A full week before we expect Intel’s Skylake 6th-generation processors to officially launch there’s a signal that Lenovo will be launching a new Yoga 900 with Skylake architecture inside. Unlike the Yoga 3 Pro from 2014 it will have a full-fat Ultrabook-style processor. Core i5 and i7 should offer significant performance improvements over the previous generation Yoga 3 Pro.
The ASUS T100HA has us quite excited. Not only is this 2-in-1 the latest in the successful ASUS T100 Transformer Book line but it’s coming with the new Intel Atom Cherry Trail X5-Z8500 CPU and a 4 GB RAM option. The T100HA also includes USB-C but we’ve yet to confirm that it supports anything other than USB 2.0 data. Delivery could be as early as 2 weeks in Europe.
Update: Delivery soon in Germany. Hands-on video. Here.
The best travel PC is lightweight, productive, connected and needs to be efficient, relatively rugged and easy to charge. If you’re looking for a travel, adventure, camping, hiking or off-the-grid PC, you’ll need to read this post.
Travel PC Requirements
The requirements for a travel PC aren’t difficult to meet but there’s a lot to consider. Travelers are mostly concerned with blogs, emails, image editing, social networking, flexible connectivity and maybe a bit of video editing and a lot of this can be done on a phone or tablet but if you want to get some extended writing, image management or basic video editing done efficiently you still need that keyboard and trackpad in the classic table-top clamshell format. Getting the format right is half the challenge with a travel PC but you’ll also need to think about your charging options, budget and a few other important aspects.
Let’s assume that travelers will have a smartphone and that the PC solution won’t be used for photography, location services (maps, check-in, navigation) or always-on services like WhatsApp, Facebook Chat and Skype. As for power and connectivity I’m going to assume the worst – 48 hours without charging and no WiFi connectivity. In reality most are going to come across mains power and a WiFi hotspot without problems but let’s assume your out in the wild somewhere.
If you want to see the proposed solutions, scroll down for my top 6 travel PC choices.
Price is not only a personal budget issue but an issue where there’s a risk of loss or theft. Travelling is a sure way to reduce physical security and although you might be insured, you’ll need to buy a replacement before you get any insurance money. The good news is that you can buy a mobile 2-in-1 solution for under $300. (LTE-capable solutions are well under €400 in Europe.) There are two reasons you might want to spend a bit more than $300. The first is storage. 64 GB systems aren’t that expensive (add around $50) but high-speed 128 GB SSD solutions start at around $500. The second reason is processing power and that’s something you might be interested in if you’re going to edit full HD videos. It is possible to do that on a low-end solution but you’ll need to choose the right application, manage your storage and have patience. If you can drop to 1280 x 720 for videos (fine for most people on YouTube, Facebook) then it makes it a little easier on the PC. Remember that full HD videos will take a long time to upload and will use a lot of data. Budget limit: $500 including taxes.
Form-factor: Given that we want a tabletop or lap solution with a solid keyboard and adjustable screen angle we’re restricted to laptops or 2-in-1 PCs with an adjustable hinge. 2-in-1 PC solutions have grown to be popular in recent years and their mobile focus means there are some interesting options available with LTE, GPS and very small volume and weight. They also come with touchscreens which can be handy when in lay-back mode. Separate tablets with Bluetooth keyboards aren’t recommended because of dead batteries, lack of screen protection, separate tablet stand and set-up time but if you think you can organize yourself around that then you’ll find more options. Think single-unit, single battery for the best experience.
Operating System: In order to be as flexible as possible with on and offline working , local media management (photos, video) and flexible connectivity the Windows operating system is recommended and is the main focus for the solutions listed below. Android is an option in the price bracket but you won’t find many suitable Android solutions with the right form-factor. Chromebooks aren’t good for travelling due to limited image management, offline video editing and limited offline app experience. The iPad can be considered if you’re already in that ecosystem but there are limits with connectivity that might catch you out if you’re looking to transfer images or edit video from another device. Apple laptops fall outside our $500 budget.
Size and Weight: Under 1.4 KG total. Target: 1 KG (2.2 pounds.) The weight should include long battery life, keyboard and flexible connectivity options. The screen should be 9-inches or more in size and the resolution can be 1200 x 800 or more. Lower resolutions are usually more efficient on battery but larger resolutions provide more flexibility with multiple application windows.
