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Best Tablet PC For Classroom Instruction? 176

dostert writes "With all of the recent hype of multitouch notebooks, the Apple Tablet, the Microsoft Courier, and the CrunchPad, I've been a bit curious about what happened to the good old pen and slate tablet PCs. I'm a mathematics professor at a small college and have been searching for a good cheap tablet (under $1000) which I can use to lecture, record the lecture notes along with my voice, and post up video lectures for the class. I have seen some suggestions, but many are large scale implementations at state universities, something my small private college clearly cannot afford. All I have been able to find is either tiny netbooks (like the new Asus T91), expensive full featured tablets (like the Dell XT), or multitouch tablets, that really wouldn't allow for the type of precision mathematics needs. I know a Sympodium device would work great, but we really can't afford to put one of those in each room, so something portable would be ideal. All I've been left with is considering an HP tx series. It seems nobody has created a new tablet like this in quite sometime, and HP, Fujitsu, and Dell are just doing incremental updates to their old designs. Does anyone have experience with this?"
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Best Tablet PC For Classroom Instruction?

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  • Motion Computing (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:15PM (#29524699)

    I have a Motion Computing LE1600. Its an awesome little thing.
    Check it out. I got it used for around 400$ with a docking station.

    Motion computing is the only place i have found a true tablet PC that is not a just a laptop with the screen turned over.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      So what are the advantages of a true tablet PC over a laptop with the screen turned over? I imagine the latter still has a touch screen, and has the advantage of optional keyboard input.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The keyboard adds thickness & makes it harder to carry around the room while lecturing. If you're just doing slides, then the keyboard is never useful. If you're doing math & equations, then the keyboard is also not very useful. Smaller is better, but larger screen is better. A slate makes a nice compromise between at netbook's weight and a notebook's screen by throwing out unnecessary keyboard, CD, trackpad...
    • I don't believe that Courier exists. What I think is happening is that the tablet market is set to take off once Apple announces theirs. The Archos 5 and 7 are good products (though they could be a bit slimmer and maybe have higher resolutions).

      Announcing vapor-ware products is what Microsoft has gained notoriety for in the 80s and 90s. They would announce a non-existent product in order to keep development from migrating away from their platform. A perfect example of this is what they did to Pen Comput

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by MarceloR2 ( 1582565 )
        I'm having a hard time with your fourth paragraph, in particular this: "Today we have no pen computer elements in Windows." I may have misunderstood what you are trying to say but recent Windows versions starting with Vista (not all versions) have built-in pen support out of the box. Even XP had pen support albeit only in the special version Windows XP for TabletPC.
        • There are no incorporated pen capabilities in any OS of any significance that Microsoft creates. Not a one. Is there a cheap knock off that appeases the market? What you speak about is a non-product.

  • I had one once! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Seakip18 ( 1106315 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:19PM (#29524715) Journal

    It was the HP TC1100. [] Great tablet. It had a half-size keyboard but didn't feel cramped. Sturdy construction and decent enough battery life for being used. Too bad mine got stolen. I'd say it would probably fit your needs as long as you don't require recent connections or bleeding edge performance.

    It had great tracking on it and I regret not getting one earlier in my academic career.

    Man...I wish I could find the burglar's who stole it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Seakip18 ( 1106315 )

      Recent connections? That sounds like crap.

      It should say "HDMI, DVI, etc". Jeez.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I also had one (two actually, but I'll get back to that).

      I fell into the "I'm in love with the idea of a tablet, but I don't really need one" crowd. Sure, it was novel at first. Sure, it was fun reading comic books (I was just getting through Marvel's Civil War, boy was the tablet format great for Comic Books).

      Battery life, viewing angle in light, thickness, and a few other issues really ended up making the whole experience painful. One thing that the TC1100 got right was it's swiveling, detaching keyboard [].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have a tx2. I've had it for about four months. The digitizer (pen) broke after a month - but I called HP and they overnighted me a new one no questions asked and I haven't had an issue since.

      Other than that it's been great - the hinge is pretty sturdy and the screen has held up pretty well. It (the screen) has a screendoor effect - but all tablet PC's have this to some degree due to the touchscreen and digitizer layer. Keyboard feels pretty good for a laptop as well. The only downside is pretty poor batte

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually you can buy HP's usb tuner that works with the tx series (I know, I have it) and it works with the included software if you install HP's driver from the disk that comes with it.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I've one and boy it is really HOT. and slow. the Athlon x2 is a slow hot beast, and I'm hating it with full force. Comes with a decent video card, but the multi touch price premium don't justify the purchase.

        also the touchscreen is not compatible with anything adobe, as they don't have a licence for the wintab api used by photoshop and gimp. this is a SERIOUS drawback.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Compholio ( 770966 )

      I had one once! It was the HP TC1100... Sturdy construction...

