Tablet PC battle!!! (Help me pick which one to get!)

by Fred

You’ve heard me whine and moan for a Mac tablet for a while now.comparing tablet pc’s

Well, I’m done. So far, they’ve not said a darn thing about doing it (umm ya do have more than half the graphic designer market, why not give them a way to enjoy drawing on the screen?)

Ok, I’ve vented, now on to business, there are two main questions I’m trying to settle before making the purchase, they are as follows:

1. Vista or XP?

2. Pick between these 4 machines

A. Fujitsu 4215

B. Lenovo X60

C. Asus RF1

D. Gateway NX860XL

I’m sure you’ve already asked where’s the Toshiba? I’ve already ruled that one out, (or prove me wrong, and list why).

Here’s what I’m looking for:

Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz

2 Gb of Ram

best video card available in this form factor

largest cleanest screen possible

7200rpm HD 60Gb or higher

bluetooth

integrated CDR-DVD-R

integrated WiFi (at least to g)

I must admit, I originally wanted the Lenovo very badly, reliability, and durability were my original factors in this choice.

Then I saw that it lacks an integrated CD player, and to replace that functionality, well you’re looking at about$250 USD just to get a USB unit. Now I wouldn’t mind not having it there all the time, but when it has to be separate, well, what if I want to watch a movie while I’m sitting there? Plus loading new software (CD based) will require hardware changes just to get it in.

The Fujitsu, though heavier, has stayed the front runner for some time, the reviews seem the best, it includes a CD player (CDR and DVD-r) so that’s all there. The screen even rotates both ways, nice (many other units only rotate one direction, apparently this results in the removal of a number of screens in a bad way).

For the Asus, a bunch of people gushed over it,, then no one seemed to buy it,, confusing. I know that Alex Albrecht from Digg had one running Vista on it for a while and he tended to gush a bit about it, however, I don’t know what sort of things he was running on it, so I can’t really talk too much there (though I believe he codes and games, so it’s gotta be fairly weighty to get the job done).

For the Gateway, it’s biggest advantage is a larger screen, however it seems to lack in configurability, and to get integrated bluetooth and wifi the costs seem to oddly skyrocket. The online configurator is frankly too crazy, yet they do seem to offer the best in terms of graphics power with the option for an ATi Radeon with 64Mb. (then again my 2 year old desktop has 128Mb, so maybe I’m going about this measurement all wrong).

Oy! So I’m just very confused still.

Here’s the load I’m going to place on it, (maybe this’ll help you, help me)

1. Blogging (duh) wordpress (yay)

2. Photoshop for photo editing and drawing.

3. Solidworks and Rhino (heavy duty 3d modeling)

4. General multitasking (browsing, iTunes (or listening to MLB.com (Go A’s!)), palm pilot organizing, Google earth

5. Driving car racing sims (Formula 1!!)

I’ll be patiently awaiting your opinion. At this point I’m going with the Fujitsu unless someone can prove me otherwise, (meanwhile, I’ll just sit here with a furrowed brow).

18 reviews or comments

Scott Says: March 3, 2007 at 4:09 pm

The Fujitsu does seem like a good buy, but you’re going to want a non-integrated graphics set for the F1 sims. That being said, if you can live without it, it looks like a solid offering. The screen is flush with the bezel which is essential in my opinion as the raised bezel greatly affects the way you write – think of writing on a notepad coiled on all four sides. My only concern would be if the Fujitsu has the same problem with dust/hair/etc that the Toshibas do because of the flush mount.

The Asus from what I’ve seen is pretty much the same as the Fujitsu, minus the bezel issue. As for the Gateway, the one you’ve linked/named doesn’t look like it’s a tablet. The CX210X might be the one you were looking for, which is the only package of the four that has something other than intel graphics. It will hit the battery life, but you’ll be lost without it trying to do much of anything with 3D. (Though the Intel set will run small assemblies in solid works fine too).

The X60 is a great offering, and amazing on battery, but you will miss the DVD drive – especially if you reformat often or watch a lot of DVDs while travelling, etc.

Although I love my Toshiba Tecra M7, it looks like they’re discontinuing it and not replacing it with another model. I really like the size of the M7 over a 12″ (I’ve also owned an M200), but you will take a weight hit for it.

