Tablet PCs are not laptops. They are smaller than laptops, about the size and thickness of a yellow legal notepad but with all of the functions of a personal computer. The added bonus is a special touch screen that lets the user take notes by writing directly onto the screen with a stylus (digital pen).
Tablet PCs come in two basic styles: Slate-shaped, with a removable keyboard; and those that have a static keyboard with a screen that can rotate 180 degrees. The latter design, sometimes called convertibles, allows for the touch screen to fold down over the keyboard.
Slate-shaped tablets: These are small in size in order to maximize portability. They are lightweight, some weighing not much more than one pound. Slate PCs are often used by people who work outdoors, or by teachers who appreciate the ability to write notations directly on the screen. Due to their lack of moving parts, slate tablet computers are relatively rugged and durable, though they are more susceptible to screen damage because they have the same construction as conventional, closeable laptops.
Convertible PCs: These feature a laptop-like hinge so that users may open the computer and use it like a laptop, or rotate the screen portion and fold it into a more conventional tablet shape. They are more popular than the slate design, though they are less rugged because of the hinging top portion. Using the convertible PC as a laptop is also easier because the screen opens to the user’s desired angle and does not involve an externally attached keyboard.
The majority of tablet PCs use Windows XP Tablet PC Edition as their operating system, although many now come with Windows Vista. Both XP and Vista come with several applications that are useful for tablet PC users, such as Snipping Tool, which allows the user to capture the screen, or areas of the screen, by using the digital pen. These areas can then be inscribed, saved, and even sent in an email.
While there is no general consensus among computer experts as to the best brand of tablet PC, reviewers and experts alike do agree that there are some important features to consider. The first is that tablet PCs running Windows Vista seem to have the user-friendliest applications. Second, tablet PCs that feature very small screens (5 inches or less) are no bargain. The small screens are difficult to write on, and the writing feature is the biggest draw of a tablet PC. Third, because tablet PCs are so portable, purchase the best battery you can afford.
Among users, the most popular brand of tablet PC is the Fujitsu Lifebook. Users cite its brilliant screen quality, 11-hour battery life and many extra features, including a DVD writer, as reasons to choose the Lifebook over other brands. Hewlett Packard also makes a popular tablet PC (the HP Pavilion) that is less expensive than the Lifebook, but just as powerful.
Tablet PCs are not as popular as laptops. They are a niche tool, too small for gaming or most media applications. Used predominantly by students and intellectuals, they are nevertheless valuable computers for those who require smaller, portable PCs with a touch screen.