      Not a chance, we've got a lab worth of each of several different HP models and we have had huge problems with the TC1100. The biggest issue we've had is completely unrepairable (outside of replacement). You see, the power connector is connected directly to the motherboard (it's not floating) and is right next to the keyboard and video card controllers. If you bump that power cord at all while it's plugged into the TC1100 then you'll have huge

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I'll agree the TC1100 is garbage, but just like all recent HPs, the way their connector sits always lends itself to having cold solder. Just crack the thing open already, and fix the solder joints. Problem solved in 30-60min.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Compholio ( 770966 )
          We tried a few times, if you don't catch and secure them fast enough then the traces inside the board get cracked. Catching them fast enough is impossible if you hand them out to students (the entire purpose of having a whole lab of them).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting) all means stay away from HP tablets in general. Their hinges are complete crap, and their mainboards go out continually. HP & Compaq (same company so that's a shocker!) some serious quality control issues. The Lenovo tablet PCs are vastly superior in comparison.
  • by Tuxedo Jack ( 648130 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:19PM (#29524719) Homepage

    They're slate PCs and they're damn good.

    In my experience, Motion doesn't skimp on hardware, is reliable as hell, and the external batteries will LAST - my little brother's old LE1600 still gets six hours of battery life off the primary and secondary batteries with everything on and cranked up to full (and Win7 Professional).

    No matter what manufacturer you go with, I strongly urge that you go to Windows 7 for this - the handwriting support is worlds better than in Vista, and that was a hell of a leap from XP Tablet.

    They are kinda expensive, though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by natet ( 158905 )
      I second the motion computing. The ones I've seen at work also include a detachable USB keyboard, so you have a faster input device on hand when it's needed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Seconded... I have been using a Motion Slate for years in the classroom and I LOVE it.

      I think a key aspect to good virtual whiteboards is using an active digitizer. I just sit back and draw on the slate and it comes up on the wall so nicely... My students love it.

      Keep in mind though, that the slate form-factor is (IMHO) mostly USELESS in any setting other than a classroom... they are extremely clunky to use anywhere else. So something like a Lenovo X200 convertible tablet is ideal for someone looking for fu

    • Digital Paper (Score:3, Interesting)

      by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

      Or you could bypass the issue all together and go with a "digital paper" solution. I think the questioner is mistaken asking "what is the best tablet PC", and instead should be asking "what is the best method of achieving what I want". Solutions like Oxford Papershow [] use a form of patterned paper (very faint) that you draw on with a bluetooth-enabled pen, and it then transforms pretty much any computer into a tablet. You have to use it to get a real feel for it, but it's incredibly easy to set up (at least
    • Can handwriting recognition be used only as an indexing tool? There is no point in changing what you actually see in the handouts.

    • They're slate PCs and they're damn good.

      They're also $3,000!

    • I'll second the recommendation of Windows 7. The tablet PC features in Vista and 7 work much better than those in XP (IMHO), and Win7's memory footprint and overall performance appears to be much smaller/faster than Vista's. My only complaint is with Intel and Microsoft not writing an updated (WDDM) driver for their older displays. While I was able to get the older (XDDM) driver working under Vista, I cannot seem to find the right combination of sacrificial chickens and unholy incantations required to ma

  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:27PM (#29524769)
    ...1 year to 18 months. There is a plethora of tablets about to hit the market it seems obvious to me that waiting will yield much more choice and better value. Prices would fall after a handful of competiting products have gotten on the market. This will also put more pressure on netbooks which will become cheaper, and the low end of the full laptop market will ratchet down in price too. Apple, Crunchpad and Microsoft, would be the three I'd seriously consider. A lean towards the latter two depending on what software you want to run.
    • by ciaohound ( 118419 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:47PM (#29524881)

      Seems to me all college classrooms these days come standard with dedicated pc, projector, document cam, and other goodies. If math apps would benefit from a stylus, why not attach a Wacom tablet? Good bang for the buck until tablet pc's come down in price.

      Most of my reading now is done on the web, and I'm anxious for a touch screen tablet to make that activity seem more like reading a book. But I can wait for the price to come down to within my price range. I am a math teacher, and I have two kids to feed.

      • Seems to me all college classrooms these days come standard with dedicated pc, projector, document cam, and other goodies.

        *All* college classrooms? Where do you teach? Here on earth, where I teach, we're lucky if the room we're teaching in has a projector that we can plug our own laptops into. Dedicated PC? That would be great ... I've occasionally seen a nonfunctional or barely functional old lab computer in the classroom that I have to move out of the way so I can plug my laptop into the VGA slot; I guess that's technically a dedicated PC but it hardly does anyone any good. And a document cam? Damn! Does an overhead p

        • by xous ( 1009057 )
          The community college I went to had a projector in every class room. We used to steal a room that had no classes and watch movies. The local university also has a projector and shuttle pc in each podium for the lecture labs.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Troy ( 3118 )

        This is really good advice here. I've used a rebranded (Smart []) Wacom tablet in my classrooms for several years now. It takes about a week to get used to, and you sometimes need to push/encourage newbies to keep using it. Once they get used to writing on it, it's fantastic. Beyond that, you aren't tethered to one spot in the room.

        The only downside is, because of the surface, drawing accurate curves (ie. graphing anything that's not linear) is pretty hard. I have a whiteboard that is pretty low glare, so I pr

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The best tablet I owned I have been using nonstop for two years, in work as an IT professional, and in three years of college (I only had this the last two). It's the Lenovo x61 tablet, which was replaced by the x200. Here's a link; let me know if you have any questions:

    • "I want to buy the best , what should I get?"

