Review of One Week with the Travelmate C200

My tablet arrived last Friday, and ever since then my computing life has not been the same. Out of the box the experience was good. For you true geeks, the specific model I chose is the C203etci. The C200 is a convertible tablet, the screen slides up to discover a nice sized keyboard underneath. It’s the sliding hinge that makes this model unique. Acer provides a cover for the screen that flips around to act as a heat shield for your lap. The weight is competitive with other tablets, about 5.5 pounds with the battery and CD/DVD drive installed, less if you don’t need to bring the drive with you. The screen is 12.1”, which is just fine for my purposes. Since I commute a lot in tight spaces it made sense to go small and functional. If you’re working in landscape mode with the tablet the conversion to keyboard is quick and slick. When working in portrait mode I’ve noticed some small arm fatigue over time, but I’ve also managed to balance it against my chest to reduce that slight drawback.

Acer Travelmate C200 - Acer USA

The first thing it did was install some Acer software, which I was surprised to discover wasn’t preloaded. I then backed up the install using the built-in CD burner, which took some time to burn five CDs. I also had trouble initially in tablet mode, the machine kept going into sleep mode with the screen down. However, it worked just fine with the screen up, which was puzzling. I eventually was able to determine that the power saving software (installed among the other pieces when I first started the machine) was designed for normal laptops, thinking that when the screen is down *should* go to sleep. On the C200, having the screen down means you want to use the pen. After then trying in vain to connect to the wireless network I’d set up the night before, I started then to install some additional software and quit only after my youngest woke up. Further exploration of the tablet would have to wait.

The next day was a planned trip to Madison, WI with family. Once there, at my Aunt’s house I discovered one of her neighbors was running a completely open Wifi port, which I have previously written about here. The next day involved more events with family and friends, returning home that Sunday night. I spent some time that night finishing up some software installations, but still was unable to connect to the WiFi. I knew it wasn’t the tablet’s fault since I could see the network, it just wouldn’t let me log in. Something was wrong with the router’s setup, not the tablet.

Monday was my first using the tablet as an adjunct to my main work computer. I had installed the 30-day demo of Franklin Covey’s Plan Plus 4.0, and was thrilled. Two years earlier I’d saved a page from a Covey sales brochure showing what was then called TabletPlanner. The planner uses a good mix of ink and text input, allowing me to use whichever input method is best at the time. I don’t like its formatting of contacts, so I will likely continue using Palm Desktop for that purpose. (I still will carry around my small and old [but functional] Treo 90 for the sole purpose of having a portable rolodex when I don’t want to start up the tablet just to search for a phone number.)

I wonder if the reason I’ve taken to the tablet is my long use of different Palm organizer models. My first was the original Pilot [before a trademark dispute with Pilot Pen forced the company to change its name to Palm Pilot, and then just Palm]. The Treo 90 I use has a keyboard and pen input, just not quite the same as this machine, though. :-) This is way more powerful.

That Monday night I finally deciphered the mysteries of the wireless router. In order to get the WPA encryption up and running I ended up having to upgrade the firmware on the router, after which it has worked like a charm. Many thanks to Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson for their Security Now podcasts, be sure to check out Episodes 10 & 11 and 13 for their series on wireless security.

For attending Blawgthink in November I received some excellent software packages, including MindManager, One Note, and NoteMap. The first two really take great advantage of the tablet, I’ve enjoyed learning how to use them best. On Thursday I attended a local Bar association lunch seminar, and the speaker let me try out the tablet’s built in microphone while taking notes with OneNote. The sound isn’t the best due to room conditions, but I really like its ability to take me to the time index of the recording from when I made each note. I’ve heard that a lot of attorneys use OneNote to record depositions while taking notes, it really is great on the tablet. I’ve also got good use out of MindManager, I’m starting to get the hang of its pen shortcuts. ActiveWords has also been another great package. I’m sure enjoying learning it, and will write more about that package soon.

Overall, I have been very happy with my choice of the C200. It’s easy to type out longer essays with the keyboard, and yet for most purposes the pen is a great input device. The conversion between the two modes is rapid enough to keep the flow of my work, unlike other tablets that make you stop and twist the screen around to convert it to tablet mode. I’ll write more about the tablet in the future if it’s relevant to the blog.

16 Responses to Review of One Week with the Travelmate C200

  1. Great review Kevin. I will be using it for the same purposes as you… I am a 3L at Kent and want to use it for class, clerking, and for when I pass the bar.

    My question to you is about the keyboard… I need to buy a laptop to use when taking the bar, and so have to have one that has a keyboard comfortable enough to be typing all day on if necessary. Does this keyboard fit the bill? Overall, this tablet seems to be a much better purchase than the x41 from Lenovo, and the keyboard strength is going to be the deciding factor for me.

    Thanks!

