Seeking Reactions, Recommendations and Buying Advice on Tablet PCs
April 5, 2004 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Tablet PCs (a) seem to be very cool, and (b) look like they would meet my particular needs (note-taking at meetings and during conversations, capturing diagrams and informal charts/sketches) better than either conventional laptops or handhelds. But they don't seem to be very popular, and it's hard to find good on-line reviews or comparative assessments of models. So I'm wondering if any of you who have used one can offer reactions (positive or negative), recommendations, or buying advice.
posted by Kat Allison to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
 
This post has some general info, but nothing on specific models. Might make for a good read, though.
posted by j.edwards at 12:44 PM on April 5, 2004


I used a friend's Acer last summer when he was at MS. It was a nifty toy, especially for a work loaner. But I would never want to commit that kind of money to a product so rough around the edges yet. The handwriting recognition was okay, but the stylus is more difficult to use for normal computer tasks. Overall, not beefy enough for a laptop, too clunky for a palmtop.

After playing with his for a while, I decided the tablet notebook, spiralbound, was still the best way to go. A halfway alternative may be the Logitech IO pen which stores what you write, but it requires special paper (cost/benefit and actual use I don't know about on those).
posted by whatzit at 1:11 PM on April 5, 2004


I've had a Fujitsu Stylistic 5010D for about two months now. Haven't used it too much for notetaking yet; my impression is that it's great if you just want to leave your notes in your original handwriting. If you're converting them to text, they're not so great. The handwriting recognition is less than perfect--I usually have to go back and correct a word or two per sentence. The handwriting recognition also tends to be word-based rather than character-based, meaning that it takes into account a dictionary when trying to recognize handwriting. This has both advantages and disadvantages--if one letter is written really poorly within a long word, there's a good chance the intended word will be recognized anyway. On the other hand, if you're writing a lot of non-word things (html tags, URLs, email addresses) the handwriting recognition is near-hopeless and you need to go to the on-screen keyboard (or plug in a USB keyboard) to do that.

I've composed a number of MeFi and AskMe comments on my tablet. If it's just a sentence or two, I'll either use the handwriting recognition or tap it out on the on-screen keyboard, depending on how much stuff there'll be which will confuse the handwriting recognition. For longer posts, though, I'll plug in the USB keyboard.

I have to disagree with whatzit on the usability of the stylus vs. a mouse. It took a bit of getting used to at first, but now I'm at least as happy to use the stylus as I would be to use a mouse.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:56 PM on April 5, 2004


I'm fond of my Toshiba 3505. The handwriting recognition is better than I'd expected, but I'm still better at typing than at writing. The Windows Journal app is pretty good for taking notes and the like. All in all, I'm pretty happy with it.
posted by Zonker at 2:53 PM on April 5, 2004


I currently use a Toshiba Portege 3500, and overall I'm quite happy with it. I've done some note taking with it, and that works well as I leave them in the handwriting form. One very nice thing about Microsoft's OneNote is the ability to search those handwritten notes as if they were converted to text, so for the most part I have no need to convert. Also, the Windows Service Pack 2 that I've been beta testing has an update for the TabletPC that improves handwriting recognition considerably.

The Portege is a convertible model, so it works as a normal laptop, or you flip the screen over for a "tablet" style. I use it as a normal laptop about 75% of the time, and then flip it over for notes or graphics work (Photoshop, Illustrator). I've found it most useful for graphics (after outlining something with pen on the screen, its tough to go back to a mouse or Wacom tablet on the side), but that may not apply to your case. The convertible style is also rather heavy compared to the no keyboard tablet models. Certainly light enough to carry around, but I don't know if I'd want it resting on my arm all day while taking notes.

For general info, try out the forums at TabletPCBuzz.com. It's obviously biased toward TabletPCs, but people post many of their problems and concerns about specific models. Toshiba has a newer version, the M200, which is faster but also more expensive.
posted by shinynewnick at 3:04 PM on April 5, 2004


If you choose to get a tablet, I have two suggestions:

Make sure that they are stylus-only screens (de riguer, nowadays, I believe)... as the pressure screens can't tell whether you're inputting or just resting your hand on the screen.

