Thursday, July 31, 2008

Voodoo Envy 133 Mini

by Mark Spoonauer

Whoa. We were wondering what would happen when the performance freaks at Voodoo teamed up with HP, and the first notebook to come out of this acquisition is a surprise. No, it’s not a gaming rig. It’s one of the sleekest and most innovative ultraporables we’ve seen. The Envy 133 (starting at $2,099) rocks an instant-on mode that lets you surf the Web and make Skype calls without booting into Windows (called Voodoo IOS) and a slick power brick that doubles as a wireless access point. Intrigued yet?

Voodoo was kind enough to let us steal a pre-production sample for a little hands-on time, and although the Envy 133 was not benchmarkable, we wanted to walk you through everything that makes this dream machine stand out. Stay tuned for a full review.


It all starts with a druable carbon fiber case that weighs 3.4 pounds and measures a mere 0.7 inches thin, complete with retro-chic squared-off edges. This is the kind of minimalist laptop that Christian Bale would carry if they remade American Psycho for the 21st century–in a good way.

Customization options range from your choice of 14 Voodoo Allure paint finishes to a selection of laser engravings. Underneath the lid you’ll find a brilliant 13.3-inch, LED-backlit display whose high-quality fused composite glass runs from edge to edge for a unified aesthetic. Last but not least is a funky backlit keyboard with a space-age font and a multiple-gesture touchpad (for scroll and pinch options) that’s nicely textured.

No Port Envy Here
More important than the Envy 133’s stunning looks are the innovations packed in (and on) this 3.4-pound machine. You can also connect anywhere via optional integrated mobile broadband, a feature the Air lacks. Two USB ports (one of which doubles as an eSATA port for external storage), an HDMI port, and a low-light VGA webcam are just a few more reasons why we would happily tote the Envy 133 anywhere.

The New Instant On

The Envy 133 launches users into an environment where they can surf the Web and make Skype calls within a mere 10 seconds. Called Voodoo IOS, this environment is powered by Splashtop (see our Splashtop FAQ) and gives you the full Internet without having to run Vista in the background. Not only does this feature save time, it should also save battery life. You can also instant message your buddies (via Pidgin) in AOL, Google Talk, MSN, Yahoo, and more, and access photos and music–but not movies on the optical drive.

Juice Meets Connectivity

The 133’s power brick isn’t really a brick at all. It’s more like a flat slab. Voodoo calls it Aura PowerConnect because it allows users to plug in an Ethernet cable for a point-to-point Wi-Fi connection. Essentially , you can create up to a 50-foot wireless network instantly, which is perfect for working in remote offices or hotel rooms with either spotty wireless connections or no Wi-Fi at all.

SSD Optional: The Envy 133 can be ordered with a 4,200-rpm 80GB hard drive or a 64GB solid state drive. Performance hounds will want to opt for the latter, although the instant-on functionality of this notebook makes the boot time advantage of SSD not us compelling.

More Power To You: While the MacBook Air forces you to send in your precious notebook when it’s time to replace the battery, with the Envy 133 you can simply swap and go. The standard battery lasts a respectable (but not great) 3.45 hours between charges.

Matching External Optical Drive Included: Although Apple charges $99 bucks for an external optical drive on the MacBook Air, Voodoo bundles every Envy 133 with an ID-coordinated DVD burner (sorry, no Blu-ray yet).

Outlook: Although the Voodoo Envy 133 is considerably more expensive than the MacBook Air’s starting price of $1,799, and it’s not quite as thin or light, you do get a lot for your money, including more ports, the best instant-on mode yet, and a replaceable battery. The fact that you can customize the Envy 133 to your heart’s content is icing on the cake.

Full Specs for Voodoo Envy 133

CPU: 1.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SP7500 or 1.8-Ghz SP7700

Operating System: Windows Vista

RAM/Expandable To: 2GB/2GB

Hard Drive Size/Speed: 64GB SSD (optional 80GB/4,200 rpm)

Optical Drive: external 8X or 6X dvd+/-RW

Display/Resolution: 13.3 inches/1280 x 800

Graphics/Video Memory: intel GMA X3100/384MB

Wireless Networking: 802.11g/n, Bluetooth 2.0

Ports: One usb, esata/usb, hdmi, headphone/mic • Card Slots: expresscard/34

Size: 12.7 x 9.0 x 0.7 inches

Weight: 3.4 pounds

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Everex Cloudbook Max 3G

by Reuben Lee

Even as Everex prepares to ship its much-awaited 8.9-inch Cloudbook Max with WiMAX later this quarter, rumors are already spreading that the company will launch a 10.2-inch model to compete in the same space as the ASUS Eee PC 1000 and MSI Wind. The leak, which is said to come from within Everex's manufacturing partner FIC, also indicates that the new Cloudbook will feature onboard 3G connectivity and optional WiMAX.

It is not firm whether the new 10.2-inch Cloudbook will use an Intel Atom or VIA processor or that it will run on Windows XP or Linux, but the information revealed so far suggests a maximum of 2GB RAM, 1,024 x 600-pixel display and a 1.3-megapixel Web camera. Connectivity-wise, in addition to 3G and optional WiMAX, it will come with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, two USB ports, an ExpressCard slot and a 4-in-1 memory card reader. The Everex notebook, which has a 263 x 185 x 32mm footprint and weighs 1.2kg, is said to be bundled with a four- or six-cell battery.

According to the leak, the 10.2-inch Cloudbook is slated for a November launch this year. There is no word on whether it will make it to Southeast Asia. The 8.9-inch Cloudbook Max is expected to be launched in Taiwan and Japan next month, followed by the US in September.

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by Joanna Stern

Finding a specific mini-notebook on the Computex show floor is like searching for buried treasure—it takes a bit of digging. Elitegroup Computer System’s (ECS) G10IL was one of those treasures I went in search of this morning. Though ECS wasn’t demoing the system at its booth, I stumbled upon a system that looked strikingly similar to the first shots of the G10IL at the Intel Atom booth (or what I am calling Netbook Heaven). A simple check of the system properties confirmed my suspicions.

Despite the system being locked to the table I was still able to get a solid look at the mini-notebook. Check out our first impressions, pictures, and videos of the ECS G10IL.

MSI Wind-esque

At first glance, the matte black lid on the ECS G10IL is reminiscent of the MSI Wind NB. Opening the mini-notebook, I was greeted by a 10.2-inch display and a decent-size white keyboard (although the Shift keys were tiny). I wish that ECS would match the color of the keyboard to the rest of the system. Is it just me or does the white keyboard on black look odd? The rim surrounding the keyboard immediately brought to mind an Apple MacBook. The trackpad felt comfortable, and it has two dedicated right and left click buttons.

Surrounding the ECS G10IL are three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, modem, VGA port, and a 4-in-1 card reader. A 1.3-megapixel webcam sits on top of the screen. The unit was locked to the table, but it weighs no more than 3 pounds.

