New Gigabyte P34 Gaming Laptop

A few months ago I finally retired my three year old ThinkPad X201 Tablet PC and bought myself a fantastic new Gigabyte P34G laptop. This is from Gigabyte's high-end P Series gaming laptops and is a very impressive piece of tech. 

Fantastic Specs

The P34G weighs about as much as my old laptop did but has an excellent 14" 1920x1080p screen. That's a big step up from the X201's grainy-but-capacitive-touch 12.1" 1280x800px screen:

And while 1920x1080 is sometimes too high a resolution for this size of screen, the LCD panel itself is gorgeous and has excellent colour reproduction:

Importantly, the P34G is powerful. Mine is configured with an Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M graphics card. In fact, it's more than twice as powerful as my old laptop:

It's also very thin so it fits really easily in my Crumpler Dry Red No. 5 backpack's slim laptop pocket:

The best part? It costs half of what the X201 did :)

But Some Corners Were Cut

To fit all that technical goodness into a low cost, thin-and-light package you have to make some sacrifices. Thus the P34G doesn't have the best build quality (mine already has a tiny cosmetic crack in the plastic keyboard housing) and a sub-par soundcard. Actually, the soundcard itself might be okay but it's not tweaked and configured to sound as good as it should. For an audiophile like me, this is a problem. However that problem is easily remedied by bypassing the laptop's on-board hardware and using an external USB soundcard. I now use the iBasso D-Zero DAC and headphone amp which is small, cheap, and easily transportable but still sounds really good. 

Still Worth It

On balance, though, this is a fantastic laptop and I am really happy I bought it. 

So, if you're in the market for a thin-and-light family laptop with an excellent screen and discrete graphics card, I would highly recommend the Gigabyte P34G. 

3 Mobile Broadband on my Tablet PC

One of the reasons I bought a tablet PC was so I could be truly mobile in my computing. An important part of mobile computing is to have Internet access wherever you go. And the obvious and most reliable way to get that access is to have your own mobile broadband connection.

Last year I got that connection from 3. I bought from them a USB mobile broadband modem and signed up for a prepaid month-to-month data plan.

E160 mobile broadband USB key from 3

[Source: PC World]

This year I went one better. I bought and got Lenovo to preinstall an internal broadband modem (the Qualcomm Gobi 2000) when I bought my tablet PC.

I did that because I didn’t want to carry around a USB modem that I’d have to plug in every time I was out and about and wanted to connect to the Internet.

My plan was to transfer my existing 3 connection over from the old modem to the new one. I considered going to a 3 store and asking them to do that for me but then realized that, being a technology geek, I could probably do all that (i.e. the SIM installation and network configuration) myself. And I was right :)

So, here’s how you do it…

First, Get a Connection

If you don’t already have a mobile broadband connection it’s pretty easy to get one from one of your local mobile carriers.

If you go with 3 in Australia, for example, you:

  • go to one of their stores,
  • sign up for an account (in my case, a prepaid one),
  • tell them you’ll be using your own modem, and
  • pick up the ‘3 Mobile Broadband Prepaid Starter Kit’ (which will include your SIM card).

Do read the BYO Modem page on their website before you go ahead and do that, though.

In my case all I had to do was take the SIM out of my USB modem.

Insert the SIM Card

Inserting the SIM card into your laptop (or tablet PC, as the case may be) is really easy.

In the Lenovo ThinkPad X210 tablet PC – as in other ThinkPad X-Series computers – the slot for the SIM card lies behind the battery bay (click images for larger photos):

Inserting SIM Card 1

Take the card, orient it according to the etching on the metal plate below the slot, and push it all the way in:

Inserting SIM Card 2

Then put the battery back on and you’re done.

Power-On the Modem

Assuming that you actually have a broadband modem installed in your computer and that all your drivers are up-to-date, you now need to turn your modem on.

To turn it on, use Lenovo’s Fn+F5 keystroke to bring up the ‘ThinkPad Wireless Radio’ window and press the ‘Power On’ button for the Wireless WAN Radio:

ThinkPad Wireless Radio window

That should change the colour of the ‘Wireless WAN Radio’ text to green and should also light up (again, in green) the WWAN status indicator light just below the screen:

Lenovo ThinkPad X201 indicator lights

[Source: Laptop Mag]

If this doesn’t happen you probably don’t have a modem installed (check in Device Manager in Windows) or your modem isn’t configured properly (run Windows Update to get its latest drivers).

Configure the Connection

Next, you need to set up the connection to 3’s mobile network.

Since I use Lenovo’s Access Connections utility to manage my connections that was pretty straightforward to do. All I had to do was create a new Location Profile by clicking on the ‘Location Profiles’ tab:

Creating a location profile 1

And then pressing the ‘Create’ button:

Creating a location profile 2

Since I already have a Location Profile for my connection – called ‘3 Mobile Broadband WWAN’ – I’ll show you what its configuration is by clicking the ‘Edit’ button instead.

