Are 8-inch Windows Tablets Productive?

Feb. 10, 2014

I’ve been having a good-natured comments exchange with a reader about the practicality of 8-inch Windows tablets. I truly don’t know the right answer here, so I am promoting this to its own blog post to collect more comments.

Productivity Tablet?

As you know, I am all about the advantages of Windows tablets as a Productivity Tablet—one that can run tablet apps as well as a full range of traditional office software (in desktop mode), when needed.

My confusion is this: If the main advantage of a Windows tablet is the ability to run traditional PC software in the desktop mode, why would you want to get an 8-inch Windows tablet where the desktop is so small it’s very hard to use? Why not just get a lightweight (1.2 pound) 10-inch version? They are currently about the same price, and both are light enough to hold with one hand. Why sacrifice a usable desktop?

Sure, the Windows Store apps will be fully usable on an 8-inch tablet, but if all you want to do is use apps, and not the desktop, why get a Windows tablet? An 8-inch iOS and Android have a far better list of apps.

And sure you can plug the 8-inch tablet into a larger monitor on your desktop, but then why bother with an 8-inch computer. Why not use your current desktop or laptop?

Asus VivoTab Note 8

I’m excited about the new Asus VivoTab Note 8 (pictured above) because it ships with a Wacom digitized pen and a slot to hold it, and Wacom is usually the best way to go with a pen interface. This tablet just started shipping at Microsoft Store for $329. And both Lenovo and Dell also have 8-inch Windows tablets.

But again, I am really wondering about the usability of an 8-inch screen, on any Windows computer, with the Windows desktop. So, has anyone out there been using one of the 8-inch Windows tablet in desktop mode, and if so, what do you think? What desktop software do you use it with? Is it worth hassling with its tiny interface when using desktop software?

Thanks for your feedback on this!

Michael Linenberger

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10 Responses to Are 8-inch Windows Tablets Productive?

  1. Marc says:

    I had a samsung galaxy note 8.0 for a while. I thought the screensize was okay for doing work. I could do small mindmaps and with the pen, even small buttons were okay. However, I eventually got frustrated that it was not windows. Synchronizing between my office which is windows based and the android tablet was possible, but more tricky. Plus, I felt that even though there are lots of android apps (a lot more than windows apps), for doing actual work, nothing really beats windows. For example, there are a lot of note taking apps on android, but nothing close to microsoft onenote. I think I bought every single note taking app for android, and all of them are nice, but still lacking fundamental features which onenote has. Also, you can get access to your exchange server from android, but there are no really good programs for tasks (I think). Outlook is just better. VPN connections work from Android, but it is smoother with Windows.

    So if I were looking at an 8″ tablet, I would definately get a windows one, especially now that the price has come down so far.

    I just got a thinkpad tablet 2, for note taking and it seems to be quite nice. Have not really optimized it yet though or gotten used to it. For myself, I prefer the 10″ screen to the 8″ screen. The weight savings are minimal and the screen reduction is quite noticeable. For reading e-books, the 8″ screen is better, but for doing work, the 10″ is better. Also, I also would stress the need for a pen. I think working in desktop without the pen (and without the hover function) is frustrating. I also miss a keyboard so often. I hope that a thin cover with built in keyboard like the surface comes out at some point. A thinkpad tablet 3, with a pen, the new processor and thin fold over cover with built in keyboard would be amazing!

    My 2cents…

    Marc

  2. Pierre says:

    Just purchased a Dell Venue 8 Pro this weekend, so this blog post is appropriate.

    I have ordered a Bluetooth Keyboard and a mouse. The idea is to be an extension of my work laptop along with a consultation device.

    My setup should be completed by the end of next week. I’ll post back on my experience later.

    Pierre

  3. Henrik says:

    Well, if you buy an 8″ full windows tablet, you are able to install emulators (likeBlueStacks). Then you can run all Android and iOS apps directly on the tablet. Apps you use often, you fix on the Modern UI and then you have Win8 + Android + iOS on one small tablet including the full windows experience. Also, if you go for a tablet with microHDMI you’re able to use it as a desktop.

    Considering that these devices only weigh about 400g, you can carry this “all-in-one” device in you inner pocket! Adding LTE (or 3G) you also have a full cellphone aswell. Also, with 128 GB storage you bring a harddisk!

    I think windows 8 really blooms on these 8″ tablets. But I also agrees that a lightweight 10″ tables are great! But they don’t weigh 400g yet..?

  4. markkemperman says:

    I purchased a 64GB VivoTab Note 8 and find it to be spot on as a replacement for my pen and paper notepad. With OneNote now being free, and a copy of Office included, this tablet with a Surface Pen (or any full-size Wacom tablet PC pen) is brilliant. I can note take in meetings without problem and by the time I’m back at my desk, the notes are there in OneNote on the laptop. Annotating directly into Word documents also works well, so there’s a lot of flexibility.

    The screen resolution is fine on an 8″ display and I’ve found it to be very useable—granted, navigating the desktop can be a challenge, but with stylus in hand, it’s easily doable.

    Added bonus: the sticky notes in Windows 8 are also pen enabled 🙂

    For the price, you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a nice portable solution for your use case.