Atom Power
The ESC G10IL is powered by an Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM. Though I didn’t have that much time to check out performance or even connect to the Web the system seemed to run Windows XP smoothly; I was able to launch Microsoft Works and Internet Explorer in a few seconds. However, when I tried a boot test this mini-notebook took 45 seconds to show the XP screen. That’s a bit slow compared to the MSI Wind NB, but I expect this time to be speedier on the final production model.

Early Verdict
The ECS G10IL looks like a pretty good mini-notebook, especially since the company initially promised that the device would have integrated HSDPA mobile broadband. However, given that the final specs, price, and the release date are still unknown, I am not holding my breath for the ECS G10IL, especially with the MSI Wind NB and the ASUS Eee PC 1000 on the loose.

Manufacturer ECS
Model name G10IL
CPU type Intel Atom
CPU speed 1600 Mhz
Graphics Intel GMA 950
Display Size
RAM 1000 MB
Keyboard YES
Mouse Pointer YES
Size (w/h/d mm) 259/180/29 mm

Physical Interfaces
USB2.0 (x3)
Ethernet 10/100
RJ-11 (Modem)
Multi-format card reader

Wireless Interfaces
BT (type unknown)
Additional Specs and Accessories (can vary)
Built-in camera.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Lenovo ThinkPad SL400

by Jerry Jackson

The Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 is the latest addition to the ThinkPad family and promises to offer features and performance at a fraction of the cost of other ThinkPads. Lenovo's new IdeaPad line of notebooks might give consumers plenty of attractive options, but The new SL series is the first line of small business notebooks designed with ThinkPad styling at an affordable price. Is there more here than just traditional ThinkPad shape and a low price? We took a first look at the SL400 to give you some idea of whether this laptop is right for you.

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Our ThinkPad SL400 has the following specifications:

  • Processor: 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 (1066MHz FSB, 3MB Cache)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS 256MB
  • Screen: 14.1" WXGA, Anti-glare (1280x800, 200nit)
  • Memory: 2GB(up to 4GB configurable)
  • Storage: 160GB SATA HDD (5400rpm)
  • Optical Drive: Dual layer CD/DVD recordable drive
  • Wireless and Communications: Intel 4965AGN (802.11 a/b/g/n wi-fi), BlueTooth 2.0 EDR
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion
  • Dimensions: 13.2" x 9.7" x 1.3"-1.5")
  • Weight: 5.5lbs with battery
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Warranty: 1-year

The pricing on the SL400 starts at around $799. Unfortuantely, at the time of this writing we don't have pricing information on the configuration that we are testing ... but we'll have that information in our full review coming soon. Needless to say, this is one of the more budget-friendly ThinkPads on the market. More to the point, Lenovo has gone out of its way to give you multiple reasons to consider the SL series over the competition.

Build and Design

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The ThinkPad SL400 is quite solid in terms of build quality, though the plastics used in the chassis construction do give in to some case flex when squeezed. The entire chassis exterior is plastic and while the appearance is nice, the "feel" of the notebook is a little less rugged than we've come to expect from ThinkPads. Unlike with the other ThinkPads, you don't get a double latch mechanism with button release to make sure the screen is held down when it is closed and being carried. Instead, the SL400 uses hinge tension to hold the screen in place.

The glossy black plastic display cover is probably the most interesting design element on the SL400. Lenovo also decided to modify the traditional ThinkPad logo by adding a small red LED to the dot above the "i" in ThinkPad. I suppose someone still thinks "bling is the thing" in the world of small business. In any case, this certainly isn't a boring ThinkPad.

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Input and Output Ports

The number of ports the SL400 has is fairly good and certainly much better than the average budget notebook designed for small business. Here's a run down of the ports:

  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • Firewire
  • ExpressCard slot
  • Gigabit Ethernet and modem
  • 5-in-1 multi-card reader
  • Audio out, microphone in
  • VGA monitor out
  • HDMI (video and audio)
  • Kensington lock slot

About the only thing you might consider "missing" on this notebook is an eSATA port. Since eSATA is rapidly becoming a new standard for external data storage, it would have been nice to see an eSATA port on the side of the SL400. On the other hand, it may only be a matter of time before we see USB 3.0 ports that surpass the performance of eSATA.

There's also no option for a docking station, you have to go with a USB-based port replicator (or ExpressCard/34) to get the additional ports you would want at a desk. Obviously engineers had to make design trade offs and you can't have it all on a notebook in this price range. Personally, I feel like the SL400 provides an excellent balance of ports for its size and cost.

Performance and Benchmarks

Although it's nice that Lenovo is bringing a small business solution to the market for less than $800, the price wouldn't matter if the SL400 can't provide great performance for your dollar.

The Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor in our review unit provided ample processing power and never presented any problems when running applications or encoding video and audio files. The synthetic benchmarks below suggest the P8400 processor is one of the more capable processors from Intel and should satisfy the needs of any business professional.

Likewise, the NVIDIA 9300M GS dedicated graphics card with 256MB of RAM allows you to play most average games at a reasonable frame rate. This certainly isn't the laptop designed to play Crysis, but you'll have enough power to handle 1080p Blu-ray movies and some games (during non-work hours, of course).


The 14.1" WXGA, Anti-glare (1280 x 800) is nice and reasonably bright at 200nit brightness, color, contrast, and viewing angles are all good. More importantly, the display on our review unit uses a anti-glare matte finish ... something important to many business professionals and something we're glad to see.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the ThinkPad SL400 has zero flex and excellent key travel with quiet presses. The keyboard is remarkably similar to the keyboards on the older ThinkPad R-series notebooks. There's little to complain about here from a functional standpoint. Sure, it's not the most attractive keyboard on the market ... but it works great. Of course, the SL400 wouldn't dream of calling itself a ThinkPad if it didn't include the iconic red Trackpoint pointing stick in addition to the standard touchpad.

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The palm rest area is pretty plain: it has a matte black finish so it both feels and looks nice. It's very smooth and the touchpad is nicely textured with a responsive surface. Lenovo also decided to include the standard fingerprint reader for those businesses concerned with security.

More to Come

As of this writing we've only had the ThinkPad SL400 in our office for a short while now. We typically find a few things to complain about after "the honeymoon" is over, but right now there is a lot we can say in favor of the SL400.

As it stands now, there are a number of reasons you might want to pick up an SL400 rather than a similar notebook from the Dell Vostro lineup or Toshiba Satellite Pro line. That said, diehard ThinkPad owners might criticize the glossy lid, lack of lid latch, and the type of plastics used in some places. The performance of our test configuration suggests the SL400 packs enough raw power to satisfy most small business owners, but it's clear that the new SL series isn't the same ThinkPad we've seen before.

