A student's review of the Cx210x

Discussion in 'Acer (Gateway)' started by Jimbo, Jul 27, 2007.

  1. RoyalBean

    RoyalBean Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I have been using my cx210x for almost 2 months for school now. I am a pharmacy student, and use it for taking notes in all my classes.

    I think academia is one of the few places where a tablet PC is more than just a rarely used novelty, I decided to get one because I am extremely unorganized, and end up with one big binder full of notes, handouts, slides, assignments from all my different classes. The tablet PC allows me to have it all in one spot.

    Here are the stats of my rig: 2 ghz, 2 gb, dvd burner, 8 cell battery, dedicated 64 mb graphics card.

    First I will explain how I use my computer: When I am taking notes, I use MS OneNote. This allows me to put everything in one place. In some of my classes, it is expected that you have the slides printed out before hand, so instead of printing them, I simply have the PDF open during the class. As I am taking notes by hand, I use the screen clipping function to cut out slides or images from slides that are useful or just too complicated to draw or write. By doing this my class notes are even more useful, since I don't have to search for the slide the professor was talking about as I was taking the notes, all of the relevant images are right in my notes. THis is also better than printing out all the slides and just taking notes on them because not all slides are all that important, so my notes are very neat and concise with no wasted space. And personally, I learn almost absolutely nothing from powerpoint lectures, where you just take notes on slides, so I write as much out by hand as I can. The tablet allows me to do this, but still insert a slide or image when I really need to. (On a side note, I think powerpoint absolutely terrible, it is more of a detriment than a tool, and I have yet to see a professor use it in a way that would be better than just using the chalk or whiteboard, and I’ve been going to school for 5 years. In my opinion, if you use powerpoint, you are not a good teacher. Period. But everybody uses it now, so I guess I have to find a way to make it work for me, which brings me back to my review….) For the classes I have that are not too note intensive, like non-science based classes, I simply open up the PDF of the slides or handout and the few notes I have I just write directly on the PDF.

    Getting to the Hardware:

    My notes are a mix of words, symbols, graphs and equations, so taking notes on a regular laptop wouldn't work. The stylus has a nice pen and paper feel, although its not perfect. The pen works well with the width set at about .3 mm to .5 mm. Using a bigger size than that and it feels like you are using a marker. The digitizer and the pen are good, but not great, but definitely adequate. For example, when you hover above the screen, the pointer is always vibrating like crazy, just moving back and forth like one pixel. If you write very slow, and use an extremely thin pen, you will notice that your letters are not made up of nice smooth lines, but little tiny zigzags that are so close together they look like smooth lines. On my computer, I have noticed that the digitizer seems to very a little bit across the screen. For example, if you were to start at the top of the screen, and write at the exact speed and exact pressure all the way to the bottom of the screen (and had perfect penmanship), you would expect a very uniform looking page. However, certain spots on the screen seem more sensitive, so they will look like you were pushing down harder, and certain spots of the screen, the writing gets thinner. Also, around the edges, like in the upper corner, the pointer doesn't seem to move smoothly with the pen. This makes hitting that little X with the pen difficult to impossible sometimes. Another litlle quirk i noticed, is that if you used the computer in landscape mode, with the batter bump furher away from you than the latch end, when you get to the last line, and are writing right by the magnetic latches, there is a lot of interference from the latches. If you tried to draw a straight line across the bottom of the screen, you couldn't. There would be two curves in the line by the two latches.

    Pen Calibration:

    I think the pen calibration actually kinda sucks. It is supposed to compensate for the tilt of the pen, but you have to play with it a long time before you figure out what its trying to do. You are supposed to click on the four corners of the screen, but to get the pen accurate, I had to tilt it in a way that was not ergonomic. After a series of trial and error, I finally got a great calibration. Maybe its my digitizer or pen or something, I don't know. Overall, I had hoped the pointer would track the pen better than it does.

    Gaming

    Compared to the average notebook, you could even consider it a "gaming notebook." Its not one of those that are as fast as the fastest desktop oviously, but I use it for playing Civ 4 a lot (and i mean a lot), with the graphics maxed. The game runs very fast on here. If there are any civ players reading this, you know how that game bogs down toward then end. On my 2.4 hz P4 w/256 mb graphics, the turns toward the end of the game took like 3 to 5 minutes each, just waiting for the computer to make its turn. On this machine, even in the modern era, when you are moving like a hundred units a turn, the game still runs fast, and there is very little "waiting for the computer" to make its turn. The only other game I play is UT2004, which runs maxed out on here. I have played GTA San Andreas and Half-life 2 breifly on here. They ran very well, and I was able to have the graphics slightly higer than on my 2.4 ghz 1 gb ram desktop.