Under the ‘General Settings’ tab I’ve:

  • named my profile,
  • said that I want to connect using ‘Mobile Broadband’, and
  • selected the Gobi 2000 modem (the only option in the list):

General settings in new location profile

Under the ‘Mobile Broadband Settings’ tab I’ve said that this is an HSDPA/GPRS network that requires ‘Custom Settings’:

Mobile broadband settings in new location profile

These ‘Custom Settings’ (which you get to by clicking the ‘Edit Settings’ button) are:

  • the ‘Known WAN service providers’ option is ‘Other’,
  • the ‘Custom service provider’ name is ‘3MobileBroadband Prepaid’ (this will be ‘3Mobile Broadband Postpaid’ if that’s the connection you signed up for),
  • the APN is called ‘3services’:

Custom settings in new location profile

There’s no need to change any advanced or additional settings. Click all the ‘OK’ buttons and you’re done.

Connect to the Network

Go back to the ‘Connect to the Internet’ tab and you should now have ‘3 Mobile Broadband WWAN’ listed in your Location drop-down list. Select that and click the ‘Connect’ button next to it.

In this screenshot I’ve already clicked ‘Connect’ so that button has changed to ‘Stop’:

Connecting to network

It should take about 10-20 seconds to connect…and off you go!

Connected to network

If the connection doesn’t take place then something hasn’t been configured properly or your account with the mobile carrier hasn’t yet been activated. I can’t help you with the former (because I’ve already told you all I know) and the latter you should already have worked out with the salesperson at the mobile carrier’s store.

If further tweaking fails and you can’t find the answer on the Internet then you should take your laptop to the mobile carrier’s store and ask for help (or, alternatively, call them up and get help over the phone).

But if all this has worked then you should now be connected to the Internet via your mobile broadband connection. Yaay!

Lenovo X201 Tablet PC - First Impressions

So the Lenovo X201 Tablet PC that I ordered on 6 May arrived rather unexpectedly on Monday, 17 May…the day after I wrote that its expected delivery date was anything from 18 to 28 May.

This was doubly unexpected because others around the world have reported that it’s taken them 3-4 weeks to get their X201 tablets. Mine, luckily, left the factory six days after I placed the order and took only four business days for delivery (since it weighs less than 5kg).

Not that the Lenovo website told me any of this: The package arrived before the website’s order tracking page had even been updated with the DHL tracking number!

System Specifications

Let’s start with the system specs:

  • Intel Core i7-620 processor (2.00GHz, 4MB L3, 1066MHz)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 12.1” multi-touch display (two finger touch & Wacom pen)
  • 4GB RAM (DDR3)
  • 500GB hard disk (7,200RPM)
  • Intel Centrino Ultimate N-6300 wireless adapter
  • Integrated mobile broadband modem (3G WWAN)
  • Fingerprint reader, integrated camera (2MP), 5-in-1 media card reader, Bluetooth adapter
  • 8 cell battery
  • Upgrade to 3 years warranty

This what it looks like:

Ameel's Lenovo X201 Tablet PC

I’ll post more photos and some video of it over the comings weeks.

So, What do I Think of It?

It’s awesome.

I don’t have the time right now to explain just how awesome it is so here are some quick thoughts:

  • It looks really good – simultaneously sleek, sexy, and businesslike – and feels strong and solid to hold and carry around.
  • It runs really fast (I did get to spec it out nicely) and the screen is excellent.
  • I love the keyboard, though the palm rest area in front of it is a little narrow.
  • I like having both the track pad (which is tiny, though usable) and track stick (which is great for scrolling down pages) available. That said, I did also buy a Lenovo Bluetooth mouse for when I’m doing fiddly, precise stuff on the laptop (like image editing) while sitting at my desk. That external mouse is great, but is a little loud with the clicking.
  • Both the two-finger touch and pen interfaces are fabulous. They do, however, take a while to get good at since you have calibrate them to your writing and touching styles.
  • Using Windows 7 with touch (both finger and pen) is really fun, easy, and intuitive.
  • The speakers are tiny, but surprisingly loud and usable at a pinch.
  • I’ve found some of Lenovo’s software ‘enhancements’ to be a little irritating because they replace Windows functionality that works just fine and I know really well with something I had to learn, set up, and then get used to. For example, the Windows wireless connections interface has been replaced by Lenovo’s Access Connections software. I could uninstall this, of course, but now that I’ve learnt how to use it and have set it up properly, I can ignore it.
  • Finally, as mentioned in various forums, I did have to upgrade the system’s BIOS because, after its first charge-discharge cycle the battery wasn’t charging beyond 45%.

