Still a Two (plus) PC World

Dec 4, 2013

I wrote an article last year called Still a Two-PC World.  I find it is time to restate and update that article, given changes in the tablet landscape, and, given comments I’ve received recently.

The gist of that article is this: to fulfill your mobile productivity computing needs, don’t expect to find one computer/tablet that does it all.  You’re not going to find one hybrid PC that does a good job as both a tablet and a full-powered work laptop. Even though there are a lot of 2-in-1 hybrids out there, none of them fill that role, and I don’t think they ever will.

Rather, if you work on the road and do much more than simple e-mail and writing, you’re most likely going to need two separate devices. You’ll need a thin and light iPad-sized tablet for media consumption (and for light short-term work). In addition to that you’ll need a full-fledged laptop for extended work. That device count is of course not entirely accurate; the count is really three if you include your smartphone–it’s a mobile productivity device too. But the idea is still the same.

Small Hybrids Not the Answer

Admittedly, hybrids are getting smaller and lighter, so can’t they serve both roles yet? The problem is, once a hybrid gets small enough to be a true tablet, it’s now too small (and weak) to be a computer for anything other than simple work.

For example, a few people asked me if the ASUS Transformer Book T100 I wrote up the other day could be used both as their tablet and their higher-end laptop. Probably not. It’s a tablet. It happens to have a clam-shell keyboard that makes it act like a laptop, and it has a laptop-like processor, but it’s not an efficient work laptop. For efficient and full-powered work, you will find that its screen is too small for much of your work; its keyboard is too small for high-speed typing; there’s not enough hard disk storage for all your software; and there’s not enough RAM for extensive multitasking and high-end programs like typical Adobe software. That’s a long list of issues!

No, the ASUS Transformer Book T100 is an excellent Windows tablet that is also very useful for those short bursts of real work we all need to do occasionally when mobile. But it’s not the right solution for long periods of real work.

Paul Thurrott wrote an article recently that I think states this from another angle: be sure to pick the right tool for the right job:

Hybrids Are Good, But Decide Which Role

That does not mean I am saying to not get a hybrid. They are great! But when you start to buy one, just decide which role it is going to play. Will it be your tablet (should be 1.4 pounds or less so you can hold it for a while in one hand, and have 8 or more hours battery life so you can use it all day), or is it your real work computer (13-inch or larger screen, and enough power for your highest-end work). If it is half-way in between the two roles, as many models today are (e.g. Surface Pro, Lenovo Helix, many more), then it is not serving either role well, and I say it’s probably not your right choice.

Given how thin and light tablets are, and how thin and light the new Ultrabooks are, you can easily slip both in your briefcase or satchel and still feel less weight than you did with one laptop from two years ago.


Michael Linenberger

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1 Response to Still a Two (plus) PC World

  1. Rob Smith says:

    Hi Michael.

    Another interesting article. Thanks.

    A top end Surface Pro would have enough grunt for most people. So, I guess what we need is a slim, light device with a decent screen and keyboard that can use the processing power of the tablet. (I don’t believe it is out there yet).

    Is anyone using a USB monitor or similar?

    Cheers, Rob.

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