      My advice... wait about... 1 year to 18 months

      That is a worthless truism, in effect for the last several decades (if not much longer), and will continue to be true until technology stops progressing. Anyone who answers with an honest opinion on a product actually available on the market has a better answer (in the spirit of the question) than one of "wait".

      As far as your sig Mankind can no longer expand quantitatively, we must grow qualitatively, well th
    • by carlzum ( 832868 )
      It may be worth waiting just to see how WACOM's auto-switching dual-mode works out. The technology promises to switch between active (pen) and passive (finger) digitizer modes based on the application. The TabletKiosk eo a7330D [] is an ultra-mobile PC planned for release in October. The initial price is $1,500, but that may come down as more WACOM Dual Mode devices hit the market. It would give you the "pen and slate" functionality you want for certain applications and still work with the "touch" applications
  • At my former employer, I had a company-issue Toshiba Tecra M4. Hard locks were common (OS was XP), especially in tablet mode for some reason. Docking station was a piece of junk. I wouldn't have one for personal use even if it was free.

    • It's the hard drive connector on the mainboard. They used ZIF cables to connect to the mainboard. The system tends to flex more in tablet mode so it's a lose lose situation. Toshiba tries to market their stuff as higher end than competition (while the hardware is mostly the same) as a way to justify their extra cost. Sadly the system sold outside of Japan don't get very good QAing.
    • this a great tablet, used mine daily for 4 years before the graphics chip partially failed, (probably the ball grid array) 12" 1440x1080 screen with integrated wacom tablet.. writing looks and feels like a fineliner pen, dedicated vram. can ebay [] them cheap now performs great with extra ram used it teaching graphics.
  • No demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:31PM (#29524793)

    > It seems nobody has created a new tablet like this in quite sometime

    Because it seems nobody really wants tablet (slate) computers. They are really neat and cool, until you have to *use* them. Then you usually find out that the interface is awkward, viewing the screen is uncomfortable, holding them is strange, and typing on a real keyboard is 100 times faster than trying to "write" or touch virtual keys one at a time.

    Sure, there are some specific applications where they work quite well... but there aren't that many such applications. So demand is low and prices are high. This is one reason manufacturers started flirting with so-called "convertible" tablets- really just a standard notebook but with a swivel, flip tablet-like screen. Of course, those have issues too- they tend to be more fragile, more expensive, and heavier than just a plain notebook.

    • by gknoy ( 899301 )

      Slates are LIGHT though.

      He could easily put a bluetooth dongle on one, and have a bluetooth mouse and keyboard when he wants to type quickly, and yet still pick it up and walk around his classroom.

      • by selven ( 1556643 )
        So I'm supposed to carry a huge 40cm long keyboard around with me AND a computer? Might as well go back to piles of books.
    • Then you usually find out that the interface is awkward, viewing the screen is uncomfortable, holding them is strange, and typing on a real keyboard is 100 times faster than trying to "write" or touch virtual keys one at a time.

      The problem is most people don't know where or when to use slate tablets despite the fact that there are plenty of situations where they do excel and because of that they often compromise by using a Smartphone in those situations or just waiting until they get stationary. If you are comparing them to a notebook then that is probably the first mistake. If you are at a table or a desk you probably don't need a slate tablet. However if you are standing, walking or in a situation where you need to hold your pc

  • NorhTec? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Try these guys. []
    It's a great price at $435.
    I'm sure the battery life is greater than average by looking at the hardware.
    It certainly is basic.
    And yes, it does run Linux.

  • by martinX ( 672498 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:42PM (#29524853)
    As someone who works in a multimedia department that co-ordinates AV purchases for a government institution (or at least tries to), my advice is to work with your AV guys on this one. Get a comprehensive solution that works for everyone. Otherwise you'll have a situation where you, the keen individual, will have a working solution that only you can use. Others will want one and either do something themselves (badly) or pressure the AV guys into implementing something too fast, too soon. Then whatever you have done will not work with what they have done.

    I see keen individuals all the time. Work with the people whose job it is to get this working.

    And what the guy said about waiting 12 - 18 months is spot on. Remember how many touchscreen phones there were and how good they were before the iPhone came along? Exactly. The landscape is about to change and adopting new tech now will be expensive. Wait.
  • by _spider_ ( 171782 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:42PM (#29524859)

    I work at a school district here in California that we've used OEM'd Gateway M285/M295 tablet PCs for a few years, and they've served their purpose. We've got hundreds of these units.

    The good:
    They do what they're advertised, and thats it. The math teachers like them, and thats about their only purpose.

    The bad:
    The drivers are funky. They seem to only work well with the factory image (LOADED with junkware). This makes creating and maintaining software images for the units cumbersome, not to mention the seemingly impossible task of finding a virgin version of WindowsXP Tablet Edition. The displays aren't very bright, which is painful in well-lit classrooms. The physical design (especially the keyboard) doesn't seem to hold well to a lot of use. Battery life is decent.

    The worst:
    The original OEM who we purchased them through has gone belly up. Even though our laptops had warranties, they all mean nothing now. Gateway doesn't support us. And the pens seem to fail at an alarming rate, and cost $79-99 each.

