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Laptop/Tablet 2013-2014 Thread

MRoss

Well-Known Member
Welcome to my yearly thread. Let me preface this whole thing with the following statement:


Preface


The age old question: "Which laptop (tablet) should I buy" is no longer a relevant question. The new question is "What type of device do I want?"


What does MRoss mean? Well, pretty much all companies use the new Intel Haswell chips now. They all use the same grade of memory and the same hardware - all just with a different "face". The quality difference between companies has shrunk enormously. I mean, sure, I still won't be caught dead with an HP. However, the fact is that buy yourself a Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Asus, Lenovo, etc. and it will probably hold up for a very decent amount of time.


Additionally, companies use to all make unique laptops. No two were the same. Now; when I look at these 11.6" Windows 8 tablets, I literally cannot tell the difference between the Microsoft, Samsung, Asus, etc. They are IDENTICAL in looks, weight, and specs.


There are obviously some companies that still maintain their own look and feel (Sony, Fujitsu, Lenovo a bit), but for the most part your main concern should be "what" not "which".

Warning: There are going to be a lot of details left out here. I cannot cover everything in a one page post. I will inadvertently miss out categories and the like. Everyone is advise to do their own research; this is just to "open the door" for them.


Let's get started


1. The train tablet

The type: Essentially, any tablet that has a 5"-9" screen which does not have an active digitizer or full OS.

Examples: iPad, Nexus 7, Asus Transformer, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire, Lenovo Ideapad, etc.

What they are designed to do: These are currently the best PDF reading tools. They also are masters at web-surfing, gaming (app games not hardcore), music, and movies for on the go. These are decent for light reading but I would much rather suggest a proper ereader for the avid book reader.

What I think: I ignore this section as I have a large screen smart phone which pretty much does all of this save the PDF reading. However, they do what they do very well. Oh, and they have amazing battery life.


2. The writing tablet

The type: Essentially, any tablet that has a 5"-12" screen which does have an active digitizer.

Examples: Samsung Note 10.1, Lenovo Thinkpad 2, etc.

What they are designed to do: These are designed to be either "train tablets" plus the ability to take notes, or full fledged "PCs" with note taking capabilities. (I am referring strictly to Atom (or Android) based models)

What I think: I have carefully gone through every tablet in this category and quite honestly they all try to hard to do both; and end up failing hard at both. I have not been impressed with the writing capabilities of any of these. Additionally, I find that tablets like the Nexus 7 are better tablets, which stronger tablets such as the Microsoft Surface make better PC tablets. So these fail across the board. I say avoid them all.


3. The Tablet Convertibles

The type: Essentially, any tablet that has a full fledged OS and can transform into a laptop.

Examples: Surface Pro, Samsung Ativ Pro, etc.

What they are designed to do: These are designed to completely replace your laptops while at the same time do what your tablet does as well. Many have active digitizers for note taking.

What I think: Nearly all of these models that have active digitizers are excellent at note taking. They use the Wacom digitizer and have excellent accuracy. They run Windows very well and are truly laptop replacements. As tablets they really fall off. They are OS based machines. They don't have apps, and are clunky when trying to flip through them like their smaller counterparts. Windows 8 tries to fix this but does not do such a great job.


Sounds perfect right? Well, no. Personally? The 11.6" screens on these are way too narrow for me. While writing on them is a joy it is about the width of half a sheet of paper so that's annoying enough. But then when using them as a laptop you have to deal with the super small screen. Not a fan. Also, the battery life is far from optimal on these machines; you almost certainly will need to carry an adapter with you in your bag. Additionally, most of these cool "flip" designs fail hard leading to heavy, clunky, trying-to-hard designs.


3.1 The Weak Tablet Convertibles

The type: Essentially, any laptop that has a half OS, a ULV, and can transform into a tablet.

Examples: Microsoft Surface RT, Samsung Ativ, Asus Transformer T100, etc.

What they are designed to do: Not sure? Some sort of almost OS devices that look like tablets but act like PCs?

What I think: FAIL. They have excellent battery life but fail harder than their full-fledged OS counterparts, for the same reasons.



4. The Laptop Convertibles

The type: Essentially, any real laptop that can flip into a tablet.

Examples: Thinkpad Helix, Sony Flip, Fujitsu T902/T904 etc.

What they are designed to do: These are designed to completely replace your laptops with the side benefit of being able to flip and take notes. All have active digitizers for note taking.

What I think: Nearly all in this category are excellent. They make fine laptops while at the same time provide a nice writing experience.


I do believe the upcoming Fujitsu T904 will rock-the-pants off of this category; but it is not yet available in the US. When it is, I assure you it will be well out of your price range. I would guess the starting price for the one worth getting will be $2,100+.



4. The Larger Laptops

Going in the way of the mammoth.


Conclusion:

So what are my plans for 2014?

Tablet: I would like to sell my Kindle. I would like an 8”-9” device that runs Windows 8 and has a Wacom digitizer for note taking. Dell has such a device out but it has a non-brand name digitizer so the writing experience is very sub-par. Rumors around the upcoming Thinkpad 8 (don't ask how I got this link) are very exciting. It is said to run Windows 8, have Wacom, be super light with an 8” screen, and run very quickly to boot.

