Slate PCs

Category: Laptops

The fashionable Apple iPad has sparked renewed interest in a neglected category of computers, the so-called slate PC. It may surprise you to learn that, long before the iPad appeared everywhere, there have been many makes and models of this form factor. And I'm not talking about Fred Flintstone as a technology pioneer. Check out these slate PCs before you run off to the Apple store...

Lenovo Slate PC Hybrid

What is a Slate PC?

Well, it's smaller and handier than a tablet PC, which in turn is smaller than a notebook which is smaller than a laptop. Smallness and handiness are achieved by ruthlessly paring down hardware, and designing for usability.

A slate PC has no physical keyboard, for instance, as a tablet PC does. A slate PC has a touch screen; a virtual keyboard appears at the bottom of the screen when you need to type, but whenever possible you just move things around on the screen with fingertips.

Instead of a spinning 2.5-inch hard drive, a slate PC may have even smaller solid state memory chips, like those found inside of a USB flash drive. Solid state memory holds data just as long as magnetic media, but it does not require a bulky, noisy, energy-hogging read/write mechanism. With no read/write head to crash into a spinning disk, solid state memory is more shock-resistant in case you drop a slate PC. Unfortunately, solid state memory is also more expensive than magnetic media.

The Apple iPad further minimizes bulk by being elegantly simple and intuitive to use. It doesn't need much space for indicator lights, buttons with labels on them, and other clues to how it is used. Some have criticized the iPad because it doesn't run Mac OS X, so it can't be used as a complete replacement for a laptop. But the abundance of apps that run on the iPhone/iPad device, and the ability to run web-based apps as well, make the iPad compelling. Many people love the iPad simply because it makes them feel smart; they pick it up for the very first time, try something, and it works. That's handiness, and it spells success for Apple. Other slate PCs have similar selling points and more.

The AIS Outdoor Rugged Tablet PC is built tough for people who work in the field: construction inspectors, forest rangers, traffic cops, etc. It features a 10.4-inch extra-tough touch screen; water and dust protection; anti-vibration system; a hot-swapping battery; and a fanless processor. It runs Windows XP and includes wireless WiFi, Bluetooth, GSM and GPS connectivity.

The Fujitsu Stylistic ST6012 has a bigger, 12-inch screen. Windows Vista Business runs on an Intel Core 2 Duo ULV processor. Its hard drive ranges from 80 to 250 GB. Other features include a 1.3 megapixel camera; biometric fingerprint reader; WiFi; and a shared slot for SD card and Memory Stick Pro external solid state memory.

The Archos 9 PCtablet is a promising but rather disappointing competitor to the iPad. Its elegant design is incredibly slim (two-thirds of an inch thick). Its touch screen is a medium-sized 9.1 inches but its response time is frustratingly slow, according to reviewers and users. Likewise, the underpowered Intel Atom Z510 1.1 Ghz processor takes a long time to get things done. At $549, the Archos 9 PCtablet is a bit more expensive than an entry-level iPad.

For now, at least, the Apple iPad reigns supreme among slate PCs. But as time goes by, Windows and Android-based slate PCs should catch up. A couple of iPad competitors that will be making a splash soon include the HP Slate, which will run Windows 7 on a 9-inch multitouch display, and Lenovo's U1 Hybrid, which is a slate that comes with a docking station, effectively turning it into a laptop. Both are (sorry for the pun) slated for availability in June 2010. Another one to watch is the Adam Notion Ink Tablet, a very slim Android-based device with a 10.1-inch screen.

Do you have something to say about slate PCs or tablet computers? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Slate PCs"

Posted by:

14 May 2010

When I saw PC tablets many years ago and I thought they were the best thing in the world until I saw that they were more expensive than a regular laptop. The great thing about the iPad is the price/features combination in my opinion.

Posted by:

Ryan James
20 May 2010

The iPad may be great, but the thought of being tied into iTunes or such is a negative. Plus, no USB port? Come on, isn't this the 21st century?

I will wait for the Slate, but recent reports were that it was put off indefinitely. I am wondering if the June date in the article was a snafu?

Posted by:

20 May 2010

The HP Slate is dead now (as is the MS Courier). Apparently Windows 7 was the root of the problem.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There are rumors to that effect, yes, but no official word from HP. In any event, since HP has purchased Palm, you can be sure they will bring some type of slate device to market.

Posted by:

20 May 2010

I have desktop, laptop, Itouch, which pretty much handles my needs. But I would like to get a netbook for a more satisfying travel experience. Using the itouch can be painful.
So I'm waiting for the Chrome based, cloud tied netbook that was promised a few years ago. Have you heard anything lately?

Posted by:

Glenn P.
22 May 2010

You wrote:

Adam Notion Ink Tablet

"Adam"? Interesting: Another "Adam" in the computing world... anyone remember Coleco???     :)

LOL!     :)

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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved