Tablet PC/FAQ

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This is the Frequently Asked Questions Page for Tablet PCs. Please see the main Tablet PC article for more general information, hints, decision criteria, and explorations of the concepts and related resources.


Frequently Asked Questions

This page is seeded with information from the following sources and used with permission by the authors. Both Terri and Chris (below) are Microsoft MVP awardees.

What is a Tablet PC

Chris Hassler

A Tablet PC is a new type of computer from Microsoft and its hardware partners. While not a completely new idea, it is the latest implementation of using a digital pen to input data into your computer. You can use your natural handwriting to write directly on the screen. This makes it ideal for people that are uncomfortable with using a keyboard and a mouse to operate a computer. Of course, you can use a keyboard and a mouse (wireless or USB attached) on a Tablet PC as well. Tablet PCs come in four form factors, or types. Slate, convertible, hybrid and the laptop "clamshell." Slate models are flat, all-in-one units. Convertibles look like traditional laptops, but the screens can be manipulated to convert them into a slate-like configuration. Hybrids can be operated as pure slate models or as convertible models. The newer laptop Tablet PC Edition systems are regular laptop configurations with hinged screens which do not (at this point) rotate. See Chris's Tablet Creations FAQ page.

Terri Stratton

As its name implies, the Tablet PC is a computer that's approximately the size of a paper tablet. It's not only its name that is similar - we can now write with a digital pen directly on the screen of the Tablet PC. It gives us portability, flexibility and usability that is changing the way we work with our computers. See Terri's site FAQ page.


The Tablet PC is:

  • A portable personal computer that:
    • Runs Windows XP Pro with Tablet PC "extensions"
      (ink, speech recognition)
    • Incorporates an active digitizer
      (allowing you to interact with the screen using a stylus)
  • A drawing device.
  • An electronic version of pen and paper.

There is nothing wrong with these statements, but they are certainly distracting and woefully inadequate. Take any one of them in isolation, and you give someone an excuse to dismiss the Tablet PC without further thought. See the full article: What IS a Tablet PC

General Questions

What operating system does a Tablet PC use?

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is a superset of Windows XP Pro. Microsoft has announced that the updated version released in August 2004. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 is available to all Tablet PC owners at no cost. This is included with Windows XP Service Pack 2. More details about the upgrade are available here

Why should I install Windows XP Service Pack 2, including Tablet PC Edition 2005?

Windows XP Service Pack 2 includes many security updates. Installing SP2 helps protect your computer from malware, such as viruses, trojans and spyware. This is a Service Pack every computer running XP should have installed. Tablet PC Edition 2005, a part of SP2 for Tablet PCs, includes a huge improvement in handwriting recognition. It also has a much-improved Tablet Input Panel. This can be undocked so that the TIP is always close to your pen if input is available.

Why should I buy a Tablet PC rather than a notebook?

The Tablet PC can replace both an aging laptop or PDA with state-of-the-art portability. If you often need to be away from your desk or in an area where a notebook isn't practical, then take a look at one of the many available models of the Tablet PC. It can be used when using a keyboard may be awkward, such as in classes and meetings.

The Tablet PC includes many innovations, including handwriting recognition, longer battery life, a low-heat processor and an operating system that's a superset of the very stable Windows XP Professional. There are many other applications made specifically for the Tablet PC's capabilities with more being developed. Several of the improvements in Windows XP Tablet PC edition are listed below:

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition extends the strong features of Windows XP Professional through unique technological enhancements designed to provide a more versatile PC experience.

The additional Tablet PC functionality added to the operating system allows users to:

  • Control the Tablet PC using a digital pen
  • Create handwritten documents on the Tablet PC
  • Store, search, and review handwritten notes
  • Convert handwritten notes into text to use in other applications
  • Annotate documents imported from any application
  • Use Windows applications in new ways with pen-driven input and ink

Which is the better format for a Tablet PC, the slate or convertible?

This is strictly a user preference. There are benefits to each. Some models work as either a convertible or a slate. Others have an attachable keyboard that lets them become a laptop. There's also a model that's pure notebook with the ability to write on the screen.

How do Tablet PCs compare to notebooks in weight?

Weight is a very important factor in the Tablet PC. Tablet PCs are lighter than the majority of notebooks. Most weigh about 3 pounds or less. Size is also smaller, with the Tablet PC about the size of a paper tablet. Some of the newer Tablets have larger screen sizes or built-in drives. These can increase the weight considerably.

Where do you store the stylus on the Tablet PC?

Each Tablet PC has an area in which to secure the pen. Some models have an additional pen included for an emergency.

Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Ed FAQ


Why doesn't a Tablet PC have as fast a processor as a comparably-priced notebook?

The Tablet PC uses a low or ultra-low voltage CPU chip that's actually considerably faster than its "number" indicates. This also improves battery life. With the introduction of the Intel Centrino and Dothan, the Intel-based Tablet PCs will be comparable with faster desktops. As an example, according to Intel, a Centrino 1.6Ghz processor is comparable to 2.4Ghx Pentium4-M.

How durable are the hinges on the convertible models of the Tablet PC?

The hinges on the Tablet PC were tested extensively to be sure that they would hold up well under heavy use.

Can I upgrade the memory?

Most vendors offer memory upgrades. Many models' memory can be upgraded by the user.

How much storage is onboard?

Different Tablet PCs have different storage capabilities. Most use a 40 gigabyte (or greater) drive, although several have optional drives up to 120G.

Can I upgrade the hard drive?

Many vendors offer hard drive upgrades.

Can the drive be removed?

Yes. The hard drive us typically accessible by removing one or two screws.

Can I watch my DVDs and video CDs on the Tablet PC?

