Tablets with keyboards set to become top-selling computing devices

  • Rajiv Makhni
  • Updated: Mar 27, 2016 10:16 IST
The Big Daddy: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has the chops to blow all the competitors out of the water, but is priced too high

There was a time when buying a laptop (now called a notebook) was a pretty simple affair. You looked at your budget, chose a nice chunky-sized machine with all the current specs worth looking at, checked if the keyboard was comfortable to tap on, did a little jig to see if the thing balanced well in your lap and didn’t keel over and then hoped that the hinge and battery were things that would last for some time.

Even when notebooks went thin and sleek or came up with something called an ultrabook, the overall criteria to buy remained the same: the form factor and the body remained mind-numbingly boring. A screen on top with a hinged mechanism for the keyboard at the bottom.

That’s when the laptop body snatcher popped its head up. The technology industry called it a hybrid and this form factor is the most exciting and innovative thing in the laptop category.

The Hybrid Rules

The huge success of the tablet and its sudden and subsequent decline did prove one thing to most people. A nice big screen in your hand was the perfect way to consume media and browse the web. Unfortunately it left a lot to be desired if you wanted to create a document, reply to some emails or even complete an online purchase. That’s when some companies came up with the brilliant idea of selling you a tablet with a keyboard. Some went with a foldaway system (Lenovo Yoga) and some with a snap-out (Acer, Asus, HP).

It wasn’t until Microsoft got into the game that a real alternative was born. The Microsoft Surface wasn’t supposed to be a category leader. It was just Microsoft typically trying its hand at coming up with a product that could get people to use its very poorly executed Windows 8 touchscreen and keyboard- enabled OS.

But somehow they fluked what today has become a defining standard as an alternative to a laptop. It’s a brilliant screen unit with a shockingly useful keyboard built into its very thin cover – making it the most portable, easy-to-use-and-carry machine. Most analysts predict these laptop body snatchers to be the best of both worlds and what will become the top-selling computing device in the future. And three contenders are making sure that happens real soon.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

The big daddy is in its fourth iteration and still has the chops to blow everyone out of the water. Big beautiful screen, more storage than anyone else (upto 512GB), serious horsepower processor, good front and back cameras, all kinds of connectivity including USB ports and a really good-looking machine. The kickstand at the back makes sure that this can work anywhere, including on a real human lap. The keyboard in the cover is even better with great key travel.

But then this is Microsoft and it’s almost an unwritten law that if they get everything right, they still have to do one or two things wrong. After creating the almost perfect machine they priced it at such ugly levels that it’s almost a crime punishable by violent flogging. For a good well-specced Surface Pro 4, expect to pay about Rs 1 lakh and then you have to buy the keyboard cover separately. Go figure!

iPad Pro with Keyboard

This is a strange beast with most people left scratching their heads as to who it’s really for. Until you attach the cover based keyboard (once again sold separately). The screen is the biggest of the three and a piece of very high resolution art. The storage isn’t much even at the highest end, cameras are outstanding and it is the only one that also comes with a SIM card slot to make this into a 4G machine.

Problems crop up with super-high prices (you’ll pay around Rs 75,000 to get a full-specced machine), no kickstand which is an absolute deal killer in this category and the fact that the OS is still very tablet-like and not full-blown laptop-level functional. Still, if you’re in the Apple camp this is as good as it gets for a body snatcher.

For the Apple Loyalists: The storage isn’t much in the iPad Pro, but the cameras are outstanding. It also comes with a SIM card slot to make this into a 4G machine

Smartron tBook

This is the company most are predicting is going to give Apple a run for its money worldwide. And it is an Indian company to boot, so we can all swell our chests in nationalistic pride. Based out of Silicon Valley with a Hyderabad-based design and innovation centre, the tBook is very interesting. It is encased in an all magnesium aluminium chassis, has a hi-res screen, powerful hardware, standard 128GB storage, good optics, a kickstand at the back, all the ports you need, Windows 10 Pro, 10-hour battery life and a keyboard cover that is included in the price. And in the price is buried the secret of why this company may just dominate. At Rs 39,000, this beats almost anything in the market in India and especially abroad. Also, Sachin Tendulkar is an investor in the company, thus you’re getting a piece of him too!

There are others that are about to come in too. Huawei Mate Book and HP’s all new Hybrid are both looking good and hopefully will come with the right price point. It is time to sit back and enjoy the invasion of the body snatchers. Just like in the movie, it is almost impossible to fight them and thus it may be best to succumb to their very powerful seduction and let them slowly take over this world.

Desi Pride: At Rs 39,000, the Smartron tBook beats almost anything in the market in India and abroad

From HT Brunch, February 28, 2016

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