Size matters

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those “if you’re ready the moment is right” commercials. Rather it has to do with the optimum size of a Tablet PC. Of course there’s no correct answer. It depends on your planned usage. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts. Remember, they are just my musings, nothing scientific, based on my planned usage, so YMMV.

As a preamble, when I refer to size and weight, I am not just focusing on having to carry the device around, as would be the case with a laptop. Rather, I am also focusing on holding the device in your hand while writing on it or otherwise using it in slate mode. Some devices may be too heavy or too large to comfortably hold.

5″ – There are a few devices in this range, such as the OQO model 02, the Fujitsu U810, and the Sony UX series, as well as my wife’s Windows Mobile HTC Advantage. The obvious advantage is portability. Some are even pocketable, at least in jacket pockets. Some disadvantages are likewise obvious; the small screen may be hard to read and typing on the small keyboard may be difficult for all but short text or email messages. Additionally, performance may be a bit on the anemic size due to processor and RAM limitations. My take is these are good companion devices, if your eyesight is good enough for the small screen. Though if you’re using it as a companion device, I’m not convinced why you should use an XP or Vista device as opposed to a Windows Mobile device like the HTC Advantage? The latter will have snappier performance (due to the “lighter” OS) and better screen display (Windows Mobile is designed for small screens, Vista and XP are not), and equivalents like Pocket Word, Excel and Outlook for most of your commonly-used Windows applications.

7″ – Many UMPCs are in this range. I’m not convinced about this size. It’s too big for your pocket, and the 8+” devices discussed next are almost as portable and offer a larger screen and keyboard and other extra features. The advantage of the UMPCs is a comparitvely lower price.

8+” – My LS 800 and the Fujitsu P1620 are in this class, as is the rumored HP 2133. The P1620 has a PC Card slot. This is useful for a data card for high speed access to the Internet. I like this size for portability. But you do pay a price premium for the compact size. Also, when you’re writing, the page size is significantly smaller than the standard 8.5″ x 11″. I’ve found it OK for short notes, but difficult for a lot of writing, such as taking notes during a long meeting.

10+” – Not too many devices at this size. I’ve never played with a 10+” device so I’m not sure if this is a good size or, like the 7″, stuck in between better sizes.

12″ – Lots of devices at this size, both slate and convertible. The comparative disadvantages are the obvious ones of size and weight. In return, the screen size is quite similar to the standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper size, which makes for an excellent writing experience. These devices also are very full featured, with powerful processors, lots of RAM, PC slots, etc. These devices likely will be the first to incorporate the dual touch and active digitizer technologies like N-Trig. 

> 12″ – Not much here. With 13″ screens and up, size and weight become major factors.

My conclusion is that the best sizes, for me anyway, are 8+” and 12″. Like choices in life, the choice between these two sizes involves trade-offs. I am not the only geek vacillating between these two sizes. jkOnTheRun has written on how he plans to go back and forth between his 12″ HP 2710 and the soon-to-arrive Fujitsu P1620. Stay tuned on my decision. In the meantime, comments?