How Are You Using It?

Since the X201t arrived earlier than expected – that, too, in the middle of a really busy week at work – I haven’t had much time to play with it, explore it as thoroughly as I would like, or put it through its paces (like editing HD video on it, for example).

It has already become part of my daily work life, though:

  • I take notes on it at meetings
  • I use it to work away from my desk (without having to undock my existing work laptop from my dual monitor setup, which is a real pain)
  • I annotate documents with it

More broadly, I have started to collect and centralize my work and home lives into OneNote on it.

Before I start using it at it fullest potential, though, I need to do some housekeeping. Specifically:

  • I need to install some more software on it. I’ve got the basics done but need to add a few more things.
  • I need to upgrade my desktop PC from Windows Vista to Windows 7. That’ll make it easier for me to sync files across the two computers. This I started today (by manually backing-up all my desktop data onto my tablet PC) and will finish tomorrow (by doing a clean install of the desktop’s OS).
  • I need to explore Windows 7 properly.
  • I need to scan all my paper documents.

All that will happen in good time (particularly the last bit). For now, though, I’m having a blast using it and will keep you updated as it becomes a more central part of my life.

Oh, one thing, though: Using it to read e-mails and check my RSS feed subscriptions (using Gmail and Google Reader, respectively) is brilliant!

Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet PC Ordered!

I have exciting news! Ten days ago I ordered the Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet PC from the Lenovo Australia website and, if all goes well, I should receive it in another ten days.


[Source: Engadget]

So, yes, more than three years after I first blogged about wanting a tablet PC, I am finally about to get one :)

But Wait…Weren’t You Getting a Fujitsu?

Yes, I was.

I did, however, say in my last tablet PC post that the Lenovo X210t was “still my #1 choice if I could afford it”. And, as it turned out, thanks to a massive sale at the Lenovo Australia website I could.

In fact, I ended up getting a system worth $5,400 for only $3,200! :)

When Will You Get It?

Towards the end of the month.

It was shipped from the Lenovo plant in Shenzhen on the 13th and will take about 10 business days to arrive. I don’t yet have its tracking number – the Lenovo store site takes a frustrating couple of days to get updated – but I’m guessing it’ll get to me on the 28th.

The funny thing is, there were two other items in my order: a Bluetooth mouse and an extended warranty. Both will get to me before my tablet PC does.

I should get the mouse tomorrow, in fact, because it shipped separately a day before the tablet PC and packages under 5kg take only 4 business for shipping. And I already have the extended warranty because I got a confirmation e-mail from Lenovo telling me that it had been processed. 

Oh, and to make it even harder for me to be patient, I even know the computer’s serial number because it was included in the extended warranty e-mail!

Actually, I shouldn’t complain. There’s a global shortage of Intel Core i5 and i7 processors so, when I placed the order about 10 days ago, the website said the tablet PC would ship from the plant “within 4 weeks”. I’m just thrilled that it shipped from the plant 8 days after I placed my order and not 28 days after!

There is one glimmer of hope, though: The tablet PC itself weights under 3kg so, if I’m lucky, the entire shipped package will weigh less than 5kg. If that’s the case then shipping will take 4 business days and I could get it as early as the 18th! I’ll find for sure tomorrow because that’s when the order tracking page on the Lenovo website will most likely get updated.

X201t Reviews and Information

Meanwhile, if you want to know more about the X201t, check out these reviews:

I will, of course, post my own review once my tablet PC arrives :)

Tablet PC Decision Changes Again: Fujitsu Lifebook T900

So, after my previous post in which I explained why I’d settled on buying the HP TouchSmart tm2 convertible tablet PC for myself, I talked to one of the people at I was thinking of buying my tablet PC from them and also wanted their advice before I committed myself to a particular machine.

It’s a good thing that I did talk to them because I have changed my mind once again: I will now be getting for myself a Fujitsu Lifebook T900.


[Source: Fujitsu]

Changing My Mind

Just to explain: When I use the phrase “changed my mind once again” I don’t mean to imply that I am indecisive or unsure about what I want to get.

I keep changing my mind because I continue to:

  • research tablet PCs (particularly new ones as they are released),
  • get advice from people (specifically, experienced tablet PC users), and
  • clarify how I see myself using the machine over the next few years.

That helps me define my tablet PC requirements better which, in turn, helps me choose the specific make, model, and system configuration that will suit me best.

So Why the Switch?

The reason for my switching from the HP tm2 to the Fujitsu T900 is simple: the T900 is significantly better than the tm2 without costing significantly more.

