After CES, the web started buzzing about slates and tablet PCs, with reactions ranging anywhere from ho-hum, to great anticipation about what’s next to come. In the meantime, people everywhere are already using Tablet PCs, and HP has had them for years, as CNET points out: http://ces.cnet.com/8301-31045_1-10423946-269.html?tag=mncol;txt .
One question that has come up - how are real people using them?
My favorite Christmas present this year was my HP TouchSmart tx2. We’re a tech-loving family and the new TouchSmart PCs had caught my eye. I debated over whether I had room in the kitchen for a desktop PC and a monitor. I hadn’t considered a tablet, but I wanted a computer that was easy to access and I was intrigued by the touch technology and the software. I have a laptop for work, but I wanted my own system instead of using my kids’ computers for my personal stuff. The Tablet has been a great answer and the TouchSmart aspect has been more useful than I expected. (Techie husband scores big points for choosing the tablet). Here are just a few things that I’ve enjoyed about it:
Prying my tablet out of the hands of my kids was the first challenge. This is MOM’s computer, remember? Besides the normal PC or laptop games, the kids really enjoy the webcam software. It’s really easy for them to find, it’s in a group of apps that are loaded as icons. They spent hours using the distortion features and the tools to capture themselves on camera via video and snapshots, creating very bizarre pictures that they absolutely love. They surfed the web and used the tablet a lot like they would a PC. We played Tug of Words, where we touched the screen to form words from tiles – switching between using the screen and using the keyboard. We used the touchscreen to flip through pictures that I had transferred over from another PC.
TouchSmart technology makes things easier all around. As I type this blog post, I can jump around my document by just touching where I want to go. The other very cool thing that happens when you touch the screen is you see a tab appear off to the side. Touch and flip the tab and you can pull out a handwriting recognition space or screen-based keyboard. This is especially helpful when you are working in the flat tablet position. The other input device is a stylus that fits into the side of the tablet. The handwriting recognition is excellent, and the stylus gives you a higher level of precision. For a lot of writing, I prefer the stylus or the physical keyboard.
Once I distracted the kids and got my computer back, I used the same apps screen to go to Hulu. One of the accessories techie hubbie ordered (more bonus points here) was the notebook stand, so I flipped the screen around to lie it flat, tablet-style, and set it in the stand. Now it looks almost like a flat screen TV. Nice. I made dinner while I watched Glee. When the kids came in the room, I could pause the show to pay attention to them, and start the program again by touching the screen. As a mom, the opportunities to just enjoy a show don’t come along very often, unless you like iCarly.
Oops, I was supposed to be talking about productivity – multitasking while making dinner doesn’t really count.
One thing I’ve learned after 12 years and counting as a working parent is that you have to use momentum in your favor. For example, (I learned this tip from a friend whose husband is a dentist), we have toothbrushes and toothpaste in a kitchen drawer, because after breakfast on a school day, we have a lot of momentum going in getting the kids off to school. The last thing you want is for the kids to head back upstairs when they’re so close to being ready to leave the house! Too many tempting distractions. The PC in the kitchen works for me on the same principle. As the kids are eating breakfast, I can do a quick check of the school lunch menu online and check the weather, without leaving the room.
I really like using my tablet for cooking. Unfortunately the tx2 didn’t come with HP’s Recipe Box software (hello? A little help here…), but it doesn’t matter – there are countless opportunities to find and use an online recipe. While some folks are apparently trying to use their iPhone for this, my Tablet is a much better solution, with the larger screen and no issues of the screen blanking out mid-recipe. Again, combine it with the stand, and you’ve got a really readable recipe. The monitor is the perfect size, bigger than a netbook, but smaller than a laptop. Touch the screen to scroll if needed. For those times when I wanted to print the recipe instead, the tx2 found my network home printer in the setup easier than any other machine I’ve had. And, if you use Weight Watchers online, having your PC in the kitchen gives you easy access to their recipes and the program where you track your points to record what you’ve eaten.
If you really want to be productive, you need a good mashup. HP has software called Smart Web Printing, which anyone can download free from HP’s website. http://www.hp.com/global/us/en/consumer/digital_photography/free/software/smart-web-printing.html
You don’t a tablet or a TouchSmart to use it, it’s PC software that allows you to clip anything from the web and print or paste just that section into someplace else. In my next post I’ll walk through an example of how you can combine the tablet PC, HP’s software, third party software and your smartphone, to get dinner on the table.
It goes without saying that one of the best things about a tablet is the portability. It’s my kitchen PC, but so much more.
I love the way the TouchSmart tablet looks, with the dark silver/gray/swirly/circle designs, and the silver/black stand, it blends in well with the kitchen and has a really modern feel.
Are you a working parent? How are you using your TouchSmart? I’d also love to hear from people who bought the model after mine, the tm2.
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