Charging: A huge advantage for travelers has been the introduction of micro-USB charging on PCs. It brings a choice of hundreds of power packs and solar solutions that can directly charge the PC. The power-packs are generally small and cheap and replacements are easily available. USB charging in PCs often supports multiple levels of charging speed so trickle charging could help to squeeze the last from a USB power pack. Micro USB charging and good quality USB power pack with more than 2A output capability is highly recommended. With the right solution you’ll be able to use the travel PC for 20+ hours without a charge which can take you through 2 days or more.
Storage: The storage size on the PC depends on your media creation style. If you’re planning to offload 60 FPS full-HD videos onto the PC then you’ll need 128 GB storage or more but remember that you can get that in low-cost USB-connected SSD drives and SD cards. You can also consider online storage for when you have enough data connectivity available. Low-cost Windows solutions often come with 32 GB of storage which is enough to get you going but can get tight after app installations, updates and other downloads. Windows 8.1 (and Windows 10) will allow you to use an SD card for storage so if you want to keep your costs down then go for this route. Note that Windows 10 upgrades will reduce available disk storage. Clean up old files and always disable OneDrive folder synchronization to preserve space.
Internet Connectivity will depend on the availability of public WiFi, security and privacy requirements. In some countries, such as Germany, it’s difficult to find free public WiFi. In others it’s not. The quality and security of the connections may vary though so unless you’re planning to travel through multiple countries in a day, 3G/4G connectivity is a must. The cellular modem doesn’t need to be on the travel PC but it can be helpful if it is because you can buy a local SIM card for data and continue to use your smartphone SIM for voice / SMS connectivity. A 3G/4G battery-powered router is also an option and can be an advantage in low-quality reception areas as it can be positioned outdoors while used over WiFi indoors. The disadvantage is that you’re using both WiFi and cellular data which increases power usage.
Processor: Given the important need for micro USB charging there’s a big limitation when it comes to processor choice, at least on PCs. In general, the only PCs that include micro USB charging are based around an Intel Atom Z3000-series, X5 or X7 series CPU. Fortunately there is enough processing power in this processor range for all the document, social media, image editing and even video editing that most people need to do. It won’t be desktop-PC-fast and it won’t support a vast amount of multi-tasking but it will be enough and it’s a trade-off that has to be made when travelling. In the future we should see Core M-based solutions that will have USB-C connections. The new Acer Aspire Switch 11V comes close.
Security: Low cost Windows solutions have a lot of security options but they need to be set up well before starting. Ideally you’ll have a Windows solution with free Bitlocker file encryption but some of the very low-cost Windows 8 tablet solutions don’t have this so be careful if you want to store sensitive data. Enable SeucureBoot and enable the BIOS boot password as a minimum.
Acer Aspire Switch 10E
ASUS Transformer Book T100HA
ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi
ASUS Transformer Book T100
HP Pavilion X2 10 n030ng
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2
The Acer Aspire Switch 10 (2014) was considered but the battery capacity on it is so low (22 Wh) that it’s probably not worth considering. 3G and Full HD versions could be available at very low-cost though so if you see an offer, it might be worth it.
The list includes three versions of the ASUS Transformer Book T100. The original version is tried and tested and the last models, still available, have 500 GB HDD options (not in consideration here) , 3G and Z3775 CPUs which offer a little bit more processing power than the original versions. The T100 Chi offers a slightly lighter weight, slimmer design and all versions come with the Z3775 CPU. Prices are higher than the original T100. The new ASUS T100HA has the latest Intel Atom X5 and would be an interesting one to test but that’s not the aim here. Besides, it’s not available to buy yet. (Expected in September.)
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10 has an interesting design because the keyboard is wireless which enables some interesting usage scenarios. For example, the keyboard on the lap and the tablet positioned nearer the eyes. I’ve used this setup on the Asus Switch 12 and it’s really useful but beware that the keyboard needs to be charged separately but the charge should last for 2 months. Having a separate Bluetooth keyboard could be handy when traveling. Pair it with a smartphone and you’ve got your self a tiny workstation for emergency use but the magnetic hinge design will need care and reviewers report that it can slip apart from the tablet. A case might be needed for the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2. The 35.5 Wh battery is the biggest while the total weight is the lowest. As a tablet it’s going to be easy to hold in portrait mode because of the battery bulge. The CPU power is on the low end of the scale here and there’s a Full HD screen which offers more working space but takes more GPU power to drive. There’s a low-cost LTE-capable version of the Yoga Tablet 2 available which also includes GPS. That could be useful with the offline maps and navigation features in Windows 10 if you find yourself without a phone.