In my previous post I listed the things the tm2 had going for it. The T900 has most of those as well:

  • Capacitive multi-touch screen: yes
  • Active digitizer: yes
  • Cheaper than other dual digitizer tablet PCs: yes, though not as cheap as the tm2
  • Great track pad and keyboard: yes and yes
  • Independent graphics card: no, but it does have an awesome CPU and the updated Intel on-board graphics chip (which handles high-definition video natively in hardware)

I also listed a few things going against the tm2. The T900 has none of these:

  • Processing power: The T900 I’m going to get has the newest, top-of-the-line Core i7 processor from Intel so it’s really powerful
  • Keyboard: Because the T900 has a 13.3 inch screen instead of a 12.1 inch screen, it has a larger-sized keyboard and that means (in this case) the Page-Up, Page-Down, Control, Function, Backspace, and Delete keys are all in the right places
  • Glossy screen and viewing angles: The T900 has an anti-reflective coating (so it’s not glossy) and its viewing angles are much better than those of the tm2

Further, the T900 has some other things going for it:

  • It has a modular bay which can contain a DVD writer (which the tm2 didn’t have at all), a second battery, or a weight saver
  • Fujitsu tablet PCs have awesome build quality and Fujitsu’s after sales service in Australia is pretty good
  • It has a 13.3” screen instead of the usual 12.1” screens that you find on tablet PCs

It also has one thing sort-of going against it:

  • It has higher-powered processor which generally means shorter battery life though, fortunately for the T900, isn’t as short as you would expect (and is further offset by the modular bay which can contain a second battery)

So What’s the Catch?

The catch is that the Fujitsu T900, while still cheaper than the Lenovo X201t (still my #1 choice if I could afford it), costs quite a bit more than the HP tm2:

  • HP TouchSmart tm2: AU$2,000
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X201t: AU$4,000
  • Fujitsu Lifebook T900: AU$3,000

So while I will be spending 50% more on the T900 than what I would have spent on the tm2, I’m confident that I will have a significantly superior overall tablet PC experience. And that makes all the difference.

There is one further catch, though: I won’t be able to afford this till the middle of April. Oh well, better late than never (particularly for a better overall system).

New Tablet PC Decision: HP TouchSmart tm2

I have once again changed my mind about which tablet PC I’m going to buy.

Evolution of Choice

My original choice was essentially a fully featured laptop that you could use as a tablet. This was the Toshiba M750, which has since been upgraded to the M780:


[Source: Engadget]

Then, once I got a desktop PC at home and a really good PC at work, I realized I didn’t need another full-power computer in my life.

So, instead of going for the normal-laptop-plus-tablet-PC type of device, I decided to get the thin-and-light type that was:

  • less powerful,
  • more portable, and
  • had a better overall tablet PC experience.

This was the Lenovo X200t, which has since been upgraded to the X201t:


[Source: Engadget]

Since then, however, two things have happened:

  1. I realized that I didn’t want to spend over $3.5k on a tablet PC. I don’t have the money and, at this point in my life, a tablet PC that’s as fully-featured as, say, the Lenovo X201t is not worth the expense.
  2. A viable alternative entered the market when HP upgraded their highly affordable TouchSmart tx2 line to the tm2 line (now with an Intel CPU instead of an AMD). This made the tm2 the only multi-touch tablet in the market that has both an active digitizer and an independent graphics card.

So, now, the HP TouchSmart tm2 is the tablet PC I’m going to get:


[Source: Engadget]

For much more on the tm2, check out:

Is it Worth it?

Definitely – even though it costs half of what the Lenovo X201t does. And, while it certainly doesn’t have all the features of the X201t, it does have all the ones I really want.

For example, it has these awesome things going for it:

  • It has an independent graphics card (i.e. it has a dedicated Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU), which is awesome.
  • It has a capacitive multi-touch screen, though you can only use two fingers at a time on it (which is fine for my needs).
  • It has an active digitizer, which for me is a pre-requisite because I expect to be doing a lot of note-taking on it.
  • It’s cheaper than all the other tablet PCs currently in the market that have dual digitizers (i.e. both capacitive and active); and it does this without compromising on too many other features.
  • It has a track pad (which is also multi-touch) and a pretty darned good keyboard.

That said, it has some things going against it:

  • It isn’t as highly powered as some of the newer thin-and-light tablet PCs. Specifically, it doesn’t contain Intel’s new i-series processors. That, however, is okay because its independent GPU more than makes up for its lack of CPU power (at least for my needs).
  • Its keyboard takes a little getting used to. For example, it doesn’t have dedicated Page-Up, Page-Down, Home, and End keys though you can still perform all of those functions via keystroke combinations (i.e. Fn+Up = Page-Up, etc.). Aside from that, though, I really like it’s keyboard. I know because I tried it out at Dick Smith Electronics, where it’s currently available.
  • It has a glossy screen (so, for example, it reflects overhead lights very easily) and limited viewing angles. Fortunately, I’ve played around with it at Dick Smith and it’ll do for my purposes.

