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[Ars] Modbook Reviewed (3rd party Mac tablet)

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Quote:
A solution in search of a problem?
The rumors of the Modbook's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Introduced in January of 2007 at the Macworld Expo, Axiotron's modified MacBook caught the attention of many Mac users who had been waiting for Apple to introduce its own tablet-like machine—particularly artists and graphic professionals [...]

Since the ModBook is merely a modified MacBook, its dimensions are almost the same as the MacBook—the key word here being "almost." The width and depth of the machine remain at 12.78 and 8.92 inches, respectively, but the ModBook gains just a hair in thickness—going from the MacBook's 1.08 inches to 1.16 inches [...]

One thing to keep in mind with the ModBook is that, unlike a number of PC tablets, it cannot really be used like a typical laptop, ever. The screen is permanently attached to the rest of the machine in tablet form, so there's no swiveling for you. If you wanted to use it both as a regular laptop with a flip-up screen and a keyboard, and as a drawing/writing/note-taking machine in tablet mode, you will be disappointed.

Instead, the ModBook is more like a massive, powerful PDA that depends almost entirely on stylus input (we'll get to alternatives later) in order to make the most of the machine's capabilities. It comes with two styluses, one of which slips conveniently into the bezel of the ModBook, just as it would in a PDA [...]

The screen of the ModBook has been modified to make use of digitizer technology from Wacom—one of the leading names in graphics tablets. It utilizes 512 levels of pressure sensitivity with the stylus, which is not the best you can get when it comes to tablet sensitivity, but it's also not the worst (all of Wacom's medium-to-higher-end standalone tablets offer 1,024 levels of sensitivity, for example).

The clear benefit to using the ModBook over, say, a Wacom Graphire is the ability to draw and write directly on the screen—the learning curve to perfecting that hand-eye coordination is therefore significantly reduced. Drawing on the ModBook is like drawing directly onto a piece of paper, as opposed to drawing on a piece of paper with an invisible ink pen and watching your results appear on another piece of paper two feet away [...]

The ModBook uses Mac OS X's much-revered Inkwell technology in order to recognize handwritten character input. Inkwell, for the graybeards in the house, is a Mac OS X technology that stems from work done by Apple's Advanced Technology Group before the Newton was born. The Newton was able to utilize handwriting technology without requiring the user to learn a specific set of gestures (like in the Palm days of yore), but was, of course, eventually killed. The tech morphed into Inkwell with the introduction of Jaguar in Mac OS X and remains a part of the operating system, but it is no longer featured like it once was by Apple. For most Mac users, Inkwell merely lurks in the background.

But Inkwell is well suited for the ModBook. Through it, the ModBook is able to handle handwriting-recognition functionality along with the ability to input commands via certain gestures, and you can input text with your own handwriting in pretty much any application [...]

Still, the ModBook cannot be used like a traditional laptop, period. Unlike the MacBook Air, which we believe is best as a second computer (but could potentially be used as a primary machine), the ModBook cannot even be your primary portable machine. If you're into graphics tablets, then it excels well, but if you also want a laptop to cart around with you, you'll almost definitely have to purchase a separate machine [...]

Conclusion
Is the ModBook worth at least $2,279? It depends largely on what you're using it for. For artists—particularly those who are married to Mac OS X—the choice is pretty simple. Back in my artist days, I would not have thought twice about dropping that amount of cash for a tablet Mac that I could draw directly on. Although using the MacBook hardware as a base is not as great as using, say, a MacBook Pro, it saves quite a bit in cost. Plus, let's face it—you may be drawing, painting, and masking away, but most people aren't relying on a ModBook for huge rendering projects.

If you are just planning to use the ModBook as a note-taking device, we're more ambivalent. It's not the situation I would choose for myself, but that's largely out of personal preference and easy annoyance. Still, for others who draw a lot of graphs or doodles in their daily lives (students or engineers, perhaps), it could potentially prove useful.

If you're hoping for a Mac tablet that you can also use like a normal laptop then the ModBook is not for you. And, if there was a single feature that we wish the ModBook had, it would be the ability to swivel the screen around and use it like your average, everyday MacBook when it's not in tablet mode. When we spoke with Axiotron in January, Haas indicated that the company was listening closely to customer feedback to improve upon the ModBook. If that's the case and enough customers feel the same way we do on this topic, there is some possibility that it could become a reality in future ModBooks. Until then, however, we consider the fixed screen a negative that can't be ignored.

The good
* It's the one and only Mac "tablet" on the market—that has to count for something, since Apple offers no alternative
* Awesome device for artists
* Extremely sturdy—you won't scratch this screen easily

The bad
* Just okay on handwriting recognition (more Mac OS X's fault than Axiotron's)
* Half a pound heavier than the already somewhat-heavy MacBook

The ugly
* Very limited as a "normal" laptop, would not recommend as a main laptop
More inside from Ars Technica

When discussing please keep in mind the target market and the fact that this product is not actually from Apple
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post #2 of 3
Old news, I first heard about this in late 2006/early 2007. Te project is finally actually making progress though.
    
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post #3 of 3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arjy View Post
Old news, I first heard about this in late 2006/early 2007. Te project is finally actually making progress though.
The existence is old news. I have not yet seen a hands on review yet, though. The article, should you have chosen to read it, mentions its past
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