Computer Aces

Tech for the Rest of Us

March 9th, 2011

Gateway Tablet PC C140XL – A Review AFTER two years

Hardware, Products, Review, Technology, by CmputrAce.

Gateway Model: C140XL with Fingerprint reader
Part No: 2905964R
Model (on PC): TA7

I purchased this Tablet PC in January 2008, and of all the laptops I have ever had, I have to say that this has been the closest to my ideal Portable Do-It-All Information Management Device of all the laptops / notebooks / PDAs I have ever owned, and I have owned a LOT.

Here’s a (probably incomplete) list:

  • Toshiba laptop – I can’t remember the model
  • Palm Pilot – Yes, the ORIGINAL Pilot
  • IBM Thinkpad T20 – Notebook
  • Palm m505 – I still have this. I need to get a new battery pack for it.
  • Dell Lattitude C640 – Notebook
  • Toshiba e750
  • Compaq iPaq (one of the earlier ones – had big add-on packs on it.
  • Fujitsu Lifebook (purchased from Fry’s – I will NEVER EVER buy a computer from them or a notebook from Fujitsu again.  EVER) Nice when I first got it, but proved to be a brick.
  • iMate JasJar – The BRAIN! I wish it was still working…
  • Gateway C140XL Tablet
  • iPhone
  • iPhone 3G
  • MacBook Pro (15”), late 2008 unibody model
  • iPhone 3Gs

Here are the general stats on the Gateway – Remember, this is a late 2007 model Tablet PC:

  • 1.67 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (T5450)
  • 4 GB (Upgraded from 2GB installed)
  • 500 GB Seagate ST9500420AS SATA (Upgraded from 250GB initial)
  • ATI Mobility™ Radeon® X2300 HD PCI Express Graphics (1280×768)
  • SigmaTel 9200 Audio hardware
  • Internal Modem (Why?)
  • 10/100/1000Mb Internal Network Adapter – Gigabit! Yay!
  • Internal Bluetooth – works GREAT with a bluetooth mouse meaning NO DONGLES
  • Internal 802.11 a/b/g Wireless Network Adapter – Standard on notebooks for the time, but still priceless
  • Internal CD/DVD(Multi) Reader/Writer
  • Ports:
    • 3 USB 2.0 ports
    • VGA port
    • Type II PC Card Bus slot
    • IEEE 1394 – Firewire (4-pin)
    • 7-in-1 digital card reader
    • Microphone jack
    • Headphone jack
    • RJ-45 port
    • RJ-11 port
    • Power input
    • Port Replicator Connector

And the best part of all:

  • Gateway® Executive Stylus with Gateway Continuous Sensing Technology

This is essentially a built-in Wacom digitizing tablet and stylus, NOT a resistive touch sensor.

Naturally, the video display can swivel and lay flat over the keyboard, giving me a tablet, or it can be used as a conventional notebook computer. The display is bright with a coated surface to reduce glare.

Instead of giving a detailed review of the computer which I’m sure you can find elsewhere, let me tell you why the MacBook Pro hasn’t replaced the Gateway as my chosen Portable Do-It-All Information Management Device, then I’ll tell you what my ideal Portable Do-It-All Information Management Device would be like.

The absolute worst part about this tablet was Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit). It was pretty enough, but it was Vista, and I am disappointed that I was stuck with a 32-bit OS on a 64-bit capable CPU. ‘Nuff Said. Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) RC rocks on it, though.

Versatile

The minds at Gateway put together a great combination of features that made for an impressive notebook PC into a convertible notebook / tablet device. Every other tablet or convertible I looked at before the Gateway was underpowered, had too little storage, terrible screen resolution, or was just too expensive for me. This Gateway was less than $2,000 for the hardware while giving me enough power to work, crunch numbers, and play games without constantly cursing the computer.

At work I take the C140 into meetings instead of a notebook. I flip the screen over the keyboard, pull out the stylus, and take notes using Windows Journal or MS OneNote 2007. I’ve also used mind-mapping software in meetings line Personal Brain, FreeMind, and XMind, but they tend to struggle with the Input Panel in Windows Vista / Windows 7. I’m pretty sure the problem lies with the Input Panel and NOT the applications because I’ve had the panel go flaky on OneNote as well; however, I can use “digital ink” in Windows Journal and OneNote – not an option in the mind mappers.

At my desk, I flip the screen back to notebook position and use the convertible as one of my desktop computers. I plug the laptop into the port replicator which connects it to an external monitor, network, and my various USB peripherals. One connection, many ports. The Port Replicator (not docking bay) was a reasonable $120 considering it increased my potential monitor connections to three given the internal display and on-board VGA connector. Add a USB monitor device and you end up with four displays driven by the tablet.

Another versatility feature is the available battery options. Gateway offered different size / power battery packs for the C140, so I bought the biggest one. When I bought my wife an identically outfitted C140XL, I purchased another “spare” battery pack, then traded my standard pack for her “spare”, giving me two multi-hour batteries. Now I don’t have to tote my power supply into meetings “just in case” they wind up in overtime.

In any given meeting I will flip the convertible from tablet to notebook to slide presentation screen (by turning the display 180 degrees without flattening it)

Intuitive

I love the stylus and digitizer, and even with the Input Panel issues, I am continually amazed at the Input Panel’s ability to transform my illegible hen-scratching into my intended intelligible sentences. That’s what sold me initially and what sells me still. I need to go ahead and get the final Windows 7 release to see if the issues I’ve identified have been cleared up.

Durable

I am hard on personal technology devices (phones, media players, notebooks, etc). I take them just about everywhere I go and use them constantly. Although I loved the service from IBM and Dell on those notebooks, I didn’t like having to use their service. Both notebooks had to have their system boards replaced, and I literally wore out the keys on the Dell, requiring a replacement keyboard.

I won’t even go into detail on the Fujitsu unless the CEO(s) or other executive of Fry’s Electronics and / or Fujitsu want to talk to me about my experiences with them both. Not good experiences. Ugh. (OK, Jim, take a chill pill).

The C140XL? I thought the system board went out on the Gateway one time when I couldn’t get it to boot, and the interaction with Gateway’s service department was so bad it could be the basis for a new sitcom (I have it documented); nevertheless, after some tweaking, the convertible booted up fine and never gave me another scare.

If you look at the C140XL, you can’t tell that it has been in constant use for about two years now. They keys have not lost the lettering (like the Dell and Fujitsu), the screen doesn’t show scratches from consistent Stylus use and subsequent cleanings, and all the connectors (USB, power, headphone jack, etc) have not worn out (unlike previous notebooks).

Even the design of the C140XL is pretty timeless. It looks like it could have been manufactured today as much as two years ago. In fact, I like this design morethan most designs I see in stores.

It’s still fast enough to do most of what I want, but it is showing its age there a little. Windows 7 64-bit with the expanded memory access (full access to all 4GB of RAM) and a faster 500GB Seagate hard drive gave the C140XL a new lease on life; in fact, it saved the convertible from being replaced by my new MacBook Pro and OS X. Don’t guess there’s a drop in processor replacement for the 5450, is there?

My Ideal Portable Do-It-All Information Management Device:

If I could upgrade anything on my C140XL, here’s what I would do:

Display:

  • Higher Resolution: 768 lines sucks. Period. 1440×900 minimum. 1920×1200 preferred – same screen size.
  • Multi-touch capacitance input. Don’t drop the digitizer, just add the touch input.
  • I’m OK with the Radeon video. I could wish for a gaming machine, but I don’t want to reduce battery too much or add to the complexity with a dual display adapter (like the MacBook Pro) design.

Processor:

  • Just an upgrade on the processor speed. Again, I’d like a little more speed, but don’t want to lose the battery life.

Ummmm. That’s it. We’re done. That’s just how close the C140XL is to my perfect PDIAIMD! The other issues preventing any device from meeting my specs are OS / GUI-related.

My Ideal Portable Do-It-All Information Management OS / GUI

Windows 7 is pretty close to being the OS for my perfect PDIAIMD, but the Input Panel bugs sometimes get so irritating, I need to convert to notebook mode in order to get consistent text input. Fix the Input Panel to always honor the settings and we have a great start.

I hear that Mac OS X has a great input tablet, but I can’t verify it because Apple doesn’t make a tablet. I don’t care how powerful your car engine is if you don’t make a car to put it in. Yes, I’ve heard about the aftermarket OS X tablets. No thank you. The MacBook Pro is expensive enough as is it is to add on the cost of modding it to get a tablet. Apple, please listen you your users (and wanna-be users).

I tried to get OS X running on my C140XL. I think that it would be an even nearer-to-perfect synergy for a PDIAIMD than Win7 / C140XL, but I failed at the attempt. I don’t have the spare bandwidth right now to go all hacker on my Gateway and OS X, so I’ll keep using what I have – and be pretty happy with it as well.

 

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Responses to “Gateway Tablet PC C140XL – A Review AFTER two years”

  1. Hey, I ran across your article here on your laptop, and saw you lamenting about the lack of a processor upgrade. I’m doing some research on upgrading my C140XL and I believe you CAN upgrade the processor. Depending on your FSB speed, you could get as fast as a T9500 @ 2.6GHz – 6mb L2 – like this guy put in his C140XL:

    http://forum.tabletpcreview.com/gateway/29674-upgrade-buy-new-3.html

    Or I believe a T7600 @ 2.33 – 4mb L2 – is a viable upgrade since you’re current T5450 proc seems to be a 667MHz part.

    – Ryan