a tablet (with stylus) or a touchscreen (capacitive) or an external tablet ?

1) a tablet (with stylus) or
2) a touchscreen (capacitive) or
3) an external tablet ?

I've been trying to figure out which of the above options are best :

1) was told by vendor touchscreen is less likely to get damaged as it's
    heat/capacitive-based while stylus type needs pressure & get scratched
    easily & the pressure makes the lifespan of the screen shorter.  What's
    your views on this?

2) I've tried touchscreen (one of them is Lenovo S10-3t) but find that the
    accuracy of navigating is a poor/painful, say, when I touch to navigate
      "Start ==> All Programs ==> Accessories ==> System tools",
    it's quite an agony, so a stylus would be better suited in this case.
    But I was told by the vendor touchscreen is a newer in-thing compared
    to stylus based.  Any views on this?

3) or an externally USB attached tablet like Wacom 3 is better than the
    above two?  Is there such device that supports both stylus plus

My autistic son can't use a pen/stylus, I'll need to let him do touchscreen
(ie touch icons) for him to communicate on the objects/items that he wants
(he's non-verbal).

Ultimately, what I'm looking for is a low-cost (sub US$700) notebook or
netbook (not refurbished/used set) that's less than 4 lbs in weight
which supports both stylus plus touchscreen with screen size of
11-13" with 1,366x768-pixel resolution.

Asus Eee 1201N & HP Mini 311 netbooks came to mind (meeting budget,
lightweight, screen pixels but they lack the tablet/touchscreen feature  
 while S10-3t  does not have the required resolution + does not support stylus

I think the outdated Lenovo X41 & X61 tablets probably meet the technical
specs of what I want except the budget
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Wow, lots of questions.  I will only hit some.
A touch screen and a stylus based table can be completely different things.    If you are going to use a tablet as you would a normal paper tablet (horizontally) where you hand rests on the screen/paper, then, a stylus is the answer.  If the screen will pickup your hand resting on the screen, you would need to hold your hand above the screen  to use it.  Not a good solution for long or constant use.   On the other hand if you are using it as a monitor (virtically) then touch is fine since your hand does not rest on it.

It sounds like you have some very specific needs and some major limitations (under $700) that will make it difficult to give you a specific recommendation.

Will this only be used for communicating with your son?  If that will only be part of the use, an external touch screen might be an option.  This could work with a normal laptop/PC or with a tablet.

My experience is with the HP 2710p tablet that uses a stylus.  I also have experience with touch screen monitors.

On your specific questions:
1.  Stylus based units usually have a glass surface.  Any unit with a "soft surface" will show wear.
2.  Navigation:  We use touch screens for a time clock application.  It was impossible to use a scroll arrow on the side of the screen to move around (windows based application)   We changed a setting in windows that enlarged the scroll bar to be about .5 inches wide.  This worked for out application but may not work well for regular windows work.

Good Luck.

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Jackie ManCommented:

Having stylus does not mean Multi-Touch function.

Stylus can be single touch only.

There are three types of back-end technologies for Multi-Touch Technology and they are:- (i) Capacitive; (ii) Resistive; and (iii) Optical.

I have attached a snapshot taken from a computer magazine explaining the above, but the article is in Chinese. So, I have translated the article into English as follows:-

 (i) Capacitive (i.e. No stylus)
There are sensors on the surface which will respond to human touch from flow of static electricity current resulting to a change in magnetic field of the senor. The advantage is that the response is fast and accurate with the minimum error from multi-touch and its disadvantage is the higher cost. Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t is based on Capacitive technology but my wild guess is that the number of sensor is not sufficent enough as it has only a small screen.

(ii) Resistive
There are two layers of components where the upper layer will respond to human or non-human touch and upon pressing, the upper layer will be touching the lower layer which will result in a change of electrical resistance of those portion of the pressure-based screen.  The advantage is the lower cost and its disadvantage is that you need to touch firmly with the screen in order to make the system to give you a response and the screen will be less clear and be more likely be damaged by scratches. Asus Eee T101MT are based on Resistive technology and it is cheaper.

(iii) Optical
There are LED lights from the edge of the screen to emit infa-red light and will respond to human or non-human touch whenever there is any object blocking the sneor on the upper right or upper left corner. From the magazine, only desktop models are using Optical multi-touch technology. The advantgae is the lower cost and easy deployment on large screen and the disadvantage is less accuracy on multi-touch.

Wacom is a Capacitive Touchscreen in nature but its EMR pen input technologies will make it possible to give response from stylus (i.e. special Wacom stylus, not an ordianry stylus of a PDA). The advantange is the higher accuracy and the drawback is high cost.

Source: http://forum.tabletpcreview.com/showthread.php?t=16541

In short, you shall choose Asus Eee T101MT as its cost is well below US$700 (US$640 in Hong Kong). Both you and your son can use it with or without a stylus. But, the drawback is that its screen is pressure based and your son might need a learning curve to press the screen, not to touch it. Besides, due care should be made in using the laptop so as to prevent from making scratches on its screen.

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