Old-school tablet still a go-to machine

I’ve said many times that I cannot believe tablet PCs have never really sold well. They are such great devices.

So I was intrigued by IT World Canada editor-in-chief Shane Schick’s slideshow 10 Tablets That Never Quite Took Off, and I went through it looking for  the tablet I’ve been using since it came out in 2006, the HP Compaq tc4400. Although I use it every day and love it, I only ever saw one other person with a similar machine, so I naturally assumed it hadn’t “taken off.”

It turns out that it never even made Schick’s list of tablets to review because it is so old. But it had some really good features that hopefully will be seen in the latest crop of tablets.

When I initially went looking for a tablet PC, I had two main criteria in mind. The first is that it had to work well for taking notes, particularly in OneNote, an add-on to Microsoft Office. My goal was to eliminate paper, because for me paper is something that gets lost and misplaced. With full indexing and search capability, OneNote is just the ticket.

The second criterion is that it had to become my one and only computer. I had no interest whatsoever in anything that needed to be synchronized with another “real computer,” and I wanted a machine that would be a laptop when I needed it and a tablet when I needed it. This device does that, and for that reason it is called a convertible. The screen opens up to reveal a keyboard in laptop mode, and you can give the screen a twist to have it lay on top of the keyboard in tablet mode.

In the office I have it in both modes simultaneously, docked to a second monitor, keyboard and mouse. It’s a perfect setup, and I’ve never seen it used that way anywhere else. People who visit me think I have the latest gadgetry but it is almost five years old.
Still love your old school hardware? Tell us why. E-mail dwebb@itworldcanada.com
In laptop mode, the screen is quite small – 12.1 inches – but of high quality so it works just fine for my purpose. Its maximum resolution is 1024 by 768, which won’t do for graphics designers, but for the average businesspeople who spend 99 per cent of their time in Microsoft Office, it’s quite adequate. In tablet mode, you use a built-in stylus to take notes.

I run Windows 7 on it, and as far as the office network is concerned, it is just another computer. Back in 2006, it required quite a bit of technical support because many of its device drivers were non-standard, but with Windows 7 I don’t recall having a single problem.

So how does it stack up with newer gear? By today’s standards, it is quite heavy, at 4.6 pounds (2.08 kg). I also have a long-life battery that adds close to two additional pounds (0.9 kg), but I find it necessary if I want to attend meetings without having to plug in. At 80 gigabytes of hard drive space it is getting to be a small computer, and of course it has none of the fancy touch-screen features that newer machines have.

But it’s a solid business machine, and I’m hanging on to mine until I see something worth upgrading to. That would be a machine that still meets my two main criteria, but that is much lighter, has a higher resolution screen, and has a built-in battery that lasts all day.

If I were allowed to dream, this new machine would be a combination of the iPad and the machine I currently have. Besides having all the iPad features of touch screen, GPS, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc., it would run Windows 7, have instant on, have a high-capacity flash drive, be a convertible with a real keyboard, weigh less than 2 pounds, and have a built-in long-life battery. It would also have a built-in stylus for running programs like OneNote.

I doubt we’re too far away from realizing such a dream, and maybe we already have. I haven’t really looked; that’s how much I love my current machine. 

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