    On the flipside, our district is moving to Mac, and thats been working very well. Apple's support for education makes you wonder why the rest of the industry hasn't caught up (its the customer, stupid!). We're at a standstill right now as to what to do with our aging tablets (that we get ZERO support for now). We don't want to get stuck in the same position as before, but Apple is also a proprietary system (but their support is awesome!!!).

    I really, really like to see some good web-apps (ala Google Apps), or mutli-platform/open-source software that the students can use.

    • by ZosX ( 517789 )

      Hmmmm....$99 pens that fail at an alarming rate. By design perhaps? Now how does that happen and why do they cost $99?

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The pens fail because they have a aaaa battery in them that doesn't last forever (yes that's 4 a's). It's soldered at both ends rather than on a spring or something.

      I tried to modify a pen to have a replaceable battery on a spring and all that - I should have just soldered a new one in because with all the fiddling I did I managed to break the tip.

      Also, the pens may not be designed to come apart, the one I took apart was one that had been altered by someone else, badly, once already and it came apart easil

    • I also have an M285, bought in a fit of irrational exuberance over tablet PCs. Basically, if you think of it like a laptop with some extra tablet support, it's great. But as a tablet device, it's pretty much a failure.

      The main issue is, as mentioned, the digitizer. It's probably around 5 pixels inaccurate at its most extreme points, no matter how you calibrate it, and I went through about 4 pen replacements while under warranty and I never had one working for more than a few months. Currently I'm stuc
  • I had a Fujitsu T4210 for a few years and after seeing people struggle with LOUSY HP and Dell notebooks, I was very surprised at how zippy that little tablet was. (Can't comment on the latest round of tablets). It was fairly robust as well... survived a 3 ft plunge onto a concrete floor (I wouldn't recommend it as a regular practice though!)

    Whatever you do be sure to uninstall the Norton Security trialware that comes with it. Performance will be significantly better.

  • The thinkpad tablets are good. Nice battery life, sturdy as hell, linux compatible. The only think I don't like about it is the resolution [the one I've got is 1024x768, can't seem to work with that low a resolution anymore, but I think they offer a new higher res one now],
    • Re:Lenovo x200 (Score:3, Informative)

      by eufaula ( 163352 )

      i teach economics at the university level, and i have a lenovo x200. it is way outside the $1000 range. it has a wacom screen and the stylus is very precise (we do lots of crazy math too ya know). my normal computer is a mac, but i LOVE this thing. lightweight, LONG battery life (5hrs easily), and very sturdy construction. its currently running vista and i've had no problems (core 2 duo 2.0, 4gb ram)

      i'd either save up (or convince them to give you more money - if your university is in the US and receiv

      • To stay within the $1000 a x61t might be an option. I got mine half a year ago for roughly 800â, so I think it should be possible to get one in the US for that figure in USD or less. Only thing I'm not sure about, is whether you can find a place where new ones are still sold, they have been phased out. The shop where I got mine doesn't offer it anymore....
    • ...linux compatible.

      Cool. Has anyone here had experience with handwriting recognition on Linux? That's one thing I've never tried in over 15 years of using Linux. Trouble is, my handwriting is pretty idiosyncratic, so I suspect it might be a tall order for any software to cope with it... :-(
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        the only thing I've tried so far is cellwriter, which works fairly well, but it's symbol based rather than word based like the hand writing recognition software of Vista. So it takes longer and isn't nearly as fun to use.
  • My solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plague911 ( 1292006 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:57PM (#29524937)
    Dont do it. My school had exactly what your trying to do and they got rid of it because it cost an arm and a leg to do it right. I personally like the feature but they basically needed a dedicated room and production crew to do it. (They did it for a while so students could video commute to class). For me as a TA and a student the best solution has been simply use a projector which can project a piece of paper and scan the paper later and post it online. If you really want some kind of video. The best option ive seen is a laptop with power point hooked up to a projector and a external microphone. If you want a tablet esq feature get a usb drawing pad for 100 bucks....itll save you an arm and a leg.... Its funny around here you see a lot of old professors using tablets etc however most of the younger professors use the old fashioned tech. I think part of growing up with all the technology is realizing when not to use it..
    • I worked IT at a college, we had desktops with projectors already, and we went with hitachi Starboard monitors. They were roughly in your budget, but they will last a bit longer, since they don't have to be replaced every few years because they get slow. We had the exact same needs, teaching math in an interactive way, that we could save the teachers lecture notes, and play back later online for students that were home.
  • Wherever the tablet PC went, the multitouch will likely follow, and for the same reasons, many I'm sure are posted in here somewhere by others.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have been using my ASUS R1F-K049E since August 2007 which works like a charm. I got tired of doing "Insert >> Symbol" for all of the greek letters, which for any engineering equation there's bound to be about 5 per line. The operating system that came with the tablet PC was Windows Vista Business, which doesn't have the bloatware and Windows Media Center, so it wasn't as resource intensive. When Windows 7 came out I've been using it since beta, and even with 2GB of RAM it works great.

