I continue to enjoy my 2016 13 inch Dell Inspiron. It’s still pretty snappy, can do pretty much anything I need for work, and I’ve grown to appreciate the ability to use it as a tablet on occasion at my desk. It’s nice to be able to flip it around in tent mode for watching videos and operating the interface via touch. Still, it’s kinda big to lug around everywhere I go, and takes up a lot of space when traveling.
Mostly it stays at home for heavy writing days, and goes with me to my study at church (again mostly spending time doing research and some limited graphic design). I’d love to have a smaller, lighter computer for those times when I want to write an email, do research, etc, but don’t want be so weighed down.
Currently, I have an Amazon Fire HD tablet that is actually surprisingly useful for some of these applications. It handles email and basic web browsing well, and I can connect my portable Bluetooth keyboard for a great typing experience. I can even write longer pieces (like I’m doing right now) in Jotterpad, a nice Markdown editor that has great Dropbox support. The Logos Bible app works acceptably well for basic research.
However, the performance of the Fire tablet starts to drop when it comes to heavier web browsing and biblical research via the Logos mobile app. Plus, there’s no way to mirror the display on a TV, so using my Fire as a lightweight solution for presentations is out. Right now I’d have to put a bit more money into a special case to make my tablet work well to type on while sitting in my lap.
So, I’ve been looking into a future purchase to supplement my primary laptop. This would be a secondary (yet capable) machine with a smaller form factor for travel and being out and about. I’d love for it to replace my tablet so that when I’m on the go I can have only one device with me in addition to my phone.
I was instantly drawn Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of products, of course, because this is exactly what they promise: A full computer experience in an ultra portable package, with touch support for the times you want to be in tablet mode. And since it’s a real Windows 10 device, you can easily use all kinds of peripherals like mice, external displays, etc. There are a few limitations for me when comes to the Surface Pro: 1) some apps aren’t available (like the Amazon Prime video app) 2) The expensive price tag (cheapest configuration I could find was around $800), 3) the size.
The apps that aren’t available on Windows aren’t that big of a deal to me, because that slight inconvenience is massively outweighed by the apps that are available in full desktop mode. For me, having the full Logos Bible desktop experience available on the go is incredibly compelling.
There’s no getting around the price, and by all accounts the Surface Pros are worth it in terms of build quality and performance. However, that’s the amount of cash I’d want to spend on my primary machine, which brings me to the fact that Surface Pros are still pretty big at 12 inches. I’m sure the bezels are thinner than my Inspiron, but the Pro not that much smaller. Could a Surface Pro be a total laptop replacement for me? Absolutely, but I’d really prefer a 10 inch form factor for portability.
What about the newish Surface Go? It’s exactly what I want, except for the terrible performance. Side note: I actually purchased the ASUS knockoff version of the Surface Go, the ASUS Transformer Mini, and while the price and aesthetics were on point, it also performed terribly. I returned it to Amazon after a few day of struggling to get it to really work for me. Turns out just about every small Windows computer is using super under-powered hardware.
So where does that leave me, assuming portability is one of my highest priorities and I don’t want to shell out the cash to completely replace my current primary computer?
I think the only really viable option is the Apple iPad.
Not the iPad Air (fully outfitted, even the base model gets up to nearly $800) and certainly not the iPad Pro. But the basic 128 GB iPad model gets me great performance, portability, multi-tasking, all my essential apps (but no Windows games, bummer) and the ability to mirror my screen for presentations (and hopefully secondary display support soon). I can get one of those, a bluetooth keyboard case and an Apple Pencil for under $450. I’m not ready to take the plunge quite yet, but I think that’s where I’m headed.