The low-cost Acer Aspire Switch 10E is impressive. [I reviewed it for another publication recently.] The keyboard and screen are good quality and it seems to be very efficient. The only disadvantage is the cheap plastic that it’s built from. It looks and feels cheap but it’s grippy and doesn’t show fingerprints however.
Finally there’s the new HP Pavilion X2 10 2015 model which was supposed to launch with Intel Atom X5 and Windows 10. It’s available in shops now at the same price as the Switch 10E but with a Z3736F CPU and not the promised Atom X5. Like the Switch 10E it also has a good screen and keyboard but it looks a lot better than the Switch 10E. [I had some hands-on with the new model] It’s a solid contender there could be a problem with USB-C charging. (There’s a dedicated charger shown in this video but it’s possible that you could buy a USB 2.0 – USB-C adapter and charge from a standard USB port.)
The Acer Aspire Switch 10E is my current #1 choice. I’ve done extensive testing on it and found it to be great value for the money although the WiFi module is a little weak which won’t help in crowded hotspots or hotels. The keyboard is solid and the screen is great. Today at Amazon it on offer for just $239. Details here.
I need to do some more keyboard testing with the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 but if it suits me it would jump to #1. The flexibility in keyboard use cases, large battery capacity, low eight, low-cost LTE / GPS version and high-resolution screen make it the most exciting prospect here. It’s a little more expensive than the T100, Switch and Pavilion options but not when you consider the LTE version available for just €369 in Europe (after taxes.)
If the ASUS Transformer Book T100HA was available I’d be adventurous and go for it because of the CPU, GPU and slight efficiency advantages of the new Atom X5 processor. Pricing isn’t known at the moment and there’s also a need for a few in-depth reviews. The USB-C port is a potential issue but it looks like there’s a separate micro USB port that’s used for charging.
A Z3775, 64 GB version of the original ASUS Transformer Book T100 would be the most sensible choice in the list. With more space for storage and a bit more CPU power it edges ahead of some of the others. It’s a big seller, easily available and there’s a huge community of T100 users out there that can help if there are problems. Steer clear of the 500 GB hard drive option if you’re traveling. (Use a USB SSD, SD cards and online storage.)
The HP Pavilion X2 10 falls down the list because it has a dedicated USB-C charger (USB -> USB-C charging might be possible with an adapter) and it hasn’t been reviewed yet. There’s a €279 offer on it in a shop just 2km from where I’m typing this so I’m tempted to go and pick one up.
The ASUS Transformer T100 CHI is a strange beast. A high-resolution screen and high-end Z3775 CPU could help productivity and the design is sweet, but it’s expensive. Separate keyboard and tablet charging might be a problem although a single charge of the keyboard should last for a few weeks.
Microsoft Surface 3
Where’s the Surface 3?
At $499 the Surface 3 just gets in under the $500 budget limit, without a keyboard, which would take it up to about $600. The Surface 3 is a great travel PC with a high quality screen, high-end Atom X7 CPU and good battery life. It can be charged via micro USB and fulfills every need apart from price. Using the Surface 3 on a lap is a bit awkward but possible. The keyboard is backlit. At double the price of an Acer Aspire Switch 10E it’s not great value but if you can stretch that far with your budget it’s the highest-quality choice out there and might be the best choice if you’re thinking of doing some video editing.
Android travel PC.
You won’t find an Android 2-in-1 with a fixed-hinge keyboard for under $500. The interesting Xperia Z4 tablet (also available with LTE) is up above $600 with the keyboard and although the Lenovo Yoga 2 10 tablet with Android is cheap and light it doesn’t come with the keyboard. The outgoing ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C could be an option if you can find it. The Galaxy Note Pro 12-inch tablet is an interesting option with the optional Samsung keyboard case but like the Xperia Z4 tablet it comes in above our $500 budget.