Newer models are including a CDRW-DVD drive within the unit. Although this adds weight, users have asked for optical drives to be included in the Tablet PC. Some models will include a DVD Rom in the docking station. Some have USB or firewire models available. There are also third party drives available. Most require a separate power source, although there are a few third party drives that can run off the Tablet PC. Using the Tablet PC's power will drain the battery much faster.

Is there a volume knob or do I have to use the software mixer?

Hot keys can be used to adjust the volume on Tablet PCs. Some have a physical volume control.

Can I use the Tablet PC as an MP3 player?

Yes, but dedicated MP3 player might be a better choice for battery life and portability.

What kind of video out ports are there?

(This would be a great way to run a presentation at work.) Typically there is a external VGA port for an external monitor or projector. With many Tablet PCs you can 'clone' your output to the external device (what you see is displayed on the external device).

How can I use Tablet PC for Presentations?

You can use the Tablet PC pen technology (ink) in PowerPoint and other presentation software. These annotations can be saved for future presentations or erased completely. Using a Tablet PC with a projector allows the presenter to annotate slides, draw illustrations, add ink to almost any kind of document that would normally be printed.


Is the Tablet PC's screen touch sensitive?

Most Tablet PCs' screen are not touch sensitive. This allows the user to rest his/her hand naturally on the screen while writing. Windows Vista supports a rich touch experience and in early 2007 several new machines have be introduced that have touch or even dual mode screen (Active Inking with a special stylus, and touch screen when no stylus is in close proximity to the screen).

How durable is the display screen on the Tablet PC?

The Tablet PC has undergone rigorous testing and meets all criteria for normal use. Some "ruggedized" models are built to endure extensive, tougher use.

Are screen protectors necessary?

Some manufacturers recommend the use of screen protectors. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

Can the display be used in both portrait and landscape modes?

Yes, the Tablet PC can be used in both portrait and landscape modes. A touch of the button changes it instantly. There's no need to reboot.

What's the screen resolution? Can it be changed?

Tablet PCs generally use a 1024x768 screen resolution. High-resolution displays and Microsoft's Clear Type display technology make the Tablet PC an excellent reading platform. Video is also improving with several model offering a resolution of 1400x1050. In 2006 and continuing into 2007 there have been several models that offer various wide-screen displays for example: 1280 x 768. With Vista, many Tablet PCs will also support Windows Media Center and wide-screen displays may be popular for viewing media.

Can I use the Tablet PC outdoors?

Most Tablet PCs won't be readable outdoors in bright light. Some available models have an option for an indoor/outdoor display, such as Fujitsu, Motion, and some ruggedized models. If you use a computer in bright lights or outdoors, these screens are highly recommended.

Can I use the tablet as a second monitor for my desktop/laptop?

Generally - no. However there are several Software Utilities that can extend the basic functionality to allow you to use the Tablet PC as an extended monitory for another computer.

Can I adjust the brightness of the display?

There is a control for brightness, however, increasing the brightness can decrease the life of the battery. There are also some models that have a screen that's usable both indoors and outside in bright sunlight.

Will hand lotions or body oils affect the handwriting recognition used with the Tablet PC?

As with anything else, excessive oils should be kept from accumulating on the screen. The screen is easily cleaned with a soft cloth. No alcohol or alcohol-based products should ever be used.

I wear magnetic bracelets to help carpal tunnel syndrome.

Will this be a problem using the Tablet PC?

Avoid jewelry that could potentially scratch the screen while writing.


How long will the battery last without recharging?

The longer-life, lighter-weight batteries can last more than 4 hours, while one model is reporting 12 hours. Although the battery is longer-lasting than conventional notebook batteries, the way the Tablet PC is used will determine the actual time before the battery needs to be recharged. New mobile processors are being released soon that should increase battery life considerably.

Related Articles:

Docking Stations

Is there a docking station to recharge the batteries?

Most models of the Tablet PC can support docking stations. Check with your selected manufacturer to see if the docking station is included or available as an option. Some manufacturers sell separate battery charges, and there are also third-party chargers available.

How long does it take to shut down the Tablet PC if I need to remove it from its docking station?

There is no need to shut down the Tablet PC before removing it from its docking station. The Tablet PC's docking feature allows you to grab it and go.

Does the docking station provide any additional ports?

Several models of the Tablet PC include additional ports on the docking station or port replicator as well as CD / DVD Roms. Check individual models for specific information.


What type of security is used with the Tablet PC?

Different models offer different security options. Many now have built-in fingerprint scanners. Check the manufacturer's website for more specific information.

Is there a security lock slot like on portables?

Many models do have a security lock.

How secure is this wireless connectivity?

Wireless computing with a Tablet PC is as secure (or not) as wireless computing with other portable computers.

Wireless is not the most secure way of communicating. Just as with cell phones, the signals can be "overheard." There are security options, and it's highly suggested that safe computing is practiced.

Are there any additional security devices available?

Some Tablet PCs offer fingerprint scanners for increased security. There are also third party devices such as USB pen drives that contain a security lock. Without the pen drive, the information on the Tablet PC is irretrievable.


Will all the Windows applications I already have run on the Tablet PC?

All existing applications that are Windows XP compatible should run on the Tablet PC. Windows XP is one of the most robust operating systems released by Microsoft, allowing even older programs to work on newer machines. More and more developers are writing programs that take better advantage of ink.

With the introduction of Vista where Tablet PC support is an integral part of the operating system, we expect that is software will run in Windows Vista, it will run on a Tablet PC running Windows Vista.

What operating system does the Tablet PC use?

The Tablet PC uses a superset of Windows XP Professional - Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. This includes Windows Journal which allows users to actually write on the screen using digital pen and ink technology. Commencing in the first quarter of 2007 most Tablet PCs will be offered with Windows Vista. Related articles: Windows Vista

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