Acer TravelMate C300 Convertible Tablet PC

A solid second-generation Tablet PC, the Acer TravelMate C300 is a convertible laptop design with a 14-inch XGA screen. Unlike first-generation tablets, this device could be your only PC, and as a traditional laptop, it offers all the amenities you'd expect--a powerful 1.5GHz Pentium M processor; integrated wireless, USB 2.0, and FireWire ports; and an integrated DVD/CD-RW drive (still a rarity with Tablet PCs) as well as the unique features you can get only from a full-featured Tablet PC, including a pressure-sensitive pen-enabled screen.

I've been using the C300 as a standard laptop for the most part, but I swivel the screen around when needed to do handwriting or sketching. Compared to first-generation tablets, the C300 is a bit heavy at 6.5 pounds, probably too heavy for many people, but I found the device's size and weight to be acceptable.

Battery life is fantastic, even with the single battery my system contains. I was able to obtain 4 to 5 hours of battery life per charge, depending on the wireless and screen settings, and Acer says an optional second battery--which would fill the modular bay that the optical drive currently uses--would extend battery life to 8.5 hours. And like Acer's smaller C100 tablet, the C300 features a gently curved, ergonomic keyboard, something I'd like to see on more laptops. The keyboard is nicely laid out, and I adapted to it quickly.

Acer throws in a few interesting features as well. Bluetooth is optional, but I'll reserve judgment on that technology for a while yet. And Acer provides a nice 4-in-1 media card reader that plugs into the PC card bay for compatibility with Memory Stick, MultiMediaCard (MMC), Secure Digital (SD), and SmartMedia cards, a nice touch for PDA and digital camera users.

Acer Tablet PC in back-to-front and Tablet modes

I do have a few quibbles. Unlike Acer's smaller tablet, the C300 doesn't feature screen latches, and the screen seems to want to swivel on its own while in laptop mode (it locks down when used as a slate). In slate mode, the microphone and PC card slot are on the bottom of the device, which can be problematic: The microphone is useless in this position, and if you need to use a PC card, it sticks out awkwardly. Both of these options should be moved to the far side of the screen, at the top, where they would be more usable. You can optionally set up the Tablet PC's screen orientation such that the microphone and PC card slot would be at the top; but you shouldn't have to do this manually.

Overall, however, the C300 is a great laptop, which I couldn't say about first-generation Tablet PC devices. If this machine represents the future of the Tablet PC, and I think it does, this platform has a great future. Kudos to Acer for getting it right: Combined with the right options and the XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 update, the C300 has it all.

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