Best tech on my desk: Smartphones, tablets, and laptops

Best tech on my desk: Smartphones, tablets, and laptops

Summary: I have an addiction for gadgets and it's led to a collection of them in my office. Here's the best of the smartphones, tablets, and laptops on my desk.

JK desk

My desk is not big yet it has a good collection of gadetry that I use for both work and play. There are nine mobile devices sharing space on my desk leaving very little of the workspace exposed. I am constantly asked what gear I own and what I like best so this article addresses those questions.

These gadgets are from different vendors and represent all major platforms. I do not have a favorite platform and do not base purchase decisions on which OS a device runs.

Top smartphone


There are two smartphones sharing duty and both have been out for a long time. The iPhone 4s is positively ancient as there is one later model out and two new models hitting the shelves currently. I use it sparingly, as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 has been my main phone for a while.

I like the size of the display of the Note 2 and the phone has served me well. It's the phone I usually have with me, so the Note 2 is my top smartphone. That may not be the case much longer as I am leaning to buy an iPhone 5s when it's available shortly.

See related: Galaxy Note 2: Changing the way I use mobile tech

Favorite smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Top small tablet


I have two small tablets, the iPad mini and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. The iPad mini is a solid performer and I like it a lot. I have even used it for work with an external keyboard; I've written over 30,000 words with the iPad mini and keyboard.

For most tasks I actually prefer the Note 8.0. There's nothing I don't like about the Note 8.0 and I like the pen support. I don't use the pen a lot but it's nice to have when it makes sense to use.

The only thing missing with the Note 8.0 compared to the iPad mini was the lack of a good keyboard, but the recent release of the ZAGG Folio keyboard (same as the iPad mini) has leveled the playing field. I've been using the Note 8.0 with the keyboard since getting the latter and I don't miss the iPad mini.

See also: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review

Favorite small tablet: Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

Top Windows tablet

Tablet 2

I have used a lot of Windows tablets and own two of them. The HP Envy x2 is a good hybrid with a keyboard dock that turns it into a good laptop. It's a solid purchase that will appeal to many.

Not too long ago I purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, and it's a fantastic tablet. I recently detailed 10 reasons why it's such a good tablet and I've heard from many owners who agree with me.

See related: ThinkPad Tablet 2: Best Windows tablet

Favorite Windows tablet: ThinkPad Tablet 2

Top 10-inch tablet (non-Windows)


I've tried a lot of tablets with a screen of around 10 inches and currently I only own one, the iPad. It's the number one tablet for a reason and I find it to be good for both work and play. 

The number of apps available for the iPad is huge and most of those apps are very well done. They make the iPad useful for all tasks that tablets are good at. 

While I use the iPad by itself, I frequently use it with a keyboard for my writing work. The duo serves me well and I must have written 100,000 words with it.

The next version of iOS, iOS7, will be released in just a few days and the iPad should be even better once that's installed.

See also: 9 best iPad keyboards

Favorite 10-inch tablet (non-Windows): iPad

Top laptop


I test a lot of laptops and own two of them. When my aging laptop needed replacement early this year I bought what I considered the best laptop available at the time, a MacBook Pro. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Retina Display is a great laptop and it quickly became my main work device.

When Apple introduced the MacBook Air with the Haswell processor, I bought one to experience the latest Intel Core system. I got the 11-inch Air for the mobility, and I take it with me regularly for work outings. 

The MacBook Air with the Haswell performs as well as the MacBook Pro without, even though the latter has a faster Core processor. The battery life of the Air is better than the Pro, too.

If I could only keep one of the MacBooks, I would keep the Air for the reasons stated.

See related: New MacBook Air: Haswell ups the game (review)

Favorite laptop: 11-inch MacBook Air


I am platform agnostic, and my purchases are based strictly on the gadget and not what it's running. I like iOS, Android, Windows, and OS X, so I look at the hardware on the device and make my purchase decisions based strictly on that.

I like the Note 2 and the implementation of Android that Samsung has on the phone. The Note 3 is expected later this month and it would likely knock the Note 2 off my desk, if I only had an upgrade coming from the carrier.

My old iPhone 4s is no longer a good phone and I rarely use it. I am interested in the new iPhone 5s and since I'm due an upgrade with my carrier I may replace the 4s with the 5s. I haven't decided yet but I'm leaning that way to have the iPhone alongside my Note 2.

I'm happy with all my tablets, both iOS, Android, and Windows so I don't see a change in this area. I use all four of my tablets regularly and I like them all.

Thanks to my work I test more laptops each year than most people and for my money Apple makes the best hardware. Platform preferences aside, the MacBooks are great hardware and I much prefer them over any other brand. 

Once Apple updates the MacBook Pro with Haswell, and that should happen later this year, the Pros will be fantastic laptops. Until then I am very happy with the MacBook Air with Haswell and will not be getting rid of it any time soon.

Not everyone will agree with my choice in tech but when it comes to my purchase dollars I go with what I like and what works for me.

Topics: Mobility, iPhone, iPad, Laptops, Lenovo, Samsung, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • Not so

    I am waiting for Haswell Chromebooks to appear for performance and battery life gains. I'll quickly grab one then.

    I gave my Chromebook to a friend who desperately needed a laptop for school.
  • My top devices

    Phone: Sony Android Xperia - not recommending, more I have load with apps, the phone became slower. Next device will be Nokia 620 in spite people opinion I don't need all those extra useless apps. My tablet is main app device.

    Tablet 7: Nexus version 1 - very good

    Tablet 10: iPad - the best if you don't need to carry for long distance. Very enjoyable device.

