Thursday, October 13, 2005
Tablet PCs are great. If you are a mobile person, and you have never considered getting a tablet PC in the past, now is as good a time as any to start checking them out - the technology is cutting-edge, the usability is superb, and prices are starting to drop.
There are two main types of tablet PCs: convertible and slate. Convertible tablets look a lot like normal laptops except the screen can be rotated all the way around and laid down flat across the keyboard. You then input information through the screen using a stylus. Slate tablet PCs include only the screen interface – though they are fully integratable with peripherals like keyboards and mouses, the computer itself does not have them. Both types are viable options, depending on your personal preferences and what you’ll be using it for.
As with any technology, tablet PCs have advantages and disadvantages. Thanks to the last few years of development and enhancement, the disadvantages are shrinking in number, and the perks are becoming more and more enticing.
Advantages of Tablet PCs
Far and away, the best thing about tablet PCs is their mobility. You can take and use them anywhere you go, the same way you would take notebook and pen. That means that when your boss bumps into you in the hallway and gives you a number of assignments, you can write them down. In meetings you don't have to hide your face behind the monitor of your laptop because you can lay the tablet PC flat on the table. For students, this mobility is great - you can study your notes while you're waiting in lines or even in the car.
Tablet PCs let you use digital ink to store handwritten notes, graphs, charts, and pictures. You don't have to worry about taking your laptop and a notepad and pen to meetings or classes. Using the stylus, tablet PCs record your handwriting and drawings. They can convert your handwriting to text if you need to turn in an assignment typewritten.
All of the money you have been spending on pens, pencils, highlighters, notepads, papers, binders, folders, staples, and paperclips stays in your pocket. Because of the digital ink option on tablet PCs, much of the need for paper supplies and writing utensils is eliminated. You can keep all your notes on your computer.
Finally, one of the advantages of tablet PCs over regular laptops is that you don't lose any functionality from your computer. Tablets operate on similar platforms and run many of the same programs. In fact, many programs integrate all of their normal functions with digital ink, so you can add notes to documents and even email your handwritten notes to someone.
Disadvantages of Tablet PCs
Despite my obvious zeal for tablet PCs, I recognize that there are still some disadvantages. First is the price. The prices for tablet PCs are coming down quite a bit from when they were first released, but on average, you can expect to spend more for a tablet PC than for its equivalent laptop. Depending on the bells and whistles you're looking for, expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 on up.
The handwriting-to-text conversion does not always work the way you wish it would. Just like speech-to-text systems require a trained style of speech to work properly, tablet PCs recognize a trained penmanship easier than the way you may write naturally. A lot of the kinks in these conversion systems have been worked out - but don't plan on handwriting your next novel expecting to be able to convert into a print-ready copy with no problems.
Finally, their smaller size is both an advantage and disadvantage. They are much more mobile than their laptop counterparts, but the viewing area is also smaller. Likewise, the keyboard also shrinks down to accommodate the smaller size, so if you feel like your fingers are already cramped on a laptop-sized keyboard, you'll want to make sure you're going to be able to use the tablet PCs before you buy one.