As far as XP vs Vista goes, for now I’d stick with XP (though I myself use Vista) as it’ll hurt battery life (there’s next to no way to have 0% cpu usage). When SP1 rolls around, Vista should be in a better place to be used full time.

To summarize, if you want something now and want to game, you’ll need to go with the Gateway I think. I hesitate to say it, but right now I’d probably wait it out for a new offering with a dedicated video card.

RobG. Says: March 3, 2007 at 4:56 pm

I’m in the market for a laptop.. what made you decide on a tablet? They seem cool, I just can’t figure out what people are really using them for.. Anyhow, I’ll keep an eye on this – i’d be curiuos to see which one you decide on – AND – where you’re going to purchase it from.

Fred Says: March 3, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Scott, Thanks so much for the bezel info. I had entirely missed that aspect of it (though I’m thinking it would be liveable). It’s interesting that you note that. What sort of things are you running on yours? (games, photoshop, 3d, or just playing around?)
I could live without the DVD drive (having it outboard). Do you see that as the far superior unit, just sans dvd drive?
You seem familiar enough with Solid Works assemblies to know what I’m looking for in terms of power (medium sized injection molded parts are a good example of what I’m up against.)

Rob, I’m looking for a tablet because I draw for a living and it’s very important that I have a way to get data into the screen quickly. With a tablet, you can zoom in and out on a regular drawing very quickly. Imagine sketching a rough picture of a house, then zooming in to a window, drawing a couch and a tv in the background, then zooming into the tv an d placing an image on that tv, then zooming all the way out, now you have a house with a very detailed mini view into the home. Things like this are very difficult to do on a computer even with a standard wacom pad (which is how I’ve been drawing for quite some time). The rest of it needs to be able to act like a regular laptop with power so I can run 3d modeling software. Also, I like to be able to be in the living room and not stuck at my desk all the time doing work.

I’ll keep you posted on the final decision. Still currently baffled.

MarkM Says: March 3, 2007 at 8:09 pm

I’m planning to get the Fujitsu myself, later this spring. It ought to be fine for working on DTP and playing MP3s while I’m at work. It lacks a webcam, which might put off some folks, but since I work for a company that bans cameras on-site, that’s actually a plus. It can be tough to try out an actual tablet PC before purchasing one, as they’ve got such a niche market (healthcare professionals and certain government workers probably own or use the vast majority of them). So finding that the T4215 is one of only three tablet PCs in stock at any of the local computer or electronics stores helped me decide. Playing with one for a while showed me that this device has a keyboard that works for me and excellent pen recognition, a screen size that’s useful while also being compact, and a thoughtfully engineered way of converting from between tablet and laptop configurations. Plus the fact that a major US computer store stocks the T4215 makes me a bit more confident that it’s more likely to be supported than a model I’ve never seen outside of a webpage or magazine spread. Too bad there was no way to play an MP3 in the store, the day I visited. A little Web research has convinced me to have Fujitsu build the one I’ll buy, so that I can score one with the big honkin’ optional battery. As for XP vs Vista, I plan to go with XP for any PC I might purchase before 2008, on the grounds that I don’t care to be a Microsoft beta-tester. So as long as Fujitsu still offers it with XP, that’ll be the one I’ll get. One other thing, which I’m addressing to laptop/tablet newbies who might read these comments: A tablet or laptop is a small but expensive device, which means it’s really, really a theft-magnet. Don’t rely on Fujitsu’s built-in fingerprint recognition device. Don’t even rely on a computer case that’s disguised as a backpack. To increase your chances of keeping or recovering the li’l guy, consider getting a Kensington lock and/or whole-disk encryption software (PGP’s is the whole-disk program I’m looking at these days). And be sure to install a program that will make a stolen computer “phone home.” But I’m sure you’ve already scoped this out already, Fred.

Scott Says: March 4, 2007 at 12:50 am

Timewise, my most used would be windows journal as I’m an engineering student. However, I do find time for some light gaming (need for speed, battle for middle earth, lego star wars – top end games will probably still be only on your desktop), some photoshop, a fair bit of Pro/E – the caveat with that one is that nearly all pens have only two buttons, and (though i’m not sure about solidworks specifically) that’s not enough for most 3D modelling programs. I don’t think you’ll have any problem at all with your injection molding, especially with 2gb of ram, on any of the models.