All told, these compromises – which you’d expect from something this low-cost – aren’t that much of a issue after all.

So, here we are and, if all goes as planned, I should buy one of these by the end of the month! :)

Lenovo Lets You Switch Ctrl & Fn Keys in BIOS!

I really like having the Ctrl (Control) key located at the bottom left hand corner of my computer's keyboard.

It's one my most frequently used keys — which I press using my left thumb or, simply, the side/edge of my left palm — and I like its location to be consistent across all the desktops and laptops that I use.

I use the Control key to:

  • cut-copy-paste (ctrl+x, ctrl+c, ctrl+v)

  • select all (ctrl+a)

  • select entire words/paragraphs (ctrl+shift+left/right/up/down arrows or ctrl+shift+page up/down)

  • move to the start/end of documents (ctrl+end, ctrl+home)

  • move forwards/backwards by one word (ctrl+right/left arrows)

  • delete the rest of the current line in a text editor (ctrl+delete)

  • undo/redo (ctrl+z, ctrl+y)

  • zoom in/out of PDFs, documents, browser windows, etc. (ctrl+mouse scroll wheel up/down)

  • duplicate drawing elements in Microsoft Office (ctrl+click & drag)

  • move between worksheets in an Excel spreadsheet (ctrl+page up/page down)

  • create a page break in a Word document (ctrl+enter)

  • open files/documents (ctrl+o)

  • save files/documents (ctrl+s)

  • switch between window panes (ctrl+tab)

  • select multiple items (ctrl+mouse left click)

  • (and a bunch of other things I can't remember right now but I probably do unconsciously)

Many laptops, however, have the Fn (Function) key located at the bottom left hand corner of their keyboards and, though it's not the end of the world, this placement irritates me no end.

[Source: Engadget]

That's why I'm really excited by Lenovo's recent announcement that it will let users swap the functionality of the Control and Function keys directly through the BIOS!

They plan to offer this in "all future ThinkPad models" so I have a bad feeling it won't be available on the ThinkPad X200 tablet PC that I'm saving up for these days. Still, it's a step in the right direction and the Lenovo keyboard — which is already one of the best out there — just got a whole lot better.

You can read more about this here, by the way:

And speaking of my plan to buy the X200 tablet PC, so far I've saved-up about 60% of the funds needed. However, I've had to put this saving on hold because we're shifting to a bigger, better, and closer-to-work apartment early next week and doing so will cost us quite a bit of money (especially since we're breaking our existing apartment's lease).

If all goes well, however, I should have enough saved-up by the middle of January 2010. Here's hoping there are some good sales or deals to be had around then!

New Lenovo ThinkPad X200T Reviews's Kevin O'Brien recently reviewed two Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet PCs and had this to say:
The Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablets we reviewed performed very well in almost all categories. Battery life was excellent with the 8-cell battery, reaching 8 hours and 48 minutes on the sunlight readable version, and 5 hours and 32 minutes on the touchscreen model. Screen quality on both models was phenomenal, with the sunlight readable display being one of the best screens we have ever seen in our office. [...]

Overall performance was very good on both models, with little impact to battery life or system temperatures. Considering the low starting price compared to the Dell XT2, the ThinkPad X200 Tablets are a clear winner. For its amazing screen, great build quality, and excellent battery life we are also awarding the outdoor viewable X200 Tablet with our Editor's Choice award.

Now, I'm not getting the outdoor viewable X200 tablet PC because I am willing to sacrifice awesome screen quality in favour of two-finger touch capability but the "touchscreen model", as O'Brien refers to it, is pretty awesome too. Read the review for more.

Meanwhile, the two new touch-enabled ThinkPads models – the X200 and T400 – also got a mention in a blog post about crapware on Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows.

Crapware, which you get on all new PCs, is irritating even while it makes PCs cheaper to buy. According to Thurrott, Lenovo partly redeems itself by adding bundled software that "expand[s] on core Windows capabilities or, increasingly, simply provide[s] new capabilities that are not present in Windows at all". Read his post for details.

New Lenovo ThinkPad X200T Videos

I don't mean to go on and on about the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet, wait, I think I do :)  After all, this will be the most expensive piece of computing equipment I'll have ever bought!

Anyway, Warner Crocker from Gotta Be Mobile posted a couple of videos on the new multi-touch screen on the X200 which you can watch here:

Enjoy :)

More on the Lenovo ThinkPad X200T

After doing a lot of tablet PC research over the last few days, I have pretty much decided that I’ll be getting myself the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet PC.

[Source: Lenovo website]

What Research Did I Do?

