The M285-E may provide too much of everything, though: The screen provided plenty of real estate for jotting down notes or for drawing during eWEEK Labs tests, but the systems size and weight—a bulky 7.3 pounds—made it cumbersome to use in tablet format. In fact, the unit was much easier to use as a desktop replacement or in our laps.
Nonetheless, with Intels Core 2 Duo processor and graphics capabilities from ATIs PCI Express card, the system will provide plenty of performance.
For a starting price of $1,449, the M285-E comes with Intels 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500 processor, 512MB of RAM, the integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 and a 40GB hard drive. This configuration also includes a CD-ROM, a seven-in-one media card reader and an integrated Intel Pro/Wireless module capable of accessing 802.11a, b and g networks. The tablet also comes with the Genuine Microsoft Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system.
Our test unit raised the stakes with Intels 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5600 processor, 1GB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. This configuration is priced at $1,949 and includes an upgraded GPU—the ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 (64MB)—which is beefy enough to handle drawing applications used by CAD designers and architects.
With this combination of processing performance and graphics capability, the M285-E we tested was on par with other business-class notebook machines weve looked at from a graphics and performance standpoint.
The amount of RAM on the M285-E we tested makes it capable of running Microsofts forthcoming Vista operating system, and the ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 GPU means that the unit also can support Vistas Aero Glass 3-D graphics, translucency and window animation.
Our unit came with an integrated dual-layer DVD burner and a full-sized keyboard—two features rarely found in a tablet PC. The M285-E features an EZ Pad pointing device and also comes with a stylus pen that is thicker and much easier to grip than those offered by competing solutions. The seven-in-one media card reader supports Memory Stick, Memory Stick pro, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, xD Picture Card, Mini Secure Digital and RS-MultiMediaCard formats.
Converting the M285-E from notebook to tablet mode can be done by swiveling the screen around and laying the back of the display flat on top of the keyboard. The systems hinge is sturdy, and a scroll wheel next to the display makes it easy to navigate.
The M285-E has an attractive 14-inch widescreen WXGA TFT active-matrix display with a 1,280-by-768 maximum resolution. Writing on the screen was like writing on paper, and we found that the display responded very well to the stylus.
When Microsofts Vista is released, tablet functionality will be ubiquitous in the operating system. We expect the tablet experience to be enhanced with new ink analysis technologies and Tablet PC support in the Windows Presentation Foundation.
Connectivity options include the tri-band Intel Pro/Wireless module, but we wish that the system had a hardware switch with which we could turn the Wi-Fi on and off. The M285-E also comes with Bluetooth, three USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port.
Our unit came equipped with an eight-cell lithium ion battery. While the benchmarking program we use to test mobile systems—MobileMark—cannot be used to run Microsoft Windows XP Tablet Edition, we were able to get 6 hours of battery life out of the M285-E.
Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at email@example.com.