Android tablets entered the market in late 2010, and we're sure to see a wide selection in 2011. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the first widely available, high quality Android tablet available in the US. In early 2011 the Dell Streak 7 on T-Mobile and the Motorola Xoom on Verizon launched,, both with dual core Tegra 2 CPUs and the Moto with Android OS 3.0 Honeycomb optimized for tablets.
You'll find a variety of budget tablets at Best Buy, Fry's and other retailers, but these tend to lack 3G cellular radios for data and have lower resolution resistive touch screens rather than the capacitive multi-touch display used on the Galaxy Tab, Streak, Xoom and Apple's iPad running iOS.
Windows Tablet PC Reviews
Introduced Nov. 7, 2002, Windows Tablet PCs feature
color screens that you can write, doodle, and draw on using a special EMR pen
included with the notebook (also called an active digitizer and digital pen). These tablets are not always touch sensitive, which
means you must use the pen rather than your finger or any other handy object
to write on or point at something on the screen. They work much the same
way Wacom digitizer (graphics) pads work, only you get to interact directly
with the screen rather than using an intermediary accessory tablet. You
can also use the stylus as a mouse, pointing at items on screen, clicking
buttons, highlighting text and so on. If you've never gotten along with
the trackpads and eraser sticks built into notebooks, you'll probably love
With the advent of the capacitive touch screen, first widely used in the iPhone, and Windows 7's significant support for both pen and touch input, we're seeing more tablets that offer touch or both both and an active digitizer with pen. A few offer just touch (generally in non-tablet, traditionally designed notebooks) while others offer optional touch and some come with both a capacitive touch screen and active (pen-based) digitizer. Very few tablets use passive resistive touch screens. These dual digitizer models include the Asus Eee Slate, HP TouchSmart TM2, Fujitsu T4310 retail store version, and the Dell Latitude XT2.
At the end of October 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 with a new Modern UI that's geared towards touch. It also has the standard desktop UI that's similar to Windows 7. Windows RT runs on ARM family CPUs like the NVidia Tegra 3 that's also used in Android tablets. Windows RT tablets can't run x86 .exe programs designed for Windows 7. Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro run on Intel and AMD machines and it supports Windows 7 .exe apps, unlike Windows RT that only supports apps from the Windows Store.
Convertible and Tablet Designs
Windows Tablet PCs come in two variations: convertible
and tablet. The tablet design looks like a slate and has no keyboard. Early in the Tablet PC's history, there were quite a few models and brands but now there are relatively few and these are targeted at vertical markets such as medical, insurance and field force automation. The convertible tablet is by far more common and it ostensibly looks like a standard 12 or 13 inch laptop, but you can swivel the display to use it in tablet mode where it looks like a large slate. Thus you get the best of both worlds: a full keyboard and trackpad and a tablet. The drawback is obvious: convertibles weigh more since they have the traditional notebook 2-section design with a display panel and a bottom panel that contains the keyboard and guts of the computer. Convertibles weigh from 3.5 to 5 lbs. and the lightest ones are generally more expensive since miniaturization increases cost. Convertibles run from $800 to over $2,000. Mainstream models that are often available at chain computer stores in your neighborhood generally cost $850 to $1,200 and these are made by HP and Fujitsu.
General Tablet Features: Handwriting, Inking and Digital Art
All tablets allow you to handwrite in any application using the tablet input panel even if
the application isn't handwriting-aware. If you're a graphic artist, you'll
love drawing directly on the screen using Alias Sketchbook, Corel Painter (a fantastic natural
media paint program) and Photoshop. The pen technology used in many tablets
was developed by Wacom, the big name in digitizer tablets, and N-Trig entered the market in 2008 with their dual digitizers that feature both a capacitive touch screen and active digitizer. As of this writing, Adobe Photoshop supports pressure sensitivity with Wacom digitizers but not N-Trig.
Wacom digitizers typically have 256 levels of pressure sensitivity (vs. 1024 on higher end Wacom tablets that sit on your desk and plug in via USB) and the pen has a single button and an eraser. All current Tablet PCs with active digitizers use EMR pens that are battery-less (the display provides the power rather than the pen).
Since superb handwriting recognition and digital ink technology are built into the Windows operating system, don't expect much
variation between competing brands and models. Windows can handle even terrible handwriting and you can write quite quickly these days. In the old days of tablets, you had to write slowly to give the recognizer engine time to turn your scrawl into text, but that's no longer the case.
There's also an on-screen keyboard and Windows 7 detects whether you're currently using a pen or finger and puts up a different on-screen keyboard to suit each. The finger-friendly keyboard is much larger and you can resize it to suit your finger size.
Applications that are well-suited to handwriting include MS Office (particularly OneNote and Word), Windows Journal (included with Windows) and art applications like Corel Painter, ArtRage and Photoshop.
Models with capacitive touch screens generally support multi-touch and two touch points, so you can pinch zoom and rotate documents using your fingers.
Power vs. Long Battery Life: Two Design Camps
You'll find convertible tablets fall into two general categories: fairly powerful all-in-on machines that have the same specs as a mid to moderately high priced notebook and those that opt for low power CPUs and fewer ports to increase portability and battery life. If this will be your only notebook or only computer, you'll probably want to select a model that has an internal optical drive, a fast CPU and plenty of ports. If you want something that will last a long time on a charge and don't need gobs of CPU speed, then go with an Intel ULV processor model. The Toshiba M750, Fujitsu T4310/T4410 and T900 and the Lenovo X201t fall into the all-in-on category. The HP TouchSmart TM2, Dell Latitude XT2 and Asus Eee Slate EP121 fall into the longer battery life camp and have no internal optical drive.