NEC Versa LitePad Tablet PC review: NEC Versa LitePad Tablet PC

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.9
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 6.0
  • Battery life: 6.0
  • Service and support: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Thinnest, lightest tablet available; integrated dual-band wireless; includes stand, keyboard, and mouse; comes with CD-ROM; lots of software.

The Bad Small display; few configuration options; cables everywhere in desktop mode; no modem; lackluster performance and battery life.

The Bottom Line Mobile workers will appreciate the Versa LitePad's ultrathin and lightweight design, but its performance is merely mediocre.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

Review summary

The first crop of slate-style tablet PCs released late last year from Fujitsu, Motion Computing, and ViewSonic--despite being truly flat--are still too big and heavy to represent any real break from the tried-and-true notebook design. By contrast, the NEC Versa LitePad really looks like a pad of paper with PC functionality. In fact, the LitePad is almost identical in size to a small spiral-bound notebook (8.8 by 11.7 by 0.6 inches), and it weighs only 2.2 pounds. The LitePad is a slate-style tablet with a 933MHz Intel Pentium III-M chip, a separate USB keyboard and minimouse, and an external USB CD-ROM drive, though you can upgrade to a 24X CD-RW. Other noteworthy features include built-in 802.11a/b wireless networking and a raft of tablet PC software. Like all tablet PCs, however, the LitePad carries a price premium. And in CNET Labs' tests, the system delivered disappointing results compared to other tablet PCs we've reviewed. Still, NEC's target market of executive commuters, health care workers, and sales teams may be willing to overlook the LitePad's mediocre performance in favor of its superior design.

/sc/20867312-2-200-DT2.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
Overall the construction felt a little lightweight to us, and the buttons and switches feel flimsy.

Unlike some tablet PCs, there's no mistaking this one for a run-of-the-mill laptop. In fact, everywhere we took the Versa LitePad, strangers couldn't resist asking about it. That's because it is significantly smaller and lighter than even the most compact ultraportable. It is also the smallest tablet PC available, measuring slightly more than half an inch thick and weighing only 2.2 pounds. This, combined with the rubberized plastic case, makes the LitePad feel very comfortable in your hand.

The navy-and-silver slate comes with a matching desktop stand, keyboard, and mouse. Unfortunately, the USB input devices contribute to one of the LitePad's biggest design flaws. With these, plus the power adapter, the external drive, the Ethernet cable, and, in our case, the external speakers attached, there were no fewer than six cables hanging off the sides of the LitePad onto the desk. This is a real problem for a product that is supposed to be designed to grab and go. To be fair, many will use it with the integrated wireless, but there's no excuse for not using an infrared keyboard and mouse. The port replicator would help solve this problem too, but it costs another $180.

/sc/20867312-2-200-DT4.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
The stylus is a little chintzy--a more functional stylus is also included, but it doesn't fit in the slot.
/sc/20867312-2-200-DT6.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
The desktop stand has more bends and joints than a Cirque du Soleil troupe.
At first, the desktop stand proved nearly impossible to set up; the little thing has more bends and joints than a Cirque du Soleil troupe. But once you get the hang of it--or actually stop to read the directions, whichever comes first--it isn't too bad. One advantage of the overly complex design is that it lets you set it at different heights for portrait and landscape viewing.

Instead of using a full-sized keyboard, NEC went with a notebook-sized model that offers neither the spacing nor the keystroke travel of a typical desktop keyboard. (It also makes a clackety noise like an electric typewriter, but how you feel about this is largely a matter of personal taste.)

Overall, the construction felt a little lightweight to us. The plastic 802.11a/b antenna hangs off the side, the buttons and switches feel flimsy, and the stylus is a little chintzy (a more functional stylus is also included, but it doesn't fit in the slot). On a more positive note, the scrolling and select buttons worked well. Finally, we were disappointed that the LitePad did not include the optional protective case, leaving the 10.4-inch display vulnerable in a laptop bag.

Hopefully NEC will address these design shortcomings in future versions of the LitePad. But overall, the company offers the best slate design currently available. The NEC Versa LitePad has nearly all of the features of a typical ultraportable notebook--sans keyboard, of course. You won't find the latest and greatest Pentium M chips here, but the 933MHz Pentium III-M is no slouch. There are relatively few configuration options. The tablet we tested came with 256MB memory (upgradable to 512MB), a 20GB hard drive, and an external USB 24X CD-ROM drive (a CD-RW drive is a $200 option).

