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How to: Choose a tablet for your business

Jon L. Jacobi, Melissa J. Perenson, and Michelle Mastin | Feb. 14, 2012
The idea of using an easy-to-tote tablet for work appeals to you. You can use it for email, note-taking, presentations, accessing the Web, and other business tasks--at least if you're not dependent on complex spreadsheets or physical input.

Unfortunately, online applications such as Google Docs and Docs.com are not the great solution for tablets that they could be--at least not beyond basic word processing. In practice, they're simply too keyboard- and mouse-oriented to be used efficiently on a tablet.

Keyboard, Mouse, and Stylus

Of course, dragging a keyboard and mouse around with you begs the question, "Why didn't I just buy a laptop?" But if you type a lot, you'll need a real keyboard. Using peripherals with a tablet isn't as zany an idea as you might think--after all, those tools will make certain tasks easier, and you'll still have the tablet to use as such when you're not employing them.

Windows 7 tablets all have USB ports, and most offer Bluetooth, so you can use basically any keyboard or mouse on the market. Some Android tablets have USB ports, but the iPad 2 and many Android tablets rely solely on Bluetooth for peripheral connections.

A few exceptions: Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet and Asus's Eee Pad Transformer TF101 and Eee Pad Transformer Prime all offer a keyboard and cursor control in a case that uses the USB port or dock.

The $69 Apple Wireless Keyboard and Logitech's $70 Bluetooth Tablet Keyboard for iPad 2 and for Android (3.0+) are decent units that won't weigh you down too much. Logitech also makes a $130 folding keyboard that travels a little more compactly, and the company's $100 keyboard/case for the Samsung Galaxy (10.1 inches) is another workable solution. With Windows 7, a portable mouse is a good and necessary accessory. Navigating its non-finger-optimized interface is difficult at best without it or a stylus. Any of a host of USB (including wireless) and Bluetooth mice that work on laptops and desktops will work just fine on a Windows 7 tablet.

Digital Pens

Most tablets, like the iPad, have a capacitive touchscreen, which senses input from conductive materials, such as a living finger. These will work only with your finger, or a chunky capacitive stylus. But for serious drawing or for taking handwritten notes, you'll need a special pen-and-tablet combination.

Many of the business-focused Android and Windows slates come with active digitizer technology--which requires an electronic pen--in addition to the capacitive touchscreen. An active digitizer lets you lay your hand on the screen without interfering with the pen's input, and increases accuracy and pressure sensitivity.

N-Trig-based tablets are great for those who do a lot of handwriting or a little drawing. N-Trig’s Duo Sense dual pen and touch-active digitizers are found in Android tablets with N-Trig’s digitizer, such as the HTC Flyer and Jetstream and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. N-Trig-based Windows slates include the Fujitsu Q550, both the HP Slate 500 and the newer Slate 2, and the Motion CL900.

 

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