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The Best Mobile PCs for Writers



I love to write about technology, life, and other topics that just come to mind. Productive writing, though, requires a decent keyboard, and in my opinion, tablet pc technology. The two go hand-in-hand: a great keyboard for pounding out those articles, and tablet pc technology for brainstorming, reading, marking up, and researching.

Although Crave missed out on the tablet pc aspect, they generally hit the nail on the head for what writers should look for, and avoid, in mobile pcs. I’d agree with them on the netbook: the keyboards and screen sizes are going to generally be too small for comfort. I’ve found the sweet spot with 12″ – 13″ notebooks / tablet pcs, and those that have full size keyboards like the Lenovo X200 / X301, MacBook, and Dell Latitude XT.   My daughter, Maggie, has recently taken to writing, and she found the keyboard on the Asus 901 to be too cramped. I moved her to the X200 and she felt much more comfortable.

What mobile pc would you recommend to the budding writer?



  1. Martin

    10/28/2008 at 7:28 am

    As a writer, I can’t wait to get my hands on the Thinkpad X200s. It offers everything that matters to me, without a single compromise: ruggedness, high resolution screen, long battery life, full-size keyboard, low weight and (hopefully soon enough) lots of wireless options. And I actually find the price quite reasonable for such a machine.

  2. sfwrtr

    10/28/2008 at 10:35 am

    As a Science Fiction writer, the keyboard is key. So is portability, being able to take it where you want to write. At one time, I thought the screen was very important – then my eyesight aged. I used to want BIG notebooks, with BIG screens – unfortunately, they also all have high res with small characters. I did love my Dell 8500, but the keyboard sucked and had to be replaced half a dozen times in 3 1/2 years I owned it (wore them out).

    I replaced it with a X61 ThinkPad Tablet. The 1024×768 resolution presented a 12.1 inch screen is the perfect size for use without reading glasses. (I do attach a 24-inch monitor when at my desk.) However, the best is the keyboard. Having that IBM Selectric DNA, the keyboard is a DREAM. 1 1/2 years after buying it, I am on the same keyboard and it shows no signs of aging. Here’s to hoping that Lenovo does not cheapen this feature in the new notebooks they sell.

    As for the tablet part of the machine: As a writer, I don’t really need it. I am a touch-typist, after all. However, for non-writing activities, it has proven itself useful often enough that I would buy another tablet in the future.

  3. Joe

    10/28/2008 at 12:46 pm

    I’m not a writer, but I’d think something that comes out of standby/ hibernation very quickly would be really important as well because you never know when something will come to you. The not ready for market Foleo for example seems like it’d have been perfect for this instance, with its instant on capabilities.

  4. John in Norway

    10/28/2008 at 1:32 pm

    I write when the mood takes me and I find my ideal input method most of the time is a small device with a thumb keyboard. I kid you not. I can thumb thousands of words a day in the right circumstances with no ill effects.
    Instant on is very important along with extreme portability and an anywhere viewable screen. Being able to put down words anywhere, anytime is crucial for me.
    Is using a proper keyboard better? Probably, if I was a touch typist, but I find I work better when I’m doing it where and when I want to.
    I thought having a tablet PC with full Windows would make me more productive writing-wise but it doesn’t. Give me a small device that’s always with me and I’m happy.

  5. dave s

    10/28/2008 at 3:58 pm

    When I had a pda phone, I used it to quickly jot down some mental notes, and later sync it with my x61t.
    If I have a place (and time) to sit down and relax, I would do my drafts in OneNOte, then copy everything to Word.
    I like doing drafts in ink as it allows me to freely label stuff without extra functions and/or shortcuts.
    But for people who do not need that extra step, a combination of a decent sized netbook with a qwerty smartphone would be a pretty good combination (I’m waiting on the at&t version of Touch Pro).

  6. C.

    10/29/2008 at 6:36 am

    I have a P1610 and it works for me but I have very small hands. I also have a large laptop and the bigger keyboard is actually more uncomfortable for me. The only thing I have used the big laptop for recently was to do my taxes online and to stream music.

    I like the convertible form; sometimes I want to type and sometimes I want to ink.

    I do however wish that the P1610 were a little lighter and a bit smaller and the instant on would be extrememly helpful. Another poster mentioned working on a thumb input device. I’ve thought about purchasing one to throw in my purse when I’m just out and about for quick notes etc.

    I think what it all comes down to is what works best and is most comfortable for the writer. This really isn’t anything new. In the past, writers used all kinds of different paper notebooks, scrapbooks, journals etc.

  7. Steven

    10/29/2008 at 10:05 am

    Hey Rob, I’d like to hear and see what you think of the Dane-Electric (?) digital pen you showed us awhile back.

    When it comes to writing, I wonder if a Pulse Livescribe isn’t the way to go. You get all the analog stimuli and the option to then digitize it.

    Failing that, I enjoy my M700 with touch de-activated, active digitizer only.

  8. bbcamp

    10/29/2008 at 11:00 am

    I am an academic writer, and unless extreme portability is a priority, you can’t do better than the Lenovo/IBM keyboards. Not only do they have the best feel of any laptop keyboard I have tried, but I love the trackpoint. You can mouse without lifting your fingers from the home row of keys.
    And since Lenovo/IBM Thinkpads are so well built, a poor writer can find a used one with lots of life left in it.

    For really extreme portability, I have used a Palm Pilot with a folding keyboard. It works, but is not spectacular.

    For non-tablet work, I now have a MacBook, but I still pair it with an external IBM keyboard for heavy writing.

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