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HP Pavilion tx2500z

by Tiffany Boggs

The HP Pavilion tx2500 is the much needed update to the tx2000 Tablet PC. That's right, the tx2500 has an updated processor and graphics. HP finally answered our prayers and added the new AMD Puma processor and ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics into the same great design. So let's see how much better it performs.

HP Pavilion tx2500 Tablet PC specs:

  • AMD Turion X2 Ultra ZM-86 2.4GHz processor
  • 3GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB hard drive
  • Mobility Radeon HD 3200 IGP
  • 12.1" WXGA Display with dual active/passive digitizer (1280x800)
  • 8X DVD multiformat burner with LightScribe
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WLAN with Bluetooth support
  • Windows Vista Business OS
  • Integrated gigabit Ethernet and v.92 modem
  • 6-cell battery
  • Integrated webcam, fingerprint reader, Mini Remote Control
  • ExpressCard/34 Slot
  • 1 x Multi-format card reader
  • 3 x USB ports
  • 2 x headphone out and one microphone-in
  • 1 x Expansion port
  • 1 x VGA and S-video
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs

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Design and Build

The tx2500 has a solid chassis and design. The overall design is the same as the tx2000, with the glossy "Echo" imprint finish which extends onto the silver keyboard. It has a very sleek appearance, but be careful it is a fingerprint magnet.

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Weighing in around 4.5 pounds the tx2500 is perfect for students. It gets a little heavy to carry around in tablet mode all day, but it's great for sitting on your desk and taking notes and you can always substitute in the weight saver if you don't need the optical drive.

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The tx2500 still has the touchscreen and active digitizer, which makes navigating the Web easy. You can use your finger or the pen. The tx2500 also has great entertainment features, like Altec Lansing speakers, a mini-remote control and quite a few media buttons. For the price this tablet seems to be packed full of features.


The 12.1" WXGA display is kind of grainy, but this is very common with tablets. It is glossy and reflective, but nothing major if you like the high-gloss screens. The screen is hard to read in the sunlight and well lite rooms. The viewing angles are average, but can be awkward depending on how the tablet is tilt, sometimes making it very hard to read because the colors bleed.

The tx2500 has both a touchscreen and active digitizer, it's a real tablet. The screen automatically changes orientation when rotated into tablet mode and the small hinge is surprisingly sturdy. The pen feels nice as well and I prefer it when navigating over my finger because it is more accurate. At the highest setting the screen is bright and the colors are bold, but you can't tell what you are setting it too because there isn't an on-screen indication for brightness levels, which would be a nice feature to have on this high-gloss display.

Performance and Benchmarks

The tx2500 features the new AMD "Puma" platform which includes both the updated Turion X2 Ultra dual-core processor and the all new ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics processor (IGP). The Radeon HD 3200 is a remarkable IGP because it is the first integrated graphics solution that is genuinely capable of playing 1080p video without skipping frames or playing many 3D video games with reasonable frame rates. While most tablets with integrated graphics produce a 3DMark05 score of less than 1,000 the HD 3200 IGP is theoretically capable of two or three times that level of performance.

However, since the Radeon HD 3200 is an integrated graphics solution, it suffers from the same potential problems as any IGP. Namely, it shares the system resources (RAM) and is soldered directly to the motherboard (so it cannot be replaced without replacing the entire motherboard). In the case of our tx2500 review unit, we encountered an unexpected problem. While most people using notebooks and tablets with the new Radeon HD 3200 are reporting 3DMark05 scores of more than 2,919 3DMarks (including our own editorial team testing the new HP Pavilion dv5z) our tx2500 review unit never reached these impressive scores.

After a week of constant attempts by our editorial staff of technical experts to diagnose the problem (including multiple driver updates and replacing the system RAM), it was determined that the Radeon HD 3200 in our review unit was not operating properly due to a hardware malfunction. In other words, our tx2500 is going to have to go back to HP for repair or replacement.

However, despite the defective Radeon HD 3200 IGP in our review unit, our tx2500 produced 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 scores that were considerably better than the scores from other notebooks with integrated graphics (see below).

Comparison Results for PCMark05

PCMark05 measures the systems performance as a whole. As you can see the tx2500 is on top of the competition.

NotebookPCMark05 Score
HP tx2500 (AMD Turion X2 Ultra 2.4GHz, ATI HD 3200 graphics) 3, 873 PCMarks
HP tx2000 (AMD Turion 64 X2 2.3GHz, Nvidia Go 6150 graphics)3,738 PCMarks
Asus R1E (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz, GMA 965 chipset)4,679 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook T2010 (Intel Core 2 Duo ULV 1.2GHz, GMA X3100 graphics)2,334 PCMarks
Gateway C-140x (Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz, ATI X2300 HD graphics)4,342 PCMarks
HP Compaq 2710p (Intel Core 2 Duo ULV 1.2GHz, GMA X3100 graphics)2,453 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz, GMA X3100 graphics)3,473 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz, GMA X3100 graphics)4,171 PCMarks
Gateway E-155C (Intel Core 2 Duo ULV 1.06GHz, Intel GMA 950 graphics)2,205 PCMarks
LG C1 (Intel Core Duo 1.2GHz, Nvidia Go 7300)2,568 PCMarks
Toshiba R400 (Intel Core Duo ULV 1.2GHz, Intel GMA 950 graphics)2,187 PCMarks
HP tx1000 (AMD Turion X2 2.0GHz, Nvidia Go 6150)3,052 PCMarks
Asus R1F (1.66GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950 graphics)2,724 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X60t (1.66GHz LV Core Duo)2,860 PCMarks
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)2,732 PCMarks

Comparison Results for 3Dmark05

3DMark05 tests the overall graphic capabilities of a notebook. The tx2500 did good on the 3DMark05 score and it should be higher, but due to the graphics problem we had with our unit, we have to send it back to HP to get fixed. The tx2500 also scored a 3DMark06 score of 814, which should be higher as well. The ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics are capable of much higher scores and are a good improvement.

Notebook3DMark 05 Results
HP tx2500 (2.4GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra, ATI HD 3200 graphics) 1,622 3DMarks
HP tx2000 (2.3GHz AMD Turion 64 X2, Nvidia Go 6150 graphics)636 3DMarks
Asus R1E (2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, GMA 965 chipset)923 3DMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook T2010 (1.2GHz ULV Core 2 Duo, GMA X3100 graphics)566 3DMarks
Gateway C-140x (2GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X2300 HD graphics)1,956 3DMarks
HP Compaq 2710p (1.2GHz ULV Core 2 Duo, GMA X3100 graphics)634 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (1.6GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA X3100 graphics)812 3DMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook T4220 (2.2GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA X3100 graphics)925 3DMarks
Gateway E-155C (1.06GHz ULV Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)500 3DMarks
LG C1 (1.2GHz Intel Core Duo, Nvidia Go 7300)1,392 3DMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook S2210 (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1150)810 3DMarks
PortableOne UX (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)590 3DMarks
Toshiba Satellite A135 (1.73GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950)519 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)2,092 3DMarks

wPrime results:

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HDTune results:

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The keyboard on the tx2500 is solid. I didn't notice any signs of flex and enjoyed tying on it. It is accurate and responsive. I also like the durable finish the keys have, which is good for preserving the keyboard from those greasy fingers. The keys are easy to read and are a good size, except for the Function keys along the top, which are pretty small, so you have to watch what key you hit.

