Buying a New PC Tablet

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.

Regards, Carla

17 thoughts on “Buying a New PC Tablet

  1. I actually have the bamboo, from wacom, and it does indeed take some getting used to……but it is pretty cool anyway. For my uses, spending more isn’t justified.

    • How have you been? I do recommend Bamboos for students who want to buy a tablet, but don’t really want to plunk down lots of money. Wacom is a very good brand. Did you get yours in Spain?

  2. Carla, have you looked at the Samsung series 7 slate? I haven’t loaded Photoshop Elements onto it yet but it does use a wacom-like pen with replaceable nibs (?), it runs Windows 7, the processor is Intel Core i5 and has an 11.6″ screen. This is what I am planning to use when you teach your upcoming class. Jo Ann

  3. Hi Jo Ann, yes, I did research slates- including the Samsung series 7. The Samsung 7 Slate is a very nice machine, slim, well designed, and I like the optional dock and keyboard set up you can buy as an accessory. I have heard mixed reviews on the battery life. How is yours?

    I ruled out the Samsung 7 Slate (and slates in general) for a couple of reasons- mainly HD storage capacity. I could compensate by buying an external HD, but I didn’t want to have to do that too soon. Working with extra large video files and Photoshop files will fill your hard drive in no time.

    The other reason has to do with needing multiple USB ports. I need the multiple USB ports for lecture presentations, when using a projector clicker and/or headset for live meetings. Plus, I work between several computers (Mac and PC) and move files around with a 32G flash drive during classes.

    Jo Ann, I did read one review at,2817,2397331,00.asp where the author says that they couldn’t get the Samsung Series 7 Slate to run the full version of Photoshop. Perhaps it will run the smaller PS Elements? Please let me know… I did a google search, but couldn’t find the answer. Thanks! Carla

  4. My husband came back from MacWorld with a fine point stylus. It is wonderful for drawing on ipads. It is called Jot Pro. It is made by Adonit. Just more info for the search… Good luck.

    • Thanks, Jenni! I appreciate your telling me about this, I just placed my order. 🙂 Looking forward to trying it out with my iPad and iPhone. I initially bought the Pogo pen when it first came out and it was not helpful for drawing purposes.

      • This is what I bought for drawing. A salesman at Best Buy showed me the one he has and gave me the info so I could check it out. I haven’t really given it a try yet but will do that before the new class starts.

  5. Hi Carla,

    I have had a Wacom Intuos for years (Im on my second one, I think its an Intuos 4, not sure) and I love it.
    It took me a bit to figure out what you meant by ‘drawing off to the side’, (do you mean that with the Cintiq you draw directly on the screen?)
    Its second nature to me now and have quite good control with it.
    I wouldnt be without it.

    With the first Wacom I had, many years ago, it had a see through flap thing, that you could slip a drawing under, then trace round it, which was very useful at times, for entering patterns into the computer.
    The current one doesnt have that, which is a shame.


    • Hello Fi, my husband bought me the Intuos XL several years ago, which is actually a very nice tablet. The reason it is gathering dust is because you do have to look at the monitor screen and draw off to one side with the tablet. This is fine for occasional users- or artists who start off drawing this way.

      The Cintiq line from Wacom is different than the Intuos line in that you can see what you are drawing right on the tablet itself. This is the digital version of drawing on a piece of paper.

      Let me explain this perhaps another way- by comparing the two Wacom photos above. The top Wacom photo shows a stylist pen on a white Bamboo tablet. The surface is white and blank. The photo just below it show the largest sized Cintiq tablet. Instead of a blank surface, you see and draw right on the tablet screen itself (the artist appears to be drawing a fantasy car). In other words, you can see what you are doing right on the tablet display screen itself.

      This gives the artist a more natural way of creating. The Cintiq tablet or monitor screen on a PC Tablet or Convertible, becomes the blank piece of “digital” paper to draw on.

      Btw, my new Fujitsu T901 convertible tablet arrived last night, so I am having fun getting it ready to be worked on. I love it so far!

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  8. Thanks for sharing Carla. I’ve been looking at a convertible pc also. I go through 1-3 laptops each year of all different price levels. I must just be hard on them, but I know that think that I might like a convertible pc for drawing. I’ve liked working on my IQ tablets directly compared to the off the side of using a Wacom tablet, but my concerns have been, first that I destroy computers on a regular basis, so paying for the convenience of the convertible is hindered by the thought that I might destroy it in a 6 months or less also. I literally fry them from working so many hours at a time, popping buttons off from heat (even with a fan stand under them), wearing out buttons, USB ports, etc. Secondly, I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts with Illustrator & CAD programs that I work with & I would probably need to get use to working differently when drawing if the keyboard wasn’t easily accessible all the time.
    So, I can’t wait to hear your review. I’ve been looking at the HP Envy convertible, but wonder if it will stand up to my abuse. Can you share why you didn’t pick that brand?
    Thank you,

    • Hi Jessica, This article is almost a year out of date- which seems like multiple years in technology-speak. LOL

      Knowing how much you use your computers, I agree that you would need a very robust model of Convertible PC tablet in order for it to make sense. I have heard of one such brand, but let me go get informed as to current Tablet Convertible PC offerings and whether a newer model exists that could take the use. I will look into the HP Envy, too. I have another tablet class coming up in March, so I have to update my current model knowledge anyway. 🙂

      Ironically, my Fujitsu mentioned in the article now has a crack where the stylus slides in for storage. Other than this, it has survived daily use, frequent falls. However, this machine is now a year old and I am not convinced it would hold up to heavy, heavy use.

      Will email you with my findings…. Carla

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