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Apr 9, 2012

2012 Tablets - Samsung Series 7 Slate VS Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet

I have been watching out for tablets for 2012. With the move of Windows 8 to a more "tablet" like OS we can expect new hardware. While I enjoy touch input for simple tasks I feel that precise pen input has a more useful role in my daily needs. The Samsung Series 7 Slate might have been called the "first Windows 8 tablet", although it is not. We are still waiting to see what new devices come out.

Recently I received a question from someone who wants to buy a pen capable tablet. It might be a bit dry to read, but if you are a tablet enthusiast it might be worth checking out.

Question by Flo
Hi, I'm looking for a tablet with effective and very accurate pen input. For me this might be the samsung slate or x220t. Which one do you prefer concerning pen input?



My Answer

If I had to have a single device it would be the X220T. The X220T has a more powerful CPU/GPU and has a fantastic keyboard. There are many other benefits to the X220T, one of them is the possibility of using a docking station called the Series 3 Ultrabase. I had a great time with the X201T and a docking station + a Cooler Master NotePal Ergostand.

Many Wacom based systems have good precision on most of the screen, the edges of the screen sometimes have problems. The X220T is Wacom based and has shown this behavior. You can improve it by doing calibration, but most likely never remove that behavior 100%. Some units are worse than others, so there are plenty of stories of people returning their X220T. The Series 7 Slate seems to have better edge precision.

The Series 7 Slate has a slower CPU, although this is good to conserve battery power. Of course you can buy a case and a keyboard and many other accessories that turn the tablet into a laptop, or a mini desktop computer.  The system is quite a capable tablet for most tasks (3d demos, 3dMark).  So it is good spec wise, but not as powerful as the X220T (gaming graphics performance).

If the device is 100% for handwritten notes then the Series 7 Slate would be my choice. The Series 7 Slate is currently the slimmest active digitizer Windows tablet, with very good precision results. When the pen makes contact with the screen you can feel a nice gummy feedback. In contrast the X220T felt like drawing on a firm surface (like glass), which can lead to worse line quality because the pen can "slide" more instead of being controlled. (more on Series 7 Slate Touch and Pen Input)

A warning on the Series 7 Slate is that you may encounter screen separation issues in earlier batches. Hopefully Samsung has corrected this by now. Another issue was that earlier BIOS versions limited the CPU speed, which was corrected later on via updates.

Both the Series 7 Slate and the X220T have a wide screen aspect ratio, which is not great for reading PDFs in portrait mode. The latest Windows 7 tablets were made for landscape mode orientations, maybe expecting compatibility with Windows 8 resolutions. The 1366x768 resolution is for landscape, not portrait because it cuts off PDFs and many other documents. Portrait mode lovers are not happy with these wide screen resolutions.

Currently I use a Fujitsu LifeBook T580 (N-Trig) which is rather hideous, expensive, and not as good as either the X220T or the Series 7 Slate. It has some positives like multiple touch and pen modes. However, the line quality in N-Trig is not as great as Wacom.  N-Trig pens can be erratic in some areas within the screen. So, I recommend Wacom based tablets like the X201T, X220T, Series 7 Slate, Fujitsu T901.  For exclusive pen input even older systems will work fine, some of these systems include: X200T, X61T, X60T, HP TM2.

So which one do I recommend?   For exclusively pen input I recommend the Series 7 Slate.  For the "all in one" system the X220T will be fine.

Since I am trying to go back to school I also need a good slate or convertible tablet with precise pen input, I am hoping to see Windows 8 tablets soon that are even better than the Series 7 Slate and the X220T.  Of course Windows 8 will work with the X220T and Series 7 Slate, but these systems are not "Windows 8 hardware".   As much as I am tempted on buying a tablet, I have chosen to wait in hopes for even better hardware during 2012.

The next generation Windows tablets will be interesting because they need to compete against Android and iPad tablets. The Apple iPad 3 ("the new iPad") just raised the bar  because of the increased resolution (2048x1536), improved CPU/GPU, great battery life.  Of course the iPad 3 continues the finger touch-only input which is absolutely useless for my precision needs.  The pens of the iPad 3 are "capacitive pens" or "bluetooth pens" which are hideous compared to Wacom active digitizer pens.  If you were to just use your fingers the iPad 3 is a very good (probably the best) choice.

As a last note I recommend checking out MS OneNote and several tablet optimizations in Windows 7.  Lets hope Microsoft continues to improve active digitizer input in Windows 8.

Sorry for the long and complicated answer, but might as well explain the reasoning and support it with the links. Good luck!


(87m)

4 comments:

  1. hi Jesse,

    what do you think about the lenovo thinkpad tablet (http://www.lenovo.com/products/us/tablet/thinkpad/)? I have a x201 tablet and have been thinking about a lightweight alternative with good digitizer input and it seems to be a good option...

    cheers,
    Nicolas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the ThinkPad Tablet, it is one of the few Android based tablets that I would actually want to have. There is one concern that I have about this tablet... and that is that it has N-Trig technology. Based on my experience with N-Trig I can say that it is NOT as good as Wacom.

      The Series 7 Slate currently is the lightweight tablet that I would consider buying for personal use. But I think Samsung is designing something that will be even more impressive. Some links:
      http://www.jessebandersen.com/2011/11/samsung-series-7-slate-touch-and-pen.html
      http://www.jessebandersen.com/2011/12/samsung-series-7-slate-microsoft.html

      The iPad and Android tablets have evolved from their "content consumption", and now they have some content creation. If I did not need a digitizer I would be very tempted on getting an Asus Eee Pad Transformer, the iPad 3, or the ThinkPad Tablet. (5m)

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    2. I thought this lenovo thinkpad tablet had a wacom inside as in their x series... thanks for the heads up. I start avoiding n-trig once I knew photoshop didn't support it. n-trig drivers didn't support the wintab interface which is needed by photoshop and many other drawing applications... they pretended everybody using wintab to change to the windows inking API which they supported. Finally n-trig released wintab drivers but they are unusable (at least in this case http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dgm4YPxV5o, and n-trig haven't update its wintab drivers since 2010 ). It's a shame because this thinkpad tablet looked nice. Thanks again, Nicolas

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    3. It seems that N-Trig beat Wacom at making compatible digitizers for Android... which may be the reason why it has been see in the HTC Flyer, HTC Evo View 4G, ThinkPad Tablet, and another one that escaped my mind.

      There is an Android tablet with Wacom digitizer and that is the Panasonic Toughpad. This is a rugged system that is going to be expensive (over $1,500).
      http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughpad/us/best-android-rugged-tablet-overview.asp

      Wacom reference at "How is the screen different from a consumer tablet?"
      http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughpad/us/reliable-android-tablet-faqs.asp

      (4m)

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