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The touchpad is still the famous perforated design. I like this design very much because it doesn't get worn down easily and is responsive. Your finger doesn't slide off the touchpad because it is indented in the palm rest area, which makes navigating a breeze.

The pen is solid, but still your basic pen. It reads the screen when it's about an inch above and then disables the touchscreen, this way your hand doesn't interfere when writing. Some users rest their palm on the screen and since the tx2500 also has a touchscreen you might think this would cause a problem, but it doesn't. The Wacom technology used is great, just remember you can't keep picking the pen up or the touch feature will be activated again and your hand might be detected. The pen has an eraser on the end as well, which is a feature I like especially when taking notes because you can flip the pen over and erase your mistakes, it's very convenient.

Tablet Features

There are plenty of multimedia buttons for watching DVDs, listening to music or viewing your photos. There is even an optional Webcam, which makes this tablet great for chatting with friends over the Web, especially with the productivity that comes with the new Puma processor. It converts into tablet mode with ease and when in tablet mode the speakers are still accessible, a definite bonus

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The tx2500 has both a touchscreen and active digitizer, so now you are getting the best of both worlds for under $1,000. You can take notes on the screen with the pen, which has nice feedback and is easy to navigate with, or use your finger to navigate through windows as well.

Heat and Noise

The tx2500 does tend to get warm, especially when running benchmarks or working hard. I didn't notice much heat when browsing the Web or going through emails, but the bottom does get a little warm. When the tablet is running multiple applications or benchmarks the fan kicks on and the heat comes blowing out the vent and the exhaust is hot to the touch. This is after a few hours of being on though. None of the parts of the tablet were so hot that they were uncomfortable to touch, except for the bottom under extreme working conditions.

I didn't notice any noise from the tx2500 either. The only time the tablet was noisy was when I ran benchmarks and that is when the fan kicked on high. It was annoying and sounded like a hair dryer. Besides that the fan didn't kick on much and even when it ran on a low setting it was quiet.


The tx2500 comes packed with a great variety of features and ports. I don't think most users will have a complaint in this department. The entertainment features alone make this tablet more like a notebook, which you don't see on many Tablet PCs.

Front view - Power Slider, 2x headphone jacks, 1x microphone jack, Wi-Fi slider

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Left side view - 1x DC jack, 1x ExpressCard/34 slot, 1x multi-format card reader, DVD drive

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Right side view - 1x USB, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x Expansion Port 3, 1x VGA out, 1x S-Video out

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Back view - 1x modem jack, 2x USB, 1x Lock

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Underneath view - Vents and battery

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I found the battery life to be acceptable on the tx2500. It came with a 6-cell battery that sticks out slightly from the back, but can be used as a nice handle when using it in tablet mode. When the battery was set in High Performance mode I got around 1.5 hours of usage with full screen brightness and Wi-Fi on. The number increases to about 3 hours in Balanced mode with Wi-Fi on. I didn't try out the Power Saver mode because the screen gets very dull and you don't get much performance, but I am sure it improves battery life slightly as well. If you want more battery life, I recommend getting the 8-cell battery for longer computing times.


The tx2500 is fitted with Altec Lansing speakers, which produce good sound quality for listening to music or watching movies. That was HP's focus; I mean the tx series are called entertainment notebooks. If you compare the speakers to your standard notebook, they produce comparatively loud, clear sound, but they don't compare to the higher-end multimedia notebooks equipped with subwoofers.

Even in tablet mode you still get that loud clear sound from the speakers because they don't get covered like on other tablet models, which is a bonus. The headphones come in handy too, if you want to watch a movie or you don't want to disturb your co-workers.


I had no problems staying connected where ever I traveled. The tx2500 worked well at my house and my office. The WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n with Bluetooth is a good option to have and coverage doesn't seem to be a problem. I don't live in a rural area though, but still think it should work fine. The consumer level Infrared for controlling media functions via the included remote is a plus because you can watch movies while laying in bed too.


Overall I am impressed with the tx2500. The updated AMD Puma processor and ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics are a big plus. Web pages render faster and surfing the Web is a breeze. Even though our tx2500 had some problems with the integrated graphics it still performed better then most tablets on the market now and we are sending it back to HP to fix. College students and other consumers should be happy with all the features the tx2500 packs, especially considering it's available for under $1,000. The active digitizer/touchscreen combo is very nice, even though the screen is a little washed out. Watching movies on it is still a lot of fun and it still maintains the same sleek design as its predecessor.


  • Inexpensive
  • Touchscreen and active digitizer
  • Entertainment features
  • Solid design
  • Improved GPU


  • Washed out display that can be very reflective
  • Hight heat output when system is stressed

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Samsung SENS R710 Montevina

SEOUL, Korea (AVING) -- Samsung Electronics revealed its 13.3-inch Centrino 2-based laptop 'SENS Q310' in Korea market.

Featuring crystal black finish with red eclipse design, the Q310 is powered by Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor(2.53GHz), 2GB DDR2, 160GB HDD and nVidia GeForce 9200M GS. Other features included a built-in camera, microphone and a HDMI port.

Samsung Electronics recently announced its new 17-inch montevina-based laptop in Korea market, SENS R710. Powered by Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor (2.53GHz), 2GB DDR2, 160GB HDD, Mobile Intel PM45 Express Chipset, Intel Wifi Link 5300 and nVidia GeForce 9200M GS, The SENS R710 features crystal black finish with red eclipse design. The SENS R710 also features a built-in camera, microphone and a HDMI port. No words on pricing yet.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bestlink Alpha 400

Bestlink Alpha 400If you’re looking to make your mark in the crowded budget ultraportable segment, you have a choice: aim to oust the Eee with extra features, a faster processor or a slicker design, or go for the wallet-vote and price your machine lower. Hong Kong-based Bestlink is going for the latter route, with their Alpha 400 notebook priced at just $250 (including shipping). Despite the bargain price you still get a 7-inch LCD, but elsewhere it’s obvious where corners have been cut to shave off costs.

Based on an Ingenic Semiconductors 32-bit XBurst CPU running at just 400MHz, it’s apparently enough to satisfy both the unnamed Linux OS and Windows CE. A mere 128MB of RAM is supplied (you’re not going to be loading XP onto this), and 1-2GB of internal flash-based storage. That can be expanded via the SD card slot, up to a maximum of 32GB, or by using a USB hard-drive (Bestlink claim it’ll work happily with up to 160GB external drives). The screen is 800 x 480 resolution.

