Thursday, March 25, 2010

Damned Indecision!!!

So let's retrace my old steps.

I bought an eeePC 701. Loved it. Don't mind the tiny keyboard. Prefer it, actually, because my fingers are now used to moving and pressing down less than on any of my other full-size keyboards.

Upgraded to an eeePC 901. Bigger screen. Better battery life. Loved the flat finish of the 701 and the beveled edges. By contrast the 901 is just a glossy, rounded fingerprint magnet. With crappy speakers. I don't regret buying it. It does everything I bought it for, and I have watched many a season of TV shows on it during long car trips.

Can't really use either outdoors, in bright sunlight. I've tried.

Got my eye out for a netvertible now. Use it like a netbook, or fold the touch-screen back and use it like a tablet. Hopefully could write on it with a stylus and stop using so much paper. Looking at:

Asus eeePC T91MT. Glossy, poor battery life, non-removable battery. Weak processor. Same price as the S10-3t.
Lenovo S10-3t. Glossy. Decent battery life, removable battery. Capacitive screen--not good for inking. Decent price.
Viliv Blade S10. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Great specs. Expensive. Too expensive. Would love to be able to afford one, though.
Asus eeePC T101MT. Just looked at this one. A large improvement over the T91. Not out yet, don't know pricing or release date.
Toshiba Gigabyte T1000. Like the look of it. Don't know much about it, but Toshiba's netvertibles have a great reputation. Not released, don't have a price or a date yet.

No matter what I get there's going to be some big compromise. Do I wait and see if the T101MT or the T1000 are reasonably priced, then buy one of them? Cause if I resign myself to wait, there's always going to be a great device coming right around the bend.

I figure, even though Asus and Toshiba seem to get it, most companies are catering to people who only seem interested in using a touch screen for pinch-and zoom. Most review sites automatically write-off any phone or tablet that has resistive (pressure sensitive) touchscreens in favor of capacitive (touch-sensitive) touchscreens, even though resistive screens are far better for writing on.

Capacitive touchscreens are more responsive, but I have yet to see or hear about a consistently good capacitive stylus. That means, any writing or "inking," you want to do, you'd have to do with your finger, or use a stylus that can't even consistently draw a straight line. Then again, another benefit of capacitive screens--they can be made of glass, so they're generally more scratch-resistant than any plastic resistive screen.

There's a good video here that shows how inconsistent current capacitive stylus are, although I am curious about the transparent capacitive Dagi stylus shown here.

I think regardless of how good a capacitive stylus works, any touchscreen is going to get a layer of oil and dirt on it that would prevent such a stylus from making good contact.

Another compromise, I couldn't really use any of these "picks" outdoors, either.

So here's my ultimate, "no-matter-the-cost, I really, really, really want this device" pick:

The Notion Ink Adam. Won't be out for at least 3 more months. Doesn't have a hardware keyboard, but let me tell you what it does have.

It has one of those Nvidia Tegra2 processors that are being bragged about up and down every tech conference. It has one of those Pixel Qi screens that everyone should want. The Pixel Qi screen has 3 modes. Full color with backlight on, full color with backlight off, and black-and white reflective mode. The reflective mode is the most impressive, because it allows you to surf the web and read ebooks in full daylight.

That's not the best part. It's only part of the best part.

Now we all know that when a manufacturer says 4 hours battery life that's really 2.5-3 hours. And when they say 10 hours that means 7-8. 16, probably 12-14. How about 140? Hmm? How do you adjust 140 hours to real-world standards? 140 hours is what the Notion Ink Adam claims, I'm assuming this applies at least to reading ebooks in reflective mode.

I'm sorry to say that, in 2010, 20 hour battery life for a tablet is a big deal. 140 hours, with the catch you have to be in a black-and-white mode? Where do I sign up?

This isn't some kludge where you have to reboot in-between color modes. There's a switch on the corner of the device, you can switch modes on the fly. Turn on full color just to watch a youtube video, then go back to black-and-white as you resume surfing.

