I am currently researching new PC tablets, since my last one, an HP Touchsmart tm2, has a broken display screen. I am in the midst of shooting/editing video and drawing illustrations for my online Tablet Design Class, so I need a new tablet asap. The tablet market changes rapidly, so I thought I would share about my search to buy a replacement one to fit my needs.
Let’s first talk about the different types of tablets available on the market today. Here is a basic overview:
iPad Tablets and Competitor Android OS Tablets– iPad revolutionized the industry by their introduction of the iPad. Rushing to compete were a wide variety of competitors offering Google’s Android Operating System (OS).
I do own an iPad, and love it, but for serious artists, a Drawing App using your finger or one of the stylus pens on the market is no comparison to using a fully featured drawing software program.
On the subject of stylist pens for the iPad, thanks to blog reader Jenni for letting me know about the Adonit Jot Pro Stylist pen. This is a fine point stylist, and I have one on order, so I will review it when it arrives. Previously, I had purchased the Pogo pen by TenOneDesign, and was disappointed by the large finger sized tip.
Pros: fun to use, versatile, Apps, portable, etc.
Cons: initial cost, monthly usage fee, cannot use drawing software programs, only Apps.
PC Tablets– A Tablet PC is a mobile computer which has a special display screen which allows you to draw with a stylus pen directly on the monitor screen. Some models also allow you to draw with your finger as well.
There are two main types of PC Tablets which run Windows OS- Slate and Convertible. I much prefer the Convertible PC tablet models, so that is what I will be buying. The market is moving in the direction of Slate PCs, and so many Convertible PCs have been discontinued. Here is a discussion of both types.
Convertible Tablet PC (shown above) looks a much like a typical laptop or notebook, but has a special display screen which rotates 180 degrees and can be converted into a slate-like notepad mode. You can use the special pen stylus to draw right on the screen, though you do need to have a drawing software program. Otherwise, this type of mobile computer is used just like a laptop or notebook.
Pros: Ease of use and mobility, laptop/notebook function and keyboard, drawing on display screen is natural for artists. Price for used or refurbished models on ebay can be less than half the cost. Larger HDD memory allows large program use, such as Photoshop CS5.
Cons: Many models have been discontinued in favor of slate models. Price for new models average between $1-2K US, heavier than slate PC. Rotating display more fragile.
Slate PC Tablet: A slate PC tablet is different from the convertible PC as they do not have a standard keyboard or a rotating display screen. (note: some slate models [ie. Samsung Series 7] do offer keyboards as accessories) Instead, you type on the flat screen, which can be awkward. They are thinner than a convertible PC and offer less data storage space than a convertible PC tablet. Some brands will not run large programs (like Photoshop CS5), so be sure your purchase will run the software you need it to.
Pros: no rotating hinge to break, mobile, lightweight, thinner than convertibles. I believe that Slate technology and OS will improve greatly in the next few years, smaller packaging and advances in data storage will allow user to run large programs (such as Photoshop CS5). Slates may use Solid State Drive (SSD), which is less susceptible to physical shock.
Cons: flat keyboard can take some time to get used to, though some slates offer keyboard accessory package. Inability to run extremely large programs (ie. Photoshop CS4) at the time of this writing and overall smaller data storage than used in convertibles. Price.
Tablet Plug in Peripherals- The third main type of Tablet display device is a tablet which plugs into your computer USB port, though there are some models which is wireless using a Bluetooth USB adaptor.
Wacom dominates this market, though there are other manufacturers, too. These are tablets which plug into your desktop or laptop computer by way of a USB port (usually). The exception is the wireless Wacom Intuos, which uses Bluetooth USB adaptor to provide a wireless solution. You can also buy a wireless accessory kit for the Bamboo Create and Connect.
Wacom’s offers 3 main product line of tablets: entry level Bamboo (Bamboo Create,shown above); Intuos, and the high end Cintiq models. With the Bamboo and Intuos models, you look at your display screen and draw off to the side. This can take some getting used to, and is a serious drawback for professional artists. I own the largest size Intous, and never use it for just that reason. Cintiq models are the exception and you can see what you are drawing right on the display screen. Compare this image to the Bamboo image above:
All the Wacom (and competitors) product lines offer different sizes of tablets. Drawing on a small tablet is annoying and frustrating, in my opinion. I always tell my students to buy the largest sized tablet display screen that they can afford, if they are looking at purchasing a Wacom brand of tablet.
Pros: low entry price of the Bamboo line, which often comes bundled with Photoshop Element and other programs. Only option for Apple users, though it does work with both Apple and PC computers. Resolution is higher in Cintiq line than PC Tablets.
Cons: drawing off to the side while looking at your computer screen takes some getting use to in the Bamboo and Intuos models. For professional artists, I would recommend the Cintiq line- especially the 2 largest sizes- 21UX and 24HD. The cost can be a drawback- the 21UX costs $1999 US and the 24HD costs $2599 US. The larger Cintiqs are heavy, intended to be used on a desktop. Tethering on non-wireless models can also be a negative.
Above contains just minimal information concerning Tablets, without getting into lots of specs and details. If you are in the market for a tablet, consider visiting the Tablet PC Discussion Forum for more research. Be sure to notice the date of any article or advice given, as the computer tablet industry is rapidly evolving. Your purchase will be based on your needs combined with your budget.
My Decision: I own- or have previously owned- a Toshiba Tablet PC Convertible, an HP Touchsmart Tm2 PC Convertible, an iPad and a Wacom Intuos XL. For my illustrations, including my cartoon, illustrations for classes, quilt design and digital paintings, I have almost exclusively used a tablet PC Convertible drawing in Photoshop 7-CS5 or Photoshop Elements since about 2004. I use Camtasia 7.0.1 for all my video editing and recording.
Previously, I thought the HP Tm2 product (now discontinued) rather annoying to use with Photoshop, and I found it to be more of a beginning Convertible PC as compared with my older Toshiba Convertible PC Tablet (also discontinued). This time, my budget is $2,000 US, and I need it to run Windows 7. Because I support Intel, my DH’s employer, I want the processor to be Intel Core i5 or i7. Display to be as large as possible, WXGA, with both pen and multi-touch screen. Because I work in Photoshop and create videos, I need lots of system memory and a decent hard drive space. Graphics to be NVIDIA.
So which one shall I get to fit my needs?
The model I bought is Fujitsu Lifebook T901 Tablet PC. This will offer me all the features that I need, plus it will be an improvement over my last Convertible Tablet PC. Other features I prefer- extra battery storage, fingerprint scanner for security, DVD player, larger HD, and more.
I promise to share a review when the product arrives. Any comments? I would love to know what others have purchased.