The Siso Tablo from www.hantech.ca is certainly an interesting product to review. First off, I have been using a Wacom 4 X 6 drawing tablet for some time now. Great for drawing programs, navigating quickly on Internet Explorer and numerous other programs. The problem I have always had with the Wacom was I cannot easily use it with my laptop when the desk space is limited. The added space required for the Wacom drawing tablet is always an issue. Taking the tablet on the road is not really convenient also. Now the Siso Tablo solves the limited desk space issue nicely and is made for convenient use on the road as well.
The Siso Tablo consists of two components. First, is the transceiver which is a small unit that attaches to the laptops screen and plugs into the USB port. The transceiver uniquely combines an ultrasonic and infra red signal. The second is the stylus that provides full mouse or touchpad capabilities with additional features. Just like most PC accessories, the first step in getting the Siso Tablo working is to install the software. Once the software has been installed, you can insert three batteries into the top of the pen which comes in the package. Actually 10 L738 button batteries are included which is really sweet.
The Hantech website and various promo literature shows the transceiver mounted centrally on top of the laptops screen. Initially, I had mounted the transceiver on the top also but I had some problems. The trasceiver attaches to a rectagular magnet which is first attached to the outside of the screen using the attached double sided tape. Since my Dell laptop is silver with white trim, the silver colored magnet matches well to the exterior. On the taskbar near the clock on the bottom right of Windows Vista or XP is the laptop Tablo button. You can display the menu which has a number of options by right clicking this button. The first option that you need to access is the Adjust Working Area selection listed at the very top. This allows you to calibrate the stylus to your specific screen size. 15 inch screen is the maximum this device currently supports.
After going through this process, I had the stylus working. Unfortunately, I found the mouse pointer and the actual stylus resting on the screen was always off by 2 – 3 mm on one side or another of the stylus tip. For the most part, like clicking a large button or menu options was not a problem. Accessing the Windows close/minimize/maximize at the top right was a problem though. I could not quite reach the X to close the opened Windows. 4 attempts to recalibrate the stylus did not improve the situation. One problem was my laptops screen has a locking button in the middle of the top edge plus the top edge is also curved on the outside. This prevented me from mounting the transceiver right in the middle of the screens top edge and fully extended to allow the transceiver a non obstructed view of the screen. Luckily, the Siso Tablo also supports the ability to attach the transceiver on the side of the screen. My screen has a sharp 90 degree edge on the left and right side of the screen with no obstruction on the outer edge. After moving the magnetic attachment to the right side of the screen, I was able to indicate in the Options menu that the transceiver is now located on the right side of the screen. I was able to then recalibrate the stylus to get the mouse cursor and the stylus point to match exactly on the screen.
The real beauty of the Siso Tablo is it uses the Native Tablet PC feature built into Windows XP and Windows Vista. The Pen and Input Devices section in the Windows Control Panel has the Tablet PC configuration section. The specific Siso Tablo driver and software adds some extra features not included in Windows. I wanted to cover all the aspects of the Siso Tablo but there are just too many features to cover in this review without turning the review into an actual text book. One immediate advantage the Siso Tablo has which an expensive Tablet PC does not is the ability to convert a standard notepad into an input device.
Two things are required first:
1: Remove the stylus tip and replace it without an ink filled stylus tip.
2: Remove the transceiver from the screen and clip it onto the top of the notepad using the built in clip.
Now, you have the ability to write directly on the notepad which allows you to have a duplicate digital file on your computer plus the physical hard copy. No need to draw or write on the screen and print this afterwards. You can use the Tablo Board software or any of the Microsoft Windows apps that support the Tablet PC or any programs that provide drawing or handwriting capabilities. Specific third party software can be a CAD program or Adobe Photoshop just as two examples.
Possible uses for the Siso Tablo:
- Drawing using Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Autocad, Autodesk Softimage, Blender and many others. The one feature not supported on non Microsoft applications is the brush effect which allows you to adjust the width of the brush based on the pressure applied to the stylus.
- Take quick hand written notes using the INK feature within INK NOTE, Windows Journal Note, MS Word, Sticky Notes and many others.
- Using Ink Desktop which converts your Windows desktop into a virtual notepad.
- Ink Chatting in MSN Messenger. You can actually talk to someone via Messenger and also display a white board that can be seen by both parties. Drawing on the white board allows the party on the other end to see the same text or image you create on the screen immediately. Works really with any Windows software that has two way communication that includes a white board.
- Great for filling out PDF, MS Word and other forms that require your signature included. No more printing, signing and snail mailing the form or scanning the signed form for sending via email. Just use the Siso Tablo and sign the completed form directly on the screen and then save the file. Now you have a 100% completed form for emailing back.