The X60 is probably your best bet if you can deal with no optical drive. Build quality is definitely a big plus and thinkpads have a real good track record there.

The R1F has been exhibiting some pretty bad battery charge decline (big drop in total charge held) in a bunch of cases, so might be a bit of a craps shoot there – the bigger screen might be enough to pull you that direction.

I haven’t seen enough of the fujitsu to say any more, though it does look like a decent package with some good features configurable.

One other point about the Gateway, the digitizers aren’t by Wacom – ie, can’t get a better pen if you want i. Not sure if the Gateway is pressure sensitive, but all of the wacom digitizers are and expand to 256 levels when you install the driver from them – very handy for drawing as you know.

There is always the possibility of the ModBook too though if you’re still wanting to scratch that OS X tablet itch… hehe.

Fred Says: March 4, 2007 at 11:12 am

Mark, I’m still leaning the Fujitsu direction, your notes are falling in line with my thoughts as well.
I spoke an IT guy I know rather well last night and he mentioned the same about sticking with XP especially for tablets.
10-4 on the security, We do the same with my wife’s Macbook Pro, (physical lock). Not so much on the software, but it’s only ever at home, or at school in a secured lab, so that’s not as much an issue, (it rarely ever leaves the apartment).

Scott,
I didn’t know the Gateway wasn’t a Wacom screen, that’s a big issue, and knocks it down my list a lot.

I do know about the Modbook, but as it’s not an original Mac system, I’m really not game for that yet. I still can’t figure out why they didn’t want to rush to do a big time tablet. I recieved an article, I think it was in Time from a buddy who works at the big fruitstand in Cupertino, about how Mr. Stevie J himself wasn’t impressed by the whole tablet thing and that was when he changed their focus to the iPhone (I still think that was bad thinking, even though the iPhone does seem to look like a winner). It’s actually the iPod all over, last to market, first in design.

In terms of few buttons, I’m going to either get the logitech Nuloc, or the 3d connexion space traveller. That’ll be the next “help me” post.

Gotta go do the taxes!

d0c Says: March 4, 2007 at 8:44 pm

I just placed an order on a custom Toshiba M400 last week (it should be arriving any day now.) Since my primary usage will be CAD/CAE/CAM (incl. SolidWorks and Rhino) along with the usual 2D GFX apps (thus being fairly similar to your needs,) I thought I’d share with you the rational behind my decision to go with the M400 over some of the same tablets that you’re contemplating.

For me, the one thing that initially drew me toward the Toshiba was the fact that it could be ordered with a true SXGA+ display (1400×1050) thus making it one of the highest effective pixel density displays in this form factor of tablets.

Since 3D CAD modeling is horribly inefficient at XGA (1024×768) resolutions, and straight maddening at SVGA (800×600), this immediately reduced the field of tabs down to the RF1, X60, and M400.

When working with CAD, even incremental increases in screen real estate will always be put to good use (e.g. an extra row of SW tool bars), so for me, having SXGA+ display carried great importance–so, out went the RF1.

Since none of the aforementioned tabs are available with a hot rod gfx controller, things could get a bit rough during the modeling and analysis (i.e. Cosmos Motion) of complex assemblies; therefore having max CPU horsepower, a boatload of RAM, and a fast second HDD (to be formatted with at least one dedicated cache/scratch partition) will all come into play. Here is where the M400 with its available options held the most promise (Core2 Duo T7600 @2.33GHz, 2GB SDRAM and a 2nd SATA HDD (7200RPM) mounted in the removable SelectBay HDD Adapter) and thus captured the lead.
Note: There were a few other items (e.g. a Firewire port)that played a role in my decision, none of which pertain to the criteria you have outlined; hence no point in detailing them here.

Normally I don’t go around giving plugs to dealers/resellers, but since they helped me arrive at a solid objective decision, I feel that an exception is in order: Allegiance Technology Partners is a small but established VAR focused solely on tablet sales, support and training for professionals. By carrying the offerings from all the major and minor tablet manufacturers, the advice they provide is not biased toward a particular brand. This coupled with the depth of knowledge/experience gained from advising/supplying tablet solutions to a such a wide range of industries and end users qualifies them as true tablet gurus.

