What would it take for you to buy a tablet computer?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by advocate, Jul 3, 2005.

  1. advocate macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2004
    I've been thinking about buying a tablet (or otherwise pen-based fully functional) computer for years now and I'm not quite sure what's holding me back. Let's suppose that having to run Windows XP Tablet is not a problem because there's no real other choice right now. (For me, it's a good enough OS for mucking around with Office documents, checking email, and playing games; I reach for my PowerBook when I want to do some serious work!) What other reasons might you have for not buying any current tablet computer?

    I'm asking here because first of all I would absolutely love it if Apple were to sell a tablet computer, and second because I don't need Windows fanboys telling me that their favourite OS will magically solve all of my usability problems. :rolleyes:

    Any takers?
  2. cxk6111 macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2004
    Alexandria, VA
    Is there anything they could do?

    Every tablet I've used (not by choice) has been too heavy and not very ergonomic in terms of holding it for extended periods of time. I found myself hooking up a USB keyboard and then finding a way to prop the tablet up to use it like a monitor. I'm really not sure what the appropriate use of a tablet is. If I need to sit it on a desk or on my lap, my 12" iBook handles that quite nicely. If I need something small and light, my palm works. Heck, the current generation of Palms and iPaqs have wireless internet and just about every other thing you could want. (I've even used my 7 year old Palm V with a serial connector to hook up to the serial console of Sun servers).

    The other problem I have with tablets is that Windows XP (while a servicable OS) feels like its been shoehorned into the tablet. They really need to come up with a tablet specific operating system if you ever want to do anything fancy with it. With the current XP, the tablet feels like its cripped at the software level, in addtion to the weight and bulk mentioned earlier.

    So to summarize:

    1) Too heavy
    2) Too bulky
    3) No advantage over currently available hardware
    4) No suitable OS for the hardware

    I guess you could say that there really isn't anything you could do to get me to use a tablet PC.
  3. puckhead193 macrumors G3


    May 25, 2004
  4. biohazard6969 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 23, 2005
    toronto canada
    that and a sub $500 price. somewhere around the mini
  5. brianus macrumors 6502

    Jun 17, 2005
    I won't buy a current tablet mainly because of the size. I already HAVE a Windows notebook (14"); there would be very little advantage for me in getting a 12" Windows tablet.

    I think "tablets", rather than being basically notebooks sans keyboard, should be smaller, with the smallest being about the size of a legal pad and the largest the size of a standard sheet of paper (8.5x11"). And even that's kind of pushing it.

    My ideal tablet would be legal sized (but maybe slightly wider), running some future 'mobile' version of OS X; it would have a built-in, fold-out stand, an extremely thin slot-loading CD-drive, a slot for the stylus (of course) and a connector on the bottom for optional 'plug in modules' -- similar to what we've seen with the iPod -- but in this case it would be for things like a keyboard/touchpad assembly, or a docking station.

    Power consumption, heat and bulk could all be eased by using some kind of flash-based drive instead of a traditional HD. We've all no doubt seen the reports about -- who was it, Samsung? -- readying flash-based units with as large as 16GB capacity. It seems inevitable that these kinds of innovations will replace HDs in portables a few years.

    Oh, and I like the idea of pricing it the same as the Mac Mini, as long as we're thinking wishful here. :p What would this be called -- "MiniBook"? "iPad"?
  6. JonMaker macrumors regular

    Apr 24, 2004
    Maybe being tied up and having a gun pointed at my head (it would still be a difficult decision)....
    .... or maybe getting a nice surprise from our friends at Apple.

    On a serious note, I think that the current incarnation and concept of the tablet PC is rather half-baked. Isn't that cute... a crippled laptop.
  7. alex_ant macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2002
    All up in your bidness
    Tablets are stupid

    But I would buy one if it had a hinge with a flip-open screen on one side and a keyboard on the other.
  8. law guy macrumors 6502a

    law guy

    Jan 17, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    A ban on paper and white boards. I can type faster than I can write, so if I have an electronic device, I'd rather just type. Also, without a bit of friction, hand writing tends to suffer (you'll just write better with a pencil or fountain pen than even a too-smooth roller ball, or even a ball point tends to takes its toll on hand writing). Someones vision of a growth sector, but just not a useful product for me.
  9. ham_man macrumors 68020


    Jan 21, 2005
    Someone giving it too me free.

    The tablet is really a dumb idea. If I want a portable computer, I will use my PowerBook.

    If I want something to scribble out quick notes on, I will buy an iPaq or Treo.

  10. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    - >3.5 lbs
    - 1024x768 or better, on a small screen (maybe 10.4", or 12 at the most)
    - >8 hours battery life?
    - Built-in Wifi and BT, and enough speed to be effective for surfing.

