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Microsoft continues to push stylus use with Windows tablets: good for students

Windows Tablet
Windows TabletJoe Raedle Getty Images

The website Engadget announced today that Microsoft is now selling the Asus Vivo Tab Note 8 inch tablet in their retail stores. While curiously priced at $329 vs. the $299 price point announced by Asus in January, the product is now offered by Microsoft. Also oddly, when going to the Microsoft online retail site, it is listed as out of stock. But that is not the story. The focus here is on the advance of Windows tablets that support natural hand writing.

The Vivo Tab Note 8 is significant because it is part of a new generation of tablets that offer pen input using a stylus pen. In technical parlance, there is an active digitizer built into the device, which supports the use of a fine tipped pen, much like a pencil point. The pen responds to pressure and enables very fine writing and quick response. The use of an active digitizer and a stylus pen makes writing on a tablet surface much more natural, analogous to paper. This is important for students that wish to take notes or annotate text while reading. The ability to write smoothly and efficiently is an essential function for students not well supported by other tablets without active digitizers. The iPad and most Android tablets do not include active digitizers, thus making them cumbersome for handwriting, annotating text, or drawing.

In addition to the Vivo Tab Note 8, Dell also has an impressive competitive offering with the Venue Pro 8 inch Windows tablet. It has received positive reviews, and is similarly priced at $299. For students looking to adopt a tablet that will support handwriting efficiently and smoothly, both the Vivo Tab Note and the Venue Pro are excellent options. Also important to students is that Windows tablets come standard with Office, which is a big plus. But the software options don’t begin and end with Office, because one can load any Windows compatible software onto a Windows tablet, making the device far more utilitarian for users. Android and Apple tablets can only run the apps offered, and users cannot run software programs such as Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, for example.

There are few tablets that offer active digitizers at this time, so this development is a welcomed advance. Sans these two 8 inch tablets from Dell and Asus, the only other choice currently would be the Microsoft Surface Pro, which starts at $899. For students, this is likely way out of an acceptable price range. Although the Surface Pro is a more powerful and feature laden device, including a 10 inch screen, the 8 inch Asus or Dell might fit the needs well enough. The choice between an 8 inch and a 10 inch tablet is mostly preference, although a smaller screen does introduce some obvious compromises. However, for a price that is comparatively cheap combined with the other features, the smaller screen might be an acceptable compromise.