In my opinion, the three best places to learn about tablet PCs in depth are:

Every time I want to learn more about any tablet PC, those are the three sites I visit first. Not only are the authors incredibly knowledgeable about tablet PCs (or mobile computing in general) they use tablet PCs as part of their day-to-day work so they bring a lot of real world experience to their reviews and opinions.

They’re also quick to recognize that your mileage may vary when it comes to using computers. They do this by comparing and contrasting their tablet PC preferences with the preferences of others and this makes for a much more well-rounded discussion.

Microsoft itself has recognized their contributions to the tablet PC space by making a number of them Windows Touch & Tablet PC MVPs (i.e. Most Valuable Professionals).

What’s particularly valuable about those sites, though, is that the official site authors and reviewers aren’t the only ones contributing. Gotta Be Mobile (GMB) and Tablet PC Review both have excellent discussion forums that I highly recommend.

What Have I Learnt So Far?

A lot; some of which I shared in my previous blog post (with specification data gathered from Tablet PC Review).

But, as a quick overview of my research, here are the reviews and discussions covering the ThinkPad X200 that I looked at.

From Tablet PC Review:

From Gotta Be Mobile:

From JK On the Run:

There were more articles and reviews that I looked at, of course, but those were the main ones.

But, What About Cost?

Ah, yes…cost. That’s the interesting thing because, even though I’m switching to a lower performance tablet PC when I move from the Toshiba Portege M750 to the Lenovo ThinkPad X200, the ThinkPad actually costs a little more (about A$250 more). Well, at least in my chosen configuration.

But that’s okay because, what I lose in processing power, I more than make up for in longer battery life (about double), a multi-touch screen, a special portable dock, and a better overall tablet PC experience. So, instead of getting a powerful workstation that is also a good tablet PC, I get a great tablet PC that isn’t all-powerful but still packs a real punch.

The only unfortunate thing, as far as cost is concerned, is my timing. That’s because, as part of the launch of multi-touch screens on the ThinkPad X200, Lenovo is giving lots of discounts if you order online from their site. Lenovo US, for example, is giving a 15% discount and is throwing in the X200 UltraBase (which is the portable dock mentioned above) for half price (US$100 instead of $200). Lenovo Australia, meanwhile, is giving 25% off for all ThinkPad purchases till midnight tonight and is extending your warranty from 1 to 3 years for just $1.

I, unfortunately, won’t be able to afford a tablet PC till November at the earliest. That means I’ll miss all the back-to-school and new-feature discounts and specials that will be offered over the next month or so. Indeed, I’ll be getting my tablet PC bang smack in the middle of the Christmas shopping season. The only way I’ll get lucky is if I am in time for a pre-Christmas sale offer, but I doubt that’ll happen. Oh well. It’s still worth it.

One Last Thing: Hands-on Experience

The one last thing I am hoping to do before finalizing my choice is getting some hands-on time with these tablet PCs. Unfortunately, that’ll be really hard to do here in Melbourne, Australia.

I know I can get my hands on an HP tablet PC (the tx2000 and possibly the 2710p) at a local HP reseller but I don’t know of any Lenovo or Fujitsu resellers that have tablet PCs on display. Finding out will involve lots more research and, hopefully, some help from the Tablet PC Review and GBM forums. I’m hoping something works out, though, and I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Tablet PCs – Comparing Specs, Keyboards

Now that I’ve narrowed my tablet PC options down to three –  though I may add to this list over the next few months – I can start comparing them to each other.

My current options are:

Basic Specifications

Their basic specifications are similar. Though, as you can see in the summary below, the ThinkPad X200 edges the other two out slightly:

Item Lenovo
ThinkPad X200
EliteBook 2730p
LifeBook T2020
Processor Core 2 Duo
1.86GHz L9400
Core 2 Duo
1.86GHz L9400
Core 2 Duo
1.2GHz U9300
Hard drive 160GB,
Graphics GMA X4500 GMA 4500MHD GMA 4500
Screen 12.1" WXGA 12.1" WXGA 12.1" WXGA
Digitizer Active,
PCMark05 4,318 3,489 2,983
3DMark05 1,307 1,278 802
Input Trackpoint Trackpoint,


All of these specs were taken from Tablet PC Review, by the way, and they’re based on the specs of review units. You can, of course, customize these specs when you actually by the computer.

Comparing Keyboards

Moving beyond that, the next thing I always check on a laptop is its keyboard. This is because I do a lot of typing and constantly use keyboard shortcuts so having a great keyboard is crucial to both my productivity and sanity.

As a benchmark, this is what the Toshiba Satellite M750’s keyboard looks like (all photos from

Toshiba Portege M700 keyboard

Note the Control key in the bottom left hand corner. This is good because most keyboard shortcuts involve pressing that key and it irritates me when the Function key is in the left most one in the bottom row.

