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Looking for an inexpensive tablet to use as a portable sketchpad

Discussion in 'What Tablet PC Should I Buy?' started by Billy_Oneironaut, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. Billy_Oneironaut

    Billy_Oneironaut Pen Pal - Newbie

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    General Questions.

    1. What is your budget?
    $250

    2. Would you consider purchasing used/refurbished?
    Yes

    3. Do you prefer a Slate, Convertible or Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC)?
    No preferences

    4. What size Tablet PC would you prefer?

    Small and light ~ 5" to 8.9"
    Compact ~ 10"
    Mainstream ~ 12.1"
    Large ~ 13.3"
    Compact or Mainstream

    5. Which country do you intent to purchase from?
    Canada

    6. Do you have any preferences to brand loyalty or dislikes?
    I was impressed by the build quality of my Motion Computing LE1600

    7. How many hours battery life do you require?
    3+ hours

    8. What will be the primary usage scenario of this tablet? (Email/Web Surfing/Drawing/Word Processing/Entertainment/Notetaking etc)
    Drawing

    9. Do you have an OS preference?
    I'm fine with XP, Linux Mint & Win 7

    10. What software and tasks do you intend to run? (Microsoft Office or other Word Processing Suite/Photoshop/3D Studio Max/Autocad etc)
    Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro, Illustrator

    10. Do you intend on playing Games? If so please list.
    No.


    Screen Specifics

    1. What resolution do you prefer?

    XGA - 1024x768 ~ large and easy to read text and graphic icons but you fit less on the screen.
    SXGA - 1400x1050 ~ Small text and graphic icons which require good vision but the gain is a much larger screen. (no longer available new, must look for used or refurbished machines)
    WXGA - 1280x768 ~ has a wider usable area than XGA, ideal for viewing Spreadsheets and other programs that require desktop space. The mainly used resolution for new tablet PCs since 2008.

    No preference.

    2. Do you require the screen to be readable in sunlight?
    See the above linked FAQ for guidance
    I would very much like to be able to view the tablet in direct sunlight, but it's not a dealbreaker.


    3. Do you prefer your display to be glossy or matte?
    doesn't matter

    4. Do you require Touch? (without pressure sensitivity) (Which one: resistive or capacitive)
    See the above linked FAQ for guidance
    Nope.


    5. Do you require a Pen? (with pressure sensitivity) (Which one: Wacom or N-Trig)
    See the above linked FAQ for guidance
    Yes, and Wacom.

    Component Specifics

    1. What size Hard Drive and Memory do you require?
    Anything over 32GB and 1GB RAM

    2. Do you require an Optical (CD/DVD) Drive to be built in?
    No

    3. Do you require ability to add a second Battery or Hard Drive (Modular Bay technology)?
    No, but if I can carry an extra battery in my laptop bag it would be desired.

    Misc
    1. Other non specific items ~ please add other items you require not covered above?
    I already have an LE1600 to use at home for detailed digital artwork. I just need another old tablet with better battery life and cheaper options for replacement batteries. The cheapest I've seen the LE1600 battery go for is $80, and I can't even find one on ebay at the moment. I figure if I'm going to drop $80+ on a Motion Computing battery with no guarantees of more than 1.5hrs battery life, I might as well get a similar tablet with more readily available batteries.

    2. Additional requests ~ anything other you wish to take into consideration?
    Anything ultra portable I can carry to the park, on hikes etc. to make quick digital sketches & paintings would be preferred. The ability to go in and out of sleep mode easily while I'm out and about is desired.

    I've already got a couple of Wacom stylus pens that work with the smaller tablets(Bamboo Fun) so if I could find a tablet they'd be compatible with that's a bonus.

    I was leaning towards the Lenovo X60, though from what I've read the screen is difficult to read in direct sunlight. Any opinions on this or comparable tablets like a Fujitsu Lifebook would be much appreciated. :)
  2. Agent 9

    Agent 9 Scribbler - Standard Member

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    There are really no good options out there that have it all, but I think the best option would be to import (buying from ebay probably the best) an ASUS EEE Note and then tweak it a little to suite your uses. It is a small thin device with an e-ink like screen (not backlight) uses the same Wacom tech as your LE1600, and has decent sketching abilities, plus extremely long battery life, it does run a paired down version of Linux though so your choices for programs is limited to what the community can port to it. It should be right around $250 to get one (look into the http://forum.tabletpcreview.com/asus-eee-line/ section for more info on the device, and where to get one)

    There are some other ultra portable devices (like the Fujitsu P1620 I just got in) but they often lack Wacom (or even N-trig for that matter), have not too astounding battery life, and aren't near as thin or light as the EEE Note. There is always the Motion LS800 (basically a shrunk down LE1600, the screen's viewing angles aren't perfect though). You can get a full sized Tablet PC but it will be thicker and heavier than your LE1600 and not be what you are looking for really
  3. bloodycape

    bloodycape Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    If you can spend a little bit more you can find an HTC Flyer or the Sprint variant Evo View(32gb) with a pen for around $300 usd. It comes with N-Trig has a few sketching apps, and suppose to be pretty solid device. Only downside maybe the 7in screen size.
  4. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    My thoughts would be either a Motion Ls800 with the VA Screen, or a Samsung Galaxy Note phone, when Ice Cream Sandwhich comes out. They're both Wacom, and they both are small and relatively lightweight. They both seem to get pretty good battery life too.

