Tablet Notebook Computers

Tablet notebook computers is a common name referencing tablets that also come with a detachable keyboard, or an attached keyboard that swivels 180° behind the tablet screen.

Other common names for this family of devices includes Hybrid and Convertible. Most people known these devices simply as tablets with keyboards.

Whatever you know them as, they are playing a more important role in our lives, particularly the next generation who don't know a world without Facebook, Twitter and mobile tablet computers!

Here we focus on the merits of these devices and why they provide advantages over other types of machines. We also look at what your considerations are when buying one of these devices.



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HP Pavilion 360 MontageHP Pavilion 360 Montage
Source: HP.com

HP Pavilion 360 DemoHP Pavilion 360 Swivel Demo
Source: HP.com



Table of Contents

  1. Tablet Notebook Computer Features and Benefits
  2. Considerations Before Buying
  3. Final Thoughts
  4. Facebook Comments


Tablet Notebook Computer
Features and Benefits

Consumers and Business people want the best of all worlds. There are times and places for using desktop computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets, such as at work, travelling or even shopping!

Businesses are in the midst of accommodating these different demands by issuing multiple devices to their employee's. It's not unusual for Staff to have multiple devices provided to them.

How many devices do you have in your home? How many do your children have? It is a common theme, and an expensive one too.

More recently vendors are producing Tablet-Laptop convertible devices, to provide the best of both worlds when you need a bit more than what a Tablet offers.

Two products of various specifications that fit this description currently on the market is the Microsoft Surface Tablet and the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist.


Microsoft Surface Pro 3Microsoft Surface Pro 3 in Tent Mode
Source: Microsoft.com

Lenovo Thinkpad TwistLenovo Thinkpad Twist

The idea behind the tablet notebook computer is to provide the middle ground between the convenience of tablet devices and the capability of laptops.

Tablets are a convenience item. They are travel light, generally have good battery life, and can connect to both 4G and Wi-Fi networks for instant access to data and applications such as Skype and FaceTime.

However, Laptops tend to have more capability to perform more intense actions such as developing a complex spread sheet, writing a long essay, or building a website.

There are some things you simply cannot do on a Tablet that you can do on a Laptop. For example a lot of Windows and Android Apps are limited in what they offer compared to standard operating system applications.

Laptops tend to be more powerful than Tablets, and come with a physical keyboard which is still the input of choice for complex computing work. However they tend to be heavier and more cumbersome to transport.

The Laptop market is addressing these issues by producing slimline models that weigh a lot less than models from even 3 years ago. However they still do not achieve tablet convenience levels.

The tablet notebook computer is a potential solution to your multiple device issue. One device, two functions:

  • Tablet functionality and convenience with Laptop capability

  • More transportable than Laptops

  • Versatility and flexibility to perform touch screen tablet duties such as zooming in on a picture or watching a movie whilst using different modes of transport

Most devices come with integrated webcam's today. Battery life is much improved, and storage capacity is increasing all the time. The price drop on Solid State Drives add to increasing performance capabilities.

As with all new products many manufacturers develop and release lots of different models with different specifications. It is easy to become confused about which one suits your needs the most.

The next section looks at the main areas of consideration when selecting a tablet notebook computer:

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Considerations Before Buying

Buying a tablet notebook computer is not much different to buying a desktop computer. The only difference is your focus is on what the hybrid range can offer in terms of features and technical specs.

In this section we look at what these considerations are in a bit more detail. My aim is to ensure you have the right information to make an informed choice!


Features/Look and Feel


As we are looking at a Hybrid Tablet solution one of the first things to evaluate is how easy it is to convert the device from a Laptop (or Clamshell) to 'Tent mode', then to Tablet mode, and vice-versa.

The twist/swivel process should be smooth and easy to do. There should be no struggle during the process, and the keyboard should remain secure in its final position whilst operating as a Tablet.

If you experience any of these issues when testing the device out (because you are going to do this before you buy, right...!), forget it and move on to the next model (or next shop as any reputable business should not have devices with such defects on sale!

Next consider weight. How heavy is the device? The Samsung Tablet Computer ATIV Smart PC is around 756 grams (1.68lbs). This is very light. However the Lenovo ThinkPad Trist S2230U is 1.5Kg (3.3lbs).

It comes down to personal choice. 1.5Kg is an OK weight for a notebook, but a little heavy for a modern day Tablet.

The heavier devices also tend to be more bulky, but tend to have larger screens and better screen resolution. Do you prefer a larger screen for easier tablet navigation, but a slightly heavier device?

It all comes down to personal choice. It depends on the weight you can handle and how you intended to use the device e.g. if you travel a lot, a lighter device may be more appropriate.


Samsung Tablet Computer ATIV Smart PCSamsung Tablet Computer ATIV Smart PC
Source: Techcentral.co.za

Next consider the touch screen quality of your tablet notebook computer. Ensure the device is sensitive enough to interpret your gestures (swipes, taps etc.) either with your fingertip or style pen.

This is important if your main use is in Tablet mode, otherwise you end up using it in Laptop mode and the benefit is lost.

