Vista on a Tablet

I tested Vista RTM on a Toshiba Portege M400. This is a great though expensive Tablet PC: Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 CPU, fingerprint reader (handy for logging onto a table without tapping in a password), FireWire, Bluetooth, etc etc. Perhaps its most notable feature is the “slim select bay”, which comes as standard with a DVD rewriter, but can be replaced with a 2nd hard drive or a 2nd battery. Hence this is one of few laptops with an integrated RAID controller. The 2nd drive is also handy for testing multiple operating systems.

I had this running reasonably well with Vista RC2, and rather optimistically tried an in-place upgrade to Vista RTM. It failed badly. I left it chugging away and came back a couple of hours later to find it in a blue-screen, reboot cycle. I suspect the problem was with one of the beta drivers I’d installed in an attempt to get all the integrated devices working. Who knows what would happen if you tried the in-place upgrade from XP: probably bad things.

Anyway, I zapped RC2 and did a clean install instead. That was straightforward, although you still need to download Toshiba’s SATA RAID driver in order to get Vista to see the drive. Contrary to some reports, you don’t actually have to enable the RAID controller.

The laptop was immediately usable, though I did have to install Intel’s wireless driver to get the wireless network working. I’ve not reinstalled all the other beta drivers, since Toshiba will likely come up with better versions shortly. This laptop is promoted as “Vista Capable”. For the time being, some devices are disabled.

The Tablet side of things works very well indeed. My main use of Tablet mode is for meetings and conferences. Taking notes is easier and more natural when writing on a screen.

I realize that the Tablet has not been a big commercial win for Microsoft, and has probably proved a costly experiment for some hardware partners like Acer. Nevertheless, it’s an important advance in mobile computing. Tablets are a vast improvement on touch-sensitive screens such as those found on a Pocket PC. The electromagnetic digitizer means you can lean your hand on the screen as you write (just like paper), and finer drawing is possible.

Here’s what impressed me most. I opened up Word 2007 and started text input using the handwriting tool. I have poor handwriting, but my first sentence or two came out letter-perfect.

Overall Vista RTM does seem a little snappier than the RC2 release. It’s just those pesky drivers – which is no doubt why the laptop has problems resuming sometimes after sleep or hibernation.

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7 thoughts on “Vista on a Tablet”

  1. I’ve also got a Tosh M400 but I’m hanging off until Toshiba release the full set of Vista RTM drivers. Was expecting to see them about now, well considering they had previously indicated the drivers would be available about the same time as Vista. But alas, Toshiba have yet to do the needful.

    Who thinks they are having big problems getting the drivers up to their quality standards?

    I’ll be watching your blog for any updates on your Vista experience with the M400!

  2. John,

    It is getting better all the time. The latest Microsoft updates to Vista seem to have helped too. That said, you are right to be cautious. The most pressing problem is the graphics driver; once that is sorted I could recommend it.


  3. I am dual-booting XP Pro and Vista on an M400. It runs very well and the screen display is brilliant. I originally ran an in-place upgrade from RC1 to RTM which was an unmitigated disaster, but probably to be expected. A clean install solved all the problems. Downloading/installing approx 30 Vista drivers from Toshiba was a pain but unavoidable.

    I do have two issues at present: (1) I receive regular “The print spooler service has failed” messages, and (2) the “Software updates are available from Toshiba” routine ALWAYS fails. Ideas, anyone?

    Office 2007 on the above is running fine except for Outlook 2007 which is slower than treacle (it’s the same on my desktop PC as well). Completely unacceptable. Until it is mended, there is no way I could roll this out to our users.

    A totally unrelated comment concerns the accuracy of the speech recognition: it’s excellent. There are a (very) few words it simply refuses to recognise, but that’s life. (Strangely ‘alcohol’ is one of them – the spelling thereof is slurred 8-))).

    Vista on the M400 – go for it.


  4. Thanks for the report Nigel.

    Mine is going OK; the main problem I’ve had (after sorting the graphics driver) is with resume failures. The latest BIOS update does seem to have helped, but I’m reserving judgment.


  5. well i’m happy with my XPpro but changing to vista is now my priority in my hand now is the RC1 copy of Vista. installed it and its working. had a hard time with the video driver for nvidia, download helps.. A lot.. since Rc1 is a time bomb waiting to expire.. i’m now trying to crack it down..

  6. How to use Vista on a Tablet for conferences?

    Just fold down the lid šŸ™‚

    I mean using it as a kind of notepad, not for virtual conferences – though you could do that too.


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