Tablet PCs – Choosing the Perfect Form Factor for Writers (Part II of V)

May 18, 2008

Tablet PCs come in three distinct flavors – convertible, slate and hybrid.  Choosing the right form factor for your needs is essential because the wrong TPC can stunt your productivity.  The picture attached to this article shows a Fujitsu convertible, a Sahara slate and a Motion Computing hybrid in respective order.  For the sake of argument, and believe me some will argue, I am defining a hybrid as a slate with the ability to physically attach a keyboard, thereby converting it into a convertible.  In this article I will cover the specifics of each form factor and how each affects a writer’s productivity.

  • Convertible – Attached keyboard. Screen swivels around into tablet mode.
  • Slate – No attached keyboard.
  • Hybrid – Removable keyboard which converts the slate into a convertible.

The convertible form factor is the most user-friendly of them all because it is simply a laptop with a rotating screen.  Most importantly where the writer is concerned, convertibles offer an even distribution of weight…meaning it’s well balanced atop your lap when typing. 

Slates no doubt win the prize for the coolest form factor – sleek and lightweight.  Slates weigh on average 3 lbs. and have all the bells and whistles of a convertible sans the keyboard and mouse.  You use your digitizer as both a mouse and for text input.  This form factor is great for artists and graphic designers who primarily use the digitizer to draw.  When you’re ready to type, you prop the slate up in a docking station and connect a keyboard.

Hybrids are essentially a slate with the ability to attach a keyboard. I use to travel with a Motion Computing LE1600 (Hybrid pic above). Its unique look would prompt airport security to stop me every time.   I know of only two manufactures who offer this form factor – Motion Computing and Electrovaya. Hybrids tend to be top-heavy and tilt backward if not placed on a stable surface.

Which is best for writers?
In my opinion, the convertible form factor is the most practical for writers. Although the slate looks cool and is super lightweight, it’s a pain to carry around a keyboard and a docking station (stand) when you’re mobile.  Trust me on this… Your productivity is stifled when you’re fiddling with gadgets.  It’s much easier just to spin the screen around.   


Five-Part Series 

Tablet PCs – A Writer’s Infinite Desktop (Part I of V)

Tablet PCs – Choosing the Perfect Form Factor for Writers (Part II of V)

Tablet PCs and OneNote – The Writer’s Never-Ending Notebook and Research File (Part III of V)

Tablet PCs and Mac Users (Part IV of V)

 A Wrap-up – Tablet PCs – A Writer’s Infinite Desktop (Part V of V)


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim B. May 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm

I agree with you about the hybrid form factor. I’d put the Motion LE series in the category. Everyone argues that it isn’t a true hybrid because you have to purchase the keyboard separate unlike the HP TC 1100 which IMO is/was the best TPC ever made.

BTW Great article! Keep it up.


Robin May 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Hi Tim,

You hit the nail on the head. That’s why I prefaced my definition of a hybrid in the article. Because by those standards a hybrid format no longer exists, as the HP 1100 has stopped production. You have to differentiate between pure slates like Fujitsu’s ST5000 series and the Sahara because they do not allow for a physically attached keyboard like the Motion LE series and Electrovaya/Tatung.


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