OK, it’s not really Tuesday, but I got a question today and the answer seemed like good material for the blog. Maybe I’ll do the occasional legal tech Q & A post.
Q: I am looking for a very very lightweight notebook (under two pounds?) or a PDA on which I can keep my calendar, run Excel for billing, and take notes during a deposition or trial. Instant On would be nice, but that is probably too much to ask for in this life. Weight is important – I don’t want to carry too much weight on one side.
A: Two main ideas for you:
1. Your choices probably come down to the so-called subnotebooks (or a Tablet PC) or something like a HP iPaq Pocket PC or its equivalent.
The Pocket PCs have a lot of features, but are best seen as an extension of your regular PC, not a substitute for a regular PC. If you want to do everything with Pocket PC device that you can with a notebook, you’ll be disappointed. A Pocket PC device could do everything that you specify (and, in the case of the IPaq 6300 series, take digital pictures, play a few songs and even serve as your cell phone), but my question is whether you have specified everything that you really want / need to do.
The subnotebooks tend to be more expensive than standard notebooks, but are now very light, but I don’t think you can make the two pound target. The weight savings come in two main ways – smaller screen and making the CD/DVD drive an external device. I recently used the HP NC4010 subnotebook and I really liked it – it was very light (3.5 pounds). With these notebooks, it makes sense to go to a computer store, get your reaction to the screen size, heft a few and experiment with using them. The Fujitsu LifeBook subnotebooks generally get very good reviews in this category.
The Tablet PCs are a different approach that I think make sense for lawyers. I’m in the process of converting to an HP TabletPC tc1100 as my everyday computer. The approach is different – you can write on the screen, etc., but, unlike a Pocket PC, it’s a full-featured notebook. Slightly heavier than a subnotebook, but definitely worth a look. Again, I’d be sure to try to get some hands-on experience. I think that Tablet PCs are the perfect computers for lawyers, but my recommendation has not started any stampedes yet. I really enjoy using mine.
2. My experience tells me that even if you cut the weight of the notebook, you may still need to carry an external CD drive or other peripherals with you. As a practical matter, you end up carrying the same weight around as if you have a regular notebook. Therefore, it makes good sense to think about notebook bag options as a part of the solution. I currently use two. One is an “everyday” bag that can be used as a backpack. The second is for plane travel and is a wheeled, rolling bag. I’m never in courts, but I’d probably use a wheeled bag as my choice for being in court. Even a small weight can get burdensome if you have to carry it a long way. Note that both the backpack and wheeled options avoid the “too much weight on one side” problem.
By the way, with Windows XP and the current notebooks, a great approach is to put the computer into the stand-by mode rather than turning it off. Waking it up is not exactly instant-on, but it’s very fast. You do get instant-on with the Pocket PCs, but the limited functionality may not work for you.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]