Having a touchscreen on your mobile computer can be very useful. It makes surfing around way easier, web-browsing more fun and intuitive, can help you take hand written notes, etc. Of course, all these if the touch display used on the machine is accurate and reliable.
Such laptops with touch-screens that can be easily swiveled, transforming them into veritable tablet PCs, have been around for a while. However, most of them aren’t at all affordable, having price tags of 1000 bucks and more.
In the last years though, a new class of such gadgets emerged: the tablet netbooks, computers able to combine the qualities of a mini laptop (portable, light, cheap) with those of a touch-sensitive display. Below you’ll find the most appreciated such computer available on the market, based on my experience with them but also feedback from expert reviewers and regular buyers.
Once again, this is not a top of best tablet netbooks, but a list. All the mini laptops in here are very good and you should be able to choose between them the one better for you, based on your requirements and budget.
Update: While tablet netbooks were quite popular a couple of years ago, they were quickly replaced by standard tablets, like the iPad and the Android slates. So you’ll hardly find netbook tablets in stores these days, but I’m pretty sure that might change once Windows 8 gets here and we’ll see cheap laptops with convertible touchscreens once again.
Asus EEE PC T91MT – light and portable
If you need a convertible netbook with a compact and light body, this Asus is the one for you. With an 8.9 inch resistive display (with multi-touch) and weighing just around 2.1 pounds, the T91MT can become you best travel partner.
Inside you’ll get an Intel Z520 1.33 GHz processor + GMA 500 graphics, 1 GB of memory, up to 32 GB SSD storage, a 6 Cell battery capable of up to 5-6 hours of life in real-life tests and Windows 7 Starter as the OS. Outside, the device looks good, but comes with a glossy exterior and only a standard flat keyboard (decent, but not as comfortable as a chiclet one).
Overall, the device is more than interesting. The version with the specs mentioned above sells right now for around $433 (with Free Shipping included) and benefits from some very good reviews from previous buyers.
However, while it is a very nice and affordable light tablet netbook, it does have its drawbacks, the biggest one being the small storage space (also difficult to upgrade) and the lack of palm-rejection technology (screen won’t detect your palm when taking notes, so you won’t be able to lean your hand on the screen like on a regular piece of paper).
Asus EEE PC T101MT – a looker with a great price
The much awaited Asus T101MT was expected to solve much of the inconveniences the T91MT had. And it mostly does.
For starters, the T101MT is a 10 inch touch screen netbook, so it’s a little bit heavier and bigger than the 8.9 incher above. Comes with a multi-touch resistive display, one that’s actually quite precise once you calibrate it. Can be used for all kind of activities and hand-writing works just fine in Onenote or other similar programs (you do get palm-rejection on this one).
The T101MT is still fresh on the market and at the moment there’s only one version available in the US, with the N450 processor + GMA 3150 graphics, 1 GB of memory, 160 GB storage, 6 Cell 5 hours battery and Windows 7 Starter. On the outside is where the T101MT really impresses, being right now perhaps the best looking 10 inch netbook (in its price range, of course). It’s only available in black (a white version should be available soon too), but the matte finish is amazing and overall build quality is very solid. Also, you get a very nice trackpad and ergonomic chiclet keyboard, so using the device in the classic laptop mode will be a delight.
As for prices, the Asus T101MT is available right now in the US for $458, with Free Shipping included. You can buy it, see more pics, detailed specs or read reviews from buyers by accessing this link here.
And there’s one more thing: performance levels are decent for this Asus (as decent as they can be on an ATOM N450 powered device), but i do advice upgrading to 2 GB of memory and Windows 7 Home (so you’ll be able to benefit from multitouch). And if you want to know more about this device, i do recommend reading my full review of the Asus EEE PC T101MT, with pics, videos and thorough explanations. Also, check out this post for a comparison between the T101MT and the T91MT.
Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t – capacitive display
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t is a device pretty much identical in terms of specs to the 10 inch Asus above. Inside you get the same hardware, but the 10 inch display is capacitive. This means it’s going to be more responsive when used with your fingers, but will make hand-writing more difficult (you’ll only be able to use a special pen – provided in the pack – and the results are not as good as on the Asus T101MT).