Try Alpha Tap. The site explains it better than I can... but basically it's an ergonomic response to the built-in programmatic keyboard that promises to make inputting text easy.
posted by silusGROK at 3:31 PM on April 5, 2004


I've found it most useful for graphics (after outlining something with pen on the screen, its tough to go back to a mouse or Wacom tablet on the side), but that may not apply to your case.

all of the tablets pcs i tried out don't feel as ergonomic as using a wacom tablet...especially for detail work...the pen is in the way. i do lots of work zoomed in making selections along 2-4 pixel wide lines, if i have to Touch, with a big plastic pen, the exact pixel i'm trying to work with its a hassle.

i think that computer graphics tools like pens and such need to develop and delve deeper into their own paradigm, the painting/drawing metaphor isn't always the most precise or most ergonomic.
posted by th3ph17 at 4:42 PM on April 5, 2004


i've used a bunch of models of acers, along with a fujitsu. the fuji was nice...nice stand, wireless keyboard and mouse, if you wanted them. otherwise it was nice and skinny. cool.

the acers are convertibles, which is what i'd picked if i used one at all, and didn't just work on them. they have a keyboard and a screen that swivels 180 degrees and rests on top of it when it tablet mode. i tend to use the keyboards a lot, because i can type.

as far as taking notes...eh, not so great, really. handwriting recognition is okay, but really, when you're note taking you're writing pretty quickly. they're...less useful than paper in that fashion, but they're useful because they save that information well, and you can send it to people, etc.

my next computer is gonna be an acer tablet, if that helps. prolly a 310.
posted by taumeson at 4:58 PM on April 5, 2004


Don't be seduced by the compaq TC series. The form factor is great, but their active pen sucks. It takes a battery, isn't pressure sensitive, and I went through 5 of them before I got fed up and passed the thing off to a colleague. They just kept dying.

As an aside, the entire tablet PC experience convinced me that I prefer a laptop.

...at least until Apple releases a tablet.
posted by ulotrichous at 8:36 PM on April 5, 2004


all of the tablets pcs i tried out don't feel as ergonomic as using a wacom tablet...especially for detail work...the pen is in the way. i do lots of work zoomed in making selections along 2-4 pixel wide lines, if i have to Touch, with a big plastic pen, the exact pixel i'm trying to work with its a hassle.

Agreed, that can be an issue. One thing that helped me recently was purchasing the Penabled Cross Pen. Good weight to it, feels nice in your hand, no battery needed, pressure sensitive. It probably wouldn't solve your problems for intense detail work, but a nice addition all the same.

As an aside, the entire tablet PC experience convinced me that I prefer a laptop.

This is the reason I would absolutely recommend a convertible model if you go with the TabletPC. If you don't pick up the pen, it works fine as a laptop. For me, the Tablet aspect is just an additional feature.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:32 PM on April 5, 2004


That's the crux - how many of these Tablets are pressure sensitive? And how are the screens?

I've wanted an LCD tablet for a long time for art stuff, but they still seem to be ~$1800, which is hard to justify. But if for a few hundred more I can have a full computer as well, that starts to seem within reason...so - can you actually do art on these?
posted by freebird at 1:25 AM on April 6, 2004


so - can you actually do art on these?

I'd say that depends on what kind of art you want to do. The TabletPC screens are built by Wacom, but I haven't done any work with high-end Wacom tablets or the Cintiq screens to compare. I would guess its not as sensitive and precise as the $1800 screen, but you can get the Toshiba Portege 3500 for less than that now (not the newest and fastest).
posted by shinynewnick at 11:28 AM on April 6, 2004


« Older Are sheetfed scanners made any more?   |   Online Statistics Course, or Really Good... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.