Electrovaya SC3000 Tablet PC Review

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Electrovaya Scribbler SC3000 Premium is a true "writing slate" style computer which runs on Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. Based on Windows XP Professional, but with significant usability enhancements such as pen and speech input, this operating system has been billed for at least a few years as a glimpse at the future of personal computing.

According to a recent news story posted on this site, Tablet PC use in Canada has grown twenty percent. Maybe it is something in the water up here, but I have to admit to liking these things myself. I have reviewed a couple of tablet in the past and using each was a delightful experience. I won't go into the why's and why not's of the platform too much in this article. Suffice it to say if you have not played around with a Tablet PC you really owe it to yourself to test one out.

Recently we worked with Electrovaya's top of the line Scribbler SC3000 Tablet PC for a few weeks. Electrovaya is a company that has really staked a claim in the emerging Tablet PC market. They know the platform well, so when the FedEx man delivered our review unit I was anxious to get started.

The Scribbler is a uniquely designed computer and Electrovaya is clearly betting that the Tablet form factor will find its market. Right off the bat, we can say that someone who likes the form factor will like the Scribbler. It is a pretty good performer in a well-constructed package.

Out-of-the-box, the Scribbler comes with a lot of goodies in the Premium configuration. The included keyboard, wire stand, and folio case are nice touches. But I would gladly forego some of the extras here in order to have an optical drive. Its nice to have this much stuff in the box, but you pay for it and it isn't quite as useful as an optical drive would be. Sure, external optical drives are cheap, but should you really have to buy one separately? I feel the same way about Electrovaya skimping on a bundled virus scanner.

Electrovaya differentiates its products through innovative design. In the case of the Scribbler a cursory glance at the spec sheet reveals an uninspiring assortment of parts. This might disappoint some people who believe that they need to have the fastest CPU, but think about the market at which this device is targeted. An ideal Scribbler user would be someone who wants a quiet, cool-to-the-touch machine that they can carry around and use all day. For this person, I don't think that the internal specs will be a deal breaker. Maybe I am wrong, but keep in mind that I am someone who loves his 800 MHz Apple PowerBook, so your take on the Scribbler's performance might be different than mine.

A base version is available without some of the extras included in the Premium package. Electrovaya has an online configurator that might make it easier for you to find a combination that works for you.

The Scribbler gets "very good" grades, it is great at what it was designed to do. As a pen-based computer you can use it all day, carry it with you, and it won't distract you with heat or noise. And with a little tweaking of the price and bundle - it could earn it "excellent" marks. Heck, my concerns may not even bother some folks, so keep that in mind.

Pros:

  • Unique form-factor and good ergonomics
  • Good screen
  • Biometric security
  • Battery life
  • Lack of heat
  • Looks cool


Cons:

  • Software bundle not worth '$300' and lacks virus scan
  • Might be too expensive given the above point

Tablet Pc Review Site Map


Fujitsu Stylistic ST5032 Review
HP Compaq TC1100 Review
The Averatec C3500 Review
Acer C314 Tablet PC Review
HP Compaq TC4200 Review
What Tablet PCs Can Do for You
Fujitsu ST5000 Review
Electrovaya SC3000 Tablet PC Review
Toshiba R15 Tablet PC Review
Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC Review

"It's a notebook when you need it to be, and a tablet when you want the comfort of paper and pen." These words come straight from the manufacturer. Toshiba is marketing their first consumer-oriented Tablet PC as the best of both arenas, a "full-featured notebook that doubles as a tablet". Toshiba states that the R15 "enables a more intuitive, more personal way of computing". We have worked with the R15 daily for a month. Does this machine chalk up to Toshiba's claims? Is it worth it to go for Tablet functionality over the standard Satellite notebook? Is the R15 worth the $1,599 price tag? In this review we offer our no-holds-barred opinion, so please read on!

Basic Specs:

  • OS - Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005
  • Intel Pentium M 725 (1.60GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 400MHz FSB)
  • 14.0" SXGA (1024 x 768) display
  • 60GB, 4200RPM Hard Drive
  • 512MB DDR333 SDRAM
  • CD-RW/DVD-ROM (CD 24x Read, 24x Write)
  • 6-cell battery (4700mAh)
  • Ports: RGB (monitor) port, TV-out (S-Video), 3 USB (2.0),
    External Mic jack, Headphone jack, RJ-45 LAN port,
    RJ-11 modem port, 240pin docking connector
  • Intel Extreme Graphics 2, 16MB-64MB (DVMA) Shared
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG (802.11b/g)

Extra Features worth noting:

  • Modular (removable) Optical Drive
  • Shock Mounted (and protected) Hard Drive
  • Port Replicator Slot
  • Toshiba "ConfigFree" Software


R15 Design

Let me start by saying that the Toshiba R15 is jam packed with so many features that we had to label our photos to really illustrate all that this machine offers! It is clear that much thought went into the usability and design of this model. Sometimes it's just the little extras that make the end-user experience so much better than the competition. It is refreshing to see Toshiba incorporating the same excellent features into the R15 that made the Satellite name legendary in mobile computing products. Nowadays this isn't the norm for low cost "value" models that don the shelves of Best Buy and COMPUSA.

One of the first things I look for in a convertible design is durability. The R15 feels solid and roadworthy. The hard drive is "shock mounted" to prevent data loss if the unit is bumped or dropped (hopefully not) while it is powered on. The swiveling display hinge moves smoothly and feels sturdy enough to withstand repeat use. The display locks firmly in place when the R15 is in "tablet mode" and when the lid is closed with the screen facing inward (standard). There is no play in either position which makes the device feel stable to load in a case or "carry down the hall" to your next meeting.

