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ViewSonic PC V1250 Windows XP Tablet Edition Notebook

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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 drive.

ViewSonic PC V1250

Above, in clamshell mode. Below, in slate mode.

ViewSonic V1250




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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 rubber covers.

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 notebook.

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.

ViewSonic PC V1250

Above, top view of the closed V1250

ViewSonic docking station

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 noise.

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 emailed page.

Voice Recognition

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 media.


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.

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Display: TFT 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 memory.

Battery 1900 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable.

Processor 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.

Drives: 30 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.

Audio: Built 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.

Software: Windows 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.

Expansion 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.


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