    The Design.

    Because this is a computer that tries to be everything: a desktop replacement and a portable tablet pc at the same time; it is somewhat heavy. I have just the 8 cell battery, which has the "Battery Bump" toward the back of the machine. Some times I love this bump, and sometimes I think it gets in the way. In general, its actually a great thing. One underappreciated aspect of it is how it actually save on heat and battery life. By keeping the laptop propped up a little at an angle, the heat dissipates SIGNIFICANTLY faster than other laptops. This is really a factor when it is on a desk, in a classroom. Because of this, the fan almost never comes on, and because of that, the battery lasts longer, and it doens't make a noise at all. THe huge oversize battery also allows me to go to all of my classes w/o having to take my power supply. This totally makes up for the extra weight, not having to deal with lugging that around. IF you put it on power saving mode, it goes well over three hours. Since I never have more than three classes in a row, I never need to bring my plug along. The only bad thing about the battery (becides the weight), is that it digs into your thighs after a while if you are using it on your lap. The hinge is sturdier than one would expect. The screen is not any more wobbly than if it had two hinges. The magnetic latches work great, and i think that it is great that they use the the same latches when the cover is down and when it is turned around in tablet mode. I am not crazy about widescreens in general, and on this computer I don’t think it makes much sense. One would think it would be great, since you would use it in portrait mode, so it more resembled a real tablet. However, you can’t do this well because of the battery bump, if you did you would be writing at a slant. It feels best taking notes with the battery bump away from you, so the tablet is slanting down toward you. This does help a lot with the viewing angle, which isn’t that great. After some of my longer lectures, my back feels a little sore from being hunched over the computer looking down at a 90 degree angle. The Viewing angle is another reason why its hard to use it in portrait mode as a tablet. When it is in portrait mode and sitting on a desk, you simply cannot see the top of the screen because it is so far away from you and the viewing angle isn’t great. In this respect, it is a good thing this is widescreen, because if the screen had more vertical pixels, the same thing would happen while using it in landscape mode, you wouldn’t be able to see the part of the screen furthest away from you unless you were sitting in a very uncomfortable position, hovering directly over the screen.

    Overall, I think this may be one of the best options for a student. As I have said, I can’t think of any better use for a tablet than using it for school. It does a lot more than I expected. I never dreamed I would be able to give up my desktop and use this as a desktop replacement. It’s a great desktop replacement, a great laptop, and a good tablet.

    The biggest positives that stick out are:
    -Battery life is great
    -Ultimate all-in-one machine, no need to compromise speed for tablet function
    -Can organize virtually all school work into concise, neat looking documents
    -Better than average wi-fi antenna
    -Its hot, but its noticeably cooler than previous laptops I have used
    -Battery options, you could have 6 , 8, 14, or even 18 cells by using the modular bay
    -You can turn the LED lights off (this is actually very useful, for one thing, the little LED’s, especially the power button, generate heat, and it also saves power I suppose)
    - IT just looks futuristic and you feel like a big shot using it


    This that need to be worked out for future version:
    -The microphone could be much better. Audio recording of lectures is very easy w/one note, but the microphone just isn’t good enough to record lectures well
    -Make the pen and pointer track better. I really wish it were more exact. I want the pointer to be directly below the pen tip, exactly, no matter what.
    -On the screen, there is more than 1 inch all the way around of plastic, that could be screen space. I think some of this has to do with the glass. Unlike other laptops this screen needs a little more support, since there is a whole lot going on (a hard glass screen, not a soft screen). I want the screen to look like those newer apples where the actual lcd screen is like a quarter of an inch from the edge of the monitor.
     
  2. Barry J. Doyle

    Barry J. Doyle Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    "...this is a computer that tries to be everything"

    Very true. GREAT job on your review! I also love your commentary about what needs to be worked out for the future version.
     
  3. BornLoser

    BornLoser Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Indeed...being a student myself, I find this review very helpful and insightful. Thanks for submitting.

    I looked at that particular model of tablet for a long time and almost jumped on it, but ended up passing due to the lack of Wacom support.

    Speaking of support, have you needed tech support for anything? If so, did you find them helpful?
     
