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(Pocket-lint) - The Ten Commandments were written on two stone tablets, the Romans used them to writing on, and even Etch A Sketch from the late fifties was based on the idea. So it doesn’t seem to strange that laptop manufacturers today are producing tablets. Put simply, it’s a device that takes a laptop, flips the screen over and allows you to write on it just like a pad and pen.

The tablet aims to fill the gap between laptops and PDAs, offering you the option to either write directly on the screen or type on previously hidden keyboard when needed. The HP unit follows this ideology. The TC1100 is powered by either the Mobile Intel Celeron 800Mhz or the Intel Pentium M Centrino 1.0Ghz processor and the price of £1000 - £1700 reflects this. In addition to that the unit also has integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for easy access either to a Bluetooth compatible phone or Wi-Fi network. The graphics on the unit’s 10.4” screen are powered by Nvidia’s Geforce 4 420 Go - a 4x AGP solution. The TC1100 uses the 32Mb variant while the 40Gb internal hard drive will be enough for most office users.

Input into the device is either through writing directly on screen while in slate mode or swivelling the keyboard from its snug position underneath. The handwritten recognition software is surprisingly good and after only a short time (about 10 minutes) we had pretty much sussed how to write at normal speed. For those not willing to learn, the unit also offers a soft keyboard on screen or even the ability to record your voice and transpose the text for you.

If you’re not planning on using the keyboard you can opt to remove it altogether. This makes for a little weight loss though not a lot. Whether you remove it or not we cannot fault the swivel mechanism to reveal the keyboard- it’s an ingenious piece of design. Some reviews have criticised the closeness of the screen and keyboard when swivelled open, however we had no trouble at all and it’s slightly dependent upon personal taste (our subeditor has his own keyboard this close to his monitor). In fact the small footprint is handy when on the move.

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With the addition of a chunky comfortable stylus, glass protective touch-screen, voice and screen recognition as well as wi-fi and Bluetooth access this unit gives you plenty of options to enter your data. That coupled with the unit running a variant of Microsoft's XP Pro edition means that all your standard desktop applications will work as well.

If you're planning on having this unit as your main computer then you might want to invest in docking station to allow CD/DVD input (£219 ex vat). Overall the unit is a vast improvement not only on the previous tablet from HP but also the previous software from Microsoft. The pair combined into a tablet makes a great alternative and confidently fills the between the PDA and laptop amply.

Writing by Stuart Miles. Originally published on 2 March 2004.