Conclusion

"Packed with peanuts chewy caramel and fluffy nougat. Snickers really satisfies!" You have probably heard the slogan. In this way, the Toshiba R15 reminds me of a Snickers Bar. It is so packed with features and extras, that it does truly satisfy. The Toshiba R15 is a great upper quality notebook that truly doubles as a full-fledge Tablet PC. The construction is roadworthy and the design and features are well-planned. In most every aspect the R15 is a pleasure to use, and runs as reliable and stable as any desktop PC. I would highly recommend this model to business users, students and most any mobile professional or home users who don't require the extra demands that require dedicated video memory or a 7200RPM high-performance hard drive. The 1.6GHz Pentium M processor provides plenty of power for any general computing task and then some. Priced at $1,599 and below, this machine offers many features and extra conveniences that are otherwise only found on $2,000+ notebooks. The Tablet functionality is as good as it gets and many users will enjoy the large bright screen with extra physical space to write (over many of the 12.1" tablets out there). If this is your first move into the Tablet PC world, the R15 is a perfect choice since when you use it as a notebook, it feels exactly like a notebook. When you flip the display down into "tablet mode", it feels exactly like a tablet. This machine offers the best of both worlds.

Pros

  • Great all around design and features
  • Durable and solid feeling machine
  • Tablet functionality/experience is great
  • Bright, crisp and colorful display
  • Good value for the price

Cons

  • No Bluetooth radio
  • Sound from built-in speakers is average
  • A bit heavier and bulkier than its M200 cousin

Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC Review

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Toshiba claims that the Portege M200 is the best selling Tablet PC (at least in Canada) so I figured this was as good a place as any to start my Tablet experience. I was looking forward to what I felt would surely be a great computer to review (note the clever use of foreshadowing to build suspense). I have to admit to wanting to try one of these units for a while. The concept seems to be a logical next step for computers. This article has a primary purpose, to tell you about the M200 and give you some perspective regarding how it rates and also a secondary purpose to tell you a little bit about the Tablet PC platform.

Toshiba selected good components for the M200. In Canada the standard configuration is the Centrino package, which includes the 1.6 GHz Pentium-M processor, Intel 855GM chipset, and Intel 2100B 802.11b wireless. It would have been nice to have 802.11b/g wireless rather than the older B' standard. In Canada, Toshiba does not offer an online notebook configurator so you are stuck with one standard configuration. At the time I was writing this article Toshiba introduces a refreshed M200 with a 1.8Ghz Dothan and 802.11b/g. A casualty of the standard spec is Bluetooth, which is available as a build to order option in the USA. In Canada you must buy the part and have a tech install it -- or void your warranty if you do it yourself.

The balance of the spec sheet is filled out by a fast 7200 RPM 60 GB hard drive, 512 megabytes of PC2700 RAM (512MB in one slot and a vacant second slot for future expansion -- max 2 GB). The screen is a 12" poly silicon TFT with a Wacom-developed electromagnetic digitizer. Many people feel that a an LCD screen protector is not required for Tablets, but I should warn any new users that mine suffered two scratches within hours of first using it. Screen protectors like those from www.strongengineering.com are significantly less expensive than a new LCD screen.

Ports are sparse. There is a single Cardbus slot, Modem (software-based), Ethernet (10/100), VGA (no DVI) and two USB 2.0 ports. The lack of DVI is unfortunate as more and more people adopt LCD monitors and LCD projectors are increasingly available with DVI ports. Lack of Firewire is also unfortunate. Connectivity is good, with 802.11B, (optional) Bluetooth, and Infrared available for wireless communication with networks, peripherals and other devices. Accessories for the M200 include a dock and port replicator.

The M200 is about the same size as a ThinkPad T-series. It is much larger than the ultra slim Portege R100, but still very portable at about 4.5 pounds. It is well over an inch think and while that may provide lots of room for heat dissipation (the M200 is quiet and cool) there apparently was not enough room for an optical drive.

And this brings me to perhaps my biggest complaint; the M200 does not include an optical drive of any kind. Ultra slim laptops have been sold this way for a few years, and I still don't understand why. These are premium laptops with premium prices -- why make users buy the drive as an accessory? This policy is further exacerbated by the fact that only Toshiba drives can boot the M200 (or R100 for that matter) and the drives that Toshiba sells are outrageously expensive ($499 CDN). This makes disaster recovery very inconvenient. If you need to restore your M200 for any reason, you had better learn how to boot from a network, or SD Card or possibly a combination of Toshiba's floppy drive and a generic optical drive (Toshiba's Floppy drive, also not included, is another expensive accessory).

The test unit came with Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005 -- this includes XP service pack 2. It also came bundled with Toshiba's suite of excellent configuration utilities. The network tool that Toshiba has developed is especially useful when traveling and makes settings for the notebook and tablet function easy to access in one place.

Microsoft's OneNote application is bundled with the M200 and this represents the biggest software inclusion. Basically, OneNote is a must have application for any tablet, and is bundled with most. It showcases a lot of the Tablet's better features and is built to Microsoft's usual high standard for Office applications. I am not sure that it stands on its own though and it is in no way a substitute for Word.

Toshiba has bundled Norton Antivirus 2005 with a 1-year subscription. The standard with most new computers seems to be a 30 or 60-day trial, so this is a nice feature.