M200 Review – Part II with observations comparing it to the HP TC1100 – March 2004

I posted this on TabletPCBuzz a week after the first review.  

M200 – Thoughts after two weeks

– and more comparison to the HP TC1100

This is a continuation of my impressions after the first week.

As in the previous note, I’ll stick to anecdotal points rather than get into details of the specifications (these you can get from the respective manufacturers’ sites)

Overall, the TC1100 feels more refined than the M200. The fit and finish and design of the user interface seems better (The overall build quality of both units is excellent).

The M200 has a bigger screen, bigger keyboard, higher resolution, faster processor, higher (user accessible) memory capacity.

Based on the preceding sentence, I should prefer the M200, but I can’t bring myself to live with that conclusion. It is still pretty much a dead heat between the two. I have assigned the “winner” for several points of comparison below. I don’t expect you to agree with my assessments here. These reflect my priorities and values.

Screen – It’s a tie
According to Toshiba, the M200 has a very thin Poly Silcon screen. (evidently much thinner than the Toshiba 3500). The thin-ness is apparently the reason that there seems to be very little parallax errror (ink appears very close to the pen tip most of the time).

The HP has a tempered glass screen. Hard to say if this is going to more resilient, or scratch resistant than the Toshiba.

Feel / Inking – M200 feels better for inking
There is a slight texture to the Poly Silicon surface. It feels much more like paper than the 3500 or the TC1100.

The surface of the TC1100 is very smooth (glass), and it takes awhile to get used to writing on it. Going from the TC1100 to the Toshiba, this was one of the strongest impressions: The M200 feels more like a pen on paper.

When I first used the pen with the M200, the imprssion that it felt more like pen and paper was quite profound. As time has gone by, this has turned out not to be terribly significant. I am happy to “ink” on whichever machine I am using at the time.

Viewing Angle – TC1100 wins
Hands down – this category goes to the TC1100. This means that in slate mode, it is easier to see the screen. It means (and this is more subtle) that is is easier to work with the HP in variety of postures. I believe that this translates into greater user comfort and ergonomics.

The M200 screen looks great as a laptop. Similarly, as a slate it is fine in primary landscape mode, as long as you are looking at it from within a few degrees of 90.

Go into portrait mode on a table and you will wish you had a way to elevate the edge furthest away from you. This is true (but less of an issue) with the TC1100, Both seem similar with respect to glare on the screen. Where the TC1100 has the advantage is: once you find an angle where the glare is not an issue, the chances are better that the TC1100 will let you see what is on the screen.

Outdoors – TC1100 wins (mainly for viewing angle)
Neither the Toshiba nor the HP claim to be outdoor screens, but both have worked fine for me (subject to getting a decent viewing angle) in bright indirect light. It is easier to find an angle that “works” with the TC1100

Audio Speakers – TC1100 wins – you can hear the speakers
The TC1100 has stereo speakers. To have any sense of that you will want to be in primary portrait mode due to the way they are positioned. You can hear them just as well whether the keyboard is attached and closed or open.

The M200 has a single speaker that is covered by the screen when the unit is in slate mode. You can adjust the volume with a rotary dial that is accessible even when the screen is closed.

Audio Inputs – TC1100 wins – stereo inputs with noise cancellation
The TC1100 has a three audio jacks. One accomodates a stereo input and the second allows you to use a combination microphone / earpiece like you would use with a cell phone. The third is a standard stereo headphone jack.

An interesting aspect with the TC1100 is that the stereo microphone input in combination with a stereo microphone can be set to use a special noise cancellation feature (software/driver) of the soundcard. This allows you to work with speech recognition with the external microphone aimed at you, without having to use a headset microphone. I was stunned that this works at least as well as my headset microphones. You can read about this here:

The M200 has two audio jacks, a mono microphone and stereo headphone. Since the microphone input is mono, and the M200 does not have support for the AudioMax feature included with the TC1100, you don’t have the special noise cancelling feature.

Added (new information that came to light about the M200 Microphones)
MicrophoneThree Microphones – No Waiting
Users share their experiences using the built-in microphones with speech recognition.

Memory Expansion – M200 wins – user access to memory is the reason.
Although both machines have stated maximum memory capacity at 2 gigabytes with the TC1100, only one memory slot is user accessible (easily). This means that realistically, the maximum most people could get would be 1.5 gigabytes.
The M200 allows easy access to both memory slots and has a realistic capacity of 2 gigabytes.

Don’t count how many times each unit was the “winner” because the categories are not equalliy important. The significance of each category will be as different as the people who use Tablet PCs.

So how do I decide between the two?

When less is more I take the TC1100.

When nothing less will do, I take the M200.

The TC1100 is a refined roadster with maturity and grace. It’s a great drive.

The M200 is a muscle car with low end grunt and terrific follow through, but less comfortable for a long trip.

Hope you had fun reading this and the previous notes (Impressions after the first week).

You can read this in context with comments at TabletPCBuzz 

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