Friday, 10 March 2017

How to replace your PC with a Windows 10 tablet

Welcome to this post on how to replace you PC with a Windows 10 Tablet, a.k.a what I think my parents should do.

PC vs laptop vs tablet

My parents are in a situation that may sound familiar to many, they have an aging desktop PC that isn't often used but still prefer the traditional desktop set up and 'performance' of a normal PC to using a laptop or tablet when doing work but also like using a tablet for entertainment. My parents have never liked laptops much, so they would be unwilling to shell out for one. They are finally admitting that it's time to update the old PC (mostly because Vista will no longer be updated!) and they want a bigger tablet than the 9.5 inch Amazon Fire they've got at the moment. But buying a new desktop PC and a new tablet is going to end up costing a considerable amount. So, while we were perusing the technology section in John Lewis, I had a bit of a brainwave - why not find a device that can do both?

This blog post is the result of my searching into this possibility. I would seriously consider this option myself, if I didn't already have plenty of devices to suit my needs.

Replacing your PC with a Windows 10 tablet

First things first. I decided to suggest a Windows 10 tablet because it would run full Windows with no compromises. Sure you could run certain apps on an Android or Apple device, but it wouldn't be quite the same as having a tablet built to run Windows.

I had considered a couple of ways that it might be possible to use a Windows tablet as a PC. You could potentially cast your screen to an additional monitor (through something like a Chromecast or the Miracast feature built into some windows tablets) and hook up a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. You could also use a micro-USB to HDMI adapter in a device that supports Mobile-High-Definition-Link (MHL), as long as the monitor supports that functionality. I thought about these options, but they would require a lot of fiddling around and potentially needing to buy a load more gear (my parents don't have a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse, for example) and are, apparently, unreliable and suffer from lag.

I settled on suggesting a Windows 10 tablet that has it's own video out port (either a micro-HDMI port or Mini-Display Port) and a USB hub of some description. I have only looked at tablets by Microsoft and Lenovo because these are the brands my parents were looking at, and they seem to be pretty solid options.

Windows 10 tablets by Microsoft

Luckily, Microsoft has already thought about this use-case and released several tablets that were 'built to replace your laptop'. There's the Surface 3, Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4. These are all highly rated, but I'm going to rule out the Surface Pro 4 straight away because it's too expensive for what my parents need.

So that leaves us with the Surface Pro 3 and the Surface 3. Unfortunately, these are both now much harder to find, as Microsoft seems to have stopped shipping them in favour of their latest model. This doesn't mean it's impossible to get one, just that it might not be found as easily in major shops.

The Surface Pro 3 has a 12 inch screen, weighs 800g and should have a battery life that lasts all day. It comes in a range of models: from the lowest i3 processor, 64GB memory, 4GB RAM; to the highest i7 processor, 512GB memory and 8GB RAM. It comes with a kickstand on the back that can be fixed at any angle, and it has an optional Pen and Type Cover for extra usability. I probably wouldn't bother with the extras, as this tablet isn't intended to be used as a laptop. The Surface 3 is cheaper and smaller, with a screen size of 10.8 inches it's not much bigger than the tablet they already have (which is too small). It is lighter than the Surface Pro 3 but also less powerful . The choice between the two in this situation really comes down to size and weight. The Surface Pro 3 is bigger, but also heavier; however it's extra power should give it a little bit more of a usable lifespan, before we need to have this discussion all over again!

Surface Pro 3

Windows 10 tablets by Lenovo

Of the other manufacturers, Lenovo seems to be the best. They make several tablets and 2 in 1 devices, but the range I'm thinking about is their Lenovo Miix Range. The 310, 510 and 700 ranges match up closely with the specs of the Surface 3, Pro 3 and Pro 4. Lenovo seems to be able to produce these tablets at a significantly lower price point and in a lighter weight package. The only downside is that the keyboard is bundled with the tablet, which is probably never going to be used.

Lenovo Miix 310


Both Lenovo and Microsoft tablets have Mirco-HDMI ports, which can be used to drive almost any screen if you have the right adapter. There are several docking station options, which adds convenience but could be pricey. There are also several USB hub options, the main decision here is how many devices you want to plug in at once and whether there needs to be an external power supply to drive all of the connected devices. There are several powered and non-powered options, the difference being that hubs with their own power supply can handle more devices and it won't be draining the battery of the tablet but at a higher price point.

Anker 60W 7-port USB hub + 3 Power IQ charging ports

Final Verdict

It is clearly possible to have just one device that works as a PC and a laptop. By picking the right set up, it can be possible to have a virtually seamless experience across tablet and PC scenarios. I think any of these configurations could work, as long as you think the tablet you buy can handle the tasks you're thinking of throwing at it. I wouldn't worry much about memory, that's what external hard drives are for! For those of you thinking about ditching that ageing PC, this could be a great option.

For my parents, please just ditch that old PC!


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