Motion Computing CL900 – Tablet Usage

I noted in my first post about the Motion Computing CL900 Tablet PC that it was designed for tablet users and gave an example of the pen silo. So how else does the CL900 hold up for day-in and day-out tablet usage?

Holding The Tablet

Holding the CL900 feels really good. It is light, has rounded corners, and provides ample space around the screen to grasp it without accidentally launching a program. The CL900 was designed to be rugged, but it doesn’t feel like one of the typical rugged tablets out there that are thick and weigh a ton. Motion did not compromise one bit in the design aesthetics of this tablet.

New CL900 users will find the CL900 friendly to the fingers. The tablet never got hot, or even warm for that matter. In addition, I had to work hard to even hear the fan. Motion has come along way since the LS800 overheating days.

Rotation

The CL900 automatically rotates 270 degrees: primary and secondary portrait, and primary landscape.  I have found the automatic rotation to be a tad on the sensitive side and found myself wishing I could manually control when I wanted to rotate the screen. Automatic rotation can be turned off through a system tray setting; however, outside of opening the Motion Dashboard, there is not a hardware button or software shortcut to manually rotate the screen. The CL900 includes ExTOUCH, an application launcher that resides on the side of the screen that would be perfect for a rotation shortcut.   I also found the rotation to be a  little laggy. Most Windows tablets suffer from this problem so it isn’t an issue isolated to the CL900. I guess I’m so used to the seamless screen rotation of the iPad that I’ve gotten spoiled.

Buttons

As I mentioned above, the CL900 only has three rubberized buttons: power, CTRL – ALT – Delete, and battery indicator. The power button is slightly recessed, decreasing the likelyhood of accidentally sending the tablet into sleep mode. Tablet hardware button support was not installed, so the CTRL-ALT-DEL key cannot be reprogrammed for other purposes. Previous Motion tablets had ample hardware buttons that could be programmed for whatever purpose the user needed: rotating, taking a picture, launching an application, etc. I’d like to see more hardware buttons in the next release of the CL900

Handwriting

I’ve already provided a video and commentary of the handwriting experience on the CL900. I guess you could say, I’m becoming more of a N-trig each day. It is clear that N-trig has been listening to their customers and they are making strides at improving their digitizer with each new generation of hardware. Switching between touch and pen is becoming more natural than with previous N-trig based tablets. Overall, I’m very pleased with the handwriting experience and would have no qualms using the CL900 to take notes.

However, my biggest negative with the handwriting is with the noise as the pen makes contact with the screen. As I mentioned in the handwriting article, the pen-to-screen noise is much quieter than the Slate 500, but it is definitely noticeable and nowhere near as quiet as Wacom-based tablets. A prototype pen I’ve been using makes it even more quieter, so there is hope in the experience getting better. This pen will be released in the fall. My conversations with N-trig have also indicated the additional pens are being developed to make experience even quieter, and advances in their digitizer should help even more.

At first glance, the pop-out pen silo would appear not to hold up well to continual opening and closing over several years. However, the more I’ve used the tablet, the pen silo actually feels quite sturdy and is at an angle that makes breakage quite difficult. It is clear that Motion took this issue into account when designing the CL900 to be rugged.  Kudos to Motion for holding firm on making the pop-out pen silo a key design feature. Unlike other tablet manufacturers, Motion didn’t leave tablet users high and dry when it comes to the pen.

Outdoor Visibility and Viewing Angles

I tested the CL900 in bright sunlight and did not have any problems at all in viewing the screen, launching applications, and taking notes. It was so good, in fact, that the CL900 put the iPad to shame. In addition, I found the viewing angles to be very good.

I didn’t have enough guts to try scratching the Corning Gorilla Glass, but I trust Motion enough that when they tell me it is scratch-resistant, I believe them.

Although fingerprints don’t show while the tablet is turned on, the screen does show fingerprints pretty badly when the tablet is turned off or while in sleep mode. That said, the fingerprint issue is greatly improved over previous Motion tablets.

Recommendations

With regards to tablet usage, how would I improve the CL900?

  • Add more hardware buttons and allow them to be programmable. This would make launching a camera application, rotating the screen, etc more accessible. The ExTOUCH application is nice, but it doesn’t compare to hardware buttons and it isn’t configurable in that regard either.
  • Make the rotation less sensitive
  • Even though a case with a built-in stand can be purchased, I would suggest integrating a prop-up stand into the back of the tablet. I’ve been begging Motion for years to do this with all of their tablets, but they have yet to integrate that feature into their hardware design. Even a cover as thin as the iPad Smart Cover would do the trick.
  • Continue working with N-trig on making the pens quieter. A tablet user needs to be able to take handwritten notes as quietly as they do on paper.