So I finally bought a tablet PC...

Tuttle

Tuttle

Resident Cynic
#1
For the last year or so I've been looking at Tablet PCs and alternating between thinking of them as "cool" and "stupidly expensive" (yeah, I'm a gadget junkie with at least some self-control). I finally had a chance to get rid of the "stupidly expensive" bit when I found Toshiba's auctions of refurbished laptops, and picked up a Portege M200 for AU$1650 (~US$1250):



Pentium-M 1.6, 512 MB RAM, 80 GB HDD, 1400x1050 12.1", GeForce FX5200.

Things learned so far:
  • Trying to install a clean copy of Windows without an optical drive isn't fun. Using the open source Unattended package to do a network boot and install completely over the network definitely is.
  • 1400x1050 on a 12" display is tiny. I finally understand why the option exists in Control Panel | Display | Settings | Advanced to go from 96dpi to 120dpi fonts.
  • Toshiba could learn a lot about driver/utility packaging from Dell. Some of them have a setup program. Some have a setup program that's not called setup. Some need to be installed through Device Manager. Some need you to right-click | Install on a .inf file. In one case I needed to take the setup program from the US drivers and then copy the AU files over the top to get them to install properly. None of this is documented. I just want to download a file and run it and have that component work.
  • Actually signing in to a laptop is a crowd pleaser. :) Especially when you don't have to actually sign; when training it you can just write your boss's name and cross it out or something.
  • The handwriting recognition on these things is really good.
  • Rearranged keyboards are annoying. Some sacrifices are needed on a laptop, but some are just mind-boggling. Windows key goes at the bottom, ~ key goes at the top -- how can you get this wrong, Toshiba?

I haven't had a chance to really use it yet; I've just finished playing with all the PowerToys and Toshiba-bundled stuff to work out exactly what's going on the final install. Should be fun to experiment with though.

And if nothing else, it's 1.5 kg lighter than the 15" brick I just sold. :D
 
ThreeOnTheTree

ThreeOnTheTree

New Member
#2
Yeah, at least WinXP handles large fonts well. All the other windows versions aren't nearly as good at it. I actually like large fonts on a high res when I get used to it. Everything is so clear because of the extra DPI.

How's battery life?
 
Tuttle

Tuttle

Resident Cynic
#3
The only time I've run it on battery so far it lasted nearly 3 hours, and most of that was installing PowerToys and stuff over a wireless network and playing with them. I'm impressed so far (my previous laptop managed about 2 hours surfing the net), but I'll have to see how it works in practice when I ease up on the hard drive activity but increase the screen brightness a bit.
 
CenturionStrategy

CenturionStrategy

Super Moderator
#4
Oh wow, very nice :D!

That looks like a very good price too. What kind of things have you been using the tablet for? Does Windows adapt well to being able to use the touch screen? The 12" screen is a good choice - I think smaller, high resolution screens are by far the way forward :)

Nick
 
Tuttle

Tuttle

Resident Cynic
#5
The touch screen integrates with Windows really well. In many cases, mouse = pen. Anything you can click on with the mouse you can tap on with the pen, and almost anything you can draw on with the pen you can scribble on with the mouse (although not nearly as neatly). All the magic seems to be in the Tablet PC software components. On one of my reinstalls (yeah, it's on its 5th (and final) build now) I actually ran it in tablet mode from the moment Windows was installed, just tapping through driver installs with the pen, sitting on the lounge.

As I said, I haven't had a chance to really use it yet, but I've got a handful of applications I'm dying to play with trials of:
  • Alias SketchBook and ArtRage (ArtRage is actually free). Sketching and painting apps respectively.
  • Meanders Annotator. Lets you ink straight into Office documents and then save/print/email them including the ink. I'm not yet sure how much functionality this is going to give over Office 2003 itself, but the concept is cool -- when I'm reviewing stuff at work now, the first thing I do is print it out and grab a pen, then try and put the comments/changes back into the computer once I'm done.
  • TabletPlanner. One of two or three major organising apps for the tablet. Part Outlook, part OneNote, part everything else.
  • xThink Calculator. I dunno if I'll keep this or not, but it'll be fun to play with. Write calculations and it does them. There's another product called MathJournal which is more advanced and would've been damn useful in uni, but there's no trial of that to play with.

