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that shipped with each unit. In all three cases, the stylus is
somewhat smaller and shorter than I am used to, probably
because they are designed to be stored with the tablet in
a special silo. The diminutive size of the styli does make
writing more difficult. This is most noticeable on the Tablet
2, whose smaller screen (10.1 inches compared with 11.6
for the Tab 7 and Helix) makes it hard to fit text on the
screen and provides minimal hand support while writing.
Worse than the stylus size, however, is that none of them
features an eraser button. If I need to erase anything, I have
to manually select the eraser function in PDF Annotator.
This tends to break up the flow of the lecture. Having a built-
in small stylus is nice since it ensures you always have one,
but a larger stylus with an eraser button would be more
practical for lecture purposes. Fortunately, all three units
use Wacom digitizers, so any tablet PC Wacom stylus with
an eraser button will work: You could simply purchase a
third-party stylus to carry in your computer bag for class.
I did notice a few interesting quirks while using the stylus
on these computers. Because all three also have touch-
screens, a touch can sometimes register as an annotation.
Typically, the computer rejects input from your palm or
fingers by disabling the touchscreen when the stylus is
near the screen surface. But if your hand touches the
screen before the stylus gets close enough, occasional
stray marks may appear.
While all three computers showed minimal lag in follow-
ing the motion of the stylus across the screen, there was
sometimes an offset between the stylus location and its
registered position on the screen. This offset even per-
sisted after recalibrating the digitizer. The offset was larg-
est for the Tablet 2 and smallest for the Tab 7.
During screencasting, the Tablet 2 and Tab 7 micro-
phones both picked up the tapping of the stylus on the
screen. The active noise suppression on the Helix was
able to remove this, but a hiss from the cooling fan was
still noticeable. For good audio during screencasting, I
recommend using an external microphone with these units.
Classroom use---and screencasting in particular---puts
additional strain on the computers. General classroom
annotation seems to increase battery usage slightly, but
screencasting is a major drain. On the Helix, for example,
screencasting reduced the life of a battery by 50 percent,
so it's important to have a good charge if you plan to
screencast your lectures.
When you're researching tablet PCs, go the extra mile to
find out exactly how the ports are configured. On tablet
PCs that come with a keyboard, some of the ports may
be situated on the keyboard, not on the tablet. (Unfortu-
nately, manufacturer websites don't always carry this
information.) The Tab 7, for example, has two USB ports
on the keyboard dock and only one on the tablet. So if
you bring the tablet to class without the keyboard and
need to use a USB dongle for classroom feedback via
clickers, you won't be able to also insert a flash drive into
HOW THE REVIEWS WERE CONDUCTED
I evaluated the different units in my everyday work setting. This included e-mail, web browsing, document writing, and lecturing---either
in the classroom or in a simulated classroom environment. For most out-of-class tasks, I used stock software such as Internet Explor-
er and WordPad. For classroom use, though, I used PDF Annotator (Grahl Software Design) for annotating lecture slides, and
Snagit or Camtasia Studio (TechSmith) for screencasting (i.e., recording the computer screen and microphone audio during lecture)
and some minor video editing. I tested the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 during the spring 2013 semester and was able to use it to
deliver several of my regular lectures. I tested the Samsung ATIV Tab 7 and Lenovo Helix during the summer of 2013 in a mock
classroom setting, using my desktop computer screen as a stand-in for the classroom projector.
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