While its competitors worked on tarting up their tablet PCs with complicated hinges and technological doodads, newcomer Motion Computing kept its M1200 tablet design simple and straightforward. If you're in search of a computer you can write on, look to the Austin, Texas-based start-up for one of the most useful tablets on the market so far. Neither the smallest nor the lightest system, the M1200 delivers a useful 12.1-inch screen, backed by an 866MHz Pentium III-M processor and the best configuration software we've seen on a tablet--all for not much more than $2,100. The tablet's performance keeps pace with the middle of the pack, but you won't miss any speed in everyday use.
By sticking to the basics, Motion Computing has pulled off a major coup against its larger and better-funded competitors. Made by Taiwan's Compal--which is a part owner of Motion Computing--the silver and gray M1200 is a simple but functional tablet PC of the slate variety (in other words, no attached keyboard) that's easy to transport and easy to use.
The LED status lights.
This slate is bigger than the ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100's, but you won't mind because it has a bigger 12.1-inch screen. But the Motion is smaller and lighter than the HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1000, measuring 9.3 by 11.7 by 0.9 inches and weighing 3.3 pounds. Unfortunately, its snap-on, protective, plastic screen cover seems more like an afterthought than a well-integrated part and adds another 9 ounces; you'll probably want to ditch this accessory while on the road, particularly if you opt for the $99 leather portfolio case. All told, with the cover, the 7-ounce AC adapter, and the 10-ounce keyboard, the M1200 tips the scales at a little less than five pounds--more than some slim notebooks but lighter than the ViewSonic V1100.
A sleek, futuristic head-turner, the Motion M1200 flustered an airport security guard who couldn't figure out how to turn the tablet on and off but came away impressed, nonetheless. Once you find the admittedly tricky on/off switch on the right edge, you'll feel comfortable operating the tablet horizontally or vertically, due to the even weight distribution and the big screen. In addition to its built-in Wi-Fi setup, the device includes an array of ports around its edge, although all unfortunately are open to the elements and poorly marked. You'll find connections for a number of ports (FireWire, a pair for USB, and external monitor), as well as built-in audio and Ethernet cards. Under the M1200's four status LED lights, which show power, battery, hard drive activity, and Wi-Fi radio action, you'll notice a single Type II PC Card slot. On the downside, the M1200's pair of speakers sound muffled when the screen cover is in place. Even with the cover off, the speakers are just average.
The ports on the bottom edge.
Six buttons line the M1200's side and control the machine's major functions. Escape and Function are self-explanatory, but another button rotates the screen in 90-degree increments, and a four-way navigation button scrolls through pages vertically and horizontally; as you rotate the screen, the navigation pad accurately reorients itself. Tap the button emblazoned with a key icon to mimic the Control-Alt-Delete command, and the Windows Task Manager pops up to show system status, shut down unruly programs, and tweak system settings.
The Motion M1200 configuration we tested sports fairly run-of-the-mill specs: an 866MHz Pentium III-M processor, 256MB of RAM, and a 20GB hard drive. You can configure Motion's top-of-the-line machine, however, with 1GB of RAM and a 60GB drive. Based on Intel's 830MG graphics accelerator, the Motion M1200 can devote up to 48MB of the system's RAM to video, creating images that look sharp and bright on the 12.1-inch XGA display. During weeks of use, the screen--comfortably mounted flush with its surrounding frame--picked up dust and fingerprints like crazy. Thankfully, Motion provides a cleaning cloth, the only tablet in our roundup to do so.
The M1200's thin, plastic writing stylus requires no batteries. There's a convenient place to stow it on the top right, but it lacks a pocket clip and feels cheap. Although the pen and the screen generally cooperated in our tests, it was next to impossible to accurately highlight an illustration across the entire screen. Worse, the pen refused to let us fill in some text boxes. Still, we were able to jot notes, scribble drawings, and use the input panel to surf the Web with ease.
The navigation and application-launch buttons.
The Motion's stylus.
But Motion makes up for awkward pen strokes with its amazingly convenient Dashboard program. Touch the button that's labeled with a square icon to launch Dashboard, which provides instant access to settings for speaker volume, display brightness, power management, and wireless signal strength.
There's even a place to set up instant access to a variety of programs. The other tablet PCs we've seen all include the same settings adjustments, but Dashboard puts them all in one tidy place.
In addition to Windows XP Tablet Edition, the Motion M1200 comes with unexciting but standard software: Microsoft Office XP and Colligo Personal Edition, a nifty application that lets you use your tablet to collaborate with others on the same document.
To test the performance of the tablet PCs in this roundup, CNET Labs ran the MobileMark2002 benchmark on each system. The Motion M1200 tablet did well on this mix of productivity applications, but it couldn't match the pace set by the Fujitsu Stylistic ST4000 and its 800MHz Pentium III-M processor. The Motion M1200, powered by an 866MHz Pentium III-M and 248MB of RAM, scored five points lower than the Fujitsu--an admittedly tiny difference in real-world performance. The ViewSonic V1100's configuration is similar to the Motion's and achieved the exact same score. In other words, the Motion M1200 placed as well as one could expect given its specifications and size.
MobileMark2002 mobile performance test
Longer bars indicate faster performance
In terms of performance, the Motion M1200 finished in the middle of the pack, but it's the battery-life king of this roundup. Thanks to its 11.1V, 3,600mAh battery, the Motion posted the longest life of the five tablets: 209 minutes. Compared to the ViewSonic's 7.4V, 3,900mAh cell and the Fujitsu's 10.8V, 4,000mAh unit, the Motion decisively won the duration battle. The difference can be attributed to the power of each system's battery because the configurations are very similar.
|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).
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
Because Motion Computing is such a new company, it's still getting its service and support act together. Currently, Motion provides a 24-hour tech-support line and a lot of Web resources, ranging from pointed FAQs to driver downloads to online user guides. While there are places to e-mail questions or concerns, the site does not have an interactive troubleshooting section, which HP and Toshiba also lack.
The tablet is backed by a one-year warranty--too short for a product this new. At post time, Motion had not set a price for extended warranties. As with all of this first batch of tablets, we suggest upping the coverage to three years, which costs $250.