Five best tablets of all time

Five best tablets of all time

Summary: Tablets are taking over the world, and it’s taken them longer than most people realize. The Tablet PC appeared over 12 years ago, and contrary to popular belief there were some pretty good ones. Here are the author’s picks for the top five tablets of all time.


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  • Five top tablets of all time

    The Tablet PC introduced by Microsoft over a decade ago was the result of a pet project by then company CEO Bill Gates. The thought of a portable digital slate that was used with a pen was advanced, but as history has demonstrated given the unsuccessful run of the Tablet PC that’s not always enough.

    Even with the less than successful run of those Tablet PCs, they were the perfect solution for some. I fit in that small group as I used them in my consulting work for a long time. I took dozens of pages of handwritten notes every day for years, as it offered one major benefit over paper. I could search my handwritten notes and find the particular nugget of information I had recorded. That beat paper notes hands down.

    My work back then consisted of attending five to six meetings daily, often at multiple venues all over town. I would take copious notes on the tablet, and at the end of the day would use the tablet’s keyboard to write official reports. I did all of this while also writing about mobile tech as a hobby. My days were full of words, handwritten and typed, and tablets were the vehicle for recording them.

    Having used a number of tablets since the birth of the Tablet PC and into the present age, it’s worth noting the best of the lot. Most of them were amazing feats of engineering for their time.

    The five tablets listed here were/are all used by me in my work and play. Together they recorded tens of thousands of handwritten pages of notes, and hundreds of thousands of written words. They are the five best tablets ever made, in this writer’s opinion.

    They are presented in chronological order, based on the year each was released for sale. Each was chosen for this top five list based on some particular design that set it ahead of the pack, or for the total package that pushed it ahead of the competition.

    If you have a favorite tablet, any type, that doesn't appear on this list, share it in the comments below. It’s fun to take trips down memory lane and important to not forget where we’ve been.

  • HP Compaq tc1000/1100 — 2003

    The Tablet PC was a growing gleam in the eye of Bill Gates when HP introduced a revolutionary tablet. The HP Compaq (HP bought Compaq in 2001) tc1000 crammed an entire Windows PC into a thin slate with a 10-inch screen sporting an active digitizer. It wasn't perfect, as the hardware of the time was anemic, and the tc1000 was very underpowered as a result.

    The tc1000 was much thinner and lighter than anything else of that time, and was a full Windows Tablet PC. It was probably the greatest design and engineering achievement HP ever brought to market (even though design credit likely goes to Compaq).

    The portable design of the HP tc1000 was only part of the reason it makes this “best tablet” list. HP realized that the keyboard couldn’t be dropped entirely from the Tablet PC, so it designed an outstanding mobile version for the tc1000.

    The tablet could be easily snapped onto the keyboard for use as a laptop. The special hinge supported the heavy slate for comfortable use. The tc1000 could also be rotated 360 degrees for tablet use without detaching it from the keyboard. The remarkable hinge mechanism supported using the tc1000 and keyboard in every possible configuration, giving complete choice to the user.

    While a remarkable product, the tc1000 was too underpowered to make it a great solution for most users. HP soon refreshed it to have a more powerful processor, and I quickly upgraded to the tc1100. HP made sure that all accessories purchased for the tc1000, keyboard and batteries included, were compatible with the tc1100.

    This model was so advanced for its time that I used it for years in my work. It was fast enough compared to laptops of that time, and it provided the perfect solution for my note-taking and report writing.

    Battery life of mobile devices was poor back then, so HP/Compaq went with an ingenious removable battery design. The battery was a relatively thin, flat shape that popped into a receptacle on the back of the tc1000/1100, leaving it flush with the slate. The ability to swap a spent battery with a fresh one made it possible to get all day mobile use of the tc1000/1100 at a time when most laptops could only get three or four hours using batteries much larger than that of the tc1000.

    HP only sold the tc1000/1100 for a short while, but they were used by owners and businesses for years due to the lack of anything similar on the market. I used the tc1100 for years in my business, as it was solidly built and stood up to the rigors of mobile use.

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, iPad, Lenovo, Tablets

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  • Spot on

    I loved my TC1x00 and wish that HP would have seen the usefulness of the hybrid tablet. I didn't give mine up until 2010! It just got to be too slow when comparing it to available technology. Note taking just isn't the same on the iPad.

    My work provided me with an X60, then an X61, and I don't think it came close to the HP. More powerful yes, but the hybrid design and 3 lbs. were perfect.
  • Very nice summary

    I like that well done and solid analysis combined with actual use (most people cannot begin to defend that). Well done - Thank I love looking at the history of tech.
  • The original IBM Thinkpad...

    Those were nice machines, but let's not forget that while Gates coined the marketing term "Tablet PC" in 2001, tablets have been around for much longer. The original IBM Thinkpad of the early 1990s was a tablet PC, and most major computer companies offered pure tablets in the early 90s (Toshiba, NEC, Samsung, Fujitsu, Compaq, etc). Even convertibles originated back then, like the Compaq Concerto or the ThinkPad 750P.

