With the range of portable computer devices available today it can be quite difficult to choose the right device to suit your needs. That sleek lightweight tablet is certainly appealing, but if it’s not actually suitable for the work you need to do then it will definitely be a poor choice.
Perhaps the first thing to determine is the category of device that would suit you best. The three main options are:
Notebooks – the traditional option with keyboard and touchpad in a clamshell form.
Tablets – a lightweight touch-screen device, normally with limited memory and storage capacity.
Hybrids – a combination device that can be used as a tablet but also as a notebook, sometimes with the keyboard and touchpad as removable components.
They each have advantages and disadvantages, and our advice is to be honest with yourself about the type of work you need the device for, because a lot of people end up with multiple unwanted devices simply because they chose something inappropriate.
Some of the important but often overlooked factors to consider are discussed below –
While a tablet can be used with a keyboard, and a hybrid will include one, the size and spacing of the keys will generally be smaller (around 20% smaller on average). It does not take long to adjust to the smaller sized keys, but if you perform a lot of typing you may find that over time the smaller keys and spacing will become a hindrance. If possible, test the keyboard by typing up a full page of text to try it out for size.
Typically the memory and storage capacity of tablet and hybrid devices will be lower than a notebook computer, at the same price point. If you require larger than average amounts of storage you will need to spend more to obtain it with the lighter devices, and you may need to carry external storage with you as well. Consider the amount of data you need to store on your device, then double that amount and treat the result as the starting point for your purchase.
Whatever type of device you choose you can assume that WiFi connectivity will be included, and that should be all that you need when connecting to the Internet at a workplace or at home. When away from those locations you may need other forms of connection, such as mobile broadband or wired access. Notebooks will offer the greatest flexibility, but if you are able to select an appropriate mobile broadband device that uses WiFI rather than USB to connect then any device you choose will be able to connect to the Internet from virtually any location.
In terms of bang for buck it’s very difficult to find a tablet or hybrid device that can provide comparable performance to a notebook – it’s simply true that high performance notebook computers cost less than hybrid alternatives. But the key thing to consider is the type of performance that you need. If you regularly open many applications and switch between them often it may be that additional memory, rather than the fastest grade of processor, is required. Similarly, if you normally use just one application but are often waiting for the application to complete calculations or operations, a better processor may be more important. If you require very high performance, a notebook should be your first choice.
The three main attributes of the screen to consider are the size, the resolution, and the quality. The size of the screen will be limited by the size of the device, but the resolution and quality of the screen can vary dramatically. In simple terms, the higher the resolution the higher the potential display quality will be, but look also for how reflective the screen is as this can affect how well you can use it in different lighting conditions.
Another aspect of the screen to consider is whether it is touch capable. A touch screen will be included with all tablet and almost all hybrid devices, but will be an optional upgrade for most notebook devices. Windows 8 and the soon to be launched Windows 10 each make excellent use of a touch screen display, but it’s definitely possible to make full use of a notebook device without one.
CNET have published some excellent articles discussing the merits of various devices.