What’s missing, however, is connectivity. Unlike just about every other notebook on the market, the Alpha 400 lacks built-in WiFi (although it does have an ethernet port). Bestlink will sell you a WiFi adaptor to slot into one of the two USB ports, or alternatively GPRS and CDMA modems. Headphone and microphone jacks are present, as is a “mouse port” (PS2?), but no webcam. It measures 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches, weighs 1.5 pounds and is available in six colors.

This is a machine you definitely choose for the price, not the specifications. Considering Bestlink will sell them to you for $180 if you buy in volume, it could make sense in education settings where wired ethernet is likely to be on-hand. Everyone else is probably better off with an Eee or one of its somewhat more capable rivals.

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LuvBook U100

Ultra Mouse Computer LuvBook U100, MSI Wind U100

People of Mouse Computer will be presented during the month of July, its local version of the MSI Wind U100, which will receive the name of LuvBook U100.

This product hardly what we see in other countries unless they have support for Japanese interest on your keyboard.

List the characteristics of LuvBook U100, to bear in mind that:

  • Intel Atom N270 to 1.6 GHz
  • Intel 945GMS chipset + ICH7M
  • WSVGA LCD of 10.2 “with a resolution of 1024 x 600px
  • Web camera 1.3 MegaPixel
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 80GB Hard SATA
  • WiFi 802.11 b / g
  • Bluetooth 2.0

Its launch price of around 350 euros, although it will be very difficult to see a model of it in a store outside Japan.

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Dell Latitude XT

by Wallace Lau

Dell Latitude XT User Review

As many readers will recall, ever since 2007 rumors have been surfacing that Dell was working on a Tablet PC. Then comes December the rumor turns real with Dell announcing and confirming their entry into the tablet market with the Latitude XT. On top of that, their decision to integrate N-Trig's dual-sense touch screen also brings a lot of speculation into the community. Obviously, expectation is high since Dell does holds a very strong position in the corporate laptop market. Their philosophy (especially on the corporate-focused Latitude line) of platform-consistency and the way Dell handled hardware transition had won them great support from many I.T. managers over the years.

However, Dell's new foray is not critique-free from the general publics concerns. Their lack of experience in such market space, and the extremely high price tag seem to spawn comments from all over the globe. In the end, is the Latitude XT a worthy opponent to the current contenders in this space? The answer will ultimately depend on what each user needs. Therefore, in this review I will share with you the reason of choosing the XT, my experience regarding it, as well as some personal opinions. I hope through this review I can help you decide if the XT will be right for you.

Before we dive into the review I would first like to share with you my particular unit's "as-configured" key specifications:

Model:Dell Latitude XT
Processor:Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 ULV / 1.20GHz
Chipset / Graphic:AMD / ATI Integrated RadeonXpress X1250
Memory:533MHz DDR2 / 1GB
Screen:LED Backlit WXGA LCD (1280x800)
Hard Drive:40GB 1.8" / 5mm, 4200rpm / PATA
PAN:Dell Wireless 360 Internal Bluetooth Module
LAN:Dell onboard Gigabit LAN adapter
WLANDell Wireless 1505 Draft 802.11n mini-card
WWAN:Dell Wireless 5720 Sprint Mobile Broadband (EVDO Rev.A)
Optical Drive:Dell D/Bay plus 24x CDRW/DVD
Battery:Upgraded to 6-cell, 42W/Hr Primarily Battery
Warranty:3 year mail-in service (standard) plus 3 year accidental damage protection
Total Cost:$2,964 (before tax)

In addition, the following accessories were also purchased together with the XT:

Additional Battery:Additional 6-cell 42W/Hr Primarily Battery; $69
Additional Power Adapter:Dell Slim Auto/Air/AC Adapter for Latitude D Series; $79
Total Price Paid:$3,112 (including accessories, before tax)

Finally, I have also ordered additional 2GB of memory (from Crucial.com) immediately after the XT arrived... no sane person will pay $425 (Dell's asking price) for the additional 2GB memory module when you can buy one online for as low as $40, depending on brands. I only paid $60 for mine and that is shipped!

Reason for Buying

I think this question is in many of our reader's minds: Why in the world would I buy a Dell? Well to be honest I ask myself this question too, frequently. I think my Fujitsu biting the dust would be one reason; its screen is starting to flicker. I also know I wanted an ultra-portable since I travel a lot and I bring my laptop to/from work every day, so it has to be light. I also like small laptops and would like some "wireless broadband" access. There have been too many times I stayed at a hotel with spotty Wi-Fi coverage. I just need a more reliable way to get to my corporate email etc. Oh and I must have a touchpad. Wide-screen would also be nice, every once in a while I want to watch movies.

So, after looking around I was pretty close to ordering a Sony TZ. It meets all the requirements, and I even found a clearance model that doesn't carry the $3,000 price tag. Until I saw Dell's official announcement for the XT.

Top view of the Latitude XT. (view large image)

One of the deciding factors to hold-off my TZ order is that I have always wanted a tablet. I have a side business (distribution) and once in a while I found myself wondering in the warehouse checking inventory levels with my laptop. I would hold it with my left hand like a server holding a tray, and type in order quantity with my right hand. A few times I almost dropped it on the concrete floor, so I thought a tablet would be nice.

However, there just hasn't been a tablet in the market that meets my "primary requirements" above... the X61 is a 4:3 screen, the Fujitsu T2010 does not have a touchpad (and actually the same goes for the Compaq/HP 2710p and the X61), the Fujitsu P1600 looks good but the the screen resolution isn't high enough for what I wanted. I even looked at some UMPCs such as the OQO. But at the end I know my primary need is for a traditional laptop tablet-conversion. After reading about the Dell XT I realized it gives me everything I needed as a notebook, while being able to convert to a tablet. Sold or so I thought...until I saw the price tag.

To be honest, I had withdrawal for a while and it took me a long time to take the plunge. I am usually one of those guys that buys everything on impulse; I pre-ordered my D300 the day I heard its announced. But this is one of those units that I was uncertain with. I mean, $3,000 is a lot of money and I am not exactly rich, but hey, now that I've burned a massive hole in my wallet, I might as well share my thoughts and experience.


First is the full-frontal shot. The first thing you may notice is the on-screen keyboard, which seems to be Vista's default setting whenever the "tablet features" are enabled. With the XT, you can just type in your password since the keyboard is right there, but in addition to the physical keyboard and the on-screen keyboard, sliding your finger on the fingerprint scanner (once configured) will also log you in.

The Latitude XT in notebook mode. (view large image)

Under the keyboard you will find the touch pad. Dell, as with many other manufacturers included both a touch-pad and a track-point. Unfortunately, with the thin chassis design and the fact that the hard drive is located directly under the touchpad (more on that later), the touchpad's surface becomes nearly flush with the palm-rest. This sometimes will cause me to miss the touchpad because clicking outside the touchpad doesn't feel any different. I suppose with experience I will eventually get use to it. I also felt that the touchpad isn't as accurate as the one on my Fujitsu, but then again it might just be another "get use to it" thing.

