A Buying Guide: Tablet PC Laptops
Tablet PC Laptop Choices
Tablet PC laptops have been around for years, but they’ve usually been regarded as niche items. However, the increasing attention placed on pure tablet devices, like the iPad, also seems to be increasing the attention lavished on tablet PC laptops.
This means that there are more tablet PC laptops available today than ever before, but the selection is still a bit slim and the prices usually far from inexpensive. So how do you make the right choice and buy one that will do what you need?
Let’s answer that question.
Before going into other parts of the hardware, let’s talk about one component that you’ll be using frequently to interact with whatever tablet PC laptop you decide to purchase - the laptop display.
There are two characteristics to be concerned about. The first is the image quality and resolution of the display. Tablets focus heavily on the graphical user interface, so it’s important for image quality to be high. Of course, this can be subjective, but you should try to find something that can at least support 720p resolution.
Touch input is also an important trait. Any tablet PC laptop display should be multi-touch and capacitive. Most displays on tablet PC laptops do have these features, but not all of them do, so keep on your toes. It isn’t uncommon for a low-cost tablet device to use a cheaper technology. While the lower price might be tempting, trust me; a touch tablet with a display that isn’t responsive to your input is practically worthless.
The main reason behind a person’s decision to buy a tablet PC laptop instead of a pure tablet device is the keyboard. While pure tablets like the iPad have virtual keyboards, they’re simply not sufficient for long typing sessions.
With that said, there are different options when it comes to keyboards. On the one hand you have traditional convertible tablets, like the Lenovo ThinkPad X201, which have full keyboards. On the other hand you can find tablet PC laptops with much smaller keyboards, such as the Samsung 7 series. As more and more products come to market more options will become available; companies like Lenovo and ASUS are also introducing tablets with various sizes and types of keyboards.
When it comes to deciding on a keyboard the question is one of use. Larger keyboards are almost always easier to type on, but they increase the overall size and weight, making the tablet PC laptop less pleasant to use while in tablet form. If you’re interested in a tablet PC laptop simply because you’d like to make occasional use of a keyboard, you’ll be fine with one of the smaller versions. But if you really intend to use your device as a laptop just as often as a tablet, a larger and bulkier keyboard will work better for you.
The Operating System
As the buyer of a tablet PC laptop you’ll find you have two operating system options; Windows 7 and Android.
Android was designed from the ground up for smartphones, so it provides an interface that works perfectly with the touch interface of a tablet. Swiping your finger to move through programs and web pages is a cinch. However, Android has nothing at all in common with Windows, so using traditional Windows programs on a tablet PC laptop with Android is entirely out of the question.
Windows 7 is more familiar, of course, but it wasn’t designed for a touch interface. Many of the buttons are small, which is fine if you have a mouse, but causes problems when Windows is used with bare fingers. Some Windows 7 tablets ship with a stylus as a result.
Ultimately, picking an operating system shouldn’t be hard. If you want to use your tablet PC laptop for fun and games, or you want something that will be extremely portable and easy on battery life, go with Android. If you need a tablet PC laptop that’s better suited for serious work, go with Windows 7.
Display, keyboard and operating system are the three most important choices you can make when buying a tablet PC laptop. These choices will determine the type of device you end up with. Going with one set of options will result in a great portable media device, while making different choices will result in a great general-purpose convertible tablet.
This is not to say, of course, that you won’t be faced with other choices when purchasing a tablet PC laptop. The hardware that you purchase will of course determine the performance of the device, and you will want to buy faster hardware when possible. However, computer hardware becomes inevitably better over time, so to a degree you shouldn’t worry about it too much; simply buy whatever is powerful enough for your needs at the moment. You’ll likely want to upgrade in three years anyway, at which point anything you can purchase now will be seriously out of date.
Choices like the display, keyboard and operating system, however - these stick. If you can decide which combination of display, keyboard and OS best suits your needs you’ll likely be happy with whatever tablet PC laptop you buy.