    The ls800 is clearly the bigger of the two. Its got programmable buttons, which is nice, and it runs Windows. If you put the extended side battery on it, it doesn't make it thicker, but instead increases the footprint a bit. I've read of people easily getting 5 hours on it. Issues? It has not fan and can heat up? Second issue? The VA screen isn't as good as the le1600, but it's still supposed to be pretty good. I mean, amateur pilots were using the ls800 for a long time in the ****pits, so I think it can handle indirect light pretty good if you're doing black and white sketches. I think color'd be a issue, but otherwise, it's an option. And you can easily get them on ebay for 200$ or less. Batteries seem cheaper than the le1600 as well.

    The Samsung is more expensive- 300$ with a contract, but it clearly has a better screen. It's Android only though. Right now, I'd wait, as there's an ICS update coming, and that should dramatically improve it's pen functionality. I wouldn't use it as my main drawing tool, but as a digital sketchpad, I think it'd be great. Lots of Android apps can save in pds now, so you can upload to the cloud via something like Dropbox and draw on your 1600 later with the same file. It's the smaller of the two by a ways. That's either a benefit or a hindrance, depending on your opinion.

    Those are my guesses. I think either would be a good choice. Depends more on your general needs. One of the benefits, IMO, of the Samsung Note phone is that you'd always have it with you-- a very important thing for an on the go sketchpad. The ls800 is a bit bigger though, and can run Windows. A very important thing as well.
  5. Hattori Hanzo

    Hattori Hanzo Scribbler - Standard Member

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    If you need something that runs Windows, $250 is little money.
    Maybe an old T4210 or TC4400 can be found for about $200 and with the rest you could get a new battery and a bit more RAM. Or just a new battery and instead tailor some linux to little RAM usage.

    Up the ante a bit and you could either upgrade something like the TC a bit more or get something newer.

    Or go, as proposed, the non Windows route.
  6. Shogmaster

    Shogmaster Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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  7. bloodycape

    bloodycape Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    That Toshiba looks like a pretty solid deal, just upgrade the ram to 2gb(more if possible) and one should be pretty set. I would second it.
  8. Hattori Hanzo

    Hattori Hanzo Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Looks solid indeed. Add a new battery and new RAM, if you want a general speed bump also a new 7200rpm HDD, and you got something that does its job.

    Thirded.
  9. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    It was unclear what the Toshiba offered that was particularly portable or good outdoors though. The poster seemed happy with his 1600, so I don't think it's power that ls the issue, but rather battery life, portability, and outdoor viewability. OP, come on back and let us know better what you're looking for.
  10. Shogmaster

    Shogmaster Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I agree that OP should rethink his wish list.

    Having said that, 1600 IIRC is a Pentium M machine, which is to me is just barely usable these days, so maybe it's for the best that he gets something more modern to see how that feels.
  11. Billy_Oneironaut

    Billy_Oneironaut Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I didn't mean to give the impression that the LE1600 was too bulky for me, only that I'd like another tablet with cheaper options for replacement batteries. Outdoor viewing is probably a pipe dream with my budget unless I go with a much smaller device.

    The Samsung Note & Asus Ea800 are interesting options I haven't even considered. The Toshiba M400 was exactly what I had in mind though.

    Right now I have to weigh my options between a M400 & the Asus Ea800 Note. In terms of quality of digital art the Windows tablet wins hands down, especially when I see video of the line quality the Asus Note provides. Still, 10+ hours of battery life, ultra portability & better visibility in sunlight is pretty attractive despite the limitations.

    I've got no qualms in using 7 year old tablets provided I can push it to at least 1gb of RAM & I can squeeze 3hrs of battery life from it. From what I remember, when I had Linux Mint on the Le1600 it fully recognized the pressure sensitivity when I ran programs like Gimp (correct me if I'm wrong).

    Thanks so much for the suggestions. You guys are awesome.

    Oh, and the day after I get excited about working outside in the sun, it snows. Go figure...
  12. bloodycape

    bloodycape Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Another suggestion I would make is take a look at the Lenovo Thinkpad tablet. I just got one today and it could be what you are maybe looking for. At least for me its not that large, pen works fairly nicely, with a decent IPS display, and acceptable software options(at least for me).
  13. Hattori Hanzo

    Hattori Hanzo Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Outdoor viewability is not easy to get, indeed.
    At least for the TC4400 I know that there's been an Enhanced Outdoor Viewable display that's quite usable if you don't angle it to directly display the sun's own reflection. I have no idea what you pay more for used machines that come with it, for Lenovos there seems to be a big premium if they feature the super bright outdoor screens. Could be an option, though...