The next picture is the notebook in tablet mode. Dell's claim of being the "thinnest tablet" is not without its merits. Originally I thought being thin wasn't everything, but once it's in tablet mode it does. Holding the unit in tablet mode is quite comfortable as my finger can easily wrap around the "hinge" area. I can imagine if the unit is considerably thicker, it would become difficult to hold.

Latitude XT in tablet mode with pen. (view large image)

The right side of the XT consists of the wireless on/off switch, "Wi-Fi Catcher" switch, one USB 2.0 port, SD card slot, ExpressCard/54 slot, headphone jack, microphone jack and the security lock. One of the nice things about the wireless switch is that you can configure it to control any combination of the wireless devices - Bluetooth, WLAN and WWAN. You can configure it directly in the BIOS or through Dell's "Quick Set" utility which in essence updates the BIOS setting for you. I have it set to only control Bluetooth and WLAN, as I found that most of the time if I am within Wi-Fi range I won't be using the cellular modem, but if I am using the Cellular modem I won't need either BT or WLAN. Furthermore, the SD slot is SDHC compatible. I have a 2GB SD card that my old Fujitsu P5000 failed to read (some 2GB cards are partitioned like a SDHC card) and I haven't had any problems with it on the XT.

Right side view of the ports. (view large image)

On the back of the XT you will find the hole for the power adapter, 15-pin D-Sub monitor output, Ethernet port and the second USB 2.0 port. Note that the "upper deck" of this USB port is Dell's proprietary power port that is used to supply additional current to Dell-specific peripherals (such as the D/Bay unit). Many laptop manufactures now have their own design for this similar purpose, but the sad thing is that (as far as I know of ) none of those peripherals are interchangeable because there is not a common standard for these type of additional power supply connectors (USB specification only allows 500mW via the port's power supply).

Back view of the XT. (view large image)

Over the top of the ports (on the lid) you will find the navigation control rocker and the "back" button. These two controls aren't accessible in notebook mode, but once you switch to tablet mode (assume you are not a southpaw) they will be right where your index finger is. The navigation rocker can be used to scroll and its click-able (act as the enter key). The other button would act as the "Back" button in supported applications, such as Internet Explorer or within Windows folders, or you can close application by holding it down. The function of the rocker's click, as well as the "back" button, is configurable in software.

Finally, in case you are curious, there are no ports to the opposite side of the hinge, because the pen silo is directly behind that area.

To the left you will find the pen, WWAN antenna (not included unless you order the WWAN option), FireWire port, the third (and final) USB 2.0 port, vent for the CPU fan and the sad mono speaker. The pen rests completely flush with the side of the case, and you actually have to push quite deeply to "click off" the pen, but the WWAN antenna sticks out a little bit. To "click off" the WWAN antenna, you just have to push it until it's nearly flush with the case.

Left side view of the ports. (view large image)

After viewing the ports, you will find more buttons and lights once you open the lid. The first one (with a circular light around it) is the power button. Vista, just like XP, will let you configure what you want to do with that button. I had mine set to hibernate. Next to the power button is the "Lock" button, then "Screen Rotation", "Setup" and "Application" button.

To the right side of the screen you will find the hard drive activity, battery, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth indicators. All of them are blue except when the battery runs low; it will start to blink in red which is a nice reminder. The battery indicator will also stay lit when your laptop is plugged in.

Tablet buttons on the XT. (view large image)

Finally, before we end the photo tour, here is a view of the bottom side with the battery and "card/slots compartment cover" removed. One of the things I noticed is that Dell's battery design for the XT is strange; the battery is practically a "two piece" design where a very thin piece of plastic connects the cells together. I would be worried about putting the battery by itself in my computer case because it felt like if you sit on it wrong the battery will break in two (hopefully I'd never have to find out). The design is needed because, out of all places, Dell put the hard-drive in the dead-center of the battery compartment, directly under the touch pad. I guess in order to make it so thin they are running out of space.

Inside the XT. (view large image)

Inside the battery compartment you will also find the SIM slot for GSM / HSDPA modem. It's in the upper-left side of the battery bay, left to the battery contacts. If you look closely at the larger picture you will see a SIM card icon there. Unfortunately, for whatever odd reason Dell currently doesn't offer the integrated HSDPA options for the XT (where it is available in other countries as well as some other Latitude laptops).

Next, the two mini PCI-E slots. In my unit I have ordered the Sprint EV-DO Rev. A WWAN Module (left) and the Draft-N WLAN module (right). There isn't much to explain here; the WWAN module let me access Sprint's data network (a Verizon modem is also offered) which also comes with "Connection Manager" software (with Dell branding all over it). The Draft-N module is for Wi-Fi access, which relies on Vista's Wi-Fi manager to manage connections. I don't have a Draft-N router yet, but it works great with all the older B/G routers and access points we have thrown at it so far.

The WWAN and WLAN modules. (view large image)

To the right of the mini PCI-E slots rest a single SODIMM slot. The XT has 1GB of RAM surface-mounted on the motherboard, so you can't change that out. The maximum amount of RAM it will accept on the SODIMM slot is 2GB, which I have installed. This brings the total system memory to 3GB, still less then the maximum amount a 32 bit operation system can handle. However, unless you start doing virtualization, 3GB of RAM should be enough especially considering the typical role of a ultra-portable.

Initial Impression

Now that the photo tour is over, here are some of my thoughts about the XT. First of all, it is thin! Granted its not Sony X505 thin or Apple MacBook Air thin, its not even Vaio TZ thin or Toshiba R500 thin, but it's nonetheless thin. I think at 1 inch its about the right thickness without making me feel like the unit is flimsy. Many people complained about the TZ's screen because it "felt like it was ready to break off any moment" (especially when they open or close it). Well, I can tell you the XT is definitely not one of those. It felt quite sturdy in my hand. The keyboard also works very well. I still like the Thinkpad's keyboard the best, but this keyboard felt better then many other laptop's I have used. The feedback is very positive and the keys have good travel consider the thinness of the unit. The only complaint (which I've read from other members as well) is that the little "notch" on the "F" and "J" key is hard to find simply by feel. I can type without looking at the keyboard, but in complete darkness sometimes I find myself searching for those notches and have no clue where to rest my index fingers.

Another thing I like about the XT (and most ultra-portables for that matter) is the amount of heat it generates. The bottom-side of the notebook will feel warm after some use, but its never hot to a point that it becomes uncomfortable. Most of the desktop-replacements run so hot that it will quite literally could cause third degree burns on your lap. Not the XT though, I've run it for a couple hours straight and can still hold it comfortably.

A Closer Look

In this section we will take a closer look at several components. One of the most important things on notebooks is usability, particularly how comfortable it is to use. Since I've already talked about the keyboard, lets look at the screen next.

