I am an unusual Tablet PC user, I know that. I am totally dependent on taking ink notes in my work and why the Tablet PC is so critical for getting my work done. In addition to the inking ability the other criteria that is vital to me is mobility and since Tablet PCs usually come in thinner and highly mobile forms they work well for me. The Fujitsu P1620 I am using now is a highly mobile inking machine and I love it. It makes my work better and easier and that’s worth a premium to me. The recent introduction of ultra-portable notebooks like the HP Mini-Note have driven home to me how much a premium I paid for the Fujitsu and it’s got me thinking about that. The HP Mini I am evaluating is is about the same size and weight as the Fujitsu and with the exception of a much slower processor and the lack of a touch screen is similarly configured. That means that it’s roughly as mobile as the Fuji so the primary difference in functionality between the HP Mini and the Fujitsu P1620 is the Tablet PC bits. Those bits are important to me as I mentioned but is it worth a 300% price premium? Is it worth such a premium for you? Let’s discuss that so read on.
My work being totally dependent on ink note-taking makes this question more moot for me than for most as i must have that capability. But I speak to a lot of tablet owners who admit that they primarily use their convertible Tablet PC as a notebook and only rarely go into tablet mode. Some of them admit they only use the tablet mode on flights where the work room in coach is very cramped and thus they go into tablet mode so they can work with their computer in those tight quarters. That is not an issue for ultra-portable notebooks like the HP Mini so they likely wouldn’t need tablet mode for that. These particular users could probably work just as easily without the tablet functionality so price premium becomes a big point for them.
When I was preparing for the review of the HP Mini and comparing the components and size of it with the Fujitsu P1620 the price premium between the two hit me in the face. The price difference is so large that I admit I was shocked when I started thinking about it. The Fujitsu cost me three times what the HP Mini with the similar configuration would cost me and that means that the tablet premium is huge in this case. I am willing to pay a healthy premium for my required ink note-taking but what about most users? I can’t believe that most would be willing to pay that kind of a premium for the ability to swivel the screen and work in slate mode. Sure it’s nice but if it’s not really mandatory to get your work done you’re not likely to find it a good deal to pay that much extra for it. Even I had to do a double-take at a >$1,000 premium and I need the capability.
Now before you jump all over me I realize that some important components of the Fuji are much better than those of the HP Mini or the Asus EEE PC (9-inch model). But having used the Mini as a capable mini-notebook computer I would have a hard time convincing myself that the cheaper components make a big enough difference to justify spending a ton of extra money to improve them with a similar device like the Fujitsu. I realize that the technology to include a touch-screen that swivels around and provide a good inking experience is a premium and I have willingly paid that premium for years. But for most people I question if that high premium, now that these portable notebooks are coming way down in price, is actually worth it. If you can do what you do for hundreds less why shouldn’t you? This topic is very interesting to me and will get even more apropos as these cheap laptops continue to be released and push the envelope. Tablet premium- worth it or not?