4/16/06 UPDATE: In the following “initial thoughts” I spend a lot of time on the 80 gram vs 120 gram digitizer – it is an important issue and one that needs to be considered when deciding if you will buy a UMPC and which one. I’ve just been told by Martin Smekal, CEO of TabletKiosk, that they have changed their minds in the digitizer that they are shipping with. Based on user feedback, they have decided to ship with the 120 gram digitizer ( and may offer an option later for the 80 gram ), which is different from what I was told by TabletKiosk just this past week. I applaud TabletKiosk on this decision, as it will be an important factor for tablet pc users who handwrite a lot of notes. I will be leaving my comments regarding the digitizer “as is” as they apply to other OEMs who will be shipping 80 gram digitizers. Personally, I will not buy an 80 gram UMPC / Origami, but I would be pretty tempted to buy a 120 gram one.
I’ll go ahead and post some initial thoughts on the TabletKiosk eo, inking, and the general touch experience. This is meant to be a very short , bullet list type of synopsis, and in no way constitutes a full review. I’ll offer my full thoughts and explanations on my video review to be posted later on Tuesday. I’m merely trying to meet some initial interest in what my thoughts are. Also, keep in mind that I am evaluating a prototype unit, so certain experiences with the prototype eo will likely be different than with what ships at the end of April.
- I like the eo a lot. It feels good in my hands. It is light. The buttons are layed out really well.
- I like the left / right mouse controls and trackpoint. It feels natural to navigate. No need to use the stylus.
- The Via wireless is a real pain to set up. When I set it up to use Windows Zero wireless config instead, it loses that setting on reboot. Wireless performance in my house has been very poor with my LinkSys G WAP. I generally get great performance on my Intel cards.
- Initially, cpu performance was not good. But after a reboot, performance was pretty decent.
- This prototype has the 120 gram digitizer. They are shipping the eo with a 80 gram digitizer. This is VERY important. With the 120 gram, you have to press fairly hard with your fingertip or by using your finger nail / stylus to activate the buttons. I don’t have long fingernails, so I have to flip my hand over to use my fingernail. However, you get pretty decent ink performance with very little interferance from your hand. I still experience some interference from my pinky, though. My kids have not experienced any, neither did James Kendrick. With the 80 gram digitizer, though, all you have to do is gently touch the screen with the fleshly part of your finger– no fingernail or stylus needed. However, you will get a great deal of hand interferance when you ink and your hand is on the screen. The eo, like the other OEMs, is shipping with the 80 gram.
- I’m getting 1 hour 40 minutes on the battery. I’m not sure if this a prototype issue or standard behavior. I was very disappointed with the battery performance. ( I have just found out that power management was not implemented in this unit, thus the reason for the low battery performance)
- It gets very hot when connected to AC. The stylus is metal and it is too hot to hold when taking it out of the stylus holster. It is also pretty difficult to remove the stylus from the holster – there is nothing to grab a hold of to pull it out.
- The eo feels quite rugged and not quite as “delicate” as the LS800. I normally keep the LS800 in a bump case – I would not feel the necessity of doing that with the eo.
- The screen is great – very bright and easy to see. I’m not getting any fingerprint issues like I experience on the LS800 with VA.
The UI and Ink experience
- I’m disappointed in the whole touch experience, and not just due to the 120 gram digitizer. I expected a great deal out of the box and I just didn’t feel like the experience delivered. The whole Program Launcher / Touch Pack just doesn’t feel as integrated of an experience as say, Media Center. I honestly see it as a glorified set of folders with shortcuts. When you install something, it doesn’t get added to the Program Launcher. You have to add it seperately. In addition, the programs used to customize the launcher are just WinForms with difficult to navigate dropdowns – not good for touch. When you click on DialKeys in the Program Launcher, you get a message that DialKeys is already running, rather than it displaying the touch icon so you can use the DialKeys. Little things like that spread throughout the experience just brought the whole thing down a couple of knotches for me.
- I liked being able to use just about anything to navigate the eo – the stylus, a pen, my fingernail, the left / right mouse buttons – I wasn’t stuck to just using a digital pen. It felt very natural and freeing.
- To use DialKeys, you have to click on the icon in the system tray and choose Show / Hide DialKeys – that is very hard to do with your finger as the icon is small and the menu choices are laid next to each other much too closely. DialKeys gets in the way when you scroll down a window. I’ll demo it in the video – frustrating experience
- The alternates / correction part of the TIP does not work well at all with the touch digitizer. It relys heavily on the hover capability to show the dropdown for different letter choices. That drop down does not show up when using the stylus or mouse, and 99% of the time I can’t get alternate letters to appear. I’ll demo that as well.
- My kids don’t use the Program Laucher that includes the Touch Pack programs. They close it and use the computer as usual.
- I’m getting some interferance from my hand when inking in OneNote, Journal, and GoBinder when using the 120 gram digitizer. There is not much room on the border of the eo to rest your hand to minimize the interference, which will be of crucial importance if you have plan on using the eo for notetaking. It is ok right now with the 120 gram, but that is not what the eo is shipping with.
- Dax, my son, tells me he would take the eo / origami with him to Boy Scouts at the drop of a hat. He and Maggie have been begging me to use it all day. Dax loves it. He says it feels and looks like a PSP / GameBoy. All my kids call it a toy. My two youngest were having a discussion about the “origami” and said it was just a bigger Leapster. BTW: they all call it an Origami: “Daddy, don’t spill anything on the Origami; Can we bring the Origami with us in the car? When can I have a turn?”
- My kids mostly used the stylus when navigating the eo. I think that will change when they get an Origami with 80 gram digitizer. Fingertip navigation will be much easier with the 80 gram.
- The full screen OneNote 2007 works really well on 800 x 480 – a lot of good note taking real estate.
- I could tell that GoBinder 2006 has been tweaked to work with the touch screen and smaller screen real estate ( smaller toolbar, wide scroll bars, etc), but it still needs a lot of work. They stuck the minimize and exit buttons on the corner of the screen and made them small. The buttons on the bottom of the note pages are too small to use with touch.
- Outlook 2003 was ok – not as a bad as I thought it might be. You’ll want to do away with the reading pane, though.
Overall – I think it will meet a market need, but I don’t think current tablet pc users who do a lot of inking will be very happy with the ink experience with 80 gram digitizers. I don’t see it replacing your current tablet pc if you do a lot of inking. If you don’t plan on using it to take a lot of handwritten notes, I believe it would make a very nice companion computer. My son’s advice on the video review is for parents to start saving. I will likely buy one for my son and daughter, but I don’t think I’ll buy one for myself ( please see update at the top of this post).
Look for the video review sometime on Tuesday.