What are my options for Tablet PCs?
April 4, 2006 8:55 AM   Subscribe

What are my options for Tablet PCs?

I am looking into a possible Tablet PC for work. A lot of what I do is to write notes on information submitted, and send it back.

What brands are my best options? I've been looking at Gateway, Toshiba, HP... any other options? Lenovo is too expensive for tablets.

Any other options besides a tablet? Right now, I use a traditional laptop from Dell.

Will a tablet work for me? I want to be able to write notes down, and then e-mail the results. Right now, I write things hardcopy, and then scan, then e-mail them.
posted by benjh to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I got a ton of wonderful replies when I asked about this some months back. I ended up with a Lenovo, which is indeed very expensive, but worth the boss' money.
posted by LarryC at 9:06 AM on April 4, 2006

I am an absolute tablet convert, but my Fujitsu 3010D just died on me, and I am waiting before buying my next tablet. Why? Because of Vista. Vista includes a wide variety of Tablet features, and the specs are still unclear. In fact, the only tablet that is promising to run Aero Glass (the nice UI for Vista) is the new Toshiba M400.

If the M400 meets your specs, that is the best deal - small, light, Duo processor. I want a larger screen and a 128MB video card, which means I am waiting for the Toshiba M6, a refresh of the M4 due in the next few months.

But that is me - what should you buy? It actually sounds that you are just using your tablet for note-taking and emailing. You may want a simple slate, rather than a convertable (with keyboard) tablet. Motion makes very respectable and reasonable ($1699) slates with long battery lives. Toshiba's low end Satellite R15 is a convertable for around a grand. You may also want to look at an older tablet on eBay, if you aren't interested in the latest technology. But you may also want to check out Tablet PC Buzz, which has the most active Tablet PC Forums.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:35 AM on April 4, 2006

A Lenovo might just be worth it.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:36 AM on April 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have had a Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet since last June. Everything about it has worked out well, and it's miles ahead of the Dell it replaced.

The cost was only $100 more than the conventional laptop of the same model/specifications; customer service has been fine, and everything works great. I don't use the tablet functionality as much as I could, but it'll definitely do what you're looking for. Most of the time I use it in tablet mode, it is in meetings where I can fold the computer down and use it as a reference without isolating myself from the group. This alone has been worth the extra cost.

Four or so of my friends also went out and bought them around the same time, and are all in love.

The only downsides I've had with it (but this is a tablet thing in general) are 1) that the viewing angle side-to-side is less than on a normal laptop, but it's only an issue when working in groups and 2) I'm the only one, it seems, but it is not that keen on recognizing my handwriting. No one else I have lent it to or who has their own has a problem. Go figure.

I don't know anything about the M6 or Vista issues that blahblahblah mentions above, but I totally recommend this laptop...
posted by whatzit at 9:57 AM on April 4, 2006

I too have an M4, and love it. The first generation tablets were too slow, the 2d generation were too small, but the 3d generation seems to be right on. The machine is big and fast, and battery life is adequate.

The M4 also will support Glass in Vista (right now it needs a BIOS update and a whole bunch of other shenanigans to get it to work, but 'they' tell me it will get better soon.)
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 10:03 AM on April 4, 2006

Response by poster: It has to be new, has to have a three year warranty, per corporate spec.

A convertible would be better, since I do want to do my regular work on it as well.

Vista is not a major concern, since by the time Vista is actually approved for corporate end users, it will be time to buy a new computer again. (Figuring 1 year until Vista actually comes out, 2 more years until corporate approves it.)
posted by benjh at 10:41 AM on April 4, 2006

Toshiba is my recommendation, hands down.

I've been using tablets for three years now. I bought Toshiba's first tablet (Portege 3500) and then bought the next generation Toshiba tablet (Portege M200), and they've both been excellent.

I just bought (and am at this very moment updating) a new Toshiba M400 for a client, and it has the luxury of an optical drive.

After you buy the Tablet, you can go to ToshibaDirect.com to buy the 3 year everything-covered-including-accidents warranty.

