Help me find a tablet PC to buy!
February 13, 2013 3:12 PM   Subscribe

My Thinkpad X61 tablet is dying. Work will replace it, I just need to tell them what fancy new machine I want. But I don't have much time - the new machine needs to be ordered and delivered by March 31! Which doesn't give me enough time to research my options. Thus I turn to you for help.

Here's what I need:

* I need to travel with it, so want something light and small. But not too small - a 10- or 11-inch screen would be good, but anything less than a 10-inch screen is getting too small to be useable.

* Must have at least one, preferably two usb ports, preferably powered. It's okay if these are on a detachable keyboard/dock.

* Must have headphone and microphone jacks. It's okay if these are on a detachable keyboard/dock.

* Must be of good quality construction (to hold up to aforementioned travel).

* Must work with a pen/stylus, not just my finger. (In fact, it's okay if it only works with the pen/stylus.)

* Aaaand the hard part: must run Linux. It's okay if it takes some insane Windows 8 UEFI Secure Boot workaround and a week or two to get Linux installed - I have access to sufficient technical expertise. But it at least has to be theoretically possible (eg. vendor has given the requisite key to a Linux distributor - preferably SuSE, second preference Fedora).

So, for example, I like the looks of the Asus VivoTab or the Toshiba Excite 10. But the VivoTab is a Windows 8 machine, and the Excite is a non-Intel-compliant Tegra 3 CPU. Both of which will almost certainly not play well with Linux.

Question 1: Does anyone know if Asus has released the boot process key signature for the VivoTab to any Linux distributor?

Question 2: Does anyone know anything about Linux on Tegra 3?

Question 3: What other options can you recommend for me that would fit my needs?

posted by eviemath to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Perchance, you may want to edit "Tablet" to "Tablet PC". Lots of folks are going to come in here suggesting iPads or Nexii that aren't going to do you a ton of good.

For what it's worth, the surface pro has an unlocked bootloader and standard Intel i5 guts, in the last week people have already gotten ubunu going on it.
posted by Oktober at 3:42 PM on February 13, 2013

Question 4: Does anyone have experience with emacs for Windows? Does it work on Windows 8? Does it do all the stuff that regular emacs does? (In other words, could I throw emacs on the VivoTab and basically use it as my operating system?)
posted by eviemath at 3:42 PM on February 13, 2013

Tegra 3 runs Linux just fine, in the form of Android. There are efforts to get Ubuntu running on the Tegra 3 based Nexus 7, but I can't speak for other T3 based devices. I would generally say having desktop Linux proper running on a tablet qua tablet is probably a tall order, and at minimum will be a sluggish, kludgy experience, but if all you need is any sort of Linux then Android AOSP should be flexible enough.

You may want to consider the Asus Transformer line if you want to go down that route.
posted by demons in the base at 3:46 PM on February 13, 2013

Have you looked at the X1 Carbon Thinkpad from Lenovo? It looks pretty nice.

Seems to work ok with Ubuntu as well.
posted by splatta at 4:39 PM on February 13, 2013

Not the Lenovo X230t? Isn't that basically the newer version of what you used to have? This page says it works great with Linux.
posted by GuyZero at 5:44 PM on February 13, 2013

Just fyi, there are efforts to port TeX to Android. I'd hope either they or the umbuntu, debian, etc. should succeed reasonably within a couple years, probably not quite ready yet though. I suppose xfig might not get ported to Android, which causes problems.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:17 PM on February 13, 2013

There's also a web page about porting emacs to Android. It, and the TexLive for Android, seem to be focused on smartphones more than Android tablets or tablet pcs though; not what I'm looking for. It looks like what I want might be more in the "ultrabook" category.
posted by eviemath at 9:52 PM on February 13, 2013

What about Samsung ATIVs?
posted by eviemath at 7:43 AM on February 14, 2013

I have had good long-term success with Lenovo and Fujitsu convertibles, but it's hard to pick against Lenovo in this situation (they are built tougher with "semi-rugged" builds and are very easy to hack/work with). I've been carrying a Lenovo x201t to/from work every day for years, and the x61 I carried previously still runs just fine for someone else. If I were forced to find a replacement tomorrow, my list of possibles would be Surface (not a good choice for you due to the Linux issue), x230t, and Touch Carbon (if they had a convertible tablet in that build, I'd buy it right now).

It is worth a look at Fujitsu's line, though. People forget they exist, but they have more convertible tablet size/model options in their line than anyone. I have a loaded t901 at home for artwork that never leaves the house specifically because it was the only convertible I could find at the time with discrete graphics hardware.
posted by Pufferish at 8:18 AM on February 14, 2013

I decided to request a Lenovo ThinkPad Helix if my work will be flexible with the timing (the Helix is not scheduled to ship until late March or maybe April), and a Samsung Slate Series 7 otherwise.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone!
posted by eviemath at 11:43 AM on February 14, 2013

Ain't related directly but looks amusing (via)
posted by jeffburdges at 8:27 PM on February 14, 2013

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