Part of the XT's hype has to do with its LED backlit screen. If I remember correctly this is the first LED-backlit convertible tablet, and LEDs are supposed to offer better battery life, brighter display, better color accuracy and wider color gamut.Well, I can't attest to power consumption, but I will at least debunk one thing: LED screens are NOT necessary always more accurate in color. Take a look at the picture below.

Screen comparisons. (view large image)

The first thing you will notice is that this image looks different then all the other pictures. This is because the exposure was metered strictly on the screens, with the ambient light (done via fill-flash) dialed down to reduce glare (so everything else looks slightly under-exposed). Also, this image was shot RAW, and then opened in Photoshop with the white balance manually adjusted to 5500K. No other color, contrast, and sharpness adjustments were done. In this setting, white should appear as white, and guess what, white wasn't white on the XT.

As a matter of fact, as soon as I powered both of them up (even before the calibrated picture is taken) I can instantly recognize the blue tint on the XT's screen. Originally I thought maybe its just that the Fujitsu is a bit warm, but the calibrated image shows the truth. My 5-year-old Fujitsu P5000 has far better color accuracy then the XT.

Finally, another not-so-positive note is that, although the XT's screen does look considerably brighter in person, I am not sure if that's just because of the age difference between them. It is a well known fact that CCFL backlit screens lose their output power over time, and the Fujitsu has been used on a daily basis for the past five years. My Fujitsu's screen was considerably brighter when it was new, and quite frankly I was expecting a bigger difference in brightness between the two.

In all fairness, the XT's screen by itself is nowhere near "poor" by any standard. The image appears sharp with decent color, but perhaps a bit weak on the contrast department. Again, for day-to-day office work, it will serve its purpose just fine. It is only when compared to other laptops that the XT's screen becomes the disappointing sight.


Lets talk about another important feature, connectivity. It is no surprise that many road-warriors these days consider just Bluetooth and Wi-Fi insufficient and I don't blame them. As a frequent flyer myself, I have served my fair share of airport delays and boring, sleepless nights in hotel rooms with horrible Wi-Fi access points. In the past I have always relied on my phone's Bluetooth "Personal Network" and used that to connect my laptop Online, but I decided its about time to get a "real" solution. Therefore, I opted for the integrated Sprint Wireless Broadband module.

That being said, my experience with WWAN is mixed. On the plus side, speed is very acceptable with good throughput and acceptable lag. Unlike some other unlucky early adopters, I was able to get EV-DO Rev. A speed regularly in my home city. SpeedTest.net rated me at 1,200 kbps down and 300 kbps up, very respectable for a cellular connection. Latency is in the 150-200ms range, a far cry from the 800ms+ typical on the 1xRTT days. All in all, I am very pleased with the performance.

However, what I am not pleased with is the stability. Very frequently, the modem will stop receiving packets and the only remedy is to terminate the connection, and re-connect. I then subsequently found that Dell's mobile broadband card was made by Novatel. I've used almost every model of Sprint's mobile broadband cards in the past, starting from the AC550 all the way to the most recent units. In every generation, Sierra Wireless cards had always beat Novatel cards hands-down, in range, consistency and performance. Now, just to be fair I might have a defective card and I have yet to call Dell for an RMA or it may have to do with the software package (the current "connection manager" was originally written for XP; even its help file is not Vista-compatible and I can't pull up any of the documentations).

Finally, the one last quark is that for some odd reason the Dell software will keep asking me to "activate" the modem - even though the card has already been activated. I have to manually disable the "activation reminder" in the option menu. I would've thought that once I went through the activation process, the software would be smart enough to uncheck that for me automatically. So, besides WWAN, the XT also has the standard assortments of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and I won't waste your time on those.


One of Dell's claim to fame is being the first tablet to utilize N-Trig's DuoSense technology, and it is only natural that I dedicate a section for it. As you already know, the XT allows stylus (pen) and finger input simultaneously, and it is rumored to even support multi-touch. Now, first and foremost I need to make sure you understand the difference between "DuoSense" and "multi-touch". To my understanding, DuoSense simply means the touchscreen is responsive to both stylus and finger input. Therefore, DuoSense by itself does not imply the ability to simultaneously recognize multiple contact points on the screen (ala the iPhone). That's called Multi-Touch.

Currently, on the XT, Multi-Touch is not enabled and there is no application that can utilize Multi-Touch at the moment. However based on some early technical demos, N-Trig's screen is capable of multi-touch and it has shown to simultaneously track five different fingers drawing on the screen. There has been talks that future firmware update and application support may allow the XT to support multi-touch, but that is not confirmed. So for now, the XT can only sense one point of contact at any given moment - perhaps a operating system limitation, but that's the fact.

If you are not familiar with touch screen technology, head over to Wikipedia's touchscreen article.)

What makes the XT unique is that not only does it use capacitive touch technology, which is arguably more accurate (and effortless) then resistive touch, they also incorporated "pen tablet" technology into the same screen. Traditionally, pen-based tablets do not responded to finger inputs as the screen is only built to sense the electromagnetic energy emitted by the pen. By combining both capacitive touch and pen-based tablet into the same screen, N-Trig achieved both pen and finger input while overcoming most (if not all) the disadvantages of resistive touch technology (lack of sensitivity, significant light loss, etc.). Since I had a bit of experience in touch screen technology (there is a MDT in my vehicle), I can truly appreciate what they have accomplished and this is one reason why I took the plunge.

The question is... does it work?

However, things didn't look as good for the XT when compared to other capacitive touch screens. I have access to many Mobile Data Terminals (fancy name for rugged, law-enforcement centric trunk-mounted car-PCs), and the most common touch screen on those are capacitive touch. Since I have have an older MDT installed in my vehicle and I use it frequently, I can draw a comparison quite easily. The XT does NOT feel as responsive to my MDT's capacitive screen. The response from the MDT seems more instantaneous, and the XT seems to require a bit more "touch" to register. I suppose it might be due to the fact that N-Trig needs to minimize power consumption and thus only pass a minuscule amount of currents through the XT's screen. But in the grand schema of things, since the majority of finger-compatible touchscreens use resistive touch, the XT would still be ahead of the game.

So, finger aside, how well does the pen work? That I really don't know. Unlike finger-based touchscreens, I do not have any experience with pen-based tablets such as other pen-only Tablet PCs, or more traditional graphic tablets like Wacom tablets.Therefore I can't really give you a good comparison; I will leave that to the other readers in the comments. However, without considering any prior experience, the pen does work pretty good.