    Well, that's really all I want. And it should be priced as a home add-on, not as a corporate thing. <$1500 definitely....

    But...An effective interface for taking digital notes in a meeting/classroom setting would be a nice plus. :)
  11. ozone macrumors 6502


    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    I disagree with most of the replies. Except for cxk6111, I don't know if others have used a tablet extensively. I used a Compaq (now HP) TC1000 hybrid tablet for almost a year and for several months, it was my only computer.

    General advantages:

    1. Handwriting recognition IS decent: approximately 85% to 95% out of the box. You can't 'train it', but it is better than what I have on my Palm AND PocketPC. Also, unlike what 'law guy' wrote, I had no problem writing on the smooth surface. From what I understand, newer tablets are even better.
    2. You can write in situations where it is inappropriate to type. If you have to partake in small meetings or if you're taking notes that tend to be highly graphical in nature, nothing beats handwritten or drawn notes.
    3. Tend to be more portable than any laptop. The newest convertible tablets (Tecra M200, IBM X41 Tablet, Fujitsu T4010, TC4200) come in at about 4.5 lbs or less: they are at least as light if not lighter than the 12" PB. Slate only tablets (NEC, Motion) are usually under 3.5 lbs.
    4. If you're not a very good typist or if you're a 'free form thinker', a tablet can be a god-send. There are Windows specific programs that take advantage of this: OneNote, Agilix GoBinder, Franklin Covey, and a host of scheduling, project coordinating and ART programs.
    5. If you fly a lot in economy or are in situations where you have to take notes literally on your lap, a tablet is superior to a laptop in terms of form factor and ergonomics: trust me, I've used both.
    6. There are some tasks that lend themselves to pen oriented input, as opposed to a mouse/keystroke input. There's a reason graphic designers like their Wacom tablets.
    7. Sure, I could take notes on my PDA and I have, but I challenge anybody to do so for an hour or more and not wish they had a larger writing surface.
    8. Contrary to what most people believe, you do NOT have to have everything you write transcribed: you can save your notes in your own handwriting as a digital 'picture', transcribe it later only if you want, and you can even send it 'as is' electronically to someone else. They only have to download a free viewer - sort of like Adobe Reader.
    9. Even better, you can import a document somebody sends to you, you can mark it up as if you were correcting an actual sheet of print on paper, and then send the whole electronic image back to them. Using the same reader, they can view all your comments or changes. This saves printing and hauling around huge wads of paper all the time.

    General Disadvantages:

    1. If you can type faster than you can write, then getting a 'slate only' style can be inefficient. You'd probably want a convertible style that allows you switch from keyboard to pen: this switch only takes a few seconds - you don't have to reboot or anything.
    2. Not the fastest out of hibernation or standby. Say you're in a meeting and you want to take notes and your computer is in standby: it could take 10, 20, maybe even 30 seconds before you're up and running. Windows is NOT as good as OS X for coming out of standby or hibernate. For me, this was a big pain and if you always need to catch every little word, nothing beats trusted technology - pen and paper!
    3. Toting a tablet around can get heavy. However, this applies to any laptop. Don't buy a 5 to 6 pound tablet and expect it to get lighter with time. Go as light as you can or can afford.
    4. Screens vary a bit: some are more clear than others. The best ones outshine anything on any Mac portable; the worst ones, eh... take a good look before you buy, or at least read some trustworthy reviews.

    A lot of the complaints or disadvantages that the other posters have written were more true of the first generation tablets that appeared two years ago - I owned one of them. But even then, they weren't that bad: the new generation tablets have come a long way. Just like everybody advises NOT to buy the first generation PowerBooks whenever there is a major change, so it is with everything else.

    IBM has just introduced one (X41 tablet) and I am seriously considering getting back into using a tablet that is a convertible, rather than a pure slate or hybrid-connect/disconnect-the-keyboard type. I've used an IBM ThinkPad and their keyboards are superior; PBs a close second. The TC1000 I had previously didn't quite do it for me, but it has been an absolute delight for my PhD student, who CANNOT touch type. She can't imagine going back to stricly using a keyboard: her productivity has increased tremendously.

    I make no bones about it: tablets CAN be very useful if your situation demands it. This thread has been quite polite, but I've found a lot of other posters on Mac Rumors tend to bash tablets simply because it runs Windows and/or do not have any real experience with them.

    If you want more information, check out:



    ... and there's a bunch more. Good luck with your decision!

    By the way, what mkrishnan wrote:

    - >3.5 lbs
    - 1024x768 or better, on a small screen (maybe 10.4", or 12 at the most)
    - >8 hours battery life?
    - Built-in Wifi and BT, and enough speed to be effective for surfing.

