Tablet PC – Update after Six Weeks

Time for another update on my Tablet PC – a Toshiba Portege M200. I’m still getting on with it very well, on the whole. Certainly happy I bought it.

Screen Viewing Angles and Rotation

I found after a while that it was becoming uncomfortable to use in portrait mode. The viewing angle is quite narrow up-and-down – or side-to-side in portrait. When I was holding the machine fairly close to use as a slate, it was enough that one eye was seeing a much darker screen than the other, and it was quite off-putting – made reading difficult. I’ve now set the machine to run in landscape, but upside-down, when it’s put into slate mode. I find this comfortable to use. It actually fits better for use in the car, and works just as well anywhere else.

When using it at a desk, all plugged in, it also means I can just spin the screen and drop it flat, and use it as a tablet, without having to turn the machine around and move the cables. Handy. The only downside of this so far is that it screws up ClearType. There doesn’t seem to be a way of telling ClearType to use different settings when the screen is the other way up, but completely different settings are needed. I’ve had to turn ClearType off completely, which is a shame.

Another point is that the 12-inch screen is a bit on the small side to be running at 1400×1050 resolution. Them’s some small pixels. I found it much better with the DPI set to 120 – right click the desktop, Properties, Settings, Advanced, drop down the box and change to 120 DPI. A reboot is needed. This makes almost everything bigger. Text is bigger, the task bar is bigger, icons are bigger. Some things turn a bit blocky because of it (most noticeably, the icons in the task tray), but my eyes stopped hurting, which was a bit of an advantage.

OneNote, Journal and GoBinder

I’ve tried all three. Never really got the point of GoBinder – it never seemed to offer anything significant that OneNote didn’t already do. Maybe it would suit better for those it’s really aimed at – students.

I experimented with Journal for a while, returned to OneNote, then back to Journal. OneNote has its advantages. It’s just quicker to be able to swap between notes without ever leaving the application, and there’s things you can do in OneNote that Journal just can’t compete with – especially flags. Somehow, though, Journal just feels a bit more natural. The way OneNote keeps drawing boxes around what you’re doing, and guessing what text belongs together and what doesn’t, seems oddly disconcerting to me. Journal just behaves like a pad of paper.

The real problem with OneNote, though, is the way it displays folders and files as tabs along the top. It’s quick and easy to use, but it really falls down badly when there’s a lot of files or folders. It’s annoying to have to limit myself to only four or five files or folders in each folder because that’s all the application can reasonably display. It can scroll when there’s more, but that makes it awkward to use.

Bluetooth and GPRS Internet Access

Damn, this stuff is good. Mobile phone (Orange SPV C500, aka AudioVox SMT5600, aka Scoblephone) stays in my pocket, just tap Start, Connect To, Orange GPRS, to connect. A few seconds later, I’m on t’internet. Anywhere. In bed, in the car, out in the countryside. Oh, who am I kidding? On the toilet.

Ink Leaking

The concerns over the tablet OS memory leak haven’t turned out to be too real. I rebooted today when installing software, but my uptime before rebooting was nine days and eighteen hours. Not too bad at all. Certainly more than anyone on Slashdot would ever admit to seeing a Windows box running for.

Re-imaging

Still not 100% sure how I’ll go about re-imaging the machine when it needs it, but I have a couple of theories, and everything seems to work ok for them. I can boot the machine from an SD card, and since I have a 1Gb SD card, I can shuffle quite a bit of data to it even with the main OS unbootable. I think my plan would be to repartition, create a smallish partition (maybe 5Gb), and format it as FAT. Then copy the Ghost images Toshiba supplies to this partition, along with the software utilities. They’re broken into 600Mb chunks on the supplied DVD, so they could be moved over in three blocks (maybe less, the last one is smaller). Once that’s done, create a new NTFS partition taking up the rest of the disk, run the Toshiba supplied copy of Ghost from this partition, and write the images to that partition.

I’ve not actually tried this yet, but it sounds like it should work.

Happy?

Yes. Definitely. I can get stuff done anywhere, just as I could at my desk at home. A laptop can go a lot of places, but this just opens things up so much further. Add in the digitiser that lets you scribble notes on the screen as if it’s paper, and it’s a powerful combination.

4 thoughts on “Tablet PC – Update after Six Weeks

  1. As for the note taking applications, you should also consider Evernote, which is still in beta, but is almost near GA.

    I too have an M200, mine for a year now, and have found Evernote to be the best solution to tablet-mode, non-tablet mode data capture.

    BTW: I’ve started a multi-post review of my M200 at the 1 year point. From the one year out point, I too am mostly happy with my Toshiba. I got a tablet more or less on a whim, thinking that it would be nice to have the ink capability on a regular notebook. Now I’m pretty certain my next portable will be a true slate….lighter, faster, and more mobile….

  2. PigPog And Six Weeks Of Tablet PC

    PigPog has spent six weeks now with his Toshiba M200 Tablet PC and he has blogged his impressions on among other things: viewing angles, screen rotation, Gobinder, OneNote, Journal, Bluetooth and Re-Imaging. Is he a happy Tableteer? Follow the link

  3. Nice!

    I see you have managed to get your M200 to dial using your C500 over bluetooth – the only driver I have found for the C500 modem to date has bee the USB driver – any pointers? (Works a treat with the sync cable to connect to GPRS – bit clunky though)

    TIA,

    Chris.

  4. Hi Chris,

    As far as I remember, I just paired the phone up with Bluetooth, and let the toshiba ConfigFree software take care of everything. It prompted for the dialler string at one point, and suggested something that was pretty close to what was needed. Ended up using…

    +CGDCONT=1,”IP”,”orangeinternet”,””,0,0

    …and it’s using the “Standard 33600 bps Modem” driver.

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