Help Me, LAPTOP: I Need an eReader/Tablet for Class

Students may be on winter break, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a note-taking tablet for the next semester. Elisa, who’s studying for her Ph.D in English literature, is looking for an inexpensive tablet that will let her take notes easily, read a wide variety of formats, and surf the Internet.

So she came to us looking for advice.

Elisa writes,

I’m looking for that magical device that somehow manages to be both better AND cheaper than the iPad (at least for my needs), and preferably unburdened by an overly smug marketing campaign. It’s a cross between an eReader and a tablet, [with] good highlighting and annotating capabilities and the ability to read a wide variety of formats (including PDFs and Word documents). E-ink isn’t important either (the LCD doesn’t seem to bother my eyes) but a glare-free screen is, as well as a good long battery life. It should also be able to browse the Internet, though I’m less concerned about things like 3G and awesome graphics than I am about Google Maps and Wikipedia (and being formatted properly.

PS: Seriously, please don’t tell me to get an iPad.

Well, Elisa, we won’t tell you to get an iPad. Unfortunately, there’s not much out there yet that can meet your exacting demands, and while we saw dozens of tablets at CES (here’s a slideshow of the ten best) it’s hard to say when they’ll become available, and if they’ll be any good. You might want to keep your eye on the Notion Ink Adam (check out our CES hands-on video) and the Asus Eee Slider, both of which won’t hit the market until April/May at the earliest.

Aside from the iPad, we generally like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, though an unsubsidized version costs as much as the iPad, and picking up a peripheral, such as a keyboard, only adds to the cost. If reading documents and taking notes is your biggest need, you might also consider the Amazon Kindle 3G.

If you’re planning to get a laptop in the near future (which would, incidentally, take care of a lot of these needs), you also may want to think about the LiveScribe Echo Smartpen. This small portable device will digitally record your written notes, let you search them, and can even record your professors’ lectures. Besides, you shouldn’t be surfing the net in class.

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  1. Jesse B Andersen Says:

    If you are a student you could use a keyboard because writing papers needs one. (especially Literature)
    If you don’t like glare on your screen go with a matte screen.
    If you need to take notes then you need a good note taking program (like Microsoft OneNote).
    If you also need to take notes you could use pen input of some kind (digitizer/stylus).
    If you need to read PDFs then you need a system capable of reading PDFs

    If you need a cheap system… well that’s a problem. Cheap = usually crap.
    If you are going to be a PHD then most likely you will spend a lot on that education, so get a good system that will last.

    It seems like everything above can be solved through a convertible tablet…. like a Lenovo X200 or Lenovo X201 tablet with matte screens. Either of those won’t do amazing 3D, but they can do HD video and minor 3D stuff. This is not a cheap system, but it’s not a toy like some “slate only tablets”.

    Another system that is more portable right now is the Fujitsu T580 but that does have a glossy screen.

  2. Autumn Corvus Says:

    I would also suggest the Nook Color (unfortunately only available in US). It’s available now, and can be unlocked to allow for the endless possibilities of Android while still being a small (7″) tablet that’s easy to hold up to read a book and can fit in a coat pocket to take with you everywhere. It has good notetaking/highlighting capabilities, dictionaries, Endnote, and a beautiful multitouch LCD screen that’s supposedly easy on the eyes. I’m hoping to get one myself, though I live in Canada (I’m also a grad student).

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