Due in no small part to the fact that my wife wanted her laptop back, I’ve spent the weekend getting used to my brand new refurbished Toshiba Portege M200. The M200 is a tablet PC. It shipped with Microsoft Tablet XP. (None of this Vista crap! That was one of my criteria when. began my search.) Initially, I didn’t want to purchase a tradition laptop, and I didn’t think I’d find a tablet in my price range. I had just about settled on an Asus Eee PC. Two things attracted me to the Asus. The first was its small form factor. My wife has 15″ screen and her laptop seems HUGE to me! After all, I’m used to carrying a Nokia Internet Tablet that fits comfortably in my pocket. At 7″ give or take, the Eee PC seemed like a decent compromise between the laptop and the Nokia. The other reason I was looking at the Eee was the minimalist approach to onboard software. The Eee PC runs a version of Linux OS, and although you can add additional software, everything you need to do your day to day stuff is pre-loaded. What’s not pre-loaded is all the bloatware you get when you bring home a machine running Windows. Something that I would really miss with the Eee is the fact that there is no touch- or pen-sensitive screen. That has been a priority for me since the days when I used an NEC VersaLite tablet PC. (I loved the form factor of that machine, a true slate with an attachable keyboard and mouse. Almost the exact size of a legal pad.)
I ended up finding the M200 refurbed for a fantastic price, and it was still a close call between the M200 and the Eee PC. I’m glad I went the way of the tablet in the end. With a 12″ screen, it’s large enough to fell comfortable, but small enough that I don’t feel overwhelmed. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted one any bigger! I still have to deal with a certain amount of Windows bloatware, but much less than if I’d purchased a machine with Vista. And, since it’s a tablet, I’ve got my pen-enabled screen that I thought I’d have to go without. I’m very happy with the machine and my wife’s happy to have her own machine back.
Almost every major gadget blog has a review posted about this machine, and I have no reason to add to the pile. Instead, I’ll limit myself to sharing just the reasons I, personally, am happy with this machine. The M200 is, I’m finding out, a very thoughtfully designed machine. This is especially true when it comes to features that make it easier to use with the screen flipped in tablet mode. With the screen flipped
you have access to four customizable pen buttons, a four-way control for scrolling, a Crtl-Alt-Del-type key, and another button I haven’t figured out yet. The pen buttons are customizable per application and I’ve already begun to rely heavily on them for performing keyboard shortcut actions when I’m in pen mode.
The power, wifi power, and volume control are all on the outside of the machine, again, this is handy for pen mode. Being able to control the volume manually is a nice touch as well. The screen resolution is INSANE! I’m not looking at the specs right now, but it puts every other laptop I’ve worked on to shame. While this makes it a bit harder to read the smaller text, it does amazing things with picture quality and pen precision. And there’s a quick keyboard shortcut to change to a more standard resolution.
I also really like the placement of, well, just about everything. The power cord remains out of the way in keyboard and pen modes. I love having the four-way control on the right side of the tablet screen. Since I’m a lefty, this means that I can pen with one hand and scroll with the other.
There have been a few concerns about the quality of the body, especially the underside, but, forsakes, just take care of the thing! It’s not titanium, but it’s not glass either! Similar misgivings have come from the fact that the M200 does not ship with an optical drive. This is strictly a BYOCDROM affair. Since there are open USB ports and an open PCMCIA slot, this didn’t concern me too much.Although, since there is no built in drive, it would have been nice if Toshiba had put a repair partition onboard.
I have zero complaints about the hardware so far. My version of benchmarking consists of seeing how it handles certain RPG’S I have on hand. As long as I can play Morrowind, I’m generally happy. I did add an additional GB of RAM to the 512 MB that was installed. It now loads so fast I can’t see the boot sequence, which also makes me happy.
One of the most exciting things about this machine is the impact it is likely to make on my blogging. I can now blog by hand. If I can write it, draw it, or highlight it, I can put it into a blog post. And, of course, this post is mostly hand written. But with some screen capture software, a good paint program, and some imagination, it becomes just mind-bogglingly amazing how many cool things I can put together for an internet audience! I’ve already got a few ideas I want to try out, but I’d like to hear your ideas, too. How can a tablet PC change the way I blog? What can I do now that I couldn’t do on my wife’s laptop?
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