Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to choose the best Tablet PC (for you)

Because this is my blog you can correctly assume this is My Humble Opinion. But I do this all day, every day so that is how I based this post. John

The most frequently asked question on the tablet forums and in calls to our company is: Which Tablet PC should I buy? The answer changes frequently because the technology changes so often. I’ll attempt to answer the question the same way I do for prospective customers.

First question is always “what do you want to do with your tablet?”. I’m going to answer that based on a couple different scenarios.

Tablet PC use #1: Field Worker (inspector, appraiser, insurance adjuster, service technician)

What to buy: A slate tablet PC with outdoor viewable screen and bump case, extra battery, screen protector and car charger. Consider the Motion LE1700 with XGA View Anywhere Display or the Fujitsu ST 5112. If your software is “touch friendly”, the Sahara i440D with Sunlight Viewable Display should be on your short list as well.

Why a slate: Slate tablet PCs are the most comfortable, lightest weight tablets for walking around a job site, house, building or the outdoors. They are built with ULV (ultra low voltage) processors that require less power and generate less heat. Just because the tablet doesn’t have a keyboard attached doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a desktop – buy a docking station for use at the office.

How much will I spend: Expect to spend $2,500 - $3,200 depending on the power of the processor, amount of memory and type of accessories purchased. Spending $60 on a screen protector is expensive short term but a great investment over time.

Tablet PC use #2: Field Sales (executive, real estate agent, outside salesperson)

What to buy: A convertible tablet PC with high resolution display, docking station or port replicator, executive portfolio, Seize the Day with your Tablet PC book. If you don’t need a DVD all the time for your work, give consideration to the Fujitsu T2010 or Lenovo X61T. If you must have a DVD with you, the Fujitsu T4220 or Toshiba tablets are heavier and bulkier but have this feature.

Why a convertible: For people who are doing mostly laptop work like writing agreement, working with Microsoft Office documents, taking notes on occasion when in a meeting or with a client a convertible gives you the best of both worlds. This tablet is your laptop when at your desk or working at home but can be flipped around to a notepad when in the boardroom or making notes about a prospective customer.

How much will I spend: Expect to spend $1,900 - $2,600 for a unit with a powerful processor, 2Gb RAM memory, 100+Gb hard drive and accessories. Get a docking station or port replicator so you can plug in your second monitor, network connection and printer when in the office.

Tablet PC use #3: Super mobile (travelling executive, doctor, pilot)

What to buy: Ultra mobile PCs or UMPCs aren’t quite enough for most people yet. Smaller tablet PCs that offer more power and functionality are still the way to go. The Fujitsu P1620 is probably the best all around device combining the best aspects of size, weight, battery life, power and price.

Why this device: Something is missing in most smaller devices. Either power, screen readability, input choices or quality. The Fujitsu P1620 is the best combination of all these features in a very compact tablet PC.

How much will I spend: Expect to spend $2,100 - $2,700. Get it with 2Gb and a high capacity battery and you’ll have a very portable, powerful computer to use wherever you need it.

Tablet PC use #4: Single application use (electronic medical records, service application, manufacturing)

What to buy: If your use is mobile within a defined space like a medical practice, auto dealership or manufacturing facility and using just one or two applications on the tablet to help your business, a Motion C5 or F5 is your best choice.

Why a slate with no ports: Keeping the device simple enables it to be a tool rather than a computer. Also, in these kinds of environments where you might want to scan barcoded patient wristbands, medications, automobile vehicle identification numbers or parts, having a built in barcode scanner is better than having to connect a USB or Bluetooth device.

How much will I spend: Expect to spend $2,200 - $3,200 depending on the configuration. A basic medical tablet (the C5) is at the low end and is perfect if you are running an EMR application that is server based. Those in a dirtier environment where dust particles and splashing can be a problem, like doing inspections of an assembly line or check-in at an auto repair garage, should choose the Motion F5 which is rated for this kind of situation.

OF COURSE THERE ARE OTHER SCENARIOS and just because I put certain people into a particular category shouldn't stop you from considering another type of device. But when people ask me the question, they expect some guidance so they can make a good decision. I appreciate your comments and feedback and would be happy to include your well reasoned point of view as part of these recommendations.

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