I’ve always been intriuged by Tablet PCs, particularly the slate (not convertible) type, but since they have never caught on, I’ve been a little skeptical. Well, with my birthday coming up, I decided to treat myself and take a chance. I could only find one slate PC with decent reviews and that was the Motion Computing LE1700.
A PC World review indicated the Core 2 Duo model got very hot and recommended the Core Solo version. With Vista getting such horrid reviews, my initial instinct was to get XP; however, Vista’s Tablet PC features were supposed to be superior to XP, so in the end I got the model with a 1.2GHz Core Sole, 1GB RAM, Vista Business…and crossed my fingers.
I thought I would blog some of my thoughts since I found the various reviews kind of lacking in the actual usability department. I found my questions on how the darn thing works in the real world unanswered. Hopefully, I can answer some of your questions.
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After four days with the device I can uncategorically say, “I love it!” It is everything and more that I thought it would be. The build quality is superb. Solid. The are some videos on YouTube of people dropping this unit several feet (apparently) without problem. Also, the Core Solo CPU gets a little hot, but not unbearably so. It also seems powerful enough to do everyday tasks.
I LOVE the fingerprint recognition feature. I have a rather long
Windows password and not having to type it all the time is wonderful. It even
works with some applications that require a login. Cool! (See the tip
below for best results!) �
It has a large and bright 1400 x 1050 display that is very easy on the eyes. Most of the time I use it in portrait orientation which is great for web surfing. I do much less scrolling compared to my widescreen laptop with it’s 1280 x 800 resolution screen. It does seem to have an issue with remembering the orientation when booting or returning from standby, but since there is a hard button to change it, it’s not a real big deal. The recent software update was supposed to fix this, but I haven’t seen it work yet. There is an auto-orientation feature, but that just seems to cause me more confusion that it’s worth.
How I Use It�
Generally, the bulk of my computer use is web surfing, checking email, and reading RSS feeds. The LE1700 is a dream for these tasks. I’ve even done some light web development, but you really need a keyboard for heavy input chores, like writing this post. Of course, you can add a keyboard, I’m thinking a Bluetooth one would be perfect. Motion Computing offers a nice keyboard that docks the slate in it and another USB version that has a built-in touchpad. Since my regular laptop works fine and isn’t worth that much on eBay, I figured I’ll just hang onto it for those situations where I need to use a keyboard and mouse. You can never have too many computers.
I am basically floored at how accurate the handwriting recognition is. I can often barely read what I wrote and it seems to guess the correct words. I think that’s the trick they use. Instead of trying to figure out each individual character, it guesses the word. In addition to just scribbling out a word or sentence, you can input character by character. This is a good mode for entering usernames and passwords that might mix letters and numbers. There is also a full floating virtual keyboard.
The input panel sits mostly hidden on the edge and appears when you click or mouse over the edge. Although you can dock it to the top or bottom, it doesn’t have a auto-hide feature unfortunately. If you close it when it’s docked, it goes back to a floating panel.�
The writing surface is nice and hard. It feels quite natural to move the pen tip over it. You can move the cursor around without actually touching the screen which takes some getting used to. By default, the pen’s cursor (a small) dot indicates the the position on the screen, but I turned that option off and just use the normal mouse cursor.
The limitation of pen input is quickly found when you need to use the Ctrl or Shift key with mousing, like selecting a range or multiple items. You must press the key on the virtual keyboard, which stays on, and then do the mousing chores. A minor nuisance. I suppose you could reprogram one of the hard buttons, if you really wanted to.
Note that you MUST use the pen for all input. The device does not support touching with your finger. From what I’ve read, Motion was suppose to offer a touch option, but decided not to. Not a big deal I guess, but don’t lose the pen!�
With USB keyboard, Flex dock and DVD+-RW drive.
On a related note, Vista’s speech recognition is very cool. It has
to be very quiet if you use the built in mic, but I imagine it would be
great with a headset. I need to try that.
For some reason, Vista would not give me Internet access when I connected to my D-Link 634M WiFi router, a fairly recent model. It would work, however, with my ancient Linksys WRT54GS. My web search results show that this is a very common problem. I ended up upgrading to a new D-Link DIR-655 with draft N and gigabit switch and it works fine. �
You can get a Sprint wireless broadband card, but I did not get this option.
I get about 2 hours on the standard battery. You can get a super slim snap-on extended battery which supposedly will add another 3 hours. Since I’m usually near an outlet, I’m passing on this for now since it will add more weight.
- If you use Firefox, get the Grab and Drag add-in. This allows you to grab the page and scroll rather reaching for the scroll bar.
- Go to the Motion Computing downloads section and update all of the software and drivers that need it.
- By default, the fingerprint scanner will scan two fingers. Your left thumb is the most convenient digit based on the placement of the reader. The other finger I used was my right index. TabletPCBuzz poster alltp posted a great trick. The trick is to fill all 10 fingerprint samples, but just use the same two fingers. This makes your success rate much higher when using the fingerprint reader. I used 8 “fingers” for my thumb and 2 for my index. Scan the repeats using different directions and angles for the best results. (This reminds me of an old joke from Get Smart where the villian argues that his (gold) thumb is a finger.)
- Get an extra pen. Since the device doesn’t support touch, you’ll be dead without one. I’ll probably remove the tether string once I get my spares.