Next evaluate the style. Does it look good? Can you get the colour you want? Is it durable enough for the conditions in which you are to use the device?

For example, if you are going on Safari, or use in you place of work where things can get violent e.g. in a busy A&E Department, consider investing in a protective cover or purchasing a rugged tablet computer such as the Algiz 7 from the Handheld group.


Handheld Group Algiz 7 Rugged Tablet ComputerHandheld Group Algiz 7 Rugged Tablet Computer
Source: Ruggedpcreview.com

Finally decide what additional features you require. For example do you need:

  • A Webcam? What quality do you need?
  • USB Ports? How many?
  • Sound quality?
  • Card readers?
  • Operating System

Next we take a look at some of the performance considerations for your tablet notebook computer.


Technical Specification And Performance


Evaluating the performance of a tablet notebook computer is not much different to buying a PC or Laptop. Vendors offer a choice of technical specifications (and prices!) to suit all requirements.

Consider what you are going to use your device for. Set your budget, then begin to review all makes and models on the market today. 

Let's start with battery life, as this is often overlooked (but not as often today as the Smartphone focuses people minds on battery life in both active and standby mode).

Today 6 hours is OK. 10 hours is fantastic. Some devices come with a second battery to increase overall battery life. The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro has an impressive 9 hours of battery life.


Lenovo Yoga 2 ProLenovo Yoga 2 Pro

Screen size at the time of writing is up to 13.3". If you intend to watch a lot of movies then a HD screen with high resolution (e.g. 1920x1080 pixels) and high-end graphics card are a must.

Solid State Drives add to the performance of your tablet notebook computer, and are increasing in capacity/size all the time.

SSD's are standard in mobile devices today and it is not uncommon to see 256GB+ hard drives available.

Nanotechnology means powerful CPU's for smaller devices is now possible. Back in 2010 mobile devices shipped with the Intel Atom processor or AMD equivalent.

These CPU's are poor performers. They are unable to cope with Windows operating systems, particularly when additional applications are loaded.

I remember the Fujitsu tablet with these CPU's being mothballed at considerable expense to some organisations.

At the time of writing Intel® Core™ i7 Processors are at the top of the market. However note in 2015/16 the next generation of CPU's are expected to eclipse the i7 family.


Attention!

When testing mobile devices make sure you test performance by loading lots of applications and switching between each of them. Lot of people don't do this and are left disappointed. Don't be one of those people!


Memory tends to be around the 8Gb mark at the time of writing. This is more than enough for today's software.

Webcam HD quality is an option if you do a lot of FaceTime/Conference calls. The quality of your broadband connection is also a factor.

If a webcam is important you want to consider investing in a high quality model to avoid grainy transmissions and choppy audio quality.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities tend to ship as standard today.

There are some high-end models that include additional options such as full size HDMI ports for easy connectivity to a TV. The Sony VAIO Fit 13A Flip PC is a good example.


Sony VAIO Fit 13A Flip PCSony VAIO Fit 13A Flip PC
Source: pcpro.co.uk

Other technical specifications include:

  • Environmental - is energy efficiency important to you?
  • Do you prefer a style pen for Tablet mode?
  • What about security? Fingerprint authentication recognition? Encryption of your data?
  • Backlit Keyboard for working in the dark (lights up your keys)?
  • Do you need a front and rear camera (for the infamous selfie)?
  • Operating System (Windows or Android)? 

There are lots of factors to consider. However try not to get bogged down too much in the detail. Unless you have specific requirements review the options for what you can afford.

Next we look briefly at Help and Support for your device.


Help and Support


People usually look at the warranty information only when buying mobile devices. Most come with a 1 year standard warranty agreement, which means any technical faults during this time are repaired free of charge.

Damage caused by 'acts of god' e.g. short-circuit through a power surge, are sometimes not covered by the standard warranty agreement. Read the small print to be certain of what is included and what isn't.

Support is more than just the warranty. Some vendors include toll-free technical support numbers (i.e. numbers that don't charge for UK visitors, although check if this includes mobile phone numbers).


Attention!

Ask about waiting times for calls to the vendors' Helpdesk. It is no good offering a service if the average call-wait time is 1½ hours!

Also check whether the warranty includes home repair or return to base repair. If the latter ask what their turnaround times are.


Other support features to consider include:

  • How support is offered (e.g. e-mails, live web chat, phone, video conference)

  • What online resources does the vendor offer (e.g. knowledge base articles/self-help tutorials, forums, software updates, manuals)

  • Ask about offers to increase the warranty to 3 years. To clinch the sale some vendors offer this as a sweetener

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Final Thoughts

Tablet notebook computers are set to become the next generations device of choice. There is a big marketing push at the moment which is getting home computer and business users excited.

Take a look at what goes in to promoting the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.


Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Commercial



Tablet notebook computers will evolve rapidly over the coming years. To keep on top of these changes there are very good web sites that provide comprehensive reviews.

Closely related to this article is the Touch Screen Tablet Computer which looks in to considerations for choosing a Tablet in  more detail.

One of these resources is the Top 10 Tablet PC Review site (Opens New Window).

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