A few years ago I experienced a nightmare scenario. After finishing work late one evening, I placed my laptop on my desk. Unfortunately I didn’t get it all the way on the desk, and it came crashing down into my hardwood floor. A new laptop became an immediate necessity. Web workers simply cannot survive without them.
Fast forward a few years and the scenario might have played out differently. Sure, my laptop still would have been a hunk of useless parts, but I would have had many more choices in replacing it. In fact, I might not have replaced it with a laptop at all. There are a few different options on the market right now.
The laptop has gotten better
When my laptop broke, the only real choice was to replace it with a comparable but newer model. This was 2009, so that meant just a basic upgrade. In fact, since I was using a MacBook it was really the same computer with slightly upgraded specs: a faster processor and a bit more hard drive space, but that’s about it. Today the scene is quite different.
The market is now flooded with Ultrabooks — super-thin laptops that do away with moving parts. Instead of having the same old laptop with the same old CD drive and the same old magnetic hard drive, computer manufacturers have given us something new. They’ve removed the CD drive and installed solid-state hard drives, which means a few things for consumers.
1. They’re more portable. Magnetic hard drives and optical drives are relatively large components. Removing and replacing them makes laptops thinner and lighter. The difference might seem small: one half to one inch and two to three pounds. But in terms of portability those differences are significant.
2. They’re more durable. The moving parts in hard drives and optical drives means traditional laptops are fragile. My computer broke because the hard drive sustained damage. Perhaps if I had a solid state drive it’d still be running today. Solid state devices can simply take more damage.
3. They’re more attractive. Thinner is simply more pleasing to the eye. It might not make a big difference, but it is certainly a consideration.
Needless to say, those upgrades are much more attractive than simple spec upgrades.
Tablets now an option
In late 2009 tablet PCs were mostly a joke. Some companies had tried to market them years ago, and they flopped horribly. But in early 2010 Apple got into the tablet game. That will necessarily change things, given Apple’s iconic value. Sure enough, the iPad kickstarted the modern tablet market.
While the original iPad couldn’t quite replace a laptop, the iPad 2 came much closer. Even still, some issues exist when replacing a laptop with a tablet. Namely:
- Incompatible software. The mobile operating systems that tablets run makes them more efficient machines. But it also makes then incompatible with traditional operating systems. Yes there are integrations, but there is still plenty of software that runs on your laptop that won’t run on a tablet.
- Lack of physical keyboard. For many it’s tough to get past this. We’ve learned to type with tactile feedback, and we don’t get that on tablets.
- Unfamiliar UI. The touchscreen UI is more intuitive than point-and-click, but it’s still unfamiliar to many people. That makes it at turn-off.
Still, those issues aren’t difficult to overcome. But consider this: Tablets can be considerably cheaper than laptops. The savings can go towards a decent desktop computer, which creates a syncing mechanism for the tablet. It also gives the user a powerful device for home use, while giving them another powerful device for mobile use.
What’s your choice?
When choosing new computers these days, we have many options that weren’t available just a few years ago. Laptops have made extreme improvements, while tablets have provided a cheaper and more efficient mobile computing option. Most people will still go with a laptop, or probably an Ultrabook, but the tablet-plus-desktop option still provides an attractive alternative.
It just makes you wonder what our options will be in another few years.