Friday, September 16, 2005


Is ultra mobile really all that it is made out to be?

I’m treading on sacred ground here, so forgive me if I tread lightly.

for the past week, I’ve been playing with a ThinkPad T42, 1.86ghz, 15” screen (1600 x 1200 resolution), 128mb dedicated video card, has an extended battery. Its’ got a removable cd drive that can also provide extra battery life. I’ve just got the first extended battery which gives me about 5 – 6 hours of battery life. It weighs about 6lbs.

I’ve got my LE1600 slate tablet (1.5ghz, 1024 x 768 resolution) with the convertible keyboard and the extended battery. I get about 5.5 hours of life on that battery – really good.  Weight: about 4 lbs with the convertible keyboard attached to the front.

As I’ve used the ThinkPad this week, here is what life has been like:

Going mobile: fold it up and through it in my back pack.Full size Keyboard is there, cd rom is there, extra battery life is there.

At the desk: take it out of the backpack, plug in ac adapter, get to work. If I need to install something, cd rom is already there. Great resolution, no need for external monitor. Great keyboard and mouse. Occassionally, I’ll use my bluetooth mouse if I tire of the trackpoint or trackpad. Now…none of this is unique to the ThinkPad. The above can apply with a Toshiba M4 or Gateway or Acer. I’m just using the ThinkPad as an example.

Life with the slate:

Going mobile: take out of docking station and attach the convertible keyboard to the front, throw it in back pack. Extended battery life is there – no problem – could be an all day excursion. Pack my bump case because I might need it as well. Ask myself? will I need my cd rom? No Don’t take it. Get to client. Ask myself, do I need the keyboard or can I just go in and take notes? (I can’t attach the keyboard to the back of the unit for those “just in case” moments. Leave the keyboard, won’t be doing any programming. Go inside, take notes, client needs some work done. Go back outside and get keyboard. question: what if I would have left the keyboard at the office? hmm. Life got interesting a couple of weeks ago as I was with my convertible keyboard for two weeks. What did I do? When I was at home working I propped up the tablet on the desktop stand (something I had to remember to take with me), and used a full size keyboard and mouse on my dining room table. When I was a clients, I brought along the desktop stand and the USB keyboard.

Get back to desk – plug in to docking station for full keyboard and mouse support, and external monitor – 1024 x 768. need to install something? pull out cd rom. plug into front of usb drive (back ones are used) – do the install, put up in gadget drawer.

Now: what do I prefer taking notes with? a slate just like the LE1600 of course. However, going mobile is big hassel with a slate, even though its’ built for the mobile professional. There is just too much to remember to bring with you for those “just in case” issues.

All in all, the headaches of the questions about what to take with me and bring along devices “just in case” really beg the question: are the two pounds in weight difference really worth it? I’m not totally sure. Life could be simpler with just a convertible tablet.

no real decisions here – just thinking through these issues.

Here is another thing I’ve noticed – I’ve got the same applications installed on both machines – 1 a tablet pc and 1 a regular laptop. I’m constantly in the 700 – 800mb range for ram being utilized on the slate tablet pc. On the laptop: I very rarely go above 450mb of RAM being. Both have the same tweaks, etc. Interesting.

A lot is going to depend on your use, Rob. If you are carrying a Tablet around all day, those extra pounds make a huge difference. After our pilot last year I asked a group of students what they thought and whether they would have preferred having a better keyboard with a convertible form. (We use TC1100s.) They were almost unanimous that they preferred having the option to leave the keyboard behind or in their backpacks. While I think exactly the same, I was still surprised that all but one of them (who never liked the HP in the first place) said that.

The TC1100 is still the best of both worlds, I think, and HP is making a big mistake by discarding the hybrid format. I hope someone else picks it up.
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