It's becoming more common for building professionals to bring their paperwork into the field with the help of laptop computers, but another iteration of hand-held computing may prove highly useful for contractors on-the-go. Though not nearly as popular as laptops, and still expensive — costing as much as $3,000 for some models — tablet PCs are unique tools for getting work done on the jobsite.

One new model that has been well received is the Portégé R400 from Toshiba. For quick communication, the computer uses a tool called Active Notifications that alerts users to incoming e-mails or calendar events via a feature called Edge Display, an always-on window on the side of the PC. A swivel display means the unit can be used like a standard laptop or flattened to an easy-to-carry write-on tablet that weighs less than 4 pounds for some models.

Hewlett-Packard's 2710p Notebook PC (shown) is equally light and also helps keep users productive. The 12.1-inch widescreen display features a chemically strengthened glass top for improved durability and a smoother writing experience. An optional outdoor display panel improves viewability in sunlight, providing more contrast and less reflection. An integrated 2 megapixel camera can be used to enhance jobsite meetings with video conferencing, while innovative business-card reader software helps users easily keep track of contacts.

Both PCs take security seriously. The Portégé R400 helps ensure that confidential company data and sensitive personal information are kept safe by a biometric finger-print reader and encryption technology. The HP 2710p uses HP ProtectTools software for e-mail encryption, data import and export auditing, password authentication, and more. Running on Microsoft's Windows Vista platform means both tablets feature updated handwriting recognition and the Microsoft Office 2007 product suite.

For more product information, visit, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog.