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Double the pleasure and impressive

Double the pleasure and impressive

Interested in a tablet PC but not sure that one would be right for you? A convertible notebook is one way to get your feet wet. Convertibles typically have a conventional notebook design but come with the Windows XP Professional Tablet PC Edition operating system and a swivel touch screen. Though the HP Compaq Tablet PC Tc1100 fills the need well, it takes the opposite tack: It's a conventional tablet that doubles as the occasional notebook.

A 1.81kg tablet with a 10.4-inch screen, the Tc1100 contains all the necessary connections, including both Bluetooth and 802.11g wireless networking, standard network and modem jacks, a VGA port, an SD Card slot, and basic audio ports. An array of side shortcut buttons is easy for right-handers to use, for moving through applications or jotting notes on the screen. One dial handily scrolls and pages through documents. A small but nice extra for external-monitor users is the display button, which rotates among internal, external, or extended desktop screens. The unique Q button launches a convenient window for tweaking brightness, wireless scanning, volume, and other common settings. The spring-loaded stylus has a nice fat barrel that should fit most hands.

For use as a conventional notebook, the tablet can mount on a small bundled keyboard with an eraserhead pointing device. With keyboard the Tc1100 weighs 1.81kg, competitive with other lightweight notebooks. The layout is good enough to touch-type at a nice clip. Our only serious complaint is that there is no wrist rest; the mouse buttons line up with the edge of the keyboard.

For switching back to tablet use without detaching the keyboard, you can rotate the screen 180 degrees and lock it faceup, just like a convertible notebook. (The Tc1100 won't close clamshell style because of the tablet's thick glass face.) The tablet is easy to pop on and off the keyboard - just slide a couple of releases on the back to disengage its side slots from the keyboard tabs. The detached screen automatically shifts modes from landscape to portrait.

The Tc1100 has no FireWire or TV-out ports, so you likely won't use it to show off your camcorder shots to the grandparents. A more serious deficiency is the lack of an integrated optical bay; this absence is somewhat excused by a powered USB port provided for the optional $US199 MultiBay. A lightweight modular USB housing, the MultiBay can hold an optical drive or a secondary hard drive. The Tc1100 played a DVD movie smoothly, with low-volume but good-quality sound. HP also sells a docking stand for the Tc1100 that features a built-in modular bay. The Tc1100, which uses an ultra-low-voltage processor, should be able to handle most jobs. Helped by its 1GHz/600MHz Pentium M processor, the Tc1100 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 53.

In our battery tests, the Tc1100 lasted a moderately good 3.2 hours on one charge. An external built-in LED lets you check the battery power level without turning on the unit, a nice convenience. The Tc1100 should be easy to upgrade.

A base amount of RAM, 512MB in our test system, comes built in, leaving one memory slot open beneath a back panel held by two small screws.

The 40GB hard drive is also removable.

There's only one serious complaint we can hurl at the Tc1100: The screen can be slow to respond to taps, a big negative for tablet users. We had to punch firmly, sometimes twice, to make some selections, including the on-screen icons HP provides instead of buttons for the three most important tablet functions (picture rotation, launching the Journal, and launching the on-screen keyboard).

Capable of working either as a notebook or a tablet PC, the HP Compaq Tablet PC Tc1100 mostly succeeds as the ultimate convertible unit.

However, those who expect to use the Tc1100 more as a tablet may be put off by its stubbornness at accepting screen taps.

Benefits at a glance

* More power with fast, ultra-low voltage Intel Pentium M 1.0 GHz or Mobile Intel Celeron 800 MHz processors.

* More storage available ranging from 30GB to 60GB internal hard drives.

* Comfortable, lightweight design offers mobility and versatility for use while standing or sitting.

* Fits your style of work to boost productivity - handwrite, type or use voice recognition.

* Work can be shared with available wireless choices and wired access to email and other network resources.

Local information

The product is distributed in Australia by Tech Pacific, Ingram Micro and Dicker Data.

RRP: $3295


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