no performance issues. Same for solitaire, the Zinio reader and Alias SketchBook (which is where the pen's pressure sensitivity really shines). Maybe I'm not using my tablet for the same things that a lot people want/need, but for everyday use, it performs just fine.

    The Motion also has built in 802.11b, which is great for sitting on the couch and surfing the web with the TV on in the background.

    My Zaurus PDA is collecting dust. I haven't turned it on in about a year. My tablet wakes up from hibernate mode in a matter of seconds, so I don't really need a PDA anymore. Obviously this wouldn't be the case if I needed phone numbers or appointment info in my pocket, but that doesn't really apply to me. The TabletPC has worked out great for me.

Gee, Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

Working...