Source: Pixtawan via Freedigitalphotos.net
If you’re going shopping during the holidays, there’s a good chance you’re considering a tablet or you may already have a tablet on your list.
That said, if this is to be your first one and especially if you’re shopping on a budget (and extra especially if you arrived at this post from a Google search), there’s a good chance you’re also asking yourself the question, “Do I really need a tablet?”
Your first answer, instinctively, might be yes. Tablets are everywhere and no one ever looks sad at a coffee shop or on an airplane with their tablet, watching a movie or maddeningly tapping, swiping, and pinching away at Twitter, and the word, “sleek” just sounds like it was invented to talk about tablets, and yes obviously I need that.
Well, you’re probably wrong.
My own experience with tablets goes back just over a year, when, with full-time hours at work, a full load of classes at grad school, and hours commuting among the two and home, I convinced myself that the answer to getting everything done in my mobile life was to get a tablet.
Sure, I already had both a smart phone and a small laptop that was just a couple years old — a Dell Inspiron 11z, that I had upgraded with an SSD and more RAM (Laptop and upgrades were under $350 in total).
After a bit of research, the Microsoft Surface RT – at $630, when you factor in the full-sized mechanical keyboard (now down to $450 http://amzn.to/1jKtj0D )) – seemed like a no-brainer, because it came with Microsoft Windows.
Quite sure that my new toy would be the answer to all but the most involved tasks – for which I’d need a desktop anyway – I shipped off my little laptop to a younger brother who was starting at school as well.
Here are my thoughts based on those experiences.
It was super cool
I still remember the covetous stares I got whenever I would pull that thing out in the first few months. Folks would progress from obvious corner-of-the-eye glances to full-on gawking and I’m certain I heard more than a few audible gasps when I’d deploy the kickstand or transition from tapping, swiping, and pinching, to whipping around the full-blown keyboard.
I don’t even drink coffee, but would happily grab a chunk of real estate at Starbucks just to show it off.
Try turning that many heads with a laptop!
Not really more portable
Sadly, the cool factor is about where the benefits ended.
To start, it did not end up more portable in practice than my old laptop.
As a ratio, the weight difference is pretty stark; at three pounds, my laptop had been double the weight of my 1.5-pound tablet.
But in nominal terms, adding 1.5 pounds to a backpack being carried by a grownup doesn’t make that much of a difference.
What’s more, if I needed to do a lot of typing, I would have to carry an external keyboard with me (For what it’s worth, I wholeheartedly recommend the wireless Logitech K400 I carried around http://amzn.to/1cO55Qk). This ended up being heavier and bulkier than just having a laptop.
Not really more comfortable
There are certain public places where I’m comfortable pulling out a laptop and others where I’m not.
On an airplane or in a cafe, for example, I’m fine with pulling out a laptop, whereas on a crowded subway or walking around the city, I’m not.
The same is true for the tablet. In fact, I’m struggling to think of any time in the year-plus that I’ve owned my tablet where I used it outside of the home in a way that I wouldn’t have been comfortable using a laptop.
In the home, it’s not much different.
Because you watch TV commercials, I’m sure you’re imagining there will be plenty of moments around the house, where you won’t want to open up a laptop. For example, if I want to passively read just a bit of news while sitting on the couch, the tablet is a better device.
But in practice, I can confidently say that waking an 11″ laptop with an SSD in sleep mode wouldn’t have felt like too much more of a chore by comparison. And if it did, I’d just grab my smartphone more often.
Not productive enough
The Surface can most work-related thing I need it to, but there are plenty of situations where I get stalled and have to wait until I get to a desktop to complete a task.
I very rarely thought that with a laptop.
And using a touchscreen is good enough for composing a tweet or a quick email, but I cringe at the thought of having to do anything in Excel or PowerPoint with it.
Luckily, the Surface has USB and Micro-HDMI ports so can be hooked up to a full-sized keyboard, mouse, and monitor, but so can a laptop.
No, no you don’t
Sure, if I still owned a laptop in addition to my tablet, there are plenty of situations where I might grab the tablet first.
But if I had to do it over again, would I attempt to bridge that gap with a $450-plus tablet?