    Laptop: Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch - amazing machine and operating system is excellent.

    Yes I know you all Apple addicted, but my Win8 is in my opinion far superior.

    Thanks to read my 2c.
  • The Note

    Will be hard to replace. As you've accustomed to a larger screen, the iphone's display will seem too small. I remember a journalist I saw once on TV, middle-aged, wearing glasses, wanted to read some info relevant to the discussion; he took his iphone and kept it ridiculously close to the centre of his face, as if trying to focus and see what was written on the screen.
    The Note3 improves on an already fantastic stylus support, brings a better fullHD display, bigger battery, better camera, slimmer, lighter and faster all at the same time. Can't be beat.
  • If you had to chose ...

    between the iPad, the Thinkpad Tablet 2, and the Macbook Air (i.e. you have to go on a trip for work and you can take only 1) which would it be ?
    • Not realistic

      This question is not very realistic as the gadgets are small enough to allow bringing more than one almost anywhere.

      I would bring the MacBook Air on such a trip and slip the iPad mini in a pocket in the bag. The latter I use as a tablet and more importantly as a mobile hotspot for the Air.
      • Owning one of everything is, in my opinion, less realistic...

        While I am happy that you CAN take multiple devices, I was trying to detemine which ONE you felt you couldn't live without. iPad mini for hotspot could be as easily replaced with a phone for a Hotspot (notice I didn't make you leave the phone at home). While I appreciate your loads of information on various devices, it seems you have the same luxury as Matt Miller has/had. He would tell us about the great thing that came across his desk one week. Then the next week it would be something else. Every once in a while we could get him to pick one (at least for a month or so). Many of your readers can't afford/chose not to afford so many devices. I was trying to get to the heart of the issue, by asking, within limits for you to think about which one tablet/laptop device you would take if you could only take one. You partially answered it by saying MacBook air, so I am guessing it has the ability to do enough of the things you do on a day to day basis that you could live without the Thinkpad Tablet 2 (I understand that smaller size makes some things more convenient on the mini) . That is good to know.
      • Unless you work in a restricted area

        Restricted areas will normally only validate one BYOD... so which one?
  • "....I go with what I like and what works for me.... ".

    Well, yes.. OK.

    I used to read stuff like yours on here, until I decided that Apple must be in the background, paying the writers.. directly or indirectly.

    I once tried to repair an Apple iBook laptop of mine. Took 2.5 hours to do what would take 15 minutes on a PC laptop.

    User friendly Mac design. Appalling engineering design.
    • Narrow view

      I have worked on many models of Dell, HP, IBM, Sony, Toshiba and Mac laptops. In all of them there are some that are easy to work on (IBM had a think pad with a hinged keyboard that opened to everything in one second) and other that are a b----. Name your brand and you can find both easy and difficult laptops to work on. Don't even get me into repair parts, instant obsolescence.
  • "Learning" to replace Note 2....?

    You'll learn that Note 3 is your only logical choice.
  • Try the new Nokia 1520 Phablet on WP8

    Instead of the iPhone you will like it
    • We'll DOUBLE the offer!

      Plus, if you order now, we'll include the Yoshi Blade AND a set of Hercules Hooks.
      Robert Hahn
  • Though people know I have gadgets, I don't have that many :)

    When my 18" HP laptop died, I replaced it with the Samsung Series 7 Slate (now running Windows 8.1 RTM), as I have a serious desktop computer, but don't need quite that much power in a mobile device.

    I have the HTC 8X, since I am on Verizon, and that was the only high-end model available at the time I got it. If the Nokia 1020 comes to Verizon, I will get it, renewal ready or not.

    I also have a Chinese market Android 4.0 tablet (CHUWI V8). It works, but it is so slow compared to the Windows tablet with an i5. I don't know that I can handle the slowness of the Android tablets I've seen. I'm sure there are better ones than what I have, but I am overly use to the speeds of my desktop systems (home and work).

    The ThinkPad Tablet 2 looks like a great tablet and would
  • james your opinion?

    I want a tablet (perfer Windows to sync with my phone) I'm waiting to see if my carrier will offer the Nokia Tablet rumored to be coming soon, but as of now they have an Acer avalible in store or I can order their Samsung model in Windows tablet on ebay(it's not avalible in my area for some reason)
    which would you go with? Acer on contract, order Samsung for more but no contract, or wait for Nokia?
  • my devices

    My primary phone is a note 2. My primary tablets is a ipad 2 and nexus 7. I have a windows 8 laptop dual booted with linux along with having a imac and windows 7 laptop for work. I also have a iphone 5 without a contract for home use and just currently picked up a lumia 928 2 months ago also for home use and lastly thinkpad 2 that i just preordered and thats my collection. So I have the top 3 os' s for computers windows os x and ljnux distib. tablets android ios and windows 8 and phones ios android and wp8. I left out blackberry because I gave up on them 2yrs and went back and forth between android and ios but recently got hooked on wp8...
  • Freelander Tablet

    I recently bought a Freelander tablet (Android 4.2) out of China for $170 with express shipping. It has everything, bluetooth, GPS, multi-touch, quad-core, etc. and two phone sim slots. How perfect, both my personal and business phones in one device! The 7" tablet is a bit large to use as a phone to the ear but it can be used with bluetooth (I use a device that communicates between my phone and hearing aids).

    Now three devices are all in one and I could not be happier.
    • Freelander tablet.

      How is the screen resolution? How is overall quality???
      Please let me know.
    • Freelander talet

      How is the screen resolution. And how is the overall quality???