Review posted March 2004
by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
If you want to read a brief intro to Windows XP
Tablet Edition notebook features and specs, click here.
Second generation Windows XP Tablet models represent
a vast improvement over manufacturers' first efforts. Take the
Viewsonic PC V1250, which blows away most first generation tablets
we've reviewed. It's got a fast Centrino processor while first
generation models had aging Pentium III processors, and a much
sharper, brighter display. If you're considering an XP Tablet model,
the V1250 should be on your short list. We received the V1250 Bundle
package which includes a docking station, two chargers, two batteries,
two styli (with erasers) and an external IEE 1394 FireWire DVD/CDRW
Above, in clamshell mode. Below,
in slate mode.
Design and Ergonomics
While ViewSonic's first XP Tablet, the PC V1100, has
a slate design, the V1250 is a convertible model. A convertible looks
like a standard notebook at first glance, having a standard keyboard
and clamshell design. You can use it as you would any notebook computer
or as a slate. The display swivels and rotates so you can hold it and
use it like an 8.5" x 11" pad of paper. The keyboard is hidden
under the display when in this mode, and you'll use the included stylus
to navigate on-screen and write using handwriting recognition or the
on-screen soft keyboard.
The ViewSonic isn't just another rectangular notebook.
As you can see from the photos, it has two "grab" areas which
give you something to hold onto when using the unit in slate mode. The
grab area which faces forward when the unit is in clamshell mode houses
stereo speakers, a scroll wheel and buttons for launching IE, opening
menus and more. It's both an attractive and ergonomic design.
The V1250 weighs 3.9 lbs and is reasonably compact.
XP Tablets need to be light and not too large because they're intended
to be carried around like pads of paper, and the ViewSonic manages to
stay within the comfort range in terms of weight and size.
You won't have to compromise on ports and expandability
with the V1250: it has two USB 2.0 ports on the rear, one FireWire (powered,
yay!) port, standard 3.5mm audio in and out ports, one SD/MMC/Memory
Stick card slot, one PCMCIA slot and a docking station connector on the
bottom. The left grab handle houses modem, Ethernet and VGA ports under
The docking station is quite small and lays flat on
your desk. It has a power button on top, and ports on the rear for power,
USB 2.0 (3), powered FireWire (1), VGA, 3.5mm audio in and out and Ethernet.
Since the bundle includes two chargers, you can leave one plugged into
the docking station, and take the other with you as you travel with the
Horsepower and What's Inside
The unit has a 1 GHz Centrino Pentium M processor,
which has become the standard for small notebooks in the past
6 months. It's MUCH faster and less power hungry than the Pentium
III used in past tablets and older notebooks. In fact it is a
bit faster than notebook Pentium 4 processors while using much
less power. It comes with 256 megs of SDRAM expandable to 768
megs, a 30 gig hard drive (attached to an Intel Ultra ATA controller),
built-in WiFi 802.11b using the Centrino Intel Pro Wireless 2100
controller, a standard RJ45 Ethernet port along with 1 type II
cardbus PCMCIA slot and an SD/MMC/Memory Stick card slot. The
bundle includes a fast FireWire DVD/CDRW drive which doesn't
need an external power supply, reducing the amount of stuff you'll
have to carry and outlets you'll need when traveling.
The V1250 feels much faster than first generation
tablets we reviewed and is on par with non-tablet 1 GHz Centrinos.
It feels a hair slower than non-tablet counterparts but that
may be due to the fact the V1250 ships with 256 megs of RAM.
You'll really want to upgrade that to 512 megs since Windows
XP does run more slowly with 256 megs of RAM, and the pen, handwriting
and voice extensions added into the Tablet Edition make XP a
bit more memory hungry. Fortunately, the ViewSonic uses standard
DDR SODIMMs and can take up to 768 megs of RAM. It has one open
slot for memory.
Display and Sound
The V1250 has what ViewSonic calls a high luminance
XGA 12.1" TFT LCD display with auto brightness adjustment. ViewSonic
is known for the quality CRT and LCD displays, and as we'd expect,
this model has a lovely display by XP Tablet standards. While
tablet displays aren't as bright, contrasty and sharp as better
notebook LCDs, the V1250 comes darned close, and does indeed
look as good as mid to lower priced notebook displays. Why don't
tablets look as good? Because they must have a tough layer on
top that can take repeated contact with the pen, and they have
a digitizer layer which works in conjunction with the electromagnetic
pen. With the proliferation of tablets, technology has improved
in leaps and bounds in the past year, and now we have displays
that don't make big concessions.
Intel's 855 integrated graphics controller,
which is a part of the standard Centrino chipset, drives the
display. I've been impressed with this graphics controller, now
found on most Centrino notebooks. Though it's an integrated solution
that uses 64 megs of shared memory, it has performed well for
gaming. We ran Rise of Nations on the ViewSonic and it was a
pleasant experience. The fast FireWire DVD/CDRW helps too when
games must load resources from disk.
Sound is quite good from the well-placed stereo
speakers and is louder than most notebooks. It's certainly good
enough for video conferencing and watching web-based movies.
Of course, you'll want to use headphones when listening to music
or watching DVDs.
Above, top view of the closed
The optional docking station and FireWire DVD/CDRW
included in the Bundle.