    When you're

  • by who's got my nicknam ( 841366 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:08PM (#29524983) Homepage
    I work in the tech department for a small public school district with a heavy emphasis on educational technology integration in the classroom (we have a 1:1 laptop program as well). A few years ago, we did an experiment with tablet PCs, where we purchased 5 different models from the major vendors (IBM, HP, Fujitsu, Acer, and Toshiba), played around with them, and then offered them to a few teachers to try out. The only one we had any success with was the HP tc4200, which was given to a Primary teacher who used it extensively for a year.

    The Thinkpad was the best unit in terms of 'feel'- it was light, solid, with a good battery life. However, both the first and second models we got were sent back because of poor performance (very slow to boot up, high latency during operation, and a tendency to run very hot). The Fujitsu was too heavy, as was the Toshiba. The Acer (Travelmate C200) was great in terms of performance (dedicated 256MB Nvidia graphics, 2GB RAM, etc), but was a bit bulky due to its built-in optical drive. In addition, Acer's method of sliding the screen up from the slate position was stupid, locking it into one angle when using the unit as a notebook. I'm using that one as a gaming platform now (three years later!). The HP tc4200 was, quite frankly, the best tablet I have ever used. It's light, sturdy (not quite as solid-feeling as the Thinkpad), and quick. The lady who used it said she never felt it was annoying to carry it around her classroom for most of the day. In addition to the tablet, we gave her a wifi-enabled projector, so she could work untethered while moving about, and this worked perfectly.

    My suggestion is to get one of the tc4200's- they are dead cheap these days, and you can upgrade the RAM and hard drive easily if you wish. I have seen them for $400. Not only that, but you can even shoehorn OS X onto them if you are bored- I did that with our for shiggles and it was awesome for a few days before I missed my Macbook Pro too much!

    Most projectors these days have built-in wifi for wireless projection (at least from Windows computers!), and this can really make a huge difference for instructors.

    From a pedagogical perspective, you can even justify the cheap route and buy a bluetooth-enabled Wacom tablet. Sure, you don't get a screen built in, but for $250 you get the mobility of the tablet, as well as all the functionality of the penabled software such as Smart or Promethean offer. You can mark up notes, documents, etcetera and save your notes, email them to your students, and so on.

    But my money's on the tc4200.
    • Are these tablets in use by the students (grades 6-12) or by teachers? Ours are used almost exclusively by students.

      I thought of the Wacom solution as well, but, the problems become having a more complicated setup to be over-seen by a teacher with 28-36 students in a classroom that wasn't originally designed for computers. So, they have to be put away, charged, taken out and used the next period.

      On the flip side, we also have a lot of Windows-only software (Fun with Construction, etc.). We have both Prometh

      • Meh, legal, schmegal. You can now do an install off a retail Snow Leopard disc, so all you're violating is the EULA, which probably won't hold water anyhow!

        Am following up with an email...
    • by ( 897193 )
      I agree completely. Have been using a TC 4400 for nearly 4 years now. In fact I have been looking to upgrade since a year but it still seems better or at least as good as the newer models like X200 or TX2 etc. Only upgraded the RAM some time back so that I could run Win7 and the HDD so i could dualboot PCLinux and still have space for a lot of data. I think if you ask long time users you'll find TC4200/4400 to be the best and cheapest solution. As good as any other laptop and with all tablet functions.
    • My biggest issue with using tablets (the external kind) is the lack of direct and precise feedback. With my mouse it's at rest and I'm moving muscles very little to get a response.

      With pens they are never really at rest. It's either so close to the table that the cursor is jumping all over the place, touching and thus triggering a ton of inputs, or not close enough to move the cursor, giving me no clue where the bloody thing will jump the next time.

      And unlike a mouse I can't just lift the pen away from the

      • "Unlike a mouse I can't lift it..."

        Incorrect; almost all tablet drivers support both absolute and relative cursor positioning.

        "What I would like to see is a large tablet with a screen underneath."

        Google 'Cintiq'. Then go win the lottery in order to pay for one. They are a dream to use, however.

  • Have you considered using a Cintiq []? It's fairly inexpensive by comparison, and should work with just about any computer. I haven't used one myself, but I know a few people who swear by them for working in photoshop, so it should offer the precision you're looking for.

  • Niche portable devices are never cheap. Your requirements are pretty low. Why not just shop around for some older (cheaper) tech that needs some love? All it needs to do is record sound. Portable usb microphone? HP Compaq Tablet PC Tc4200 is just a hair over $700 used. How much more power do you need for notetaking/voice recording/video playback/mathmatica? Drop in 2 gigs of ram (the max) and windows 7 and you are set. Judging from prices I doubt any newer models will get much cheaper and will likely hover

  • Big Chief (Score:2, Funny)

    by davidwr ( 791652 )

    Biggest Carbon-based Tablet for a child - Big Chief writing tablet.

