By Roy Mathur, on 2013-02-04, for the Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)
Last year when Microsoft unveiled its new take on the tablet that it called the Surface, we were fairly astonished by the slick-looking hardware (floppy keyboard aside) and simultaneously underwhelmed by the limitations of the stripped-down Windows 8 RT that these ARM based tablets ran. Then it turned out that the Surface RT could only run a limited set of apps from the Windows Store. Microsoft then revealed that a new tablet called the Surface Pro with no such limitations and that will run all our usual desktop apps would be forthcoming. Now that the launch of the Surface Pro is only days away, this week we will look at the cream of Windows 8 tablets from Microsoft's competitors.
This is the new flagship tablet from Dell. As you can see from the picture, the display can now be rotated 180 degrees within the swivel frame. If it looks familiar, it should be, as Dell has used this design before in the much cheaper Inspiron Duo. This time round though, premium materials have been used throughout. The frame is anodised aluminium, the keyboard deck is magnesium, the keyboard itself is backlit, the huge touch pad is glass, the gorilla glass screen boasts a 1080p full-HD display and the back and base are fashioned of carbon-fibre. It is available with low-power i5 or i7 CPUs and various sized SSDs. As well as all the usual ports, cameras and connectivity, you also get two super-fast USB 3.0 ports. The main disadvantage with this tablet is the frankly criminal omission of 3G or 4G connectivity. The whole thing weighs 1.54 kg.
Most technical specifications of this tablet largely mirror those of the Dell above, however there are some differences. The most notable difference is the display which can be entirely detached from the base, flipped around and re-inserted forming a stand for the display, which is a clever gimmick, but of rather dubious utility. The base also doubles the battery life to around ten hours. Another major difference from the Dell, is that the Helix will be available with both 3G and 4G as an option. As usual we also see the cool and distinctive ThinkPad matte black aesthetics.
Both the Dell XPS 12 and the ThinkPad Helix should be out around the second week of February.
While many manufacturers have also chosen to create something akin to a classy and expensive Ultrabook in tablet form, like the two examples above, there are also cheaper tablets floating around. Relatively inexpensive devices like the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist and the IdeaPad Yoga. In fact, the market is about to become saturated with these devices so getting your hands on one, financial considerations aside, should not be a problem.
Yes, if truly wish to run a full-blown operating system and can't cope with the crippling limitations of Android, IOS and Windows RT. But, one thing to remember if you do decide to try and replace both a tablet and laptop with one of these new PCs is that they are only really aimed at executive level business users. By this I mean that you will still need to buy an external optical drive and possibly a couple of external hard drives to bolster the fairly meagre on-board storage. You can also forget about playing games with the weak Intel HD 4000 graphics processor.
If you are considering a Windows 8 tablet, my advice is to wait until Microsoft's launch of the Surface Pro in a few days. Even if you don't decide to buy a Surface Pro, the launch may drive down the prices of tablets from other manufacturers.
Have a great week and contact me with tech questions via RoyMathur.com