- You can easily create annotations to any document, website content, picture or video that is currently visible on the screen. Great when doing a presentation. You can save the image or quickly erase the annotatation using the Tablo Board software.
- Playing strategic games like Maxis Sim City online.
One of the software categories I really wanted to try the Siso Tablo on is with music software. I enjoy using a number of MIDI music related software connected to a MIDI synthesizer. Using a mouse is not possible due to the limited space. The touchpad on the laptop on many occasions does not offer the quick response when neccessary. Sometimes, I am searching for the cursors location first before I can point to the feature required. The Siso Tablo allows me to quickly point and tap the required feature and edit pieces of music very quickly. Adjusting virtual buttons and sliders is a brezze with the Siso Tablo. The actions required are exactly the same as a mouse. Select the virtual dial and move the stylus up to increase the value and move the stylus down to decrease the value. Using the Siso Tablo with music software reminds me in some ways to the old sampling Fairlight CMI III Synthesizer which came with a screen and a wired light pen.
Overall I am impressed with the Siso Tablo. I have access to 4 USB ports only on my laptop therefore all are doing multiple duties with 2 or more devices. These are what I use on a regular basis with only 4 USB ports.
- i-Mate Jasjar and Palm Treo 700 wx for recharging and syncing files.
- Microsoft USB headset.
- M-Audio USB MIDI interface.
- External USB hard drive which requires 2 USB ports for proper power.
- USB powered laptop cooler.
- Various MP3 players for recharging and transfering music.
- A USB multi card reader.
- Various digital cameras.
- USB printer.
- USB Bluetooth adapters.
All of these devices when used in different combinations with the Siso Tablo all work beautifully. No issues what so ever with the Siso Tablo or the other USB devices.
- Stylus is very light and unbalanced. I feel the stylus should have been heavier to provide some added resistance while holding the pen and using the two buttons. Slightly heavier on the top end due to the batteries which makes the pen feel unbalanced in the hand.
- The Windows minimize/maximize/close/ buttons are sometimes hard to access when using the touchpad since the cursor seems to shake at times around the top right corner of the screen. This only appeared after installing the Siso Tablo software.
- Manual indicates a number of FREE Microsoft Windows applications that you can download with the direct link indicated or available through the home page. Unfortunately the titles are not located at these specific locations and hard to search for on www.microsoft.com.
- Should include a docking clip that can be attached to the screen and easily removed to hold the stylus when not in use.
- The stylus does create some very faint scratches to the screen. Only slightly visible when the screen is off. For those using a new laptop, I would recommend a screen protector. Nushield or Protect Covers
- Very easy to setup.
- Supports FLICKS which is the ability to access commonly used functions just by waving the stylus in a specific motion/direction.
- Easy to transport with the laptop.
- Works well with all tested programs. Absolutely no issues with the various programs.
- Great Industrial Design. Perfect EYE CANDY.
- Certainly adds many more miles to this laptop that is now close to 4 years old.
- 4 replacement stylus tips.
- 3 ink filled replacement tips. Make sure you remove the very small cap on the tip of the pen before using.
- Carry case for the tips and another larger case for the transceiver, stylus and the tips.
- Added accessories like the magnet and support pieces to mount the transceiver to your laptop.
- Two fold out manuals. One for the hardware and one for the software which is easy to read and full of diagrams to make your setup and usage very straight forward.
- Lots of batteries.
- Installation CD.
Installation Ease: 8
Fun Factor: 10
Online Support: Limited – Maybe since it really does not require one beyond what is included in the package.
The Siso Tablo from Hantech is a great add-on tool for anyone that spends long hours on their laptop. I find using the stylus more relaxing over using my index or middle finger for hours. The quality of the materials used are good and the design is pleasing to the eye. The suggested retail pricing is $129.99 USD but I have seen some online shops selling the Siso Tablo for as low as $99.99 USD. The Siso Tablo is one accessory that will be around for a long time for me and is one I would recommend to anyone that has a Windows Vista based laptop currently.
The are some notebooks that the Siso Tablo does not work with. This is clearly indicated on the outside of the box.
- Toshiba A1XX – A2XX – L3XX Series
- Dell FWXX – CSXX – SXX – SZXX – CXX – 15LN Series
Microsoft INK Desktop Similar to the Tablo Board software but has a virtual notepad with lines on the screen to cover any desktop images you may have. Makes taking quick notes and seeing what you have written much easier.
- Media Transfer
- INK Crossword
- Equation Writer
- INK Flash Cards
I recommend you also read my initial MSI on the Siso Tablo which has some additional interesting comments.
Future versions slated for release later this year according to Bryon Lee General Manager of Hantech Corporation:
- Mac version.
- Desktop model which supports upto 22 inch screen support.
- Electronic blackboard for TV with upto 52 inch support.
- Smartphone version.