  • For my mathematics lectures I have been very happy with my Wacom Cintiq 12WX. It is portable, has a reasonable surface area for writing, and a nice "feel". My personal preference is for Smart Technologies Notebook 10 software but other vendors, such as Interwrite, have similar products. The Smart Technologies software does require a $300 license when used on a non-Smart branded tablet so together with the $1000 for the Cintiq 12WX my setup is a little beyond your stated budget.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:17PM (#29525039)

    I have had the same dilemma. I teach an algorithms course at UVA; it is math- and proof-centric. I wanted the ability to "write like one might on a black board" but to also record my writing and my audio so that my lectures can be easily posted online for students to review later. I have used several different tools for this task:

    (1) Toshiba Tecra? Windows tablet/Powerpoint/Camtasia. I would make my slides in Keynote. Export to Powerpoint. Give lecture on the Toshiba, use Camtasia to record, and then export to a flash and ipod format for the web. The best part of this is that Powerpoint+Camtasia+Tablet is well-integrated. Powerpoint allows you to mark up a slide using the tablet and save the strokes. Keynote and Powerpoint-on-Mac do not have this feature. However, this laptop belonged to a colleague. It was old, faulty, and involved hassles. Fonts would be routinely messed up between Keynote and Powerpoint. I researched new windows tablets to buy, but could not bring myself to buy one. I happen to use a Mac; I feel anxiety and unctuousness when I have to interact with a windows interface.

    (2) Instead, I purchased a Wacom Cintiq 15" display. You can connect it to any laptop, and you can write on it like a tablet. It is also pressure sensitive; a pleasure to use. I used this with my Airbook in the following bizarre combo: Airbook-->VGA splitter--1-->projector and --2--> to Cintiq. Thus, I would get one presenter display for the airbook and one screen on the Cintiq/projector that was public. Unfortunately, Keynote did not allow writing on slides. Either did Powerpoint-on-mac to my surprise! I tried various "screen grafitti" applications on top of Keynote, but none of them would allow the markup to be saved. Finally, I came upon the "Jarnal" program---an open source program written in Java---that allows a notebook functionality. You can import PDF files into it and annotate them. Thus, my workflow is something like: Make slides in keynote--->Export to PDF--->open as background in Jarnal--->Lecture. Jarnal can also record the strokes and play them back. However, I found that a screen capture program "iShowU HD" could capture both audio and everyone that was presented. I would then transcode this into flash and post. This worked for 1.5 semesters. Jarnal is sometimes flaky. It does not render PDF correctly all the time. However, it exports your strokes to PDF, and it saves them in an easy to read .jaj file for future processing. We also use jarnal to grade homeworks online and return them online (no paper printing!),

    (3) My current setup is this: Axiotron Modbook + Jarnal + Camtasia for Mac. The Modbook is a mac tablet. I thought it would be fantastic, but it hasnt really solved all of the problems. The pen/tablet interface is fine on the Modbook---but a little flaky sometimes. Jarnal is open source; and I really believe in using open source when I can. The recently released Camtastia for Mac works very well, but misses an important feature that the Windows version has: it allows the slides or pages that you use in your lecture to be bookmarked. The Mac version, however, is intuitive to use for me, and I have given 9 lectures so far without too many problems. It is also very convenient to come to class with just a tablet (instead of the contraption in (2)). You can see the results of some of these lectures from say (skip over the first 15 min which is a guest speaker discussing if you want to see the jarnal/writing part). I do not use keynote animations (only drawings of data structures, algorithms, etc). Thus, the setup is the best one for me overall.

    (4) Cheapest and surprisingly good solution: The Livescribe pen. (I received one to try for free, but it is only $129). You must write on special paper with dots. The pen has a camera and a microphone. You can give lecture and use one of those "overhead camera" contraptions that takes a picture of what you are wri

  • Do NOT get a HP TX. (Score:4, Informative)

    by srothroc ( 733160 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:27PM (#29525083) Homepage
    I have the misfortune to have an HP TX, from the 2xxx series. They have massive overheating problems, some of them have cores that won't actually run at the advertised frequency, and worse still, the wacom layer will NOT work properly due to the overheating problems.

    The way they're designed, the primary vent is on the rear right-hand side of the laptop. If you use the laptop for a while and it starts getting hot (and boy does it get hot), that vent will screw with the wacom layer, causing your cursor to jump to the lower-right corner of the screen and right- and left-click randomly in that area. Yeah, right there, where the system tray is. You can imagine the problems this causes.

    The only way to prevent this from happening is to disable the wacom layer entirely, in which case you have an expensive, underpowered laptop with a bright screen and a single shoddy hinge assembly. No touch or wacom interface at all. It completely defeats the purpose of having a tablet PC.

    I contacted HP about this several times and they refused to admit that it was their problem, despite the fact that numerous other people have complained about it as well. It's a crippling defect. This crappy product and their crappy service have completely turned me off of all HP products. Do not even consider the TX series.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by srothroc ( 733160 )
      As a side note, there are a bunch of posts like this about the TX series in this thread alone, yet they've all been modded down. I wonder why.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I got a TX series exactly two years ago and I thought it was awesome until the NVIDIA GPU took a shit this week. Supposedly it heats up enough that after a while the BGA solder joints go bad. Others reported the same symptoms I had (first the wireless went out, followed by total system failure), so I believe this to be the issue. Conveniently for HP, it's out of warranty and they don't have to do jack shit about it.

      The ENGLISH speakers even called me back today and said they'd get me a case manager so pleas

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by odoitau ( 182387 )

      I'll second that.

      In the school district where I work, we bought some HP tx1000 tablets for the math department. After a few weeks, they refused to use them, and we had to replace them with Gateway TA-6 and TA-7s.

