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My old trusty HP Pavilion tx2690eo convertible died just recently, and having found myself in the market for a new digital art device I thought I'd entertain an odd notion I had.

The problem with convertibles, of course, is that you lose access to the keyboard and all the convenience it brings when in tablet mode. No Ctrl+Z+X+C+V, no holding down the shift key, and typing layer names or googling reference images is that much more inconvenient. I made do with an external keyboard for years, but less gadgets is always better and now I'm wondering if there exist laptops equipped with active digitizers that can open flat on their backs. A slate tablet would do too, but since I still need laptop-like functionality whichever keyboard case I get for it would also have to open 180° (or be bluetooth.)

I need a Windows machine for my purposes, but Android and OSX answers also interest me and might interest others.

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I don't understand what you're asking here? And how it's related to graphic design? – poepje Jun 11 '12 at 9:04
This section of Stack Exchange is full of graphics tablet recommendation questions, so I thought one asking for laptop or tablet computers equipped with active digitizers wouldn't hurt. I was asking about active digitizer laptops that one can open a hundred and eighty degrees so that both the display unit and the keyboard rest flat on the desk. – user1448338 Jun 11 '12 at 9:50
Okay that's fine.. But why would Ctrl/shift combinations not work? On my laptop it works fine (I don't think the 180 degrees opening matters on this) – poepje Jun 11 '12 at 10:45
In a convertible tablet PC, such as the one I had before, the display folds over the keyboard to become a graphics tablet. Obviously the Ctrl and Shift keys on the tablet keyboard won't be accessible then. They WOULD be accessible with an external keyboard attached, but the goal here is to dispense with it. The options seem to me to be either a laptop that opens flat, or a slate tablet with a keyboard case that opens flat. – user1448338 Jun 11 '12 at 11:20
@e100 almost. Basically it means a proper graphics tablets built into the screen (pressure sensitive, electromagnetic so can detect hovering position, etc), as opposed to 'stylus' which usually means just a solid plastic prodding stick. Like graphics tablets, they're not necessarily touch sensitive, though some are. They are popular with designers for obvious reasons (Wacom ones are essentially a 2009 Cintiq with a computer built in), but they are most often marketed to handwriting-loving business types, who are a bigger market. – user568458 Jun 12 '12 at 14:18
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Regarding devices that can lie flat and have a separate keyboard, samsung slate 7 and Asus ep121 are slate PCs with Wacom digitizer pen tablets built into the screen that run design software pretty well and are fairly popular with designers (sometimes as a primary device, sometimes as a portable thing for digital drawing in real design software on the move). Both have own-brand bluetooth keyboards that either come in the box or can be bought as accessories. Either lying flat, or with this Samsung Slate case, they might match the 'odd notion' you had.

Check out this thread if you go for one of either, which among other relevant things shows of a way to get customisable on-screen buttons for common shortcuts that might make working without a keyboard better. The ones you can download are optimised for these devices and Photoshop shortcuts; they also show how to make on-screen button panels like that for any device or software.

enter image description here

It might be worth holding on if you can. When Windows 8 comes out later this year, it's likely that there will be a lot of new devices like this and a lot more choice. The Asus one apparently had pretty short battery life and was fairly heavy and clunky, and the Samsung one (which I use), while generally very good, has quality control issues. A lot of people have had problems with the screen and the accuracy of the pen's calibration.

As for laptops with built-in Wacom pressure sensitive tablet screens, there's a Lenovo one I know of and I think Toshiba have a couple. I seem to remember when I was researching options a while ago that they didn't sound very appealing - I think they seemed clunky and overpriced for what they were - but I didn't look into it very thoroughly.

There are also plenty of cheaper laptops and slates with N-trig pen tablet screens, but check videos of them in action first, those I've seen have had pressure sensitivity that was unusably unreliable.

As for Android which you mentioned, the samsung galaxy note has a Wacom digitizer built into the screen. It makes a great digital pocket sketchbook with layers etc (app recommendations: Infinite Design (vector) and Infinite Painter (raster with various pressure-sensitive brushes) ).

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Thanks. Waiting for a Windows 8 device might be the smartest choice; I did some research, and the release lineup seems to cater specifically to bizarre form factor fetishists (Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, Samsung Series 5 Ultra Convertible, Asus Taichi, Acer Iconia W510...), though none have active digitizers confirmed as of yet, I think. – user1448338 Jun 13 '12 at 8:55

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