    ... does exist. But it'll cost you! Hey, nothing's perfect...
  12. advocate thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2004
    Wow, thanks for all the fascinating replies! Please keep them coming.

    To alex_ant: do you mean a convertible as opposed to a slate? Most Tablet PC models now have the standard laptop layout with a screen that rotates and closes the other way.

    I think I'm starting to get a better idea of why I don't like the current tablets. My 2.5 kg PowerBook is much too heavy to carry on my arm, so I guess I'm looking for something 1.5 kg or lighter; and I wouldn't want to worry about recharging it all the time so I guess I would want a 12 hour battery. Now that I think about it, ozone's right - the time I would want a tablet as opposed to a laptop is exactly when I can use a paper pad but not a laptop. Like when I'm on the go and would currently pull out a paper notepad; so I'd want it much much smaller and with a good transflective or other outdoor/indoor display, so I can stuff it in my pocket just like a paper notepad and be able to use it under any lighting conditions. Hmm.

    And sure, I type much faster than I write, but I'm one of those oddballs who needs to be creative on paper - typing just won't do. I think it's something to do with the linearily of the way words appear on the screen when typed in; it's much harder to go back and quickly annotate something, or draw a quick sketch to illustrate a point. Even when all I end up with on paper is line after line of text, I wouldn't have gotten there as well or as quickly by typing. On the other hand, I have loose sheets of paper everywhere, and I can never find anything, so typing notes in on my laptop is quite beneficial as well for staying organized. I was hoping a tablet would be more like a self-organizing pad of paper, one that I can pull out anywhere and write on quickly before I lose my train of thought.

    I think cxk6111 is right in that current tablet OSs just don't work. Sadly I've never used a Newton but I understand the Newton OS was designed to be a pen OS, as opposed to a desktop OS with pen support glued on. Tapping on Start on my Velo 1 was really odd and the UI hasn't really changed since then. (You can see how long ago my pen computing obsession started!) I'll keep hoping that Apple, the user experience company, will launch a product that works.

    By the way, ozone, who makes that super ultimate <3.5 lbs, >8 hour battery, 10" screen tablet? I might have to see what that one's like in case it'll tide me over until something I really want becomes available!
  13. advocate thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2004
    Oh, I just remembered the OQO that I read about back when it was vapourware. Nifty little thing. Needs to be brought up to date, and the OS needs to become pen-aware (as opposed to just thinking the pen is a mouse), but otherwise pretty cool.
  14. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I know that. That's why I said it had to be cheap too. :D Basically, what I want amounts to the equivalent of a ... hmmm... perhaps $1000 iBook, with a touch screen and more powerful battery, and the keyboard deleted, and perhaps even the combo drive. So if it can end up costing about $400-500 more than that iBook, I think I'd be sold.

    Things like the OQO have a lot of promise, and they're neat engineering feats, but I have a hard time seeing them fill a market niche in which anyone is interested in buying anything, except in very small volumes....

    The new Thinkpad tablet on the other hand...yeah, that is a very tempting piece of hardware. Not that it met my criteria, but if that were a white iBook running OS X instead of a black Thinkpad running XP, I would be seriously interested. To be honest, I guess even XP isn't that much of a barrier. I will wait and see if its price drops as it filters into online sales channels.... :)
  15. wordmunger macrumors 603


    Sep 3, 2003
    North Carolina
    I would buy a table computer about the size of a small book. And I'd use it like a book, for reading in bed, ebooks, stuff like that. In that regard, it would be nice if it had a better monitor than what you find on most computers -- more like the sony librie, but web-ified.
  16. gangst macrumors 6502a

    Dec 27, 2004
    I think the tablet could be very successful if it could be proved that they are not just a fad and can be solid laptop replacement with the ability to do the same things if not better, but at the moment I think they are nowhere near good enough or backed by enough developers.

    I would probably only buy a tablet if it was the type with a keyboard aswell, but for Apple to do that seems very unlikely because they'd probably go for the minimilist look.

    The tablet would have to be very small for me to purchase one possibly A5, this is because I bought my 12' Powerbook with the intention of taking it to school every day, but rarely if ever take it in, due to problem that I am not willing to leave a £1300 laptop sitting in a bag on the floor around campus, I'd like a tablet that could fit in my blazar comfortably without weighing me down on one side.

    Handwriting recognition is essential, and would almost have to be as good as human recognition.

    For me to buy one I'd have to see programs with tablet input come up MS Word, Photoshop (kind of already has it).

    The stylus with the ability to replace a mouse.