Finally, there is another thing I wanted to touch on, the DuoSense technology. Since it is responsible for both touch and pen input, the computer needs to know what you are currently using and there are a few ways to set it up. First of all you can disable either pen, touch or both in the software. So if you would never use your finger, just disable touch and go with pen exclusively or vice versa. However, I would imagine that not many users would choose those options... what's the point on spending that much money just to disable half of the input choices? So, the other two options that I believe would be most common is "Dual Mode" and "Auto Mode". In Dual Mode, the tablet will responded to both touch and pen simultaneously, and it is the default that the tablet ships with. Under Dual Mode, you have the ability to instantly switch from pen to touch to pen and back to touch. N-Trig also advertises "very good palm rejection" when you do use the pen to write (in that case your palm would most likely be touching the screen).


I haven't had a chance to run any benchmarks yet, and quite frankly I don't intend to since ultra-portables with ULV (Ultra-Low Voltage) processors were never speed demons to begin with. From my years of I.T. experience, no modern processor will be "inadequate" on running office applications. My outgoing Fujitsu P5000 has a single-core 900MHz Pentium-M, and the little guy can even run Vista fine. Unless you will be opening dozens of multi-thousand-line spreadsheets with complex calculations, or PowerPoints overloaded with unnecessary-high-bit-rate video clips, I doubt anyone will have problem with the 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo in the XT.

The XT has no problem running any of the office applications I throw at it (Office 2007 is installed). The response is very fast, and I have yet to notice any significant hiccups. Now, most of this is the result of upgrading the memory from 1GB to 3GB - before the new memory is installed, I would frequently see the laptop bog-down in Vista. After all, every Microsoft operating system is considered a major resource hog compared to its predecessor, and it is no surprise that a laptop that runs XP well may not run Vista well. For anyone planning on getting Vista, I would strongly recommend 3GB of RAM (2GB minimum). Vista is very efficient in caching data into memory and the more RAM you throw at it, the more smoothly it will run.

I also have other applications such as PhotoShop and CorelDraw installed "just in case". Occasionally I need to create make-shift presentations on the go. I am also happy to report that these applications run just fine.

Now, if I have to ding it on performance, the only complaint I have is the hard drive. I don't think the PATA interface vs. SATA is as big of a deal as some people have made it, after all even PATA's transfer speed is still way ahead of the hard drive's platter transfer speed. But at 4200rpm, and what seems like slow seek speed (I do not have the actual spec with me), the XT's hard drive performance will not be the most optimal and that is something I can actually notice without even running benchmarks. Again, this further emphasizes the importance for large amount of RAM. The more RAM you have you can prevent the system from accessing the hard drive, and the faster your XT will feel. Remember, a slower system with tons of RAM will always feel more responsive then a faster system with not enough RAM, when your primary tasks are office applications and Web / email clients. Just don't ever dream of using the XT for extensive video processing.


Alright, this section will make a change in pace. Are you guys ready for some venting? The XT is not perfect!

Now, before we move on, let me say that some (or maybe all) of these issues could be Vista related. I have been running Vista for a good six months now on several machines. Some machines (including my 5-year-old Fujitsu P5000) run it without a single hitch, while some other (like my newly built workstation) had all sorts of problems. I don't know if the same issue I saw on the XT would happen if I had XP installed, but I think it is only fair that I also write up anything that could be an issue or stuff that I don't like about the XT.

First, it blue-screened on me in the first week! I didn't have time to read all the debugging messages nor wanted to dig up the memory dump, but I did see it say "NDIS" which seems to be the network driver. It has only happened once, but I thought BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) was substantially brought under control after XP Service-Pack 2. To see it happen on a brand new laptop on a brand-new OS-install, is to say the least, distressing.

Second, the XT (and most likely other Dell laptops) would physically disable the onboard NIC when no network cable is plugged in, to conserve battery power. Now, whenever the onboard NIC enable / disables itself, a message will pop-up on the screen telling you "hey I just shut myself off." Unfortunately, 8 out of 10 times that message would crash. Vista will tell me something in the line of "network power notification has stop responding" etc. I eventually just shut the notification off.

As you may have read from the forum, there seems to be a bug with Vista's Tablet feature and FireFox (and only FireFox... it doesn't happen on Internet Explorer). On certain hyperlinks, the first click (either by using the Stylus, touchpad buttons or an external USB mice) would only "select" the link. Only the second click takes you to the target page. The problem is that I can't really tell which link(s) will exhibit this problem... since about half the links you can just single click. So sometimes I would click on something, wait like 30 seconds just to realize it wasn't clicked or I click on something twice by habit and end up submitting a forum post twice.

Some of the documentation is incomplete. For example, one of the touchscreen modes is "auto" where pen input is prioritized. It says on the application "switching to touch is done via a gesture" but I looked and looked and just couldn't find what that "gesture" is. Turns out it is tapping your finger on the screen rapidly 10 consecutive times (I found that by accident). Normally Dell have very good documentation, but since the N-Trig touchscreen is so new, there are a few things missing.

Vista Tablet Functions

In this section I'd like to briefly touch on Vista's build-in tablet support. Unlike XP, where you only get tablet support in the XP Tablet Edition, Vista has tablet supports built into several of its versions: Home Premium, Business, Enterprise and Ultimate. The key feature of Vista's tablet support is obviously handwriting recognition, and as a present surprise I found that Vista's handwriting recognition is not only limited to English or other western languages, but also in several Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese.

When you use the pen to click on any text input field, a small icon will appear which allows you to slide open the handwriting recognition window (without having to hunt it down by moving your pen to the edge of the screen). This makes pen input quite fast. Also, Vista has some kind of built-in learning ability that theoretically, will improve its handwriting recognition accuracy as you continue to use / teach the system by correcting mis-recognized texts. I have yet to confirm if that really works, but so far it's accuracy is good enough (I have lousy handwriting too). Now, as a disclaimer I have not used XP Tablet Edition and I didn't know if any of these features are already available in XP. But if you are interested in reading more about Vista's tablet supports, you can check out this link.


If you are still reading, then I must say you must be very interested in the XT tablet, but not to rain on anyone's parade, as a 90%notebook / 10% tablet user, I am also not sure if I would recommend the XT to fellow users. I myself will certainly need more convincing before I will buy another tablet after the XT retires in 3-4 years, mainly because I have yet to find any tasks (other then sending Chinese ICQ messages to my father in Hong Kong) that I cannot do as fast or faster, with a traditional mouse and keyboard.

As a matter of fact, most of the tasks I tried to use the tablet for (including placing orders and checking inventories in the warehouse) ended up being slower. Perhaps I just need to gain some more experience, but at this point I am leaning towards the "don't buy it unless you know what you need it for" recommendation. Granted if cash is no object and you want a good notebook that can get your feet wet on tablets, the Dell XT is hard to beat. It functions very well as a notebook (which is my primary use for it), and gave me the chance to mess with all the tablet features. Therefore, worse come to worse I could always just pretend its another run-of-the-mill notebooks and never convert it into tablet again. Although I lose the "premium" that I had paid, I still have a very usable, ultra-portable notebook that can be a tablet.

[+/-] Read moore...