Active vs. touch: what I learned at CES

Q1_unboxing_1You know what I learned the most about at CES this week? It wasn’t about a new UMPC, a hot new handheld nor was it about some software. What I learned the most this week was that the UMPC concept has ultimately and forever changed my computer usability preferences. Due to a minor incident with my Samsung Q1 the day before the show, I had to leave the unit behind and take my ol’ Toshiba M205 Tablet PC with me. What an enlightening experience to use an active digitizer this week after eight months of touchscreen computing.

I’ve had the Q1 since late May of last year and since then, my poor and tired M205 Tablet has collected dust in my home office. She served me well for the two years prior and I occasionally called her out of retirement a few times in 2006 for some Microsoft Vista beta testing (see below). Other than that however, she’s silently watched Sammy get all the attention, never once begrudging the fact that I kicked her to the curb.

Aeroglass_m205

All of the posts you read from me this week were courtesy of the ol’ girl. She still gets the job done and let’s the past live in the past. Unfortunately for her, there are two factors that will keep me in the UMPC camp for a long time to come: size & usability.

After using (some would say abusing) a seven-inch tablet that weighs less than two pounds for the past eight months, I found it uncomfortable to carry a 12.1-inch Tablet PC that weighs more than double. Aside from actually carrying the extra bulk, I felt very out of sorts with the larger screen in slate mode. I had to revert to laptop mode for most of the week; not my preferred method of computing.

The biggest struggle I had was with the active digitizer. As well as they work, I simply don’t want another device with an active digitizer. With the touchscreen on a UMPC, I can use my finger to interact. I don’t have to wonder where I last put the stylus like I do with the active digitizer; hey, no stylus equals no ink on my M205. I continually kept tapping my M205 screen and wondering why it wasn’t responding. Call it a bad habit or call me a "touchscreen snob", it doesn’t matter to me. After one week on the active digitizer, I can’t wait to return to the touchscreen experience. Even better yet: after using James’ Fujitsu P1610 that uses a touchscreen with palm rejection, I have to say that every UMPC OEM should develop palm rejection techniques or license it from Fujitsu. With this feature, the real need for active digitizers diminishes and may even reduce device prices.

Sorry ol’ girl; you got me through another CES, but I have to trade you in for a younger and prettier model. ;)

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