The Vermont Slate!
One reason we opted for the TC1100 was precisely because of the hybrid capability I discussed in the last post. I believed, and still do, that a permanently attached keyboard would tend to delay the development of Tablet PC skills in the users. Some Tablet things do take getting used to and some effort must be expended to learn the new skill set. For many users, the keyboard would be a crutch. (I touch on this a bit more in Training I - Do your users think in ink.)
At the same time, sometimes a user really does need a keyboard, and a pure slate model would have required carrying a separate keyboard for those times. Our students do have papers to write, after all, and I don't think anyone wants to write a term paper with pen input when they could type it. Much as I love the pen, I know I wouldn't want to. Having the keyboard attached, but detachable seemed the best compromise. (I'm composing this on a keyboard, in fact, though on a docking station.)
In the first year of our project, we've found that a few of our kids still use the keyboard almost exclusively and haven't bothered to learn how to use the pen as anything but a mouse. (They also are generally the same ones who skipped the training sessions.) A lot of others seem never to have the keyboard out but do have it attached. I don't know how many rarely carry it, but there are some. I certainly have it detached far more than I have it on the machine. What I gather from this serves to confirm my beliefs that making it easy to not use the keyboard is good, and training is absolutely necessary.
Another big factor in our decision was portability. This translated into size and weight and, to a slightly lesser extent, battery life. (Battery life was a consideration in its own right, anyway.) At the time we made our decision, the TC1100 was among the lightest Tablets available. It is still on the light end of the spectrum. Take the keyboard off and it is very easy to use and carry for an extended period of time. We evaluated a convertible Tablet early on and, while it was a great machine, it was a bear to carry and use in your arms for an extended period. I'm not a small guy and am fairly strong, but it got heavy fast. I carry the TC1100 all day with no problem.
What about the lack of a CD/DVD device built in? Well, actually, I consider that a strength of the slates and hybrids, not a deficiency. We are here for education and want these machines to be primarily educational tools. Why provide an additional distraction (not to mention more moving parts to break)? Still, all of us look to our computers for entertainment and it is a legitimate concern for the students. We offered two options for this: a docking station and a portable USB CD/DVD. Either can be used to put mp3 files on the hard drive or install and play a game. (Thus eliminating one of the gains of not having a CD drive in the machine!) The proliferation of iPods is starting to make this point moot anyway.
One other thing we really liked about the HP was the docking station. Keep a keyboard, mouse, and monitor attached to it on your desk and you have a drop-in desktop replacement with extended desktop capabilities. I am absolutely sold on the extended desktop. I wish I could have four monitors off my machine, not just two. The docking station itself is solid and works well. I have a few issues with "grab-and-go" from time to time, but they are a distraction more than anything else.
One last note. There were really two machines in the running when we made the final decision for the HP. The other was the Motion. I liked the larger screen of the Motion, though not the larger external dimensions. I didn't like the port location on the Motion as they were right where my hand held the machine when writing and the video connector was awkward when connected to a projector. They have a dynamite docking station, weight is good, and the optional view anywhere screen is superb, though pricey. The folks at Motion are excellent--the best I've dealt with. It is a machine well worth consideration.