Netbooks are highly mobile machines, capable of running for an entire working day without the need to recharge. Tablet PCs are highly mobile machines made to be used on the go by people who don’t have the time to sit down and use a fully keyboard. A match made in heaven?
You bet. The qualities of netbooks make them perfect for tablet PCs. That is not to say they’re without disadvantages. Netbook hardware is limited in the software it can run, and that will make tablet netbooks a bad idea for people who need to use highly specialized software. Most tablet users, however, will likely prefer a tablet netbook to more traditional tablet PCs. Netbooks are inexpensive, light, durable, and generate little heat, all of which are desirable traits in a tablet netbook. The question is, which tablet netbooks are the best?
Asus Eee PC T101MT
An update to the aging Eee PC T91, which previously was recommended in this guide, the Eee PC T101MT is an excellent all-around netbook and small tablet. The Eee PC T101MT is, in terms of specifications, fairly similar to an Eee PC 1001P. It has a six cell battery, a 10.1 inch screen, 1 GB of RAM, etc. It also has a similar look and feel with an excellent keyboard and large trackpad. The Eee PC T101MT does seem to suck power more quickly than netbooks, however – which is typical of a tablet netbook – and so battery life ends up being only six hours. That’s still quite a bit, but it is certainly short of the ten hours (or more) which you can squeeze out of a normal Eee PC.
The tablet functionality is solid, thanks largely to ASUS’s excellent tablet software suite and also the inclusion of hand-writing recognition software. They even include a stylus for you. The previously Eee PC T91 was actually a little behind the Intel Classmate PC (below) in this regard, but the Eee PC T101MT closes the gap significantly.
Pricing of the Eee PC T101MT starts at around $499.99 for the most basic model with 1GB of RAM and Windows 7 Starter. The ASUS website states that versions of the T101MT should be available with Windows Home Basic and Home Premium and that the Home Premium models come with 2GB of RAM, but those haven’t appeared in the North American market (as of 4/8/2010).
If you’re looking for something a little less expensive consider the Eee PC T91 instead. This previously recommended tablet offers many of the same features but has an 8.9 inch screen and shorter battery life. It can now be found for around $440.
Intel Convertible Classmate PC
Intel has been laboring towards the creation of PCs suitable for classroom use for years now, and the fruits of that labor are starting to become available. Strangely, there hasn’t been a lot of press about the Intel Convertible Classmate PC or its smaller, non-tablet cousin. This seems odd, because both are extremely durable products sold at low prices. They’re made for kids, sure, but they have the same basic hardware as any other netbook.
In fact, its the kid-friendly construction of the Intel Convertible Classmate PC which makes it an excellent contender among tablet netbooks. It built to survive a rough-and-tumble life in an elementary school classroom, so it should have no problems in friendlier hands, even if those hands are quite busy. The Intel Convertible Classmate PC even includes a handle, a minor but convenient addition. What’s more, the Convertible Classmate PC comes with unique tablet software which greatly adds to the device’s functionality. The price is good, too. The Classmate PC is sold by various vendors, including Mirus and M & A, and prices hover between $450 and $500 bucks.
Granted, the Intel Convertible Classmate PC isn’t something a professional will want to bring to a board room meeting. The durability has also resulted in some trade-offs, as the screen and keyboard are both smaller than one would expect given the size of the device. Even so, the Convertible Classmate PC is a good option if durability is a primary area of concern.
You might have noticed that the name of this website is SmidgenPC. PC, as in personal computer, as in – not a Mac. It is fairly rare that I talk about Apple products on this blog and it is rarer still that I talk about them in a favorable light. And more to the point, the Apple iPad is a pure tablet device, not a netbook. So what is the Apple iPad doing here?
Well, the reason is simple – if you want a tablet netbook you should buy either the Eee PC T101MT or you should buy an Intel Classmate PC. Period. End Stop. There are other options, of course, but they’re not good. The Lenovo S10-3t’s touch screen interface is terrible and the Gigabyte Touchnote is laughably overpriced. But I do like to give three different recommendations to my readers in order to provide a range of perspectives, so here we are.
And actually, the iPad makes a good argument for itself depending on what you need. The iPad is not the one to buy if you want to do “real work.” For example, I would rather jump off a cliff than type this blog post on the iPad. However, I would much rather browser this blog on an iPad than on either of the tablet netbooks. The browsing experience on the iPad is beautiful, and if you’re really keen on the “net” in netbook, forget about the netbook tablets. Buy the iPad.
It should be noted, as well, that the iPad has some serious hardware advantages. You can squeeze about ten hours of battery life from it, which is nearly twice what you’d expect from a tablet netbook. The iPad is also lighter and actually much better at displaying video. And then, of course, you have the display and the touch interface. The display on the iPad is superior to any netbook’s and no netbook tablet can compare to the iPad’s interface. The iPad even starts at $499.99, so as long as you don’t need a lot of storage it is competitive on price.