by David Haskin
Mobile employees now have another device option. The Hitachi ePlate is a Windows CE-based tablet computer that operates much like a palm-sized device, with a stylus pen for input rather than a keyboard. Bigger than a palm-sized computer and smaller than a notebook, the unique ePlate may be just the right size for users that value a large display for browsing the Web or displaying PowerPoint presentations, but don’t need a lot of computing power.
The ePlate includes basic versions of Microsoft Office applications, including PowerPoint and Access. It comes with a built-in 56Kbps modem and syncs easily with desktop applications via an included serial cable and software for sharing documents, e-mails, and contacts between machines.
At 8.7 by 6.3 by 1.2 inches, this lighter-than 2 pound device is bulkier than most hand held PCs, but far more portable than notebook computers. Its 7.5-inch VGA color monitor is far easier to read than a palm-sized device, but is less readable than a notebook’s display. The ePlate doesn’t have a lid, making it convenient, say, when standing at a phone booth with a receiver squashed between your ear and shoulder. For input users must either use the on-screen keyboard, which you tap with the stylus pen, or use handwriting recognition. Both methods are simple and intuitive, but not as fast as typing.
We found the unit had enough power to run basic PowerPoint presentations. And unlike Palm-sized devices, it has a VGA video adapter for attaching a larger monitor or projection screen to display presentations. For word processing sessions, a keyboard can be attached via a USB port. However, for those that need the power of full-fledged office applications, ePlate’s scaled-down versions may be unsatisfying.
The ePlate doesn’t fit in a shirt pocket, nor does it offer enough power to do serious number crunching. But this clever device, while pricey, is a great choice if screen size is a priority without the bulk and greater expense of a notebook computer.