I found it very refreshing to deal with this company, as it was apparent that their priority wasn’t centered on the quick sale/fast buck so typical of most sellers today; instead, they seem genuinely committed to furthering the longterm growth and advancement of tablet computing by making the effort to introduce it to new markets/customers and reinforcing it for established ones. This was quite evident when Allegiance’s CEO, John Hill (a hardcore tablet enthusiast himself) took the time to personally discuss my unique needs and specific expectations,sharing his wealth of knowledge as he provided good fact based advice regarding my choices.

As helpful as that level of guidance/support may be toward making a solid decision, Allegiance even takes it one step further with their ’48-Hour Tablet Demo Program’. They will ship the actual make/model of tablet that’s being considered so that a real world test drive can be performed; thus enabling a true objective final decision to be made prior to making the purchase! I don’t think anybody else offers assistance like this!

Considering this level of support, it was a huge surprise when their quotation for the total cost delivered to my door was actually slightly cheaper than the quote I received from Toshiba direct! Plus Allegiance was able to accommodate my request of having XP rather than Vista installed on the unit, while still receiving a free upgrade license for Vista that I can install at a later date–something Toshiba direct is not willing to do for orders placed after the launch of Vista. I highly recommend Allegiance!

The reason for my insistence on XP as opposed to Vista is simply based on my past experiences with ‘fresh’ MS OS releases–for minimal integration and compatibility issues (esp. for critical heavy apps like CAD/CAE), hold off at least until the first service pack has been released. But if you simply cannot stand waiting that long, then you’d be wise to set up a second bootable partition as a sandbox to install Vista. Then when/if it proves to be sufficiently stable to your satisfaction, you can then migrate over to it at leisure. Should all hell break loose with Vista, nothing is lost since you’ll already have a solid, fully functional XP partition in place to fall back on.

I Hope this helps, and good luck with the Tablet you end up selecting!

-d0c-

NewGuy Says: March 5, 2007 at 4:25 am

What do you guys think of the the new LG tablet. Looks really cool and the specs are not bad either.

Steve Says: March 5, 2007 at 6:20 pm

Don’t pick Toshiba

I have a Toshiba Portege M400-S4032. The specs are great… the performance isn’t. I have a ton of software installed (Dreamweaver, Fireworks, MS Office with OneNote/Visio/Publisher, Adobe Pro 7, Google stuff, Security apps, Toshiba bloatware, etc.) and use it all but I was happier with my “less capable” HP Compaq TC4200. (Of course, my work paid for the Toshiba so no huge complaint there.)

I’ve had the Portege since August 06, the hard drive’s crashed once… I’ve experienced several Blue Screen of Death Driver issues and Toshiba doesn’t seem to be able to help yet. I also seem to have some mystery slowdowns. I have watched both processes, CPU and hard drive access and none of these seem to give me a clue what the problem is.

Nevertheless, I’m still a fan of the Tablet PC concept — I’ll be interested to hear the actual performance of whatever you buy!!

pomoster Says: March 6, 2007 at 9:06 am

Fujitsu!!!
I can’t say enough about this machine. It’s a remarkably fast device, and just incredibly usable. Overall, I’ve had terrific user experiences with it (on XP Tablet). For me, it works as a great device for connectivity, multiple apps, entertainment (really!), and of course, pen computing. My screen is kinda hazy but that might be because I didn’t fork over money for the kick-ass display. Normally, I’m a fan of touch screens, but as digitizers go, this one functions perfectly. The only thing I’d have to mention is that it is kind of chunky. I, personally, don’t mind the thickness, but when compared to the others, this one will definitely stand taller (literally and figuratively). Go Fuji!
Jamie

Fred Says: March 17, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Hey Gang, I’m sure you’re looking for some info on whatever happened to me working on this.

Well I followed the advice of dOc (whose name I actually know now) thanks to the gentleman he referred me to at allegiance technical partners. John Hill who is the CEO there and the most helpful guy on the planet when it comes to Tablet PC’s spent some time with me on the phone and really got me the lowdown. IF you’re looking to get a tablet, I HIGHLY suggest you call him first. He knows what he’s doing. Look for an upcoming article (in a week or two here) about my foray into tablet PC use!!

http://www.alltp.com/ is the website

I like that John does the one thing everyone for some stupid reason is afraid of. He puts himself out there and encourages people to contact him. He is a great resource, and not to take advantage of that fact is silly. I’m not saying call him and make him your new phone buddy, but if you have a question pertaining to what he does particularly (and if you’re looking to buy a Tablet PC) email or call (email as we all know is easiest!).
Cheers!

