When you think about Tablet PC you may well think about the hype surrounding its launch. True, it hasn’t quite matched the sales of notebooks in the last 12 months, nor has it become the essential device we were supposed to believe it was. However, in recent months there has been something of a resurgence in the technology - largely in part to Intel’s new chipset allowing for improved battery life - with many companies launching new systems.

Currently, the top seller worldwide for Tablet PCs is HP. However, with the launch of the Compaq TC4200, HP has gone back to the drawing board. Gone is the rather funky and futuristic look of the TC1000 slate in favour of a grey and corporate styling of the combination design. Latest research figures suggest that a tablet is used predominately as a notebook with the tablet function used for as little as 20 per cent of the time. So, opting for a clamshell device seems the most logical choice.

The TC4200 is a compact and lightweight unit that weighs in at 2.2kg. To this end, the keyboard initially feels cramped but users will quickly grow accustomed to it. The addition of a touchpad and pointing stick and two sets of mouse keys make for easy and trouble free navigation.

As with all clamshells, the 12.1-inch screen can be twisted 180 degrees and folded to cover the keyboard for use in slate mode. When in tablet mode you can “write” on the screen and either translate your scribbles into text or simply send your handwritten notes via email to a colleague or friend. If they also use a tablet, they’ll be able to make amendments directly and send them back. If they have a standard PC they can simply view - unless they have a copy of MS OneNote, which allows for editing. When it comes to writing on the screen, you’ll need to use the supplied electronic pen, as the digitised screen only responds to the signal from it. This means you can lean on the screen and not leave a mark.

What makes the TC4200 versatile is the use of Centrino technology. Powered by the 915Gm chipset you’ll find there is as much performance in this Tablet PC as there is in the typical notebook. Powered by an Intel Pentium M 750, which runs at 1.86GHz, and supported by 512MB of memory, there is no delay or lag with this system. Rounding out the core is a 60GB hard drive.

We were sceptical that such a specification would be able to offer a reasonable battery life. However, we regularly managed to get four hours from the system before needing to power down or plug into the mains. So, even if your meeting lasts longer than expected, you’ll be able to make notes and even use the built-in Wi-Fi to send them to colleagues or the company network.

Verdict

The move from slate design to the versatile clamshell will certainly prove a popular choice with buyers, as it will allow you to use the TC4200 primarily as a notebook but with the added functionality that comes with the Tablet PC operating system. If you haven't been converted to Tablet PC before, now may well be the time to give it a second chance.