One major difference between the LitePad and an ultraportable notebook is the display. At 10.4 inches, the LitePad's screen is smaller and has a maximum resolution of 1,024x768 (XGA). But it can do more with a 24-bit digitizer for tablet input, a reflective coating for better visibility in natural light, and tempered glass with a coating for added durability. In our tests, the digitized tablet seemed responsive and precise, although not as bright and vibrant as a typical notebook display.

/sc/20867312-2-200-DT3.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
For such a small design, NEC packs in an abundance of ports
/sc/20867312-2-200-DT5.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" />
An adjustable external antenna for the 802.11a/b radio is located on top.
NEC has managed to cram a surprising number of features into a 2.2-pound package. Perhaps the most notable feature is a dual-band (802.11a/b) mini-PCI wireless adapter with an adjustable external antenna and a hardware On/Off switch. If you're not quite ready for wireless, there's also an Ethernet jack, but there's no modem, so business travelers are advised to stick with hotels equipped with wired or wireless Ethernet (fortunately, that list is growing rapidly). Other connectors include three USB 1.1 ports, VGA, audio in and out, and a single PC Card slot. NEC wisely dumped the legacy serial and parallel ports, which most users will never miss.

In addition to Microsoft Office XP with the Service Pack for Tablet PC, the LitePad comes with a nice collection of software, including Alias/Wavefront SketchBook Pro, Colligo Networks Personal Edition, Corel Grafigo, FranklinCovey TabletPlanner, and Zinio Reader. A few of the titles are just trial versions or free downloads, but together, they illustrate some of the unique things you can do with a tablet PC. Mobile application performance
Although the NEC Versa LitePad sports the fastest processor of the three systems in our roundup, it turned in the lowest mobile performance score. The reason for the Versa LitePad's lackluster performance lies in its Trident Cyber Aladdin-T graphics adapter, which borrows 16MB of main memory. Both the Motion Computing M1200 and the ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100, on the other hand, use the more efficient Intel 82830 graphics adapter, which borrows only as much memory as it needs, without significantly affecting performance.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Motion Computing M1200
86 
ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100
86 
NEC Versa LitePad Tablet PC
74 

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

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

NEC Versa LitePad Tablet PC
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 933MHz Intel Pentium III-M (ULV); 240MB SDRAM 133MHz; Trident Cyber Aladdin-T 16MB (shared); Toshiba MK2004GAL 20GB 4,200rpm

ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830M Graphics Controller (up to 48MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm Battery life
With its 14.8V, 1,800mAh battery, the NEC Versa LitePad finished a distant second in CNET Labs' drain tests. In fact, it conked out nearly an hour before the Motion Computing M1200, which uses a slightly more powerful 11.1V, 3,600mAh battery. While 153 minutes is no drop in the bucket, we expected better battery life from a tablet PC system with an ultra-low-voltage processor.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life in minutes  
Motion Computing M1200
209 
NEC Versa LitePad Tablet PC
153 
ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100
129 

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark 2002. MobileMark measures both application 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).

System configurations:

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

NEC Versa LitePad Tablet PC
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 933MHz Intel Pentium III-M (ULV); 240MB SDRAM 133MHz; Trident Cyber Aladdin-T 16MB (shared); Toshiba MK2004GAL 20GB 4,200rpm

ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830M Graphics Controller (up to 48MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm Tablet PCs are designed for life on the go in demanding environments, so service-and-support options are especially important. The NEC Versa LitePad has a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor, as well as 24-hour Express service during that same period. The warranty does not include onsite service; instead you can carry it in or mail it to the closest NEC repair depot (the company covers shipping it back to you). NEC also offers a variety of service-plan upgrades, including a no-fault coverage for the display.

If you run into hardware-related problems, NEC includes toll-free telephone support 24/7 for the duration of the warranty. You can also submit support questions via e-mail. The support Web site is limited, but it has the basics, including electronic documentation and warranty info, downloads, and a FAQ list with just six topics for LitePad.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy

NEC Versa LitePad Tablet PC

Part Number: VLPAD933 Released: Feb 18, 2003

MSRP: $1,799.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb 18, 2003
  • Chipset Type Ali/Trident CyberALADDiN-T
  • Installed Size 256 MB
  • Weight 2.2 lbs
  • Optical Drive CD-ROM - external
  • Graphics Processor Trident CyberBlade XP
  • CPU Intel Pentium III-M 933 MHz