Technology

A Light, Potent Tablet PC


By Ramon G. McLeod NEC's $2399 Versa LitePad has a slim design and extremely low weight, but what gives this Tablet PC real punch is its pleasing package of features.

Barely more than 0.5 inches thick, the slate-style LitePad tips the scales at a feathery 2.2 pounds, making it by far the lightest device to date running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. The LitePad's 933-MHz Pentium III CPU is adequate for the business applications most people will use it for. However, the Tablet PC does run a bit warm to the touch.

The Versa LitePad comes with a built-in 802.11b/802.11a wireless adapter and three USB 2.0 ports, as well as ports for ethernet, video-out, and an external microphone. It also has a 20GB hard drive, 256MB of memory, and a CompactFlash slot (but not a PC Card slot). Keyboard, mouse, and CD-ROM drive are all included, and they connect via the system's USB 2.0 ports.

In my view, the most critical test of a Tablet PC is how well it lets you take notes by hand during meetings, and on this count, the Versa LitePad was terrific. Writing with a stylus on its 10.4-inch TFT screen was smooth and easy. About the only downside was trying to write while holding it with one hand; I found myself a little concerned that the LitePad might slip out of my grasp.

Battery life always is a consideration with portable PCs. In hands-on testing, the LitePad's battery still had about 20 percent of its power left after 2 hours of continuous use in meetings. After recharging, battery life dropped to just over an hour when I tested the NEC with a looping .mpeg movie file and the wireless adapter left on (you can turn it off to save power). As for wireless performance, the LitePad did the job as expected on an 802.11b network.

The Versa LitePad should appeal to well-heeled users ready to dump paper and pen for digital note taking on lightweight, convenient hardware. From the June 2003 issue of PC World magazine


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