  4. Anonymouse

    Anonymouse A nondescript mouse

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    This is basically the conclusion I've come to about this model. All the pros are really good, but unfortunately the lack of Wacom support (probably somewhat of a reason for the pen tracking issues you reported, however Wacom isn't perfect either). That and the issues I've reported before about lack of Finepoint and ATI support when using Linux (something I intend to do...or at least try)
     
  5. BornLoser

    BornLoser Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Amen...it's things like no linux support that make me wonder what Gateway was thinking when they decided to go with this Finepoint thing. It seems to me that offering a product that supports less of the population's needs (pressure sensitivity, Linux support, etc.) is a terrible business move.

    Then again, I'm not a Gateway exec, and I'm sure there are some good benefits from the business/profit end of Finepoint that I as a consumer can't and don't care to see.

    Maybe Gateway will wise up sooner or later and jump back on the Wacom bandwagon so I can stop configuring M7's at the Toshiba website and then not purchasing because I'm afraid of the horrendous customer support....
     
  6. RoyalBean

    RoyalBean Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I haven't needed any technical support, although I have the three year warranty, so chances are I will use that for something. I have gotten many parts replaced under gateway warranties before, such as a 21 inch monitor that was days away from being not covered by warranty, another 15 inch monitor, a CD rom drive, a DVD rom drive (that I later realized wasn't broken, but oh well), a pair of surround speakers after there was a short in one of the wires after more than two years, a keyboard which I spilled soda on and even a printer was replaced back in the day when they had some type of special deal with HP back in like 1995. I think I am one of the few people who is actually impressed by their service, or at least their willingness to replace broken things (of course you sitll have to go through their inane troubleshooting before they replace it "find the plug coming out of the back and follow it to the wall, is it plugged into the wall....)"
     
  7. RoyalBean

    RoyalBean Pen Pal - Newbie

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    There are a few things I forgot to mention about the gateway. First of all, I had looked into that whole Finepoint vs Wacom thing, and almost the only information I can find is just on interent forums, so after seeing so much contradicting information (e.g. whether or not there is pressure sensitivity, where or not there is a battery in the pen, and even some people just claiming you can turn a finepoint digitizer into a wacom simply by installing some magic drivers), I just plain didn't even consider it when I finally made this purchase. It just doesn't seem like a big deal to me.

    I still haven't figured it all out, but I can clear up a few things: There is pressure sensitivity in everything I have used. And sometimes I turn this off, because your writing looks more uniform, and more machine like, and I actually like this. Also, there is a battery in the pen, because it is a transmitter (it has an FCC ID number on it, so it must transmit something, and it can't transmit anything w/o being powered - can it?)

    Another thing I wanted to mention was why I decided to buy this particular model. I, like a lot of people, was deciding between the Cx210x and the M7. Like I said, I didn't put any weight in the WACOM versus finepoint thing. I did put a lot of weight in 2 things. #1 The screen, # 2 The Graphics card. I liked the higher resolution of the Toshiba, but I liked the benchmarks I saw from the Gateway. I like to play Civilization a lot, and I was willing to give up the higher screen resolution for the ability to play Civilization on the go. I must emphasize this civilization addiction. If somebody had a portable machine that was capable of only running Civilization, I would pay like $500 for it. So, the ability to run 3d games better than the Toshiba was a major selling point. (I am sure the Toshiba could still play the games, but from all the reviews I saw, it was clear the gateway had more 3D graphics power.) Also, about the screen, if one would have been non-widescreen, I would have probably bought that one.

    Another selling point was the battery options. I was very surprised to see the toshiba didn't have a Modular battery option.

    The final selling pt was the cost. I bought this like two weeks after the the Toshiba debuted, so a Similarily configured M7 was almost $500 more.

    Other minor factors were:

    The appearance of the Toshiba wasn't very appealing. (Just a personal Thing)

    The Warranties were cheaper for gateway (especially for accidental damage)

    The M7 keyboard is off-center in relation to the touchpad. I used a friend's toshiba (not the tecra, but same keyboard layout) and I couldn't figure why I was having problems typing until he pointed this out.
     
  8. eros_deus1

    eros_deus1 Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Royal Bean:

    Thank you for your excellent and accurate review. I also have a gateway m-285 which I got about three months ago. Many of the things you pointed out are dead on. Because of the low ratings many of the websites (like tabletreviewspot) have been giving this computer, I would like to share my thoughts and very positive experience with everyone.

    Like you, I also play Civ and Rise of Nations, this computer (opted with the ATI video card) is amazing. If you’re thinking about this tablet, don’t be cheap and not get the $100 independent graphics card.

    When I first started thinking about buying this computer, I didn’t pay much attention to the Waycom vs. Finepoint conflicts people keep b!tching about. Honestly, I have used two different friends’ Toshiba tablets. I really thought the tablet / writing experience on them didn’t amount to much. I can say that I use the tablet function on this gateway every day and it works.

