So I finally did it…I ordered my new Windows 8 Tablet. No, not’s not a Surface RT nor is it a Surface Pro, but rather a Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2. Why? The quick answer is digitizer, size and cost.
For the long answer we need to start at the beginning. It was July 18, 2012 on a typical sunny California day that Microsoft’s Steve Balmer announced a new tablet PC completely designed and built by Microsoft. Ok, so maybe I went too far back. Let’s fast forward a bit.
After seeing the specs for the Surface RT and the Surface Pro I was really torn about one thing, the lack of a digitizer for pen input on the RT. You see, I already have a desktop and laptop to do more serious work, but have been trying to find a slim and portable device where I could take handwritten notes. Some may say, a capacitive stylus does that already and there are a ton of slim tablets using iOS or Android. Well, yes you can use that quarter inch round rubber tip or even a flat plastic disc that pivots on a tiny ball point (yes the Adonit Jot) but the accuracy just isn’t there. I may as well be using my finger! So, for real pen input and handwriting recognition there are two options…the Note devices from Samsung or Windows 8 Tablets with digitizers. For me, this is an easy choice as the Note’s use Android for which there is no official Microsoft Office with a full version of OneNote. Enter the Surface RT…it has Office, but sadly no Digitizer. So then there’s the Surface Pro…a very competent system with 1080p resolution, an Ivy Bridge i5 processor and a Wacom digitizer, but it’s overkill for simply taking handwritten notes not to mention the fact that it costs as much as a full fledged ultrabook, weighs almost as much and only has about a 5 hour battery life.
So, what are my options for a slim, 10” device that has enough battery life for a full day of use and costs around $500? Not many, at least not many with digitizers. Many of the consumer grade tablets like the ARM based VivoTab RT don’t have digitizers since they are really meant as a consumption product. So what about the Atom based tablets that can run the full version of Windows 8? Well, some are just too big at 11.6” like the Samsung Ativ SmartPC. While the keyboard dock options are cool, I don’t need it…I already have a laptop for that.
To really find tablets with digitizers one must look more towards the business grade products such as the HP ElitePad 900, Dell Latitude 10 and the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2. Sounds like a decent selection with very similar internal specs, but now you’re looking at business prices as well $650 and up. If you take the HP ElitePad 900…the 1200×800 is a great resolution for documents because of the 4:3 ratio, but basically eliminates one of Windows 8’s coolest features; the Snap feature which lets you run two Metro apps on the same screen. I want to be able to type or write notes while I’m Skyping someone or keeping an eye on items I’m bidding on from Ebay. So the ElitePad is out.
What about the Dell Latitude 10? I’ve always had Dell laptops and the Latitude 10 tablet is a good looking device, but it’s a bit heavy. The biggest plus is that there is a version with a replaceable battery. It’s nice to see someone thinking about future replacements of high capacity upgrades. There is one omission though…although it has a digitizer, there is nowhere on the device to store the pen. Even the Surface Pro will let you store the pen via magnets in the charging port (that’s another story.)
So, that leaves the Thinkpad Tablet 2. It’s 10.1” device as well, but it’s slimmer and lighter and has a pen a storage slot to place it in. Like most other tablets it doesn’t have a replaceable battery and it flexes more than I would like…but then again, that’s me really trying to twist it while checking out the display model. Speaking of models, there are way too many versions that aren’t readily apparent. In fact, it’s downright confusing! I’ll save that discussion for a later date, but I eventually figured out which model had what I needed.
Then there’s the price. At $699 it’s cheaper than the Pro, but still above my $500 budget. So then why did I just buy it? Well…I found one on Lenovo’s Outlet that was new for $540. That’s close enough and a deal that I couldn’t pass up! For that price I get a tablet that is what I consider the right size, has a digitizer, a great battery life and if I really need to I can run x86 programs.
So what’s the catch? Well, many reviews have stated WiFi issues as well as inaccurate pen input especially closer to the edges of the screen even after calibration. I tested at the store and it didn’t seem that bad. Only time will tell. Now for the dreadful wait as my order makes it way though shipping all the while my excitement to play with my new toy builds!
Well, that was the long story, but this is not the end. It’s only just the beginning. Stay tuned for more updates on my experiences as well as more background info of my tablet research that wasn’t so easy to find.