  5. Ian Banner says:

    HI,

    I recently purchased a Surface Pro 2 with a roughly 8 inch screen. This was mainly because everyone else in my office was raving.

    After 10 days I returned it and returned to my current work setup. You should know that I am mobile office worker, spending time at home, traveling on trains in the UK and I have a London office on the strand. I follow Michael’s work for organising purposes

    My best setup and why

    – iPhone
    – ipad mini
    – Moleskin notebook
    – 13inch macbook PRO retina

    Key points :
    1. This setup (particularly the Macbook PRO) gives me a screen that allows little eye strain and is usable for many hours of typing. Weight is very light. After a while the odd gramme here and there really doesn’t matter – what matters is eye strain.
    2. Paper and Pen are still needed! I measured my productivity writing around a side of A4 using the following set ups (same notes, duplicated exactly)
    Paper and Pen – 2 minutes
    iPad mini plus adonit scribe in penultimate – 6 minutes
    iPad Air with adonit scribe in penultimate – 4 minutes
    Livescribe 3 pen – 2 minutes (but the paper in the notebooks is not ‘fine’ and the pen is hard to hold – i think i would get cramp through lots of use.

    Summary : People like to hope that a digital pad and clever digital pen will replace paper and pen, and it can but it is in no way as productive, and this is what really matters

    3. Why travel with an iPad Air and a Macbook Pro?

    So the efficiency of the work process was the key

    I also use evernote on all platforms to capture, store and organise, plus a paper log for MYD etc

    Q: have you done any work on using evernote as a platform for your work methods micheal?

    Summary : I have trailed many combinations and I am sure an 8inch screen is not great for productivity, what is great for productivity is around 10 or 11 inches and the best display possible for your eyes

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Ian: Years ago I used OneNote, but then switched to Evernote when it had better multi-platform support. But now OneNote has excellent multi-platform support so I switched back a year or two ago. I like it better. Michael

    • Oscar says:

      Wow, can you tell me when it has appeared the Surface pro 2 with a 8 inch screen?? until today it was only a rumor, but now, it seems that you have had one and returned it!

      I think you never played with a wacom screen… but i don’t criticise your work setup, everyone have its own preferences….

  6. Doug says:

    I bought an 8-inch tablet (the Lenovo Miix 2) on sale for $199. I’ve since added a FULL-SIZE Bluetooth keyboard (the thin and light but excellent Logitech K810) and a fold-flat Bluetooth mouse (Microsoft Arc Touch Surface edition) and a cheap but great case that props it up on the desktop and folds back when in the hand (Ivso brand on Amazon). It’s a great combination. Cheap, light and full Windows. So, I can carry it anywhere, all-day if necessary (thanks to great battery life). Yes, it’s underpowered and yes, the storage capacity is dreadful. But it works very well. Let’s me “grab” Windows to go whenever I want and might become my new travel computer (since I need Microsoft Office and other Windows software, an iPad was never a replacement). Plus, since it’s so inexpensive, I’m not paranoid about it getting broken or stolen when traveling.

  7. zach says:

    I have been using the VivoTab Note 8 all this semester and I find it extremely helpful for my productivity. I am a disabled college student who is, for all intents and purposes, independent when I’m at school.

    I used to carry a laptop in my bag and ask individuals to help me when I needed it, but with all of the activities i spend time in, I was losing entirely too much time. I tried several solutions that improved my results, and though there’s more work to do before it’s ideal, I’ve made a ton of progress.

    Right now, all three of the devices i use have Wacom pen support (Samsung Galaxy SII, Samsung ATIV VII, and the VivoTab Note 8 all three have SD cards for extra memory). I also have two bluetooth keyboards, a small one for responding to emails and other light work, and the k810. I also have a logitech ultra slim mouse and a Wacom feel pen. I carry the note 8 in a leather case with the small keyboard, the feel is attached as well. If i am setting up for under an hour I typically use it.

    I carry the ATIV and Logitech peripherals in a messenger bag that goes over my shoulder and rests on my lap, I pull these out of my bag for serious work. It takes a few minutes to pull it out but the 11 inches of screen real-estate is often worth it.

    I carry my phone along with a small noise-canceling recording mic in an army surplus ammo pouch that slides onto my seat belt. I sit on all of my pockets so that was the best solution I could come up with. I use my phone as my PDA and voice recorder. Dragon Naturally Speaking is on the ATIV so I can record ideas and even write parts of papers on the go.

    Of course the glue holding all of this together is cloud technology. I use Drobox for pictures and file transferring, Drive for administrative and church-related work, and OneDrive for all of my school work. With all of my Office documents and OneNote files syncing from once computer to the other, I can just scan all of my course-documents and have them wherever I go. I also get e-books, which provides the same solution.

    The idea behind all of these devices is to limit weight and logistical issues while being able to accomplish anything that needs to get done literally anywhere I need to go. i wouldn’t use any of the devices as standalone workstations, but together they make one powerful one.

  8. Michael Linenberger says:

    Thanks Zach, for describing your technology/productivity suite. Very inspiring! Michael

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