    While the Tablet PC initiative was not successful in the consumer market, Gates was successful in creating the belief that Microsoft invented the tablet in 2001, which clearly isn't the case. It could easily be argued that Microsoft actually prevented tablets from succeeding by killing off the rival PenPoint pure tablet operating system in the early 90s and condemning users to the clumsy Windows for Pen Computing instead. The 2001 XP Tablet PC edition was more of the same, thus delaying tablet technology until the iPad and then Android showed up.
  • I confess that tablets never appealed to me until 4 yrs ago (to the day)

    when the iPad became available to the public although I waited a month to purchase the 3G WiFi model for myself.
  • And the 20th century's tablets, ...

    ... the pen-stylus-only NCR 3125 (no keyboard provided), the various GRiD pads, like the 2160 (running Windows 3.1 for Pen Computing), the Apple Newton, and the Casio/RadioShack Z-7000 PDA -- a heck of a lot earlier, and with far more accurate pens, than today's kludgey, mitten-accurate, squidgey, fat-finger devices. How soon the masses forget ... .
  • Shocked

    You shocked me twice in one article:

    1. I owned four of your top 5 (except Kindle).
    2. You left off the original iPad.

    Although I am a PC tablet junkie (up to a Surface Pro 2 now), I have to give props where they are deserved, and the original iPad was a groundbreaking masterpiece. Granted the iPad Air is superior in every way, but the place in the hall of fame belongs to its great great grandfather.
  • Bleeding Edge

    Having bled over more edges than I care to count, I can't quarrel with your best list. But if you ever do an innovative tablets list, don't forget the Motion Computing m1200 (which preceded the TC1000) and the OQO 02 (a 5" screen, Wacom, slide-out keyboard with trackstick, and it fit in your front pocket, if your belt was up to the 1 pound weight).
  • I agree with you on the Kindle

    And the iPad air. I would have included the original iPad. It was the first tablet to actually succeed in the market and established tablets as a separate product category.
  • Show me your tardis

    I love these "of all time" lists. It never ceases to amaze me that none of the best (or worst) of all time actually occur in the future. Clearly we have reached the pinnacle of human development and it is all downhill from here.

    That said, I would love to get my hands on the time machine reviewers use to enable this to be ascertained...
  • Tablets take over?

    Sorry, I use them for entertainment and nothing else. Y
  • How sad

    So you started off with 3 tablets that worked as production devices and then slipped into consumption devices for the last 2.

    I would argue that even today you would probably be more productive on your first choice of Tablet (TC1x00) than the last (Kindle Fire).

    I doubt that for anything but niche work the iPad Air is practically useless for all but those pretending to do real work. So yes I understand why the upper echelons use them as they're simply consuming information, doing minor correctives and formatting of the work their minions do on real computers.

    Is this a sign then of where the tablet format has ended.
    • Ignorent view point

      You apparently do not realize that the iPad is regard as the defector standard for corporate pads and has more business software written for it then all others combined.

      You should never let your own limited experience dictate reality.
  • ====> WOAH NELLIE ! ! !

    A gallery that does not reload the WHOLE page.
    Now that was very pleasant... THANKS!
    I have the Ascend based Envizen V917G tablet.
    Tho it's not top of the line, many USB peripherals work all at once with a port expander. All USB powered = Keyboard, HDD, mouse, CD/DVD, + more I'm sure.
  • Sell your stocks.

    Again, Surface Pro ignored just as I do your article.
  • No Surface Pro!

    Wouldn't have bothered me except for the inclusion of the Kindle Fire. But I guess you had to include a toy for the masses rather than a completely integrated system that, so far, is the only tablet on the market to offer a no compromise solution to both mobile and traditional productivity computing.
    The Heretic
  • The Kindle

    I think its the last one, the Kindle, that is the most questionable in that list. A good last one might have been the Surface Pro or even a Dell Venue 8 Pro (being a full Windows OS port on a very inexpensive device with full Office with lots of features).
    Rann Xeroxx
    • if its going to be a win8 tablet

      I would pick the Lenovo Thinkpad 8 - hires screen and hdmi puts it above all other BayTrail 8inch tablets.
  • I'd love to see an apple ipad/imac hybrid

    I'd love to see a tablet, with a detachable keyboard that runs ios and osx. That would be very interesting to me.
    • Guess you missed the announcement.

      Microsoft did that already. They call it the Surface Pro. Runs the equivalent of iOS (called Modern) and Windows 8. The fact that this list omitted it makes the entire list questionable. I understand that the list is the author's personal opinion but a journalist would not have done this.
      The Heretic
  • Sorry, Ain't Gonna Play ...

    Put it all in one article or lose.

    Click Bait Fail.
    Randy Hagan