Oh yeah, and Go Kimi!!

d0c Says: March 18, 2007 at 4:21 am

Fred, I’m glad to hear that you gave John at Allegiance a call and that he took good care of you! He certainly does go the extra mile.
While still on the subject of Allegiance, I guess I should mention that I received my M400 from them last week; right on time, and exactly as I had ordered it, including the special requests I had made regarding XP/VISTA. Thus making me a very stoked customer of Allegiance! Thanks John!!!

-d0c-

Oh, by the way Fred; now that you are privy to my real name, I hereby grant you permission to disclose it to any venture capitalists seeking inventions as well as any cute red-head chicks that you may encounter.

rubenkz Says: March 21, 2007 at 4:30 pm

I just wanted to put my post facto 2 cents in. I recommend the Asus R1F to anybody intereested in a real jack of all trades. It performs surprisingly well at all. I like the light weight (4 lbs) and like profile compared to the m400. It also has a much more solid feel to it (less plasticky). The SD slot is usb 2.0, allowing for a little semipermanent readyboost action without a usb stick sticking out of your computer. The screen is 13.3 inches, allowing for a little better gaming and movie watching, and it is incredibly bright. Asus really throws in a lot with it, including a carrying sleeve and a very fine laptop bag. The screen gamma correction software really does work to simulate desired environments. Ships with vista business installed. I bought this for a friend but immediately added 1 gig of ram and a 7200 hard drive. The hard drive that ships with the unit is now used in an external enclosure with CasperXP to do incremental back ups of the entire OS, etc so she can literally swap the drives in case of a catastrophic failure. The only thing that I am not raving about with this computer is the gma 950 graphics. It works and works well. Aero is smooth, games and animations and movies are all very nice, but I know that the 3-d rendering would be fine from a processor viewpoint but manipulating the 3d onject realtime on the screen may tax the graphic set. Not sure though. Otherwise I really do love this tablet so much. It is very refined and includes many extras such as a weight saver tray in the box at no extra charge…”big whoop” you say, but the cool thing is that the weight saver (replaces the already pretty light DVD-R) actually can accept a second hard drive for more storage capacity so you could literally just drop a 2.5 inch serial HD in there and you are good to go for another 100 + gigs. A separate battery to replace the dvd-r is also available for purchase. Other stuff I like are the PCI-Express card slot (PCMCIA is sooo 1990s) and Serial ATA Hard drives. The whole thing runs on a 667 mhx bus whic is darned fast. I love it, really. OK. I’m finally done and it looks like you made your decision, but hey. Why not. Rubenkz

Fred Says: March 21, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Rubenkz, thanks for chiming in, in defense of the Asus.

Actually, the decision is underway/has been made. Thanks to John Hill at http://www.alltp.com who sells a bundle of tablets and UMPC’s, (enough so that there was a bevvy to choose from).

I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag beforehand, but it worked out quite well. Soon I’ll be going over the test drives online.

Also -dOc and anyone else for that matter with design/technology/tabletlappy (or Formula 1) thoughts, questions, or just plain nagging doubts, [email protected] as long as it isn’t inane, you’ll get a response! (but if Its really inane it guarantees a response!)

So here’s the tablet PC decision,,,, » Coolest Gadgets Says: March 28, 2007 at 12:22 pm

[...] may remember a bit ago I blogged about a hunt for a Tablet PC. Well, the hunt is [...]

magia3e Says: June 13, 2007 at 12:48 am

I played with the Fujitsu and found it a little plasticky, plus the pen being on the left-hand-side for a right-handed person like me was just beyond annoying at 5mins.

I was wondering why you rejected the Toshiba R400? Is it because the CPU is only 1.2GHz?

I’ve been making my own list. It includes specs on PCMark05 and includes the ASUS as well – but I would instantly upgrade it to 2GB based on what I’ve read about it and Vista.

M

The quest for the holy grail of tablet PCs « Matt’s Musings Says: June 13, 2007 at 2:02 am

[...] I’ve been looking for the perfect Tablet PC. It’s something that enthusiasts like Fred have also been searching for. I’d love to have one in my hands so I can make an educated [...]

Write a review or comment

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

Top Categories
Latest Posts
Subscribe to Newsletter