Although it has been around for at least 10 years, pen computing is associated with hit-and-miss handwriting recognition systems or devices that insist you write in a certain way. So while new tablet PCs are only the latest generation of a good idea, the Compaq PC Tablet delivers the concept so well it feels like a revolution.
When I opened the box and found an undersize PC - an A4 screen attached to a keyboard - I was a little disappointed. Then I found the release catch on the back of the screen and wondered why I would ever need the keyboard. The reason, of course, is that I can type more efficiently than I can write, but I never touched the Compaq PC Tablet's keyboard.
The tablet idea has matured and Compaq's implementation didn't disappoint in any respect except one we always complain about when we get used to something - it wasn't quick enough. Familiarity with technology breeds high expectations and I found turning pages of e-books a lot slower than flicking a real page with a thumb. But this is a minor quibble alongside the Compaq's ease of use and range of facilities.
It has all the usual ports and connectors to link to any device or network and has wireless built in. It is supplied with Windows XP Tablet Edition and all applications work just as they would on any other machine. In addition, there is a good tutorial to get you up and running quickly, and Windows Journal that acts as a jotter for making quick notes and diagrams.
The handwriting recognition works better than any other I have tried and the machine also has speech input and built-in voice-recognition software, which I didn't get to try. The screen is also smart and automatically re-orientates itself when it is plugged back into the keyboard.
Suffice to say it was so good I didn't want to send it back.
Compaq Tablet PC
TM5800 processor (995Mhz), 10.4in TFT screen, 256Mb memory, 27Gb hard disk Price: from pound;1,199
Fitness for purpose ****
Ease of use ****
Value for money ****