One big reason why computers are still relegated to labs and not part and parcel of a teacher's everyday classroom instruction: They're bulky. Even laptops can get in the way. Tablet PCs solve that design flaw. They are mobile computers that teachers and students can truly integrate with a stylus for input on a touch screen. What some people call "convertible" or "hybrid" versions also have a keyboard, for maximum flexibility of input—type on the keyboard, or "write" on the screen (after swiveling the screen around the keyboard and laying it flat)—take notes, draw, run programs, all without using a keyboard. Read what other benefits educators around the country have discovered about using tablets.
A note about prices quoted in this product guide—as with all PCs, prices depend on options chosen. We have listed the entry price for each model on the date this product review was written. Please check with the manufacturer for the latest prices; in some cases your state may have negotiated special pricing through a state contract.
HOW TO INCREASE BATTERY LIFE
- Adjust the screen brightness. Dimmer screen means longer battery life.
- Turn off WiFi when not in use. A wifi system can be constantly looking for a network, using power.
- Use the power conservation settings of your tablet/laptop. This will adjust a number of settings to increase battery life.
- Save less frequently each save spins the hard drive, using power.
- Defragment your hard drive. A fragmented hard drive requires more drive access, and therefore more power use.
- Add RAM (memory) to your system. With additional RAM, less hard drive access will be needed by your applications.
- Minimize multitasking—for example, close your email program while you work on that spreadsheet. If not, the email program will be periodically checking for email, using more power.
The Gateway E-295C (www.gateway.com; starts at $1,539) has a 14" WXGA TFT Active Matrix Color Display and weighs in at 7 pounds. It runs Windows Vista Business, has integrated WiFi, and a battery life of up to 10.6 hours (depending on choice of battery). James Sims, IT Support Specialist with Colorado Elpaso County School District 8, says "the one thing that sets it apart from other tablets is screen size. It is still one of the largest and easiest to read in the industry."
The Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (www.lenovo.com; starts at $1,171) is another lightweight (3.5 pounds), boasting a battery life of more than 10 hours (depending on specific model selected). The display is a 12.1" WXGA screen, and the X200 runs the Windows Vista Business OS. WiFi is built in, and broadband is optional. In her experience, Jessica Sepke (St. Mary's School, Raleigh, NC), says "They hold up very well in the brutal environment of a boarding school where students change locations constantly through the day.
The DELL Latitude XT (www.dell.com; starts at $2,351) is a 3.5 pound convertible tablet PC with a 12.1" LED WXGA screen. This slim (only 1" thick) tablet has an expected battery life of 9.5 hours. It runs under either Windows Vista or XP 2005 tablet edition, and comes with built-in mobile broadband and WiFi. Bret Foster, CIO of the Anderson County Schools, KY, says "the Latitude XT assists a student with severe cerebral palsy. The student uses her hand to interact with software to communicate her ideas."
The Toshiba Portege M700 (http://explore.toshiba.com/laptops/portege/M700, starts at $1,599) has a 12.1" WXGA screen, weighs 4.6 pounds, and sports an optical drive as well as a built-in Webcam and microphone. It runs the Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005 OS, and includes WiFi capability. Battery life ranges from about 3-5 hours. Mike Welty, director of technology at Brophy College Preparatory School, AZ, likes that the screen is touch sensitive. "With the touch sensitivity, students can use the computer in all its capacities even without the stylus."
The Fujitsu LifeBook U810 (http://www.shopfujitsu.com/; starts at $999) is the real lightweight of the group, weighing in at 1.56 pounds. Screen size is only 5.6" (WSVGA), it runs the Windows Vista Home Premium OS, and battery life is rated at 5.5 hours. WiFi is included, and broadband is optional. Maryann Molinari, a 4th/5thgrade science teacher at PS 6 in Staten Island, NY, says, "The small size and light weight is perfect for students because it's like using a Game Boy instead of a computer.
The HP EliteBook 2730p (www.hp.com, starts at $1,670) weighs 3.7 pounds and runs the Windows Vista Business OS. It has a 12.1-inch WXGA screen and includes WiFi; battery life can be extended up to about 12 hours with the optional battery accessory. Kenneth Collura, Director of Communication and Instructional Technologies for the Office of Catholic Schools/Department of Education in Columbus, OH, likes how teachers and students can "view notes complete with arrows, highlights, and even doodles."