In an ever changing technology landscape, it can be hard to keep up with the latest gadgets. If you’re on the lookout for something to get you online on the move, you now have an amazing array of choices on offer. So which should you choose? The old timer of portable computing, the laptop has been around forever and is still hugely popular. One reason for this is familiarity – you’re pretty much buying a gadget that mirrors the traditional PC or Mac you have at home: full QWERTY keyboard, standard operating system, DVD drive and plenty of USB connectors, plus a large memory and good-sized monitor.
We’re going to break things down into three basic areas to give you a starting point: laptops, netbooks and tablets. We’ll use rough guides to sizes and capabilities which should give you enough insight to make a good start to your search.
On the downside, they’re pretty bulky because of it and you have to pay a premium to get one that will really emulate the power of your PC. The weight can be a real issue if you’re traveling a lot and unfortunately battery power doesn’t often help matters – four hours or less is a common issue.
So along came the netbook to fill the problems of size and weight. It still has the same fold-out form factor and QWERTY keyboard, but instead of a 17-inch screen you’re looking at something closer to eight to ten inches. Many also still run a pretty full version of Windows or the Mac OS, while others run various Linux systems that are still pretty user friendly in the most part. Find out about mini tablets at http://mini-tablet.org/.
But with the small size, something has to give. You’ll generally find the power and memory size reduced and you’ll lose the DVD player. However, you should still have most of the functionality you crave, from working with emails and documents to all the multimedia functionality you’ll need on a long trip. Battery size tends to scale with the unit, so you’ll still be looking at an average around four hours.
So we come to the new kid on the block, the tablet PC (or iPad if you’re an Apple junky). Tablets rip up the rules and start again, taking the touchscreen smartphone as inspiration in almost every way. Screen size can vary from seven to around 10 inches, while the QWERTY keyboard is just on the screen, not physical. Like a netbook you won’t get a DVD player, while if you’re not used to a smartphone the operating system will be unfamiliar. Tablets like iPad also lack the ability to play flash content and if they do support flash, it runs very sluggishly.
That said, the apps system tablets use is intuitive and simple to grasp once you get going, although not idea for ‘proper’ computing tasks such as dealing with documents and generally more complex procedures. But if you’re just working on a basic level (email, internet, messaging, multimedia) they can be perfect – and they still have the wow factor too. Be warned though – these lower expectations mean less powerful processors and much smaller memories (64GB at best, although you can boost this with microSD cards).
In the end, there isn’t a general right answer – you have to pick the one that’s right for you and the tasks you have in mind. There are some amazing tablet, netbook and laptop deals out there so be sure to shop around.
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