Why do I want this? For reading math PDFs and taking notes. For giving my group music lessons and using my Window-based music note software on this while walking around the room and having the usb wifi dongle projecting what I am doing to the projector in the room for the kids to see (run-on sentence ftw). For watching clips/news on the train. For watching movies/YouTube in the gym. For basic web browsing.

It seems I’ve covered all of my bases with this device; so yeah I’m excited.

In addition: I do intend to also upgrade my laptop to a 13” Haswell laptop with Windows. I don’t care for touch screen but I’m certain it will come along anyhow. This isn’t really necessary; its just for me to use my computer while my wife watches HULU and movies on our PC, something which happens quite frequently.

I feel for most people getting the likes of the Thinkpad 8 along with a desktop computer in your home is the best way to go.

Why (almost) no Apple products here? Just because I don’t use them and don’t understand them. No hard feelings.
 
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Ole Bueker

Active Member
Nice overview. Do you have any recommendations for me? I'll be moving to another country for studying and my current laptop is quite old and clunky - I would like to have something for reading PDFs, taking notes, check email using wifi and so on - at my apartment I'll keep my desktop computer, so the new device wouldn't need to be able to run Visual Studio, MATLAB (i.e. no heavy computing needs).

I'm moving during February, so the device should be available by then - what about the thinkpad 8?
 

MRoss

Well-Known Member
Nice overview. Do you have any recommendations for me? I'll be moving to another country for studying and my current laptop is quite old and clunky - I would like to have something for reading PDFs, taking notes, check email using wifi and so on - at my apartment I'll keep my desktop computer, so the new device wouldn't need to be able to run Visual Studio, MATLAB (i.e. no heavy computing needs).

I'm moving during February, so the device should be available by then - what about the thinkpad 8?
Sounds exactly like my situation! It SOUNDS like the Thinkpad 8 will be the way to go. Asus will be releasing one as well. I would have bought Dell, but no Wacom is a no go for me. Let's cross our fingers for a Q1 release!
 

ExSan

Well-Known Member
"Asus will be releasing one as well"
do you have more information about their new line and when will it be on the market ? note taking capable?
 

MRoss

Well-Known Member
"Asus will be releasing one as well"
do you have more information about their new line and when will it be on the market ? note taking capable?
VivoTab Note 8. Was hoping for slightly better res though. But on an 8" device it should be just fine.
 

MRoss

Well-Known Member
Update:
I would like to update with an excellent 14" laptop option. While most gaming laptops are very heavy, expensive, and run hot there is one option that stands out so much I would go as far as recommending it to MFE students.

At only 3.5 lbs the Gigabyte P34G is an absolute BEAST.
  • 14" Screen ~ only 3.5 lbs!
  • 4th Gen Core i7 Processor (not ULV!!)
  • 256SSD + 1TB HD
  • Powerful NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 760M GDDR5 2GB Discrete Graphics Card
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
I am truly blown away by this company. The specs on this rival that of Alienware at $1,000 less and 3 lbs less. Incredible!


As far as writing tables I just bought a Thinkpad 2 10.1 on eBay and am so far quite happy with my experience. As a computer it is downright awful, but for my purposes it is amazing:
  • Note taking while watching related YouTube videos
  • Finale 2012 Music Note software while streaming live to my Dell M110 projector
  • Web browsing/ Email
I bought a gaming laptop just for fun and games at home.

I'll keep you updated.
 

Giovanni

Active Member
C++
Hi, as I have been admitted to a MFE Program I am thinking about retiring my laptop and getting a new one.

I am currently thinking about two different products:
- Surface Pro 3 (i7, 8GB RAM, 256 GB,..)
- Xps 13 (the European version with i7, 256 GB, infinity display, touch-screen,.....)

Would you suggest any of these two? I think Xps 13 could satisfy many of my needs but not the possibility of taking notes as you can do with the Surface Pro 3 pen.

Does someone has any kind of experience working these two?
Would the Surface Pro 3 have the right processing power for the computing?

Thanks,

GG
 

Jorge Luis Montano Aguilera

Active Member
C++
Hi, as I have been admitted to a MFE Program I am thinking about retiring my laptop and getting a new one.

I am currently thinking about two different products:
- Surface Pro 3 (i7, 8GB RAM, 256 GB,..)
- Xps 13 (the European version with i7, 256 GB, infinity display, touch-screen,.....)

Would you suggest any of these two? I think Xps 13 could satisfy many of my needs but not the possibility of taking notes as you can do with the Surface Pro 3 pen.

Does someone has any kind of experience working these two?
Would the Surface Pro 3 have the right processing power for the computing?

Thanks,

GG

Hi! I am in the same position as you, my laptop is getting kinda old and wanted to buy a Surface Pro 3, but I could't find much use for the thouch screen... same thing with the Xps 13 so now I am leaning towards a Macbook Pro, similar specs as the dell, a bit more expensive but to be fair it looks really cool, they also have a $200 discount for students
 

mhy

Well-Known Member
If you get a Mac make sure you get a decent sized internal SSD/flash drive. You may need to install Windows to run certain applications and that takes up a lot of space.
 
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