  2. Tortfeasor, I like the feel, but haven’t had much use yet for all day typing away from the desktop. My guess is that a smaller tablet like this wouldn’t be ideal, since it sacrifices some layout features for space. That problem isn’t unique to this model, though. You could hook up any USB device you wanted to, including a USB keyboard, there are three USB slots. So if you had the ability to lug around a larger keyboard you could, if you *REALLY* wanted to.

  3. Kevin,

    Thanks for the info. I think I will go for the IBM X41 tablet instead since it has a full sized keyboard. It is just too bad that the specs are not really comparable to the Acer, but at least it weighs less I guess.

  4. Hands On Review Of The Acer C200 Sliding Hinge Tablet PC

    Kevin Thompson has posted a good hands on-review of his new Acer C200 Tablet PC. This is the convertible Tablet PC with a sliding hinge. Nicely done and well worth a read. Via jkOnTheRun.

  5. Tortfeasor, I looked at the X41, but couldn’t justify the price difference between the models. If you can, go ahead, it’s solid too.

    An update re: the Acer’s weight – With the CD drive out, I really notice a weight difference. It’s amazing what half a pound lighter fees like.

  6. I used to use a PDA until I used an HP TC1100 tablet. It had software called Quicklook on it. Phoenix made it and has improved on it since. Phoenix FirstWare Assistant.
    http://www.phoenix.com/en/Products/Trusted+Applications/Phoenix+FirstWare/FirstWare+Assistant/default.htm
    I stole the next bit from DeviceForge.com

    Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re you’re in a hurry to look up someone’s phone number or read the contents of a recent email. You flip open your laptop, press its “on” button, and hit the designated “hot key” (F, in this case) — and presto, you gain instant access to your Outlook PIM data and email without having to wait for your laptop to boot Windows XP.

    I love it! I don’t carry a PDA anymore and you can download a trial version.

  7. Thanks, TabletUser! I’ll be sure to give it a try to see if it works with the Acer. I’m not a big fan of Outlook, so I don’t know if this is going to work for me. Even if it works, I can imagine plenty of scenarios when it would be too awkward to get the tablet out, but the PDA would work just fine. Still, for $29.95, it *might* be worth it for those other occasions when it would be fine to use the Tablet, or in between syncs of the PDA.

  8. Review: Acer TravelMate C200/C203 (Cyberlaw Central)

    Kevin Thompson, over at Cyberlaw Central has posted a review of the Acer TravelMate C203. The C203 is the new “convertible” from Acer that uses a unique “sliding-track” mechanism to convert from a notebook to a Tablet PC – it …

  9. Tortfeasor,

    I’ve been using the C204Ti for about two weeks, and I’m very happy with the keyboard. The mouse, on the other hand, is a mouse-stick in the middle of the keyboard, and I’m not too comfortable with that. I typically use an external mouse when I can. I am comfortable enough with the keyboard that I don’t use an external one even when I could.

  10. Tortfeasor,

    I’ve had more time with the keyboard since your first posting of your question, and I agree with Dave Watts that it is very nice.

    I’ve used a mousestick before on an old IBM Thinkpad, so having one here is no big deal. They do take a bit of getting used to, but once you figure out the feel it works very well.

  11. I appreciate all of your replies.

    I broke down last week and picked up the X41 due to my concerns.

    As an aside, I really like the X41 keyboard… It was most likely the better choice for me with the amount of typing I will be doing at times.

  12. Kevin,
    Welcome to the rarified world of the tablet PC. The few. The proud. I got an X41 not too long ago and love it (althought the vconfiguration I got sems a bit underpowered). Glad you are trying out MindManager. It’s pretty cool to ink out your thoughts and then go to Format–>Microsoft PowerPoint slides and instantly see how the map would look as a slide show, complete with the background of your choice. I don’t know if you use PPT (MindManager in Presentation Mode is a nice alternative). But if you do, this is a great way to get your slides together much faster.

  13. [...] Cyberlaw Central has a helpful Review of the Acer Travelmate C200 where they write – ‘Overall, I have been very happy with my choice of the C200. It’s easy to type out longer essays with the keyboard, and yet for most purposes the pen is a great input device. The conversion between the two modes is rapid enough to keep the flow of my work, unlike other tablets that make you stop and twist the screen around to convert it to tablet mode. I’ll write more about the tablet in the future if it’s relevant to the blog.’ written by Laptop Review Admin on 11/24/2005 [...]

  14. [...] Cyberlaw Central Review of the Acer Travelmate C200 was – ‘Overall, I have been very happy with my choice of the C200. It’s easy to type out longer essays with the keyboard, and yet for most purposes the pen is a great input device. The conversion between the two modes is rapid enough to keep the flow of my work, unlike other tablets that make you stop and twist the screen around to convert it to tablet mode. I’ll write more about the tablet in the future if it’s relevant to the blog.’ [...]

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