Laptops, and Tablets, and Netbooks! Oh, My!
If you’re like most people, the amount of computer hardware options available to you can become more than a little confusing. Do I want a laptop or a netbook? What is a netbook in the first place? What’s the difference between a laptop and a tablet and what the heck is a “convertible”? (Hint…it’s not a shinny sports car in the computer world). Hopefully the following discussion will give you a better understanding of the differences between these devices and which might be right for you. Laptops – The traditional portable computer. Laptops have become drastically cheaper over the last five years and also become much more reliable. In addition, laptops generally are not very rugged and do not have screens made for outdoor use or visibility. However, many companies do make ruggedized laptops that are built like tanks and normally have sunlight readable displays, but they aren’t very cheap. A major advantage to a laptop is that it normally has a large screen (10″ – 17”) and a keyboard. Today, most laptops provide as much power and performance as an average desktop computer.
Netbooks – This is the latest craze and the cheapest portable computer you can currently buy. Netbooks are very small and meant to be extremely portable and have long battery lives. What this means though is they have reduced specifications across the board; smaller screens (7-11”), lower screen resolutions, less memory, less hard drive space, slower processors, etc. Netbooks are great for what their name implies, using the internet or for email. Beyond that you will probably run into some serious limitations, especially if you expect it to be your daily work machine. Generally netbooks are not very rugged either, so do not expect them to hold up too well in the field. If you do get a netbook make sure you get one with a default screen resolution of at LEAST 1024 x 768, anything smaller and you will be disappointed.
Tablets – The truly portable PC. Tablets are not new to the market but in the last few years have been gaining more steam and evolving into a viable solution if you need a portable PC. Tablets have really come into their own since the release of Windows VISTA and Windows 7. Tablets generally do not have a keyboard and just have a screen that supports a touch interface. A variation of this is what is often called a “convertible”. This means that the tablet does have a normal keyboard and can look like a normal laptop but the screen actually can be rotated so that the screen covers the keyboard and you can just use the touch screen and carry the device like a normal tablet. Tablets come in many shapes and sizes and ruggedized models are becoming more common – not to mention at more affordable prices. A tablet can provide all the features you need for outdoor use, if properly configured, and without breaking the bank in the process.
For my money, if I’m going to be doing a mixture of outdoor work and indoor work then the tablet style PC is the way to go.