HP/Compaq TC4200 Tablet PC

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The Tablet PC Experience

The Tablet PC Experience
Tablet PC Usage Characteristics...

Conversion to Tablet Mode - To convert into Slate mode, the display simply needs to be swiveled clockwise 180 degrees and clipped down. The security hook holding the display down is actually hidden away. The small magnet located in the display locks the hook into place once the lid is closed in either direction.


Once you swivel and push the display down to lock it into place, at about 10 degrees, the screen will automatically rotate the image 90 degrees clockwise.

It seems to be that Tablet PCs are designed with right-handed people in mind. Primarily this is due to the fact any grip the Tablet PC provides is optimized so that you hold the tablet with your left hand while writing with your right. While IBM did this with their 8 cell battery, HP's grip space is smaller, as the display hinge is the only natural place to get a grip on the Tablet. Again, I would like to see HP provide the option to rotate counterclockwise; this would solve all of the issues. This way southpaws don't have to screw around with the software, deal with upside down labels or sacrifice the grip designed for right-handers. The temporary solution for any southpaw is to use the OS and manipulate the image. The only downside is that the icons and buttons are going to be "upside down" from the right-hander perspective.

Lighting - You may notice a small, clear LED located next to the label "Compaq tc4200" in the upper left-hand corner. This is in actuality an ambient light sensor. It is supposed to automatically detect the environment's lighting and dynamically change the brightness of the screen as need be (enabled and disabled via Fn + F11, default startup mode is disabled). In our use, it was about 85% to 95% right in the sense that it automatically tweaked itself to the right brightness level. There were times when we felt that it didn't change to a bright enough setting, i.e. when we came in from the parking lot to the office building. However, the changes are done slowly (within 4 or 5 seconds, lowest brightness to highest takes about 10 seconds) on a gradient level that you probably won't even notice or complain about. In all, we like this feature because it is an automatic way of saving/preserving precious battery life for any highly mobile user.

Tablet Digitizer Pen - The digitizer pen is located on the bottom left side of the screen. If you are in Tablet mode, the pen will be located on the bottom right side. The pen is spring locked with a push lock/release mechanism. It pops out when you push the release button located about 1" north of the HP logo. The pen is locked in place once you push it back in.


Left to Right: Buttons in Tablet mode, screenshot with the Q Menu

Tablet Buttons - All of the buttons are to the right of the digitized screen (top to bottom): Q menu, rotate screen 90 degrees clockwise, and writing pad. On the right side of the display there is also a button for the task manager (combination command = CTRL + ALT + DEL) and a vertical scroll toggle. Note that the first set of buttons are actually digitized buttons that can only be accessed via a digitizer pen/device. This is a clever way of preventing unintentional button clicks during writing in Tablet mode.

Writing - Using the digitizer pen is pretty similar to other Tablet PCs we have used. The difference with the HP digitizer pen is that the single click button functions as a right mouse button. The other end of the pen functions as the eraser.

As far as tracking goes, basically all of the Tablet PCs use Wacom's digitizer, so tracking is extremely similar from one Tablet PC to another. Stuff like digitizer pens, therefore, are interchangeable between different systems - for the most part (we used a TC4200 pen on the X41, and vice versa).


Software - Like other Tablet PCs, the TC4200 Tablet relies on Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition OS. The OS has an overall natural feel to it, with sufficient information. In any window that requires writing, there is a small icon that allows you to select the way you want to input information, similar to Microsoft's Pocket PC OS.


Left to Right: FranklinCovey PlanPlus, Alias SketchBook, Microsoft Windows Journal, Microsoft Sticky Notes, Zinio Magazine Reader

HP includes trial versions of FranklinCovey PlanPlus 4.1 (30 days) and Alias SketchBook Pro 1.1.1 (15 days). The SketchBook program is particularly helpful if you can actually make decent sketches. The digitizer pen uses sensitivity tracking to determine the weight of an stroke. FrankinCovey PlanPlus is a organizer/planner that provides an unique interface for writing notes instead of typing in "Conference at 3:00." Zinio Magazine Reader is kind of like the Adobe Acrobat Reader of magazines. For those who publish e-versions of their magazines, you can use this program (no trial limitation) to read them front to back. You click once to zoom in on text and click again to zoom out.

LEDs - The front LED strip is not visible in Slate mode. You will need to turn the Tablet to see the status of any of the LEDs. Obviously the LEDs located near the keyboard will not be visible at all.

Heat - After using it for a few hours with a lot of multitasking, the bottom of the Tablet PC gets fiarly warm, but not uncomfortable enough for anyone to flinch or complain. If you are only using it the way we suspect most people will, the bottom will only seem warm as you cradle it like a sketchpad. It's different from the X41 in that the TC4200 needs greater airflow to maintain a usuable temperature. So if you are a right handed person, you will most likely feel the airflow directed towards you when you get into CPU intensive operations.

Speaker(s) and Microphone - If you are holding the Tablet PC, using the microphone is fairly easy since it is facing towards you. Even during writing, we didn't find any noteworthy situations were the microphone picked up muffled audio.

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