      The biggest difference I found was that the tx1000 series laptops don't have the same touch screen as a tablet. The screen works similarly to a Palm touchscreen (the stylus is simply a piece of plastic, and you can interact with the touchscreen using your fingers.) However, I found the screen is hig

    • I've got a TX2524 running ubuntu 9.04. I have absolutely no heating problems whatsoever, though it did overheat in Vista and earlier versions of Ubuntu. As well, my cores and frequency scaling work no problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tehSpork ( 1000190 )
      The tx2xxx series also tends to ship with Broadcom wireless cards that have an alarming failure rate, we've had to replace untold numbers of these.

      Between this and the problems [] with most of the rest of the HP laptops we see coming in at work my opinion of HP has gone from bad to worse in the last couple years.
  • My kid just got an HP TX2000 from eBay for ~$500 to do his flash graphics, college physics, diff-eq's and such. It's a 12" screen, dual cores, has a decent graphics card for a laptop, and seems to work pretty well for him on the whole. When he's not doing his homework, he's playing games on the thing even though he has a new quad-core desktop with whizzy graphics just down the stairs, so clearly the performance is more than adequate. Much to my surprise, I see him using the pen as much as the keyboard, s
  • by jddj ( 1085169 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:42PM (#29525173) Journal

    I've been using the Livescribe since June of this year in my meetings, and it'd be perfect for this use, particularly if you're the lecturer (vs. listening to the lecturer in a large hall).

    Livescribe records your handwriting and your audio, synchronizes them, allow you to play back your audio from any point in the recording by touching the spot in the notes later (on the notebook, or on your computer), and allows you to upload the notes and audio to a community site. It does a really good job at recording your voice, and there's room for many hours of it on the pen. It's a good writing instrument (much better than the cheap-ballpoint tip in the "Fly Pentop" which uses the same handwriting technology, but doesn't record audio, isn't as polished an experience).

    You'll want the pen, and a few of the hardback journals (so they provide something solid to write on as you pace or stroll).

    the 2GB pen (vs. the 1GB) is $199, can find it at any Target, and comes with one Livescribe notebook (you'll need to use Livescribe's special paper, but they offer a number of good, flexible and classy options).

    Much lighter than a pentop, and arguably less fragile, less of a theft target.

    Only downsides:

    • The pen is completely round and will roll off your podium if you don't tend to it. When it hits the floor, it will break.
    • If it does so prior to a synchronization with your Mac or PC, you'll lose whatever's on it and not-yet-synced.
    • You can't move pen content back onto the pen.
    • You don't have any control over line weight. If you sketch a lot, you'll have to double- or triple- stroke lines to add weight, learn to crosshatch for shadowing and filling.
    • You'll run out of ink before you run out of paper - keep spares around.
    • Finally the Mac and PC software uses different data models, and you can't exchange data between the two, nor move from one platform to the other.

    These things don't stop the pen from being quite useful. More info at Livescribe [] site.

    • by zobier ( 585066 )

      I came in to suggest the LiveScribe too, you can use it in conjunction with a overhead webcam + projector thingy.

    • You forgot to mention that the application software it uses is utterly shit. Even requires one to be logged in as an admin user on some versions of Windows.
      • by jddj ( 1085169 )

        Yeah, I'd agree to that: the Livescribe Desktop software is not good.

        In addition to the fact that the data isn't portable Mac <=> PC (the real sin in my eyes):

        • The software is very modal, and you wind up having to switch screens to do simple, related things
        • It can't do simple management tasks like multiple selection for deletes or OCR.
        • Can't do multiple selection at all, much less multiple-discontiguous selection for any purpose.
        • Won't allow you to do any kind of editing (you leave the pen recording f
  • After spending about a week searching for a decent netbook I came across this little beasty: []

    10.1" screen and a decent amount of grunt behind it. The reviews I've read on it so far seem to be positive and I've ordered one for myself since the only other option was the T91, which you mentioned. The difference in features between the two was more than enough to justify the higher price on the T1028X, although the clincher for me was

  • If you're planning on using this tablet as a teaching tool and nothing else, I suggest getting an used X61 tablet. They're well under $1000 now and they're portable enough to be brought from class to class easily. They're also extremely durable. I'm using a 5 year old T42 right now with no signs of breaking down.
  • If this were to be my only computer, it wouldn't be a tablet. Nothing currently available that I've seen can fully replace a desktop, or laptop, computer for all the tasks you're likely to want to do with it. Apple may finally change that game, but Apple hasn't arrived yet, and will likely be pricey when it does. I wouldn't want to type in a term paper on a tablet.

    Were it me, I'd just get an inexpensive netbook for regular computing tasks, and an iPod Touch for music, video, all kinds of eBooks from Kin
    • I've been quite happy with my Lenovo X60 tablet for years. You could probably get a refurbished one now for
      However I mostly use it as a laptop. I found it more than completely replaced my old laptop. I mean it has a keyboard and a normal laptop setup, but the screen rotates to cover the keyboard, and they you can do work with the machine as a tablet.

