Acer TravelMate C310
With a 14.1-inch screen and an integrated optical drive, the hefty 6.7-pound Acer TravelMate C310 looks like an average mainstream laptop. But it's a convertible tablet; flip the display around, and you can write and draw directly on the screen. Though it's too big to hold in your hand for an extended period of time, if you want a tablet for meetings and the occasional trip, the TravelMate C310 delivers enough performance and battery life to suit your needs. If you don't mind working on a smaller screen and doing without an optical drive, we recommend the 3.6-pound ThinkPad X41 tablet as a much more portable alternative.
Measuring 12.8 inches wide, 10.7 inches deep, and 1.4 inches thick, the TravelMate C310 is roughly the same size as the Toshiba Tecra M4 but significantly larger than the HP Compaq tc4200. It's also the heaviest of the bunch, weighing two pounds more than the tc4200 and about half a pound more than the Tecra M4. The TravelMate C310's 0.8-pound adapter brings the system's total weight to a backbreaking 7.5 pounds, making it the heaviest tablet we've seen to date.
The system's large dimensions accommodate an ample keyboard, though its slight ergonomic curve felt awkward to us. Above the keyboard sit Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on/off buttons and four additional user-configurable launch buttons. We found the somewhat small touch pad responsive, and we liked the four-way scroll button.
The large 14.1-inch display (featuring a 1,024x768 native resolution) swivels smoothly to tablet mode, though we had trouble lining up the latch when closing the machine. Despite a sensor that is supposed to automatically adjust screen brightness to ambient light conditions, we found the screen difficult to view outdoors, both in direct sunlight and shade. Indoors, the screen looked bright enough, except when exposed to overhead lights.
The Acer TravelMate C310's Wacom pen is light and slightly thicker than a typical Bic ballpoint. Like most digitizer pens, it features an easily accessed right mouse button on the shaft and an "eraser" at the top. Though the stylus provides a good pen-on-paper response, we prefer the rubberized grip and the thick Montblanc feel of the stylus on the. We also wish the Acer's pen had a tether to keep us from losing it.
Where most tablets have two microphones in separate corners to provide the best noise cancellation (thehas three), the TravelMate C310 has only one mic in the corner closest to the keyboard. That one microphone could barely register a single voice giving dictation in a quiet room; forget about picking up multiple voices at a large conference table or a lecturer speaking over an amplifier . (We attempted to record a lecture from the front row--no dice.) If you plan to record meetings or take dictation on your tablet, look to the Motion LE1600 or the Toshiba Tecra M4.
The TravelMate C310 has an impressive selection of ports compared with those of other (usually smaller) tablets. They include VGA, S-Video, four-pin FireWire, and three USB 2.0 ports (two side by side and one along the right edge). The headphone and microphone jacks are in back. A 4-in-1 card reader recognizes Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard, and Secure Digital (SD) formats, and the tablet also has a Type II PC Card slot. Other connections include Bluetooth, modem, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. The tablet lacks security features such as a fingerprint reader or a Trusted Platform Module, which appear on many business-oriented machines, including the ThinkPad X41 tablet.
The Acer TravelMate C310 runs on Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005. Our test unit also came with some useful Acer-branded software, including Acer System Recovery, for creating recovery CDs, Acer Soft Button, which puts frequently used applications and functions in a central location, Acer Launch Manager, to configure launch buttons above the keyboard, and Acer ePower Management, to modify the power settings for maximum processing speed, maximum battery life, or steps in between. The software bundle also included Microsoft Reader, Adobe Reader, CyberLink PowerDVD, and NTI CD and DVD-Maker. Notably absent was, a useful note-taking and audio-capture app.