Whatever you do, hit TabletPCBuzz.com for the straight dope on your chosen model first. Make informed decisions and be happy.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:47 AM on April 4, 2006

Here's my post in the thread mentioned above. It's much more complete that what I posted here a moment ago.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:49 AM on April 4, 2006

If Vista is not a factor, I am utterly in love with my Fujitsu P1510D, a mini-convertible pseudo-tablet. It doesn't have an active digitizer, but rather a touch screen, which means you can tap the screen with your finger even when it's in notebook orientation. (It also has a nipple-pointer in the keyboard.)

If you don't need something that small, or if your applications demand a larger screen than 1024x600, then on the strength of this machine I would certainly recommend other Fujitsu models.
posted by kindall at 11:15 AM on April 4, 2006

I too have a Toshiba Tecra M4. I love it in something approaching a sin against God. I find myself trying to use the scratch out gesture on real pen and paper and find myself disappointed when my writing doesn't disappear.

I went with a Toshiba because when I got mine, it was about the most powerful of the tablets and it had something resembling a real video card -- a friend of mine got a normal laptop around the same time with an ATI laptop card and the video is crap. The only real problem I've got with it (besides sort of wishing I had waited until the dual core CPUs had come out) is that dust or lint will sometimes get trapped between the screen and the writing surface. If this doesn't bother you, it is no problem because it doesn't impede any functionality but it does bother me so that once a month or so I have to take the screen apart and clean it. I guess, though, anybody who really knows me would be more surprised that I haven't taken the entire laptop apart by now. Also, I don't find the extra weight of being a convertible to be that much of a bother except when I want to rest one of the corners on my hip to write on like it was a clipboard but I definitely like being able to flip the screen around and use the keyboard whenever.

I use the tablet functionality all the freaking time -- mostly I take notes, almost entirely within OneNote and if I can't comment on the document with the native program, I use the printer driver OneNote installs to print the file to OneNote (I'm looking at you, Adobe Acrobat). There are a few limitation of OneNote that I don't care for -- I would like more pen color choices and it would be nice to be able to correct the text it translates my handwriting to without typing as 1) the tablet input pad that works in every other program lets you do this and 2) the dictionary doesn't have most of the science words I am writing down. Most programs (excepting a majority of IM programs) support Ink in some way or another -- Office has some pretty good support and there is an extension to make Firefox/Thunderbird spectacular with the pen (and Google Earth/WorldWind are really fun). I do believe that with Outlook, you can either 1) use the TIP to write email and automagically convert it to text or 2) send your handwriting, with it showing up as a picture for people without XP Table edition.

As for commenting on documents to send other people, I think that any newer version of Office supports ink comments as inline pictures or something if. if nothing else, you can set up a reciprocating system with Acrobat printing to OneNote, ink some comments on it, and print the OneNote file to PDF.

One more thing -- I've found that the handwriting recognition is fairly decent, even for friends who have god awful handwritting. In OneNote, however, it sucks. And you can't exactly train it to get better.

As for price, I went with a refurbished. I got my tablet $500 cheaper (what, maybe $1400 last December) and the only problem was a small scratch on the lid.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 11:27 AM on April 4, 2006

I have a Fujitsu T4010D, and I love it. No extra-special features, but the DVD drive is built-in. The screen is not removable (swivel base) so it's not the lightest if you are going to carry it around like a notepad, but it's got good battery life (I can watch an entire DVD from the drive on the plane, and then do some work).
posted by defcom1 at 1:27 PM on April 4, 2006

I have a motion slate...from what I've seen/experienced, it's the best PURE tablet out there. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone overly attached to typing, though...
posted by johnsmith415 at 2:31 PM on April 4, 2006

Another Fujitsu T4010D user here as well. I did a TON of research on tablet laptops and this was the best solution in my eyes. I love the built-in removable DVD-R. I can put a second battery in and get 7 hours of life!
posted by stew560 at 7:50 PM on April 4, 2006

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