Also note the convenient location of the Page-Up and Page-Down keys next to the directional arrow keys on the bottom right hand corner.

The Home, End, Insert, and Delete keys on the top right hand corner aren’t at their optimal positions, I know, but their relative ordering isn’t terrible. Ultimately, that not-so-good location was the sacrifice I was willing to make in order to get this laptop.

Finally, the laptop uses a track pad (as opposed to a track point), which is something I like and am accustomed to.

Let’s now look at the Lenovo ThinkPad X200’s keyboard:

Lenovo ThinkPad X200 keyboard

A number of things stand out. First, the Function key is at the bottom left hand corner. That’s not good, but survivable. On the other hand, even though they’re located on the top right hand corner, the placement of the Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page-Up, and Page-Down keys is beautiful!

That said, the one big adjustment I’d have to make if I got this tablet PC is switching from a trackpad to a trackpoint.

Next, let’s check out the HP EliteBook 2730p’s keyboard:

HP EliteBook 2730p keyboard

I like this one because its Control key is in the right place and it has both a track pad and track point. On the other hand, I hate this one because it’s Insert, Delete, etc. keys are very unfortunately placed.

Finally, here’s the Fujitsu LifeBook T2020’s keyboard:

Fujitsu LifeBook T2020 keyboard

The Control key is in the right place and the Page-Up and Page-Down keys are good, too. The Insert, Delete, etc. keys are survivable but we’re back to a track point instead of a track pad.

So, overall, my least favourite keyboard is that of HP 2730p. I really don’t like that they’ve placed the Home, End, etc. keys in a line on the top right hand corner. The Fujitsu T2020 and Toshiba M750’s keyboards, meanwhile, are both okay and I’d be fine with using them.

The keyboard that stands out, then, is that of the Lenovo X200. Yes, I’d have to use a track stick and, yes, I’d have to get used to the new placement of the Control key…but I did manage to get used to the latter on my previous keyboard so it won’t be the end of the world. On the other hand, I love how the Home, End, etc. keys are placed and this makes up for most of its other shortcomings.

Preliminary Conclusion

So my preliminary choice of tablet PC is the Lenovo ThinkPad X200. The added benefit of this is that the X200 is the only one with a multi-touch screen.

There is more to explore and examine – like cost, for example – but I’d say this was a good start.

A Quick Aside About Lenovo Design

By the way, Lenovo are generally praised for their excellent keyboards and, having used them on and off in the past, I tend to agree.

If you want to know more about Lenovo’s design ideas, be sure to check out their Design Matters blog.

Good posts to read are:

My Tablet PC Plan Changes

I haven't written about my tablet PC obsession for a while but three recent events and two technology lifestyle trends are prompting me to do so now.

The trends have made me re-evaluate my reasons and primary selection criteria for getting a tablet PC. These trends are:

  1. After five years of having a laptop as my primary and sometimes only computer I have recently started using a desktop. And I really like it. What with a good processor; lots of RAM; a huge, high-speed hard drive; a large, widescreen monitor (like I have at home) or two large monitors (like I have at work); lots of USB ports; and all my accessories close at hand…how could I not like working on one?
  2. With so much of my life in the cloud, an increasingly mobile lifestyle, and the ready availability of mobile broadband Internet, small and light mobile computing solutions like smart phones and netbooks are becoming increasingly interesting and useful to me.

As for the three events:

  1. Windows 7 is due to be released on October 22 and its tablet-specific features are really good.
  2. Both Lenovo and Fujitsu have announced that their flagship tablet PCs – the ThinkPad X200 and LifeBook T5010 respectively – now have multi-touch screens options. Till this announcement, only the Dell Latitude XT2 had one of those. 
  3. If I continue to consciously save money, by the end of the year (or the start of next year) I should finally be able to afford a tablet PC.

What Does This All Mean?

Two things:

  1. The end of this year is a good time to buy a tablet PC. Not only will I able to afford one, it’ll ship with Windows 7 and will have the latest touch screen on it.
  2. I’m not sure any more if I really need or want a high performance tablet PC. It might make more sense for me to get a less powerful one for mobile use and an upgrade to my home desktop (if I really need one in the future) for power use.

In short, my front runner tablet PC choices – and, in particular, the Toshiba M750 I was planning to get – are now no longer the ones I’m looking at.

Instead, I’m looking at one of these:

All three are less powerful than my previous choices (also, they don’t have optical drives) but, instead, they all have longer battery lives and they all weigh less. Oh, and they don’t cost as much, either.

Only the ThinkPad X200 has a multi-touch screen at this time but I’m sure the others will have one in time for the back-to-school or Christmas shopping seasons (particularly since HP is targeting the consumer market).

