Say hello to the chameleon of tablet computing, the HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1000, which squeezes three computers into one ingenious design. It starts as an extremely small, light, slate-style tablet PC, with a superior stylus compared to those of other tablets we've seen. Snap on the keyboard for a thin-and-light notebook with a superb three-hour battery runtime. Then dock it, and voilà--a desktop unit. Unfortunately, this tablet's 1GHz Transmeta processor can't keep up with those in the faster Pentium III tablets. If you're willing to trade performance for style, however, the TC1000 ranks as a rakish, multipurpose standout in the Tablet PC race.
Editor's note: This page has changed from our original version. Please see the corrections page. As if the sleek look of the Compaq TC1000 Tablet PC weren't cool enough, the silver "lazy Susan" hinge will take your breath away. Located on the back of the tablet's snap-on keyboard, it rotates 180 degrees and lets you fold the screen flat or, with the flick of a latch, separate the two completely; it's a perfect medley of slate and convertible tablet design. You can also snap the Compaq into its accompanying docking station (sold separately), which sports a modular bay for an optical drive, making it nearly as capable as a desktop PC. The pieces fit together well; transitioning from one configuration to another is fun and easy--akin to playing with a child's Transformer toy.
|The tri-mode TC1000.|
Although the hinge is handy, it also feels unbalanced; the screen tends to fall flat when you leave it up, and the latch that should lock the slate and the keyboard together occasionally springs open, making for awkward moments while docking and undocking. We attribute the loose parts to early-production jitters, and we're hoping for more hardware stability in future releases.
At 3.0 pounds and 10.8 by 8.3 by 0.9 inches, the Compaq TC1000 is the lightest and smallest of the Tablet PC bunch. With the keyboard in place, the TC1000 measures 1.2 inches and 4.0 pounds. Unfortunately, Compaq makes some design concessions for this slim size. The keyboard is laden with skimpy 18.2mm keys (with just 2.33mm between them), and the central pointing stick lacks a scroll button. Also, while the 8-ounce AC adapter is admirably small and light, it requires a three-prong outlet to charge the system--disappointing for those who travel abroad often.
The TC1000's keyboard leaves much to be desired.
The dock costs extra but adds some ports.
Finished in sleek silver, the Compaq's docking station lets you tilt the tablet for better viewing and provides a LAN, audio, an external monitor, and four USB ports--more than any other tablet we've seen. The monitor hookup is especially nice if you want to use the TC1000 as both a traveling and a desktop PC. Rotate the screen on its handy hinge, and the display orients itself automatically between portrait and landscape mode. In a rare design miscue, though, the dock's large handle (for unlocking the tablet) looks more like a piece of exercise equipment than part of a computer. Compaq charges extra for the dock; only one other tablet maker does this.
Along the top of the tablet lies the Compaq TC1000's secret weapon: a sophisticated and easy-to-operate jog-dial control, similar to one you'd find on a phone, a PDA, or some Sony notebooks. You can nudge it right or left, or you can push it to activate an onscreen selection. Other tablets feature comparable controls but usually via a button.
The Compaq TC1000's jog dial lets you move among icons and pages.
We love this comfortable but breakable pen.
Speaking of input, the Compaq's black-and-silver, cylindrical pen-style stylus shows the others how to do it right. Stored in a spring-loaded holder, the TC1000's stylus is thicker, better weighted, and more comfortable to use than the standard styli used by its competitors. Unfortunately, it's not very sturdy; we broke the tip off one. It also requires a AAAA battery, whereas others require none at all.
Plenty more ports along the tablet proper.
The TC1000 package includes the best and loudest speakers of the Tablet PC group, as well as a solid assortment of ports. Connections for an external monitor, modem, LAN, and a pair of USB plugs live behind a door on the top of the unit. In addition, the TC1000 can accommodate a Type II PC Card, as well as CompactFlash, which can be used with IBM's larger Microdrives. While there are plugs for audio, the Compaq has neither a FireWire connection nor an infrared window for wireless communications. The tablet came with a cheap, unpadded, vinyl zippered case that holds the tablet, but there's no room for papers. If you care about protecting this tablet, buy a new carrying case pronto.
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.
The Compaq TC1000 does include one proprietary application we like: its QMenu software. Accessible from either the task tray or a button on the right side of the tablet, the QMenu shows up on the right side and offers configuration choices for all the major settings, from volume to wireless networking to screen brightness (similar to the Motion M1200's Dashboard).
Mobile application performance
In application performance, the Compaq TC1000's Transmeta Crusoe TM5800 processor crippled the system. While this processor clocks in at 1GHz, it still can't compare to the Pentium III-M-800MHz processor of the Fujitsu Stylistic ST4000 and especially not the 1.3GHz Pentium III-M processor of the Toshiba Portégé 3505. Indeed, the Compaq's Crusoe processor turned in the worst times of all the tablets we tested.
MobileMark2002 mobile performance test
Longer bars indicate faster performance
While the Crusoe processor was the main culprit behind the Compaq's lackluster performance, it also preserves the Compaq's long battery life. Thanks to the Crusoe's design, it uses much less power than a traditionally designed CPU such as the Pentium III-M. Even with the Compaq's rather average 11V, 3,600mAh battery, it was still able to post a score well in excess of three hours. Only the Motion M1200 lasted longer.
MobileMark2002 battery-life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both applications performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).
Find out more about how we test notebook systems.
Fujitsu Stylistic ST4000
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 800MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel Extreme graphics controller 48MB (8MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm
HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1000
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe-TM5800; 232MB SDRAM 133MHz; Nvidia GeForce2 Go 16MB; Toshiba MK3018GAP 30GB 4,200rpm
Motion Computing M1200
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830M graphics controller-0 48MB (8MB shared); IBM Travelstar 20GN 20GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba Portégé 3505
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 1.3GHz Pentium III-M; 496MB SDRAM 133MHz; Trident CyberBlade XAi1 16MB; Toshiba MK4019GAX 30GB 5,400rpm
ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830M graphics controller-0 48MB (8MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm
The Compaq TC1000 ships with an electronic manual that's light on details and troubleshooting advice. Compaq excels at support in other areas, though, with a worldwide infrastructure to deal with problems and repairs. In addition to its 24-hour phone-support desk, the recently combined HP and Compaq Web site offers a multitude of resources, including FAQs, driver downloads, and an instant-response service (that is, chat support). Sadly, like other tablets, the Compaq TC1000 comes with an unimpressive one-year warranty, which is too skimpy for such a new, unproven product.