Also, the Lenovo is not even in the same league as the Asus when it comes to looks. First, it’s bulkier, heavier and glossy. Then, it only offers a standard flat-keyboard and the trackpad is one of the tiniest I’ve ever seen on a netbook. However, it comes with a better battery than the Asus (an 8 Cell capable of up to 7 hours of life in real tests – but this adds up to overall weight) and accessing RAM and HDD for upgrading them is a lot easier.
The Lenovo S10-3t sells for $498 in the US, with Free Shipping included. You can access this link for more details about it, more pictures and reviews from users, plus the options to buy one yourself. It’s up to your judgment if the small advantages it has over the other tablets in this list compensate for the lacks and the slightly bigger price. I for one like the bigger autonomy, but still I would rather go for the Asus.
Viliv S10 – ultra slim, but expensive
When you’ll first lay your eyes on a Viliv S10 you’ll be amazed by how slim it is. This one is also a 10 incher and you can see it compared to the Lenovo and Asus above in this clip. But although slim, it’s not that light, weighing around 2.8 pounds, so definitely not a competitor in terms of weight for the smaller T91MT. I’ve mentioned this tablet as the Viliv S10 shares similar hardware platform: Intel’s Moorestown.
There are going to be many different versions for this tablet netbook, the entry model offering an 1.6 GHz Z530 processor, 1 GB of memory, 32 GB SSD storage and Windows XP Home, while the top one will come with a 2.0 GHz Z550 CPU, 2GB of memory, 64 GB SSD, buil-in HSDPA and Windows 7 Home.
The Viliv S10 has a couple of strong points over the other mini laptops listed above, like the HD 1366 x 768 px display (multitouch resistive), the faster CPUs, the SSD storage and the bigger battery life (up to 10 hours). You can read more about these in this preview of the Vilis S10 series.
However, all these extras come with a hefty price, the S10 having a start price of $699, while the top version goes for $1149 (ouch). They are not yet available in stores, but should be shortly (I’ll update once they are). And while the S10 is definitely an interesting device with decent performance, good touch-display and fast hardware, it is at least 1.5 time more expensive than its rival. And this aspect alone will hang heavy in the balance…
HP TouchSmart TM2 – just from another league
All the mini tablet PCs listed above were built on various versions of Intel’s Atom platform, one known for energy efficiency rather than power. So while offering decent performance levels, when faced with heavier tasks, these tablets might choke.
And here’s when HP’s TouchSmart TM2 comes in, a device a little bit bigger than the others above, with a 12 inch screen (also recommended in my list of best 12 inch mini laptops). So, overall heavier (4.7 pounds) and less portable than the tablet netbooks above, but if you can put aside these aspects, the HP TM2 is just the perfect mini notebook: powerful, good looking, solid, with good autonomy and affordable.
Let’s take them one at a time. First, inside this device you’ll get the Intel dual-core Core i3-380M processor + Intel HD graphics, 4 GB of memory, 500 GB HDD (7200 rpm) and Windows 7 Home Premium. Combine the power of that hardware with a 12 inch capacitive multi-touch display and you’ll end up with quite an experience.
In terms of looks and build quality, the pictures below speak for themselves: there’s little to nothing to reproach this TM2. Also, notice the full-size chiclet keyboard and big trackpad.
The TouchSmart TM2 packs a 6 Cell battery able to offer up to 7 hours of life on paper, so probably around 5-6 in practice, more than you’ll need.
All in all, the TM2 is a great tablet laptop. It’s not as compact or light as the above netbooks, but definitely more powerful.
As for the price, the HP TM2 with the above features sells right now for around $850, with Free Shipping included. That’s nearly 80% more expensive that the Asus or Lenovo options presented above, but if you’re a performance addict like me and want a snappy touch-experience, the difference is well worth it.
That’s about it for now. I’ve showed you a couple of different options for best tablet netbooks. Based on you budget and preferences, you should be able to choose one that will fully satisfy you.
Of course, in the near future more and more such compact and affordable touch screen netbooks will enter the market, that’s why you should check out this post from time to time for updates.
Also, if you have any questions or need any advices regarding small touch tablets, don’t hesitate to post your comment and I’ll be glad to help if I can.