    Another thing that’s wonderful is the battery life. I opted for the big battery and get around 6hrs of max battery life (depending on how bright the screen is, if I have Wi-Fi on, and how demanding the apps I’m using are). I can normally go a day without carrying around my power adapter. I use this computer all the time, but when walking around school from class to class, I have the computer in hibernation. The added bulk of the larger battery is worth the extra size and it actually helps create a nice typing angle, or tablet angle when the computer is sitting on a desk or on your lap.

    The overall size is perfect. It is definitely not one of the “mini” computers. But it is also not one of the very bulky “full size” standard power laptops. This is a nice in-between (at least for me): I am comfortable doing graphic work because of the screen size but I am also not afraid to pack it up and carry it anywhere.

    I generally hate dealing with tech support people: I had several questions for gateway (one regarding if the processor is soldered to the motherboard or not (for future upgrades this matters). The sales rep was never able to find this out but the online tech chat people from gateways website were very informative and prompt. (also about a driver issue I created)

    The only problem I have is that it seems like the screen was not sealed all the way and a few dust particles have gotten in-between the screen and LCD. I told gateway and they said they would replace the screen, it was that simple! (They have very good rates for warranty’s and accidental damage protection.) I’m still trying to figure out when class is out so i can send this in (5 day turn around time). The few dust particles really are not a problem but I want it fixed anyway (possible problems with digitizer may result in the future).
    Oh, I am also very very hard on laptops. I use them, everywhere- and backpacks and brief cases get bumped into, dropped, stepped on, thrown in the car… you all know how it works. So far, this thing seems durable enough (besides the dust).

    Again just to reiterate what royalbean has said. The hardware specs combined with the neat features that this tablet laptop has makes it an excellent buy for anyone, especially students. (my mom even got one)

    Well, it was not my intention to do a mini review but that’s what it seems this turned into.
     
  9. nightalon

    nightalon Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I too purchased this TabletPC as a student (@ Yale in New Haven) and am typing on it right now. I configured it with a 2.00 Ghz Core 2 Duo, (Merom) 2 GB of 667 Mhz RAM, and a 100 GB 7200 RPM HD. It is an amazingly fast system for a notebook, especially with the x1400 ATI graphics I chose. I detest Intel's integrated graphics, (poor drivers too, i.e. not just poor gaming performance) so my convertible tablet options came down to the Acer 210, the CX210X, and the Tecra M7. As much as the system functions well, the screen has poor viewing angles, and the Fine Point digitizer is rather inaccurate. (I rarely get good calibrations, and rotating the screen requires a new calibration every time) With a little adjustment it is still possible to take good notes in OneNote, as the misalignment can be visually compensated for with only a couple days' training. However this is not ideal. I get 5-6 hours of battery life using the 12-cell and the modular 6-cell.

    I think in the end I should have chosen the Tecra M7 with the additional 6-cell underside slice battery. The Wacom digitizer and higher resolution would have been worth it, although Core 2 Duo is still unavailable. Also, the NVS 110 doesn't do pixel shaders, and the price is still 500 dollars more when one includes the port replicator for both units.

    Aside from the screen/digitizer, my only other complaint is that the VGA out on the port replicator produces a fuzzy image on my monitor when the power jack is connected. Obviously the power lines in the connector are to close to the VGA pins. Crying shame.

    Buy this unit if you find these shortcomings acceptable. Otherwise, hold on tight for the next round of tablets.

    IBM's X60 looks cool even if it does have integrated graphics. I'm sure Toshiba, HP, and Acer will do refreshes as well. Gateway's models are too new to deserve a refresh, I would imagine. I hope Dell or Apple produces some good tablets in the near future.
     
  10. eros_deus1

    eros_deus1 Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Just a quick note:
    I also had issues using OneNote so I used windows journal instead, it seemed be easier to write in it for some reason. As for the annoying recalibration, just change the screen rotate button so that it only rotates to the Landscape and secondary landscape (portrait isn't ideal to write on anyway) Since I did this, I have not had to recalibrate at all.

    I put a final release version of windows Vista (don’t ask how I got it). The tablet functionality is absolute amazing. (100% better than with XP) All drivers worked right from windows except the memory card reader, which I am updating right now. The only draw back is that the battery life isn’t what it was on XP (probably because the graphic card works harder for the Aero affects). Overall operations are quicker in general but I only get about 4 hours with the 12cell.
     
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