I can deal with the lack of a keyboard, because I can get a decent eee-sized USB keyboard for fairly cheap. There is a sort-of large hitch. They seem to be mostly supporting Android for the device.

Android, as we all know, is crap. Maybe great on a mobile phone, but if I have a decent tablet I want my standard word and work apps on that tablet too. Open Office for Android? Celtx for Android? Doubt it. Some sites say the Adam will also support Ubuntu and Chrome. I hope that means at least driver support, and hopefully there'll be a dedicated Ubuntu devel team as well.

I'm really, really, really looking forward to this device. Even if it does have a capacitive screen.

When this device goes for sale, if it's cheaper than $500, I'm ordering it that minute. If it's more than $500, I may have to look at my bank account and do some figuring, and of course I'd want to check out the reviews, but I'd still probably buy it. Just not that exact minute.

Hope it comes out soon,



  1. I think the Gigabytes are resistive. They have higher resolution screens but the battery life isn't so good. Also, if you don't like brown you're out of luck with them. And they're pretty expensive.

    I think I've decided on the T91MT actually. I like the smaller size, the onboard graphics chip is supposed to be better with HD and Flash video. The upcoming Pixel Qi kits were making me lean towards the T101MT, but I think I'm going to get a T91MT, and instead of buying a kit, maybe in a few months I'll have $350 scraped together for a Notion Ink Adam, if the reviews are good. I just can't get over 140 hours battery life in reflective mode!

    In addition to Chrome, the Adam is also supposed to support Ubuntu Netbook Remix, which I could live with. But if I could put Ubuntu on it, surely I could put XP or Win7 on it too....

    One problem with the T101MT, it's probably going to have Windows 7 Starter (the Amazon page doesn't specify), which supports a touch screen, but not multi-touch. It's another $80 to upgrade to Win7 Home Premium which supports multi-touch. That's a new pitfall to look out for with these netvertibles. The Lenovo S10-3t (which I agree is ugly) is the same way, and needs an $80 upgrade to use multi-touch. It does have a 10 hour battery though, that's nothing to sneeze at.

    If I had unlimited resources though, I'd get the Viliv S10 Blade. Resistive, sleek, and beautiful. It has a USB mini port so you can plug it into your desktop and it shows up as an external hard drive to make file transfers easier. I think they are also claiming 10 hours battery life. I didn't hear about the non-upgradeable RAM but I'd bet that's just for the lowest-end model. Asus used to solder RAM onto their cheapest netbooks. Either way that's dissapointing.

  2. Oh right, I knew about the higher resolution but idk where I read that they'd be capacitive. Oh well.
    Really? I have heard good things about the T91. I don't know if the graphics is actually in the long run better or if its just the current drivers out support it the best. Isn't it that Flash supports the GMA500 but not the GMA3150 yet? Would you want to have to carry around two devices? If a turning the Adam's screen to reflective turns it from 14 hours to 140 hours (or something close to that) I wonder what it would do to a device like the T101MT? I don't know how many watts the back lights on LCD's take but I wouldn't think it would be that much that it goes to 140 hours, Notion Ink must have something else special allowing for that huge gain, maybe the Tegra 2 chip can take advantage of it more.
    I haven't even considered the problem of the version on Windows on it. I got a Windows 7 license at a student discount for $29.99. So for me thats not a problem.
    Its not just the low-end model. The problem is that there simply isn't room for a full size RAM chip. If you look at the bottom of the S10 you'll see that a majority of it is the battery. Like maybe 2/3 or more of the bottom is the battery. And so then of the part thats left about half is the battery and half is the actual computing parts. Its a ridiculously small compartment for all the components. I guess its what they decided to do to get that small, light form factor. Another thing I don't like about the Viliv is that while the bottom portion is matte, the top is glossy.. Who likes glossy computers?