My pick of the Android options would be the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10 with the dedicated Bluetooth keyboard dock/case which you should be able to pick up for around $400 The dock has a fixed-angle tablet stand but when I tested the solution briefly at IFA last year I was quite impressed.
HP Pro 8 Bluetooth keyboard K4U64AA
The lightest travel PC.
A full PC for $300 in under 1KG is impressive but what if you need to cut more from the weight and size? You’ll need to sacrifice screen size but it’s possible with a range of 8-inch Windows tablet PCs that are out there. One of the most interesting, and one that is available with hard cases, is the new HP Pro 8 608 with Bluetooth keyboard case. Forget ‘cheap’ with this but it’s really interesting solution that weighs around 500 grams (with keyboard case) and is one of the cheapest mobile solutions with WiFi AC. Also available if you can find it is an outgoing Lenovo Thinkpad 8 model. There are 50 or more low-cost Windows 8 tablet options available between $100 and $200 but a few stand out of the crowd. The HP Stream 8 comes with a cellular modem and free data for under $200 (also available with roaming data in Europe) but only has 1GB of RAM so you have to be really careful not to run too many apps at the same time. You can get a tailored keyboard case for it too but then you’ve just doubled the weight of the solution. If you’re happy with a folio case then products like the current HP Pavilion X2 10 (under 1KG with keyboard) and the Lenovo Mix 3 10 (very lightweight with folio case) are worth looking at.
I was expecting the new version of the HP Pavilion X2 10 (n001ng) to ship with Windows 10 and Cherry Trail but it looks HP can’t wait. It’s available now in Germany for €299 with Windows 8.1, the last generation Atom Z3736F and, according to the specifications, a USB-C type connector. Update: Hands-on retail version below.
A touchscreen detachable for $220! Amazon have an offer on the Acer Aspire Switch 10 right now, just as the Switch 10E is feeding into retail channels. I’m testing one of those right now and wondering why you would buy one when the original Switch 10, a device I’ve also tested in-depth, is available for such a good price. You can even get the 64 GB version for $270. Amazon also have global shipping available on this product.
Acer Aspire Switch 10 on offer at Amazon.com
One thing you’ll need to do is to think about Windows 10 before you buy. There have been some successes and some issues reported by existing Switch 10 users when upgrading to Windows 10 but if you’re not worried about Windows 10 then the Switch 10 is immediately a good deal for this price.
The screen is a 1280 x 800 resolution model but still has wide viewing angles. 32 GB storage is enough for a good range of Windows Store applications and this tablet will also give you HDMI output, supports Miracast and comes with a one-year Office 365 license.
Battery life is in the 5 – 6 hours range for ‘WiFi-on Web’ and there’s a reasonably good keyboard. Some users have ha issues with the trackpad but I didn’t experience it in my testing. Overall it’s a good package.
Average rating at Amazon is 3.8 out of 5 stars with 385 reviews. It’s been a popular buy and it’s been the #1 product in the database for months. (Currently #2 in our popularity Top 10)
Exciting news! Gartner is predicting that hybrid ultramobile PCs will be the fastest growing segment of the mobile PC market in 2015, will represent 12 percent of total mobile PC sales and is on target to reach 21.5 million device sales.
58 million units predicted sales in 2019 will represent an estimated 26% of the mobile PC market. The Ultramobile PC is here!
The lightest 10-inch 2-in-1 comes in at just 772 grams (1.7 pounds) including the keyboard. There’s a high-brightness 2K resolution screen, the latest 8-core CPU, 3GB of RAM, it’s waterproof, can run Office, has disk encryption, and should last you all day long. It’s the Sony Xperia Z4 tablet, running Android. I looked at it while I was at MWC and I’m looking at it again now because the first set of reviews are very positive and the prices seem good. It sounds like the dream ultra-mobile PC.
The Acer Aspire Switch 10 V was the undisputed #1 most-popular product in our database over the last 12 months but its time might come to an end if the Switch 10 V model, with Intel Atom X5, takes over at a good price. The Switch 10 V comes with a Full HD 1920 x 1200 screen, a re-designed chassis and is built around the Intel Atom X5 processor. Mobilegeeks got a look at it in Taiwan today.