So, What Next?

My task now is to start the tablet PC comparison process once again and, over the next few months, keep an eye out for updates to these three systems.

Unfortunately, because these tablet PCs are very similar to each other (particularly the Lenovo and HP), it’ll be hard to choose among them.

Fortunately, all three are excellent and all come highly recommended. That means, regardless of which one I end up going for, I will be getting a great tablet PC.

Meanwhile, I’ll start the preliminary comparison process and will proceed to bore you with my ruminations and computing preferences :)

Tablet PC Update: Good & Bad News

If you've been reading this blog for a while then you'll know that I'm dying to get myself a high-performance tablet PC. I can't afford one right now but, as soon as I can (which I'm hoping is very soon), I plan on getting myself a Toshiba Portege M700. Regarding that, I have some good news and some bad news.

Exchange Rates

First, the bad news. I was planning on buying the M700 from the US (by ordering it online from Portable One) because the configuration available in Australia is both underpowered and overpriced. You can get a significantly more powerful configuration for an overall lower price (i.e. even after you add customs fees and international courier charges) if you order one from the US and have it shipped to Australia.

However, after the recent financial market "issues" and the US-Australian dollar exchange rate changing, ordering the M700 from the US will now cost me a few hundred dollars extra. Bummer. Here's hoping the exchange rate swings back the other way when I do actually getting around to ordering one of these :)

An Upgrade!

On the other hand, there's some really good news. Toshiba recently launched a follow-up to the M700: the M750! The new model is physically similar to the old one but, under the hood, the M750 kicks just a little more ass:

  • The processor (still an Intel Core 2 Duo) has been upgraded from the T8xxx line to the P8xxx line so instead of, say, a 2.4GHz T8300 processor you would now get a 2.4GHz P8600 processor. What's the big deal about that? The P8600 will let you use Windows Vista 64-bit and will give you access to all 4GB of RAM instead of the 3.2GB you had access to with the T8300.

  • The RAM has also been given a speed boost from 667MHz to 800MHz and the standard hard drive speed has also been bumped up from 5,400RPM to 7,200RPM (though I would've ordered the higher-speed hard drive with the M700 anyway).

  • The graphics engine also gets an upgrade so, instead of the Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100, you now get the 4500MHD which is not only twice as fast it also supports full HD video (1080p) natively.

  • You also get a gigabit LAN connection, a newer Bluetooth version (which faster transfer speeds), and a combined USB/eSATA port (eSATA is great for external hard drives as its data transfer speed is much faster that USB transfer speeds) which is also a sleep-and-charge port (this lets you charge accessories plugged into this port even if your laptop is off).

All in all, the M7xx series -- which was already one of the most powerful tablet PC lines in the market -- now packs an even greater punch with the M750. And the best part? This new, upgraded M750 costs the same as the old M700! Awesome.

[Quick caveat: The M750 isn't selling in custom configurations right now and is, so far, available only in the US and Canada. Also, it doesn't yet have a multi-touch screen -- i.e. with both pen and touch input -- but I'm hoping they'll add that to this model very soon.]

UPDATE: According to Craig Pringle, the M750 has a dual digitizer that has both active and resistive touch. This means you can use both a stylus and your finger on the screen. Excellent.

PC Mag Reviews the M700

PC Magazine has finally gotten around to reviewing the Toshiba M700 tablet PC. Cisco Cheng gives is a 4 out of 5 and says:

Bottom Line: This convertible tablet has the processing capability and an optical drive to maintain productivity at a high level.

Pros: Excellent performance scores. Built-in optical drive. Beefed-up hinges. Wacom and touch capabilities. Superb "green" attributes. Comfortable keyboard.

Cons: Needs 3G support. Plain and bulky-looking.


[Via GBM]

Entertainment on a Tablet PC

Every time I've written about tablet PCs on this blog it's been about how that form factor will improve my productivity, efficiency, and will make my life a great deal easier.

What I haven't mentioned is how I expect a tablet PC to improve my computer-based entertainment experience as well. Specifically, how I expect to use it for reading books, playing computer games, watching movies, recording and editing music, listening to music and podcasts, and so on. I'll write about all that some other time but, meanwhile, James Kendrick has posted a video on how he uses his new Fujitsu P1620 for entertainment. It's an excellent video and I suggest you check it out.

Two Toshiba M700 Reviews

Both Gotta Be Mobile and Tablet PC Review have recently published their reviews of the Toshiba M700 tablet PC:

Both are positive and both have reinforced my decision to buy the M700 as soon I can afford it. Things may, of course, change over the next few months but I doubt any manufacturer will come out with a machine that tops the power, versatility, and customisation options of the M700.