For most, tablets do not make good full-time laptops

Summary:I hear from a lot of folks who want to find that one hybrid tablet system that can be their only computer. I think most of these people are on a quixotic search.

hp-envy-x2
HP Envy x2 hybrid (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Regular readers know I use tablets, many different tablets, with keyboards for getting work done. I am happy with this method as it works well for me. As good as this is, there is no way I'd use a hybrid as my only computer due to the compromises that go along with that.

It seems the holy grail in mobile for many people is the quest to find that one system that can be their full-time computer and tablet. The lure of having one single device that meets all computing needs is powerful, but not very practical.

I used to be looking for the same thing, but I've come to realize that a tablet/laptop hybrid is not going to be both a great tablet and a very good laptop. I'm still going to need a good desktop system or notebook on my desk in addition to any hybrid solution I use. The hybrids are going to fill the role of a secondary system at best.

That's good enough for me, I love having a solid secondary system that I can use when needed. These are highly mobile and often that's a preferable setup to use. That's why I am impatiently waiting for the delivery of the Transformer T100 hybrid Windows 8.1 system . I know it will fill in admirably when I head out for the day and for short business trips.

I don't think there is, nor will there ever be, a single device that can be my only computer. The reason is simple — for me the attributes of a good tablet (size, weight, etc.) are at odds with those required to make a good laptop.

What it won't (and can't) do is become a primary PC that meets all my needs. Like virtually every hybrid out there, the lack of a full complement of ports, the small display, and the under-sized keyboard, will not have the versatility that I require to have it serve as my only computer. I believe that is true for most folks, including many of those searching for a single hybrid device to meet all of their computing needs.

I don't think there is, nor will there ever be, a single device that can be my only computer. The reason is simple — for me the attributes of a good tablet (size, weight, etc.) are at odds with those required to make a good laptop. I've used tablets with screens big enough (e.g. 12+ inches) to also be a decent laptop, and those failed miserably at the tablet functions.

Your mileage may vary but for me, a tablet with a screen larger than 10 inches is too big to be comfortable. I don't like holding a bigger tablet in my hands for very long. While the 10-inch display can make for a fine secondary computer, it's not big enough to be a main computer. The display is too small to use all the time, and more importantly it forces the keyboard on the hybrid to be too small for full-time use.

To be clear, I use 10-inch tablets all the time in my work, and usually with a hybrid keyboard of some type. This works fine for me, but only for reasonable periods. I couldn't use this all the time as my only computing setup without compromise, and I don't think many others could either.

The attributes that make for a good tablet fail as a full-time laptop, and vice versa. I don't believe it is possible for a single hybrid device to adequately serve all tablet and laptop needs for most folks. The mad search for the perfect device to fill all computing needs is just that — a mad search.

It's sort of like I've been saying for a long time about mobile tech in general. There will never be a perfect mobile device because everyone's needs and likes are different. What is perfect for me may be trash for you. We like different things so your perfect device may be impractical for me. And that's OK, that's why we have choice which is always a good thing.

I don't think choice will help most shoppers find the perfect hybrid that can meet all their needs. Tablets and laptops are too different to meld them into that perfect device.

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Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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