The truth about Tablet PC

Consider this a medium-term (several months of daily use) hardcore user review. There is TONS of commentary already in all the big review sites and tablet forums etc (just Google around), but here’s the short-and-sweet truth from me, who has owned essentially every gadget in every form factor, on every OS (more or less).

1. After considerable research I opted for the HP TC1100 on the grounds of its compactness/carryability, WiFi, ‘good enough’ horsepower (1GHz P4 version) and ‘chamelion’ nature (pure slate, with detachable keyboard, or combo/laptop style, with decent no-brainer docking station: mix’n’match depending on the occasion). Oh, and I bought extra batteries and power adapters to leave in various convenient locations, so there’s really remarkably little to carry around.

2. I’m a fanatical and very decent touch-typist, so handwriting recognition, while in fact it performs ‘acceptably’ on this machine, is *NOT* actually a critical factor for me! Bluntly: ‘acceptably’ is never good enough if you’re fussy or want to pay attention to other things, like a meeting you’re attending– HOWEVER it really does not matter, because (a) handwritten stuff, when I *DO* need to work that way (see below), simply stored as digital ink, is awesome, and (b) this form factor really shines as an OUTPUT device (reading on a train or on the couch, for example).

3. Some people have moaned about the short-form-factor keyboard/screen combo: when you use the keyboard, the screen sits VERY VERY close to the uppermost keys, because of the clever swivel/reverse-folding design. This was actually a PLUS for me. Especially as a wearer of bifocals, I’ve long noted the incorrect positioning of conventional laptop screens, which are too far away when your hands are correctly positioned for optimal touch typing posture. So guess what? The HP TC1100 keyboard/screen layout (when you need it on the road or in quick bursts that is), is perfect. Yes, the lightweight keyboard wobbles, but it’s a fair tradeoff for this usage pattern.

4. Couch-potato surfing, WiFi news/email reading, etc: awesome. Simply the best form factor yet, for this type of activity. Forget e-books for long-term usage (too hard on your eyes for very very long documents); but for short/medium documents, it’s the bee’s knees.

5. Document markup: *WOWIE-ZOWIE*. Fantastic. Scribbling directly on other people’s Word or PDF documents, and then shipping them back the comments as digital-ink markups (exported to .mht web pages if necessary): just the ticket!! There are some great 3rd-party tools in this niche too, like iMarkup.

6. I’m taking an Open University course (Spanish): my HP TC1100 has *EVERYTHING* on it: all the course materials in PDF, all the course audio in MP3, my scribblings on the exercise book, my dictionaries, vocabulary drills etc. SO even though I said ‘forget e-books’ in item 4 above, the reality is that for 30-60-minute sessions sitting on the couch and doing some Spanish, it is GREAT!

7. Note-taking in meetings and/or browsing meeting-specific documents/memos/notes: in pure slate mode, portrait orientation, in my lap, browsing and scribbling as on a normal notepad is IDEAL. ‘Social etiquette’ is the name of the game here: notepad browsing/scribbling is acceptable, whereas tabletop/laptop keyboard work is downright rude and disconcerting in many contexts… end of story.

8. The downside? This may surprise you. And no, it’s not about the performance. Sure, these devices can always do with being thinner, lighter, faster, cheaper — that will happen. And the ‘subjective throughput’, typically limited by hard disk access speed, is always going to be lower on a portable than on a desktop machine, even a ‘much lower CPU speed’ desktop machine — so no, this device is not my only computer, nor is it ever likely to be. But the real problem is simply this: when reading for extended periods, even with the display that in my opinion is gorgeous, high quality, crystal clear, I get a little ‘seasick’. Go figure! I haven’t seen this mentioned in any review, but it’s one factor that would prevent me from using this device for extended periods (> 90 minutes).

OVERALL: fantastic – get one!

One Response to “The truth about Tablet PC”

  1. Arturo Says:

    Clear, short and very specific. Good post.
    I discovered today this blog. I’going to read more of it.

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