    For battery prices a quick search on ebay.com gives me lots of option for about 30 bucks with shipping and accepted returns.
    (For about 55 you even get the ultra fat second battery that's basically unavailable here... *mumble*)

    For the TC4400 and displays there's a warning, though: There have been configurations without wide viewing angle displays. Those are total and utter crap, especially if you come from an LE1600. They're like a flat: Rare, but if you get one you start cursing.

    But as that isn't necessary, that Toshiba from Shoq looks nice indeed.
  14. Billy_Oneironaut

    Billy_Oneironaut Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I think I've settled on an HTC Flyer, even though it's not Wacom or Windows.

    I know nothing about Android though, would Honeycomb or Gingerbread make a difference as far as drawing apps go? Does the Sketchbook app work well with the stylus?

    Going to test one out at a store when I get a chance. Thanks guys!
  15. Billy_Oneironaut

    Billy_Oneironaut Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Also I'm having no luck finding an HTC Flyer that comes with a stylus. I was hoping to use a different N-Trig pen if I can't get the HTC stylus bundled.

    My web search yielded encouraging results, and apparently certain N-Trig pens will 'work' with the HTC Flyer, but I need to know for sure if they will give me the same quality of line & pressure sensitivity as the Flyer stylus.

    Bloodycape, have you ever used a different stylus with the Flyer?
  16. bloodycape

    bloodycape Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I don't have a Flyer, but was deciding between it and the Thinkpad. I saw on eBay user who was selling his Evo View(Flyer in black and Sprint branded) with a pen from one of the N-Trig enabled Fujitsu tablets. Said it works pretty well, and it was half the cost of the HTC pen. As for Honeycomb vs Gingerbread, the Flyer/Evo View both had a software update that gave if Honeycomb. From what I understand Honeycomb actually allows you to use the pen in more applications, but that just means it works like those capacitive stylus in those apps. So far in my one day of usage the there are some interesting apps out there, Adobe has a few apps for 10 bucks each, and there is a also an app or two from Autodesk. HTC includes a pen enabled version of Evernote, if I am not mistaken, and Lenovo has a journal app that can turn your writing into text.

    Personally, the most of the reason why I went with the Thinkpad was for the full size SD card slot and the ability USB host, which means I can hook my camera up directly and transfer the images to the tablet. That and fact I already have an HTC phone and wanted change it up a bit, and its a Thinkpad. The size and weight are pretty good, though I kind of wish it was a bit smaller at like 9.4in(like the S tablet).

    BTW, you might have better luck with the HTC Evo View as for a while Sprint was bundling the pen with it, plus the fact it seems like the 32gb variant is going for the same price as 16gb Flyer.

    Edit: I just remembered certain apps like Photoshop Touch will not work on the Flyer(at least without hacking it), because it requires a min resolution of 1280x800, which most 7in tablets don't meet.
  17. Billy_Oneironaut

    Billy_Oneironaut Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I've narrowed my search(or maybe widened) down to a lightly used Thinkpad X60t and a well cared for Fujitsu T4220.

    -The Fujitsu T4220 is $150 more ($300) and comes with 2gb RAM & an 80gb hd, 2.2ghz. I contacted the seller & asked if the DVD drive it comes with can be removed. He says he isn't sure; are there T4220 models with permanent DVD drives? I thought they were all modular & can be ejected.
    -The $150 X60 has 1gb RAM, 1.66ghz and has an 80gb hd as well.

    I have a few sticks of 2g ddr2 laptop RAM kicking around so RAM isn't an issue. My preference lies in sticking with my budget & getting a cheap tablet.

    The question for you guys though, is would there be anything about the x60 that would make me want to spend the extra $150 for the Lifebook? Every search I've done on the X60 tablet has given me a lot of reservations about picking one up. Nobody will say it's terrible, but at the same time not one person praised it. It seems to run very hot, too hot to use as a digital sketchbook in my lap mid-summer? How common are the hinge & screen problems? How is the wifi?

    ***bonus question: if I install Linux with a virtual Windows OS, does the pressure sensitivity work in virtual Windows? Or is it the same as trying to get a wacom tablet recognized(no luck)?***

    Thanks again.
  18. Billy_Oneironaut

    Billy_Oneironaut Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Also wondering about adding an SSD later down the road...

    Would I be able to put a 2.5" SSD in the modular bay of the Fujitsu T4220? Would adding this in addition to the 80gb 5400rpm main drive increase the speed?

    Would replacing the X60t HDD with a SSD drastically improve performance?
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