Tablets

Most users should opt for convertible tablets over slate-style machines


HP Compaq's TC1100/TR1105 is a light-weight tablet PC that

offers portability and performance. Yet after using the unit for several

months, I believe only those who need a slate-style tablet will be truly happy

with this unit. When used as a pure slate (sans keyboard and docking station as

shown here), the TC1100/TR1105 is an ultra-portable, ultra-convenient computer.

Unfortunately, it's slate-focused design also makes the unit cumbersome at times

and necessitates the purchase of the optional docking station. Depending on the

configuration and accessories you purchase, the TC1100/TR1105 costs around

$2,000. I also think the detachable keyboard ($149) and tablet PC docking

station ($299) are must-have accessories.

TC1100/TR1105

See more images of the TC1100/TR1105 in this photo gallery.

My test unit came with a 1.0 GHz Pentium M processor, 512 MB

of RAM, 40 GB hard drive, NVIDIA GeForce4 420 Go video card, 10.4" TFT

display, detachable keyboard, and integrated Ethernet and Wi-Fi networking

adapters. The docking station came with an optional DVD/CD-RW drive.

Unpacking the test unit, I had my first tablet PC epiphany--these things are useless with out the stylus. The test machine had arrived with a keyboard, docking station, leather carrying case, but no stylus. I tried to use the machine without the accompanying input device, but my best efforts proved fruitless. Once HP sent a replacement stylus, I began using the TC1100/TR1105 with renewed enthusiasm.

Over a period of several months, I used the TC1100/TR1105 as the average

business user would. I created and edited documents using Microsoft Word,

Excel, and PowerPoint. I composed and send e-mail with Microsoft Outlook. I

browsed the Internet and used online applications with Firefox and Internet

Explorer. I took meeting notes with Microsoft OneNote and gave PowerPoint

presentation. I even played solitaire and worked a few crossword puzzles.

While putting the TC1100/TR1105 through my real-world tests, I made the following important realizations that anyone contemplating a tablet PC purchase should carefully consider:

  1. Unless you will primarily use the tablet in slate-only mode, don't buy a slate-focused tablet like the TC1100/TR1105. Instead, buy a convertible tablet--one that works like a traditional laptop but also has a swivel screen and functions as a tablet. Slates are perfect for meetings. Their ultra-portable nature make them perfect for taking handwritten notes, browsing the Internet, or giving presentations. Slates also excel where portability is key--nurses and doctors could easily carry them on rounds. Anything beyond these mobility-oriented tasks, and you need either the keyboard or the docking station--see Number 2.
  2. It is impractical to regularly compose documents of more then 50 words using the stylus. Although I was pleasantly surprised by Windows XP Tablet PC Edition's ability to successfully recognized my handwriting, the keyboard remains a more efficient text entry tool.
  3. The unit's lack of a built-in DVD/CD drive is a significant inconvenience. For several years, I used a Compaq M300 laptop--ultra-portable with an optical drive in the docking station. I understand HP Compaq's desire to keep the TC1100/TR1105's size and weight in check by not including a DVD/CD drive, but I find the hazards outweigh the benefits--software installs are a chore (if not impossible), you can't watch DVDs while traveling, and you can't share large files by burning them to a DVD or CD. There are ways around these complaints, but in my opinion an integrated optical drive is a must.
  4. Carry an extra stylus when traveling without the keyboard. Unlike PDAs with touch-sensitive screens, tablet PCs won't let you use a regular writing instrument or your finger as an input device.

I like the TC1100/TR1105, I only recommend the unit for environments where its slate-based features shine. Users who continuously move and only perform limited text entry are perfect places for the TC1100/TR1105. Otherwise, consider a convertible notebook that functions as both a tablet and traditional laptop.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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