The Tablet PC Experience
Conversion to Tablet Mode –To convert into Slate mode, the display simply needs to be swiveled clockwise 180 degrees and clipped down. The security clip can be pushed to be locked in on the opposite side so that the security mechanism on the base can hold the display down.
Once you swivel and push the display down to lock it in place, at about 30 degrees the screen will automatically rotate the image 90 degree clockwise.
I don't think that IBM intended to design this with right handed people in mind. However, the standard web configuration for the X41 Tablet comes with an 8 cell battery, which has a built in rubberized grip that favors right handers. While the 4 cell battery doesn't have a rubberized grip strip, it still extends far enough out from the system to have a lip to grip. Left handed people can simply manipulate the settings in the OS so that they can grip the rubber strip without having an upside down desktop. They can also just use the opposite right handed orientation, but they forego the gripping and comfortability which is provided. The problem flipping the screen so that lefties can use the grip then becomes the fact that all the lettering and orientation of buttons/fingerprint scanner are upside down. Personally, I would like to see IBM 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, have to deal with upside down labels, or sacrifice the grip designed for right-handers.
Tablet Digitizer Pen – The digitizer pen is located on the front left corner of the system. If you are in Tablet Mode, the pen will be located on the top left side. The pen is spring locked with a push lock/release mechanism. It pops out when you push in the pen. The pen is locked in place if you push it in.
Left to Right: Buttons in Tablet mode, screenshot with the Tablet Shortcut Menu
Tablet Buttons –All of the buttons are situated to the right of the digitized screen (top to bottom): up arrow, down arrow, backspace, ESC, Tablet Shortcut Menu, rotate screen 90 degrees clockwise, task manager button (combination command = CTRL + ALT + DEL), lock power button (disables ability to use power button near display), power button.
Writing - Using the digitizer pen is comparable to other Tablet PCs we have used. However, IBM can make some improvements in the Pen design. For most people, slightly larger buttons would make this feel more comfortable. As it is, the buttons are small and hard to work with. Clicking the bottom enables the pen to write, while the upper button enables the pen to function as an eraser.
As far as tracking goes, basically all of the Tablet PC's use Wacom's digitizer, so tracking is extremely similar from Tablet PC to Tablet PC. 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 X41 Tablet relies on Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition OS. The OS has an overall natural feel to it, with sufficient information for the person new to Tablet PCs. 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's Windows Journal, Microsoft's Sticky Notes
IBM 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, which is why Tablets are great for the artist. 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.
LEDs –The front LED strip is visible in Slate mode. All LEDs are visible (except the cluster behind the display).
Heat - After using the X41 for over a few hours and doing a lot of multitasking, the bottom of the X41 Tablet gets 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.
Speaker(s) and Microphone – If you are holding the Tablet PC, you are going to find it hard to use the built in microphone. The small slot that denotes the microphone will be pointed away from you. This means that you'll need to point the side of the notebook toward you for it to clearly pick-up your voice. This will make it hard to simultaneously type and speak at the same time.
The speaker has the same audio characteristics we mentioned earlier. The difference is that it the audio is going to be a bit more muffled because it is placed directly in the path where you would wrap your arm around the Tablet PC.