      I guess you were talking about the tablet-only computers with no keyboard. In that case, I'd agree with you, but there is a hybrid tablet/laptop option.
  • by awaspaas ( 663879 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:32AM (#29525413)
    I teach chemistry at a small college and have been using the combination of prepared notes in OneNote and the tablet to write on them in class. I use Camtasia to record the lectures and post PDFs of the completed files as well as audio podcasts and screencast videos onto the web for the students. I have a simple Toshiba Portege tablet which serves its purpose very well, although it is taxed by compressing the video. Toshiba still sells a convertible Portege laptop/tablet like what I use for $1200 - I'm sure you could find a used one on ebay for much less.

    I would recommend a tablet highly over a dedicated in-classroom solution because it has the flexibility of moving from classroom-to-classroom, as well as recording some dedicated online-only lectures at home (like I was just doing tonight).

    Check out [] for the stuff I've been doing. This is for a hybrid (half-online) organic chemistry course that only meets one day a week for lecture and lab. A course like this probably wouldn't be possible without the tablet handwriting and screencasting tech.
  • I've had experience with HP, Acer, Fujitsu, Itronix, Toshiba, and Motion Computing. Our customers have purchased hundreds of tablets and I hear it when they don't work as advertised.

    Do youself a favour and get a convertable with a built in webcam. I've seen refubished ones on Ebay for around $600.

    The expensive ones are better but not usually worth the extra money. You can replace an Acer or Fujitsu three times for the price of a high end Toshiba or Motion machine.

    Avoid machines with 1.8" drives like the p

  • I have not used Livescribe recommended by another poster. But it seems to me you will not be able to record your audio unless you actually walk to the blackboard with your tablet. Of course if you are always in tablet mic range then it might be okay.

    Another thing is quality. You can get a pin mic (see audio technica brand or there are others) and voice recorder (they all have sd cards and usb these days, the most popular one for business will record 1000 hours or less at MP3 quality, best I am told is Olymp

  • Bad Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    From a student.

    Don't do it. If you want a new toy buy one and play with it, but leave it out of the class room.

    I've been through several "let's get all high tech with the teaching" initiatives, and they all failed miserably.

    The vast majority of the class ended up suffering through the mandatory attendance lectures and took notes from the book instead.

    There is no concept in mathematics at that level that you cannot teach with a stick and a large patch of dirt.

    Indoors, a chalkboard will do.

    Any additional comp

  • I used a Thinkpad X61 tablet pc for note taking and lecture recording while doing my bachelors in EE, and still use it as a regular notebook and note taking now as a grad student. I recently loaded Windows 7 on a SSD and it flies. The screen's 1400x1050, so no screen real-estate complaints here. Most of the time I type my notes, but when I need to write down equations and diagrams, I flip it around and draw them, then go back to typing when I need to. It's fast enough to be a regular use noebook, espec
  • Just say no. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Don't use technology as a crutch to prop up poor teaching skills.

  • As a Fujitsu reseller, I've shipped quite a few of their tablets over the years, both slate and convertible. We have a Primary school in Cornwall successfully using Stylistic slates with kids on a daily basis, but price has always been the issue. They have currently got a convertible thing called the Lifebook T1010, which is sub-£1000 (we're nearly at parity, aren't we...), but its battery life is crap and it lacks the modular bay of the T5010. Upcoming to launch alongside Win7, however, is a T4
  • I'm not sure why the story mentions "the Apple Tablet" as such a product doesn't exist, and is only a hallucination in the fevered minds of rumormongers.

    Moreover, why the obsession with tablets? They can be kind of neat for some things, but I think the submitter is too attached to a particular form factor, or a fantasy of how things should be, rather than actual usefulness and educational outcomes.

  • The Dell XT and XT2 and the HP TX all use roughly the same digitizer, though apparently different revisions in each. I have used a XT and XT2, though mostly in linux. I can say that I've seen multitouch function in windows, though I can't comment about stability for more than a few seconds of play. Between the two, the xt2 is an incremental improvement: its considerably lighter, a bit faster, and the hard drive moved from an obscure "standard" to a SATA connector (which may more convenient for long term
  • Why dont you use the Nokia N900 [] for all your stated purposes.

    Given that it is running a variant of Debian Linux (Maemo), and has a 5MP Carl Zeiss camera (which has provably excellent video recording [], it takes care of your video needs.

    It is also multitasking, so you can switch on your video recorder and flip to your notes.
    Given its pre-release price of 650$ (without contract) and the fact that the developer market for Maemo is a given, considering it's Debian roots, I'd say it makes for a prett
  • by Gyorg_Lavode ( 520114 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:25AM (#29527819)
    I'd highly recommend you check out Classroom presenter [] from the University of Washington. It's what I and some friends have used previously with our tablets (currently a tc4200 but previously a tc1100) to give in-class presentations.
  • Don't do it! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lord Crosis ( 671099 )
    I am currently a college student, and am at least minoring in math (Considering a double major). When I started I was 10 years out of high school and had forgotten so much that I had to start way back at Math 055 (Basic Algebra). Since then I have taken, in succession, Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, Trig, Calc I, Calc II, Calc III, Linear Algebra, Proofs, ODE, and am now in Discrete Math. What I have discovered for myself, and from discussions from other students is that we learn the most and the

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission