Thursday, September 5, 2013

Need A Tablet with a Stylus?

The M1400
I've been using a tablet pc since 2003, starting with my Motion Computing M1400.  That first machine was a screen only, using USB or BlueTooth to connect to a keyboard.  It was heavy (by today's standards) and large, but it amazed those who saw me use it in the classroom.  Still, everyone said the same thing, "What good is that without a keyboard?"  I'd argue about using it on my lap by interacting with just the pen and they would just scoff at me.

Somehow, using the first iPad with only a finger (no pen) became known as a "natural" interaction with the device.  Granted, the iPad was 1/4 the thickness and likely 1/5 the mass of my M1400, but the iPad's screen isn't 12.1" and it's not running a full operating system.  What changed people's minds about interacting with just a screen?  Was it the coolness?  Was it the simplicity of the OS?  Was it truly the finger over the stylus?

Since my M1400, I've had two HP convertible tablets that my university purchased for my use.  The convertible form factor for some reason has never caught on but I have found it very useful:  it's one device that for years was my only pc and my tablet before the iPad came around to change what we call a tablet.  The latest of the two HP's had a touch screen and active digitizer (uses the sharp pointed stylus), which I immediately shut off.  Why?  Because I use the tablet to write on, to take notes, present my notes to my class, and to mark up pictures and powerpoint slides.

For me, a tablet is best when it has a stylus.  Yet, I absolutely love my iPad an entertainment device.  I have rarely ever used my iPad for anything work related (maybe emails).  I took it to ISTE with me and only used it to surf the web or watch some movies and tv I had loaded.  I also do not use the iPad at work, to teach.  Think about that.  Everyone says that an iPad in the classroom is the greatest thing that can happen, yet I have one and do not take it to work every day.  It's the lack of a true stylus that limits the iPad in my eyes and will make its overall affect in the future lessened.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and ATIV 500/700.  Enter the Windows Surface Pro.  Enter the Lenovo Helix.  Enter the ASUS Tai Chi.  All of these devices use the active digitizer as well as a touch screen.  Each company involved is betting that the ability to use their device in both content creation and content utilization will sway you from the iPad.  All but one of those devices uses Windows 8, the full OS, so they also offer you all the programs you already use, but now on a tablet near you!

The one standout from the crowd is the Galaxy Note 10.1 (see Engadget Hands On Review).  Yesterday, along with the expected announcements about the Samsung product line, the Note 10.1 was refreshed to a high resolution screen that compares to the retina display.  It will have 3GB of RAM, a faster processor, and new button placements that are an improvement.  All of this in an Android machine that will not break the bank.  In fact, I suspect it will be about the same price as an iPad or even a few bucks less expensive, just like before.

Right now, I really want to see the Helix updated to the Haswell chipset.  While being 3 times more expensive than the Galaxy Note 10.1, I would still buy it.  That's right, having the use of One Note and all my other regular programs (especially SnagIt and Camtasia) make it worth the price.  But, that darn Galaxy Note 10.1 is really attractive and might change my mind if I find it could be used in the classroom.

Lots of choices out there in device land.  What's a teacher to do?

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