Introducing the TC4400
I’ve been evaluating a pre-production version of the TC4400 for the last few weeks. In addition to the usual poking and prodding I’ve used the TC4400 in anger for the last week or so because my beloved TC1100 became a bit unstable.
Those who know me may be wondering how I’ve managed to keep this a secret for this long. Sure – posted a couple of teases but I kept the cat firmly in the bag. How is that possible when I am by nature a person who is passionate about gizmos, gadgets and especially tablets? Well to be honest it was greatly helped by the fact that the TC4400 is, well, not all that exciting really. While it has some good features and some points that need improvement there is nothing in particular that I’ve been dying to share.
In this post I’ll give you a visual tour and then drill down into the good and bad points.
Lets have a look at the TC4400.
Firstly on the front edge there are four lights. These are Wireless, power on, charging and disk activity. There is also both a touch pad and stick type pointing devices, so you can use which ever you prefer. The touch pad features an area down the right side that behaves like a scroll wheel.
The left side (when in laptop mode) includes a power button, a button to enable and disable wireless, a button that launches the HP info centre and a USB port. There is also a cable lock connector and a sizable vent.
On the right there is a powered USB port, audio in and out ports, a PCMCIA slot and a S.D./MMC card reader.
On the back (when in laptop mode, pictured here in slate mode) there is another USB port, a RJ11 modem port, RJ45 LAN 10/100/1000 LAN port, power, VGA and S-video port.
· The screen: The viewing angle and the brightness are pretty good. It is an XGA screen though, so the resolution is 1024x768.
· The Swivel: The hinge has a good solid feel to it and moves smoothly.
· USB Connectors: The three USB ports are on three different sides of the machine. Personally I like this on a machine – when all the ports are jammed next to each other it can be hard to plug in multiple items – especially if you have a fat USB key.
· The latch: The latch is magnetic and works very well. As you close the lid the magnet pulls a little metal latch into position and it locks securely. This is one of the better latches I have seen on a convertible.
· Charge indicators on the batteries: I’m a big fan of this feature. You press a button and it tells you how charged the battery is.
· The stylus: It has a since feel to it. It is slightly shorter than a standard pen, but it has a nice weight to it.
There are some features that are really not great. Here’s the run down of some of areas that could be improved. The really annoying thing is that many of these issues have been carried forward from the TC4200.
· Extended battery connector cover: There is a sliding cover over the extended battery connector on the bottom of the unit that really bugs me. There is not a very strong positive lock on this cover, which means that if you so much as nudge it the cover will move. I found that when I use or carry the tablet in slate mode I frequently end up with a fingertip on this cover. When it slides the whole tablet moves and I almost dropped it once as a direct result of this. This design flaw exists in the TC4200 as well. If I actually owned the unit I would get a screwdriver out and pop this cover off quick smart.
· Hardware buttons covered up in slate mode: There are seven physical hardware buttons and three soft buttons on the TC4400. Four of the seven hardware buttons are covered up when you spin the tablet into slate mode. The covered buttons include the presentation button, the mute button and the volume up and down controls. Hardware buttons are useful in slate mode – why on earth cover them up? I actually got caught out when I resumed the tablet in slate mode in a meeting, thinking it was muted and I got the resume noise really loud. Oops. I’d like to see more hardware buttons accessible in slate mode. This was also a problem with the TC4200.
· The Q-menu button is a soft button.: What were they thinking? As a long time TC1100 user I love the fact that I can bring up the Q-menu and mute the tablet, adjust the brightness, standby, hibernate and more using nothing more than the hardware button and the jog dial on the side. With the TC4400 you have to use the stylus to activate the soft buttons, so you need to get the stylus out, tap the button and then you may as well use the stylus to tap the icon in the menu – the jog dial is a bit useless.
· Square edges: The edges of the TC4400 are not at all rounded. This make it a bit uncomfortable to hold in slate mode.
· Heat: The bottom of the unit gets quite warm when it is in use. I found it got to the point of being uncomfortable to use in your lap in both slate mode and tablet mode. It also gets quite warm in standby mode – don’t put it in a bag in standby, even for a short time. It will go into thermal shutdown.
· The plug: All of the HP tablets and laptops my wife and I have had in the past have used exactly the same power supply. This is a handy thing because if you invest in an additional power supply you can keep it when you upgrade. The power supply on the TC4400 is the same voltage, ampage and polarity but they have changed the connector so you can’t use your old power supply that is right in every other way. Very disappointing.
The TC4400 is not bad, but it fails to dazzle. A cursory search on Froogle seems to indicate that the TC4400 will be a similar price to the other Core Duo tablet on the market – the Toshiba M400. I prefer the Toshiba M400 – you can find my review of that tablet here.