On top of that, something like Journal or OneNote will hopefully become a big part of it. One of the things I do pretty regularly is write up summaries of user group presentations, so being able to print the slide deck into OneNote and then take notes alongside it will simplify that a lot. If I can get a good audio recording alongside it (three built-in microphones), even better.

Last but not least, some of the Microsoft freebies are cool. Like Ink Desktop:

 
CenturionStrategy

CenturionStrategy

Super Moderator
#6
:eek:

That looks fantastic mate! The only only real touch screen products I've ever used are Palms - the high resolution reader seems to make a massive difference!

Very impressed, would love to have a go on one.
 
Leoslocks

Leoslocks

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
#8
Cleanest desktop I have ever seen!

Are the Icons large enough on the HR 12" screen?
 
Tuttle

Tuttle

Resident Cynic
#9
It's got three more icons than my desktop's desktop, actually. :) The Ink Desktop powertoy breaks if you have a completely blank desktop.

The icons themselves are large enough. The fonts at 96dpi were readable, but I kept leaning forwards to get closer to the screen. 120dpi is a must on this thing.
 
benben

benben

Prodigious member
#10
Tuttle, thanks for the info. I too am looking for a work laptop and since dual cores aren't out I'm considering a tablet. I had planned to go with a 2.26 Pentium M, but HP's version is on backorder. I'm looking at an Tecra M4 w/ 2.13 processor, 7200 rpm drive, and 1.5GB memory. I have a question about the tablet OS though:

Will the tablet PC OS work like windows xp pro with domains etc...?

Thanks!!
 
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Tuttle

Tuttle

Resident Cynic
#11
Yes, Tablet PC edition is a complete superset of Pro. They didn't nobble the domain functionality like they did with Media Centre.

The signature recognition applet apparently behaves erratically if you alternate between domain and local logins, but it's not officially supported on the M4 anyway. You get an on-screen keyboard for password entry so you can still log in normally in tablet mode.
 
T

Toolbox

Quantum Physics
#13
I really want one of those. :)

I have been dying to get a tablet PC but just can't stand the thought of spending again. I just got a Fujitsu and made a terrible mistake. I should have stuck to IBM and Sony but for some reason, this Fujitsu caught my attention. I also have a Protege M100 but it isn't a tablet.

Great buy... I wish I had one. :)
 
Tuttle

Tuttle

Resident Cynic
#14
Give it time Toolbox... before long there'll be a next generation of tablets and I can be jealous of yours. :D
 
Oliy

Oliy

New Member
#16
Congratulations. I love my tablet, I've had it nearly a year now and it's still turning heads for it's slimness, battery life etc.

The only annoying thing about mine is that it doesn't have a built in stand (obviously yours is attached to the keyboard) so I can't easily prop it up.

The best use I have of it is taking PDFs or Powerpoint presentations, printing them to Journal and writing notes on them. Problem is, when I'm in lectures, I'm more tempted to be surfing the internet or writing emails than listening to the lecturer...!

My battery has lasted up to 6 hours sometimes, but mine is a P-M 1.0GHz Ultra Low Volt, and I bet your screen is brighter than mine, which can only be used indoors.
 
Tuttle

Tuttle

Resident Cynic
#17
I'm actually thinking about getting a stand for here on my desk anyway. Can't write on it when the screen is open like in the original pic. :)

I've been printing to OneNote instead of Journal (one OneNote subpage for each slide/page), and you're right, it's cool. Inking in Office rocks, and if I end up doing it to more PDFs I'll be looking into PDF Annotator too.
 
Hoyle

Hoyle

New Member
#18
I might get to use a tablet PC soon. My company is inking a deal with Mysys and they'll make us buy a few for training if everything goes through. From what I've seen, there are some pretty cool features... although I'm not sure I'd buy one myself yet.
 
ThreeOnTheTree

ThreeOnTheTree

New Member
#19
lol, tablet PCs have come a long way.

I used to use a win95-based "tablet" PC for outdoor inventory. It had no keyboard and had the ancient handwriting software, which I sorta got to work, sometimes. It was a heavy beast, and the program we used would crash after updating about 100 records. It had a monochrome LCD screen that would go black if the hot California sun beat down on it for more than 5 seconds, so I had to use my body to shade it while entering data. We were given a car charger, a spare battery, and a heavily scratched protective shell that you could barely see through. I had a pretty strong left bicep after using it for a few weeks. :D