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My Quest for the Ideal 8” Windows Tablet

Note that I didn’t say “perfect”. I started my adventure with the Acer Iconia W4 in 2013, almost the day it hit the market. It was an ok little tablet, but the display was terrible and it lacked stylus support. Fast forward about six months and next up was the Asus Note 8, with Wacom pen support. Much better display, excellent for note taking and drawing, and handles most tasks without any issues. It’s currently running Windows 10 Technical Preview, and I won’t hold that against it (lets just say Win 10 has a long way to go), but there have been a couple nagging things. I don’t use my 8” everyday, but on the days I want/need to use it, I expect there to be enough battery power remaining to get at least 30-60 minutes of fun time in. Although it generally last 3-4 days on standby, I have often been surprised with a dead battery. Not sure why. It also has a tendency to lag occasionally. Little nits. But irritating nonetheless.

So yesterday, after asking anyone from staffnotify to talk me out of it, I opted in for the new Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 8” Windows tablet. Damn, that’s a mouthful. I’ll call it the Yoga 8 to keep it simple. This is another 8” Windows tablet with much of the standard fare; Atom Processor (slight upgrade over the Asus Note 8), 2 GB of RAM, 32GB Memory (my Note 8 has 64GB, but I think that will be ok), etc. A few things though that make it a bit different are the built in kickstand to accommodate; hang (for hanging on a wall), stand (for presentations or viewing videos, etc.), tilt (for comfortable typing) and hold (typical tablet orientation), a giant battery (6400 mAh vs. 3950 mAh on the Note 8) and something called Any Pen technology. With Any Pen, you can basically write on the tablet with precision, using any metal or graphite object. A pen or pencil for example. Or, a fork, screwdriver or even a steak knife. Not that I will want to use any of the latter (a novelty at best), I sort of like the idea of using any writing instrument as a stylus. I say sort of, because I am not too keen about leaving ink or graphite residue on the super hard glass surface, only to be picked up by the back of my hand and transferred to other surfaces, like a white shirt. More on that later.

I’m not an artist, and I have more or less given up on the whole handwriting recognition thing, so 256 levels of pressure are not important to me. One is fine. On the character recognition thing, I could write Graffiti on my Palm Pilot almost as fast as I could two thumb type, with near perfect accuracy. But every device I have tried for handwriting recognition, and I have tried a whole bunch over the past 20 years, couldn’t get me past 75-78% accuracy, which is simply unacceptable. I’ve easily invested over $1,000 in  gadgets; digital pads, digital pens, scanners, etc., most of which went in the trash as I couldn’t justify selling them, or ever giving them away. In the below examples, the first line is how Microsoft, and most of the computer world wants to see me write. The second line is how I actually write. The converted image shows the result, which is actually surprising. Usually it’s a mish mash of upper/lower case letters.

Think I switched from cursive to printing in about the 10th grade, when I got heavily involved in youth hockey management. Filling out lots of rosters and score sheets, usually in triplicate. So I always had to press firmly. Something you couldn’t do well using cursive. Not sure how I adapted to the small upper case letter thing. I think it was my attempt to keep between the lines. Trying to switch now is not an option. The way I write (print) is natural to me. Just not to the people who try to convert my printing into printed text. Oh well. Btw, if your looking for a very nice small letter, upper case font, try Signa. One of my favorites.

In preparation for my new toy, which won’t ship till Monday, and is not scheduled to arrive till Friday (bummer, wish I could have ordered through Amazon Prime) I decided to go out and look for a metal tipped stylus, despite knowing that I could use anything to write on the Yoga 8. As noted above, not sure I want to use my Cross pen to write on the tablet, leaving ink behind, and possibly damaging the pens fine tip. Well, that turned out to be a harder challenge than I had thought. Most styli available today are those 1/4” rubber things, all compatible with iPads of course (no one else makes tablets, right). And the few that do have a precision tip (Lenovo recommends 1mm minimum) are plastic. After nearly an hour of browsing with no success, I decided the best thing to do was go to Staples and pick out a pair of metal ballpoint pens and run down the ink cartridges till dry. I decided on these Zebra StylusPen thingys. Not because of the top rubber tips (will probably never use it), but because the refills looked really tiny. Less ink, less work for me to make non-writing, metal tipped, styli. I taped the two pens together and have been going at it off and on all day. Not sure how long this will take, but I do have till Friday. If this Any Pen technology takes off, remember you got the dry stylus idea from me. Wouldn’t mind a couple free samples.

They say threes a charm. I’ll have to wait and see if the Yoga Tablet 8 is what I have been looking for. At $249 it’s not that much of a risk. You can check out the Yoga 8 here.