The HP Pavilion 10 X2 tablet / keyboard case hasn’t been out for long but it has been a popular device in the UMPCPortal database. Maybe it was because of the very light total weight and good price. The updated HP Pavilion 10 X2 has a new hard-docking keyboard and has been updated with an Intel Atom Cherry Trail processing platform and USB-C. Like all the new tablets we’re seeing at Computex this is running Windows 10. It’s looking like a great ultra-mobile PC solution.
I’ll let you into a secret. I’ve got official access to the Mobilegeeks team collaboration system and I can see what’s coming next – and it’s the first English Transformer Book T100HA hands-on video with a secret price reveal!
T100HA comes in various colors
The Transformer Book T100HA was the only significant product launched (for us) at the Asus press event this morning and it takes what is probably the most popular Windows 2-in-1 so far and updates it with an Intel Atom X5 Z5800, a USB-C port, USB 3.0 on the keyboard dock and a full 64-bit Windows 10 OS. 4GB RAM and 128 GB storage are options that will delight many of you. There’s a new metal casing on the rear and a few other design changes.
The Lenovo Helix 2 was an impressive improvement over the original Helix but faded from our thoughts due to the pro-level price. An offer spotted in Germany brings it right back into the foreground. At €1204 (inclusive taxes – US equivalent about $1050 pre tax) you can get the Helix 2 tablet and keyboard (which has an added battery) along with the pen, Windows 8 Pro and 180 GB of SSD. Oh, LTE is also thrown-in for the price.
Helix 2 with keyboard
That’s a fantastic deal and if you’re like @mothertruckerer looking for a quality, capable, all-rounder this deal puts it ahead of the Surface Pro 3. You’ll end up with 1.35 KG of device which is a bit heavier than the Surface Pro 3 with Type-Cover keyboard but you’ve got a lot more storage (nearly double the free space) and NFC along with all the other specs. In terms of ports you’re getting both HDMI and DisplayPort so you’ve got good options for screen output. There’s also two USB 3.0 connectors (one on tablet and one on keyboard) along with a Micro SD card and an included Gigabit Ethernet adaptor.
The only thing to watch out for here in the comparison with the Surface Pro 3 is the processor performance. My colleague Till Schönborn over at Notebookcheck (where I do some of their English device reviews) tested a Core M 5Y71 version and found that even the high-end Core M lagged behind the Surface Pro 3 in terms of performance. The cheaper (and slightly lower performing) Core M 5y10 in the ‘offer’ Helix 2. Performance is going to be way better than a Surface 3 though (it’s got a ‘real’ SSD inside and Core M beats Atom X7 in nearly all tests I’ve seen) and much more suited to a student that needs work, play and travel capabilities. Windows 8 Pro enables important disk encryption capabilities too.
Integrated pen slot.
We’re likely to see a much cheaper Core M 2-in-1 launch next week that might be attractive for price-conscious buyers. The Acer Switch 11V hasn’t been reviewed yet and no-one is expecting the build quality of a Thinkpad in the Switch 11V but the specifications and target price look interesting.
I’ll be following @mothertruckerer to see if he takes the plunge. I’ve also added my early hands-on video from IFA last year.
If you’re in Germany, the best Helix 2 offer can be found here at this amazing price comparison site. (No affiliation.)
Why isn’t this being reported at Ultrabooknews? I’ve decided that ‘real’ Ultrabooks come with full-fat Core CPUs. I’m reporting on all Core M-based tablets (with a minimum working weight of under 1.3 KG) here.
The review scentists at Notebookcheck finished their ASUS T100 Chi review last month and I’ve just read through it and compared it, virtually, with the Surface 3 and the Dell Venue 10 Pro I reviewed last week. Other reviews are out too and in summary it looks very good indeed for the T100 Chi despite it not having an Atom X7 CPU. There are a few issues to think about though.
I have a feeling we’ll see an updated T90 Chi at Computex next week so if you’re looking for the ultimate in portable productivity you might want to wait but consider this: With a 1.1KG total weight and a great Full HD screen, a digitizer layer, USB 3.0, high-end Z3775 CPU and a lot of style – for just $399 – the T100 Chi is a leading option in the ultra-mobile PC space.