Battery Life and Software
The ViewSonic comes with a 1900 mAh battery,
which is small by notebook standards. Despite that, the frugal
Centrino chipset and strong power management gave good run times
with WiFi turned on. On average, we got three hours per full charge.
The bundle includes a second battery, and as with all notebooks,
you can purchase additional batteries separately.
As you'd expect, the unit comes with Windows
XP Tablet Edition, which includes MS Journal, a great virtual pad
of paper application. ViewSonic includes demo versions of several
pen-savvy apps such as FranklinCovey TabletPlanner, MindManager® 2002
for Tablet PC, Alias SketchBook Pro and Colligo Workgroup Edition.
These apps will allow you to make full use of Tablet Edition's
features, as will Microsoft's new OneNote application which isn't
bundled but is worth checking out.
The Pen and Voice Experience
Since handwriting recognition, digital ink technology,
voice dictation and voice command are built into the operating
system, don't expect much variation between competing brands and
models. Machines with faster processors will translate handwriting
into text more quickly, and might also do a better job of voice
recognition. Also, a better built-in mic can help improve voice
recognition, but you're really going to need a good quality headset
mic if you want to successfully use voice dictation. Why? A good
headset mic is always going to be of better quality compared to
a built-in mic, and you won't have to worry as much about ambient
Handwriting Recognition and Digital Ink
Handwriting recognition works fairly well . You
can use handwriting recognition (HWR) with most any application.
It's built into the OS, as is the on-demand on screen keyboard
and voice command/voice dictation app. You can write in either
print or cursive, and specify the delay before your writing is
translated. If you're a Pocket PC user, you can also use the same
character recognizer found on Pocket PCs. As noted with other tablets
reviewed here, cursive and print writing using the standard input
mode worked as well as character recognizer. Cursive writing in
standard mode should be more demanding than character recognizer,
but somehow they're equally accurate. Windows Journal, included
with Windows XP Tablet Edition, allows you to doodle, draw, write
free-form and later select handwriting to be translated into text.
It is a very useful and neat app which has many templates including
lined paper, graph paper, sheet music and outline format! Windows
Journal allows you to write in ink notes to your heart's content,
and later translate your handwriting into text if you so desire.
This is very handy if you want to take meeting notes at the same
speed you can write on paper, and later turn it into text for printing,
emailing and etcetera. You can also do some nifty things like write
notes on a web page and email it to someone else. Even if they
don't have a tablet, they will see your ink annotations on the
Windows XP Tablets don't have very good voice
recognition capabilities. Before you use speech, you must spend
approximately 10 minutes doing an initial voice training exercise
with the machine. After that, you can choose to read aloud excerpts
from classic works to put in more training time, which is supposed
to improve accuracy. I did 3 training sessions, since the initial
one yielded poor results. Additional training didn't improve recognition,
but just as with other tablets we've tested, it did generate some
really humorous sentences.
Pro: If you're in the market for a Windows XP
Tablet, the attractive and intelligently designed ViewSonic V1250
is a winner. The fast Centrino processor, full set of ports, good
wireless performance and excellent display by Tablet standards
are strong selling points. The convertible design makes the unit
versatile and at under 4 lbs. it won't weigh you down. The reasonably
priced bundle adds a lot of value and allows you to turn the V1250
into a desktop machine.
Con: You'll want
to upgrade RAM because 256 megs means the machine won't run at
optimal speed. In 2005, we're seeing faster tablets with 1.5 GHz
or better Centrino processor speeds, so the V1250 isn't a speed
champ anymore. As with several other lightweight tablets, you must
carry an optical drive separately if you need to access CD or DVD
Suggested list price for V1250 Tablet PC: $1,995
(no bundle), $2,499 with bundle described in this review.
External optical drive, docking station and other accessories
available for purchase separately if you don't buy the bundle.
color active matrix LCD, 32 bit, 64 million colors,
Screen Size Diag: 12.1", Resolution: 1024 x
768. Intel 82852/82855 Integrated graphics controller
(standard for the Centrino chipset). 64 megs shared
mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable.
and Memory: 1
GHz ultra-low voltage Pentium M processor (Centrino)
with 1 MB level 2 cache. 256 MB SDRAM, upgradeable
to 768 megs. Uses DDR SODIMMs and has one open
slot for RAM.
gig ATA 100 hard disk Supports Ultra DMA. External
slim DVD/CDRW drive (FireWire/ IEE 1394 connector,
powered through FireWire port, no external power
needed) included with bundle and available separately
for non-bundle versions.
Size: 10.9" x
9.3" x 1". Weight 3.9 lbs.
in speaker, mic, mic in and 3.5mm stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and command included in the
operating system. Uses a Crystal WDM integrated
digital audio controller.
XP Tablet Edition operating system. Microsoft Journal
application for word processing and support for ink
notes and drawings. Voice Recorder, voice command
and handwriting recognition built into the OS. Many
demo versions of XP Tablet oriented software included.
and Ports: On
computer: 2 USB (2.0), 1 FireWire powered port,
VGA, audio in and out, V.92 modem, 1PCMCIA type
II CardBus slot, 1 SD/MMC/Memory Stick slot, 1
RJ45 Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8139/810x family
controller), docking port and built-in Intel Pro
Wireless 2100 3B WiFi 802.11b. On docking station:
standard VGA monitor port, 3 USB (2.0) ports, FireWire,
RJ45 Ethernet, power.