    1.25ghz at least
    at least half weight of 12' powerbook
    100gb hard drive
    scratch proof screen
    swivel screen
  17. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I totally understand your reasoning, but how different is this from a wifi-enabled PDA, perhaps one with a screen slightly on the larger side?
  18. Tamer Brad macrumors regular

    May 13, 2005
    I wonder if it's occured to anyone that tablets are also very useful for people who draw on a computer ...
  19. redeye be macrumors 65816

    redeye be

    Jan 27, 2005
    RE: What would it take for you to buy a tablet computer?

    It would have to be able to float around wherever i want it to.
  20. GKThursday macrumors regular


    May 25, 2005
    Legal V. Letter

    Just a little correction, legal size is 8.5x14”, it is bigger than standard letter size (8.5x11”)
  21. wdlove macrumors P6


    Oct 20, 2002
    No interest whatsoever. My next purchase is going to be a new desktop Mac.
  22. iMeowbot macrumors G3


    Aug 30, 2003
    Or they would be useful if somebody could solve the problem with lag (that may simply need to wait for faster processors).
  23. ozone macrumors 6502


    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    Tamer Brad is right... this was one of my main points. Pen and paper is a much more natural way to collect, organize, and analyze thoughts: you don't have to be dogmatically linear in your thinking. Most of life, science, art, etc. is nonlinear. Only in the last 150 years have we gotten into this applied science/engineering paradigm that everything must be orderly and in a straightline. I bet half the people who "hate technology" wouldn't half-mind a tablet. Good grief... listen to me... sounds like I'm lecturing in one of my classes...

    gangst... sounds like you should try a souped-up PDA. The top of the line HP iPaqs or the new Palm Life Drive sound more or less like what you're looking for. Also, there have been numerous slate only Windows CE type devices that have developed for a variety of professions that benefit from larger input screens: they're just not geared for the average consumer.

    I think we have to be careful not confuse overall functionality with form factor functionality. What I'm referring to are all the comments (here and elsewhere) that say the tablet is not a solid platform. It's already a proven platform: a convertible style tablet is 100% functional as a laptop replacement; in fact, it IS a laptop - open up the screen, start typing. End-of-story. Even with some of the slate only style tablets - just clip on the keyboard and you have a fully functional laptop. The tablet XP OS is 100% as functional as Windows XP normally is, and then some (assuming of course you think Windows is functional - ha ha ha)...

    The question is, however, if a tablet on it's own as a pure pen-paper substitute worth it? This has still to be answered: I think tablets will be more popular soon, but it might still take a few years until the right form factor + software enhancements are refined. I'm surprised more students have not embraced it: the need to switch from handwritten to word processed is nonstop. I think this is why a lot of people like the convertible style: 100% useful as a laptop and it offers the occasional pen input when you want it or need it.

    mkrishnan... yes, I'd die too if Apple had an iBook-like tablet. The flexibility of a tablet with the power and elegance of the Mac OS. Oh well, we can only hope I suppose... for now, I guess it's IBM. Let's face it, Windows is sometimes awful, but hey, it works for what it needs to do.

    advocate... there's a few models that are very close or match those magic specs.

    1. The HP TC1100, if you leave out the keyboard (which many people do), comes in at about 3.3 lbs. It has a 10.6" 1024 by 768 screen. Buy a spare battery and you can go about 7 hours using the tablet on a 'normal use' basis. I've done this with its predecessor, the TC1000, so I know it works. In fact, the TC1100 is probably better. The TC1100 has been out for a while, so you might be able to get some good deals on refurbs or on EBay.

    2. Electrovaya makes slate style tablets that come in at 3.5 lbs or less and last a ridiculously long time; extended batteries can reportedly last up to 9 hours. Check them out at http://www.electrovaya.com/product/sc3000.html

    3. NEC and Fujitsu also make slate style tablets that will probably fit your needs if these specs are what you want.

    If you want the cheapest tablet around, check out EBay or if you want new, check out Averatec Model AV3500: not light, not great on battery, but it only costs US $1500.

    As for battery life, well, it's true that generally you won't get more time than say a good laptop. 3.5 to 4.5 hours is typical. I find it funny however that everybody complains tablets have inadequate battery life when in fact they're often better than most laptops. You'd be in pretty much the same situation if your tablet OR laptop ran out of juice now, wouldn't you?

    Have fun.
  24. biohazard6969 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 23, 2005
    toronto canada
    they should make a new powermac with some sort of docking station and offer the tablet either separate or a discounted price when u buy wiht a powermac, that would be cool and i'd buy it
  25. advocate thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2004
    One more point occurred to me: these backlit displays are hard on the eyes. Some kind of display that works on reflected light -- basically, electronic paper -- would be really great.

    Also, has anyone considered Cintiq vs. Tablet PC? I wonder how they compare. The obvious points would be portability and power and choice of platform. Hmm. I wonder if I would use a Cintiq if I had one.

Share This Page