Tag Archive | "Buyers Guide"

Find The Rightsize, Rightformat Mobile PC

Let’s take a look at what you can do with 8 to 10-inches of hardware and what’s going to give you the most satisfaction. Whether you use it in bed, on the table or in public is important and of course there’s the big question of mixing business with pleasure. I’m talking about small-screen Windows tablets, ultramobile laptops, ultrabooks and the 2-in-1 devices, of course! What’s best for you?


  I’ll start by saying that it’s very unlikely that you’ll find one solution that covers all your needs perfectly but if you value mobility, some trade-offs are worth it. Because prices are dropping, the chances you can buy two, or even three devices within budget are improving too. Because of my job I’ve always had the advantage of choice and being able to choose a device based on the days activities is the best option. Sometimes I just take a smartphone. At other times a 10-inch Atom-based 2-in-1 works perfectly. At other times I need 13.3-inches and a Core i7 CPU with all-day battery life. There was a time during the life of this blog when you could buy handheld clamshell PCs with 4.8-inch screens. They were expensive and very niche but at a time when on-screen keyboards were laughable, they had unique productivity advantages.  Apart from a few Asia-market product and some specialist business devices those days are gone. For while, everything under 10-inches was gone but thanks to a great new mobile-focused mode in Windows, and huge progress in mobile X86 platforms such as Clovertrail, Baytrail and Haswell, a new product range is opening up with 8-inch Windows tablets. At the 10-inch range you can now find full Core-i5 based tablets weighing under 1KG which come with detachable keyboards for under $1000. You can also find a 10-inch tablet with included keyboard dock for $349. Both run Windows 8.

Venue8Pro_family-2 (1)

8-inch touch PCs

Starting with the new category of Windows devices the Windows Small Screen tablets are made possible through Intel Atom processors. Baytrail, the newest, offers what you could call ‘enough’ power for a smooth experience through every part of Windows Modern and Desktop. Intel and Microsoft are promoting these under a new Small Screen Tablets Program which allows prices to go below $300. Expect $250 8-inch tablets by Christmas! Here’s a list of PC solutions with 8-inch screens. In terms of sizing you have some stark trade-offs. The Modern UI, at 800×1280 resolution, should look great. The desktop, with a few tweaks, should also be readable although you might want a digitizer or external mouse and a good pair of eyes to get productive with Office. The desktop mode on these devices isn’t going to be used much by consumers although professionals will obviously have a different take on that. Being able to run a batch of photos through some filters, for example, could help to reduce the preview time for a customer. You can, if you want (and I really like this idea) also think of these 8-inch tablets as 8-inch mini PCs. They’ve got a screen, but you can add screen, keyboard and mouse for the perfect temporary desktop, Powerpoint player or holiday PC.  We haven’t seen any with dedicated docking ports yet but with WiDi (wireless screen, remote USB and audio) and Bluetooth (wireless keyboard and mouse.) you may be able to work completely without cables. 8-inch SSTs are flexible but they’re about Windows Modern first and Desktop second. They’ll be perfect for magazine and book reading, social networking (it’s always nice to have a full browser ready for those desktop URLs that appear on your timeline!) and Modern gaming. Let’s not forget that all Windows 8 PC come with multi-user capabilities so buying one for the family as a Christmas present isn’t a bad idea. With cloud synchronization on Windows services becoming more and more embedded, having a $299 Windows 8 tablet ready to go out of the door with you isn’t a bad addition to your range of computing options. It’s not going to replace a main PC, but it complements it extremely well.

omni-10-hero10-inch touch PCs

This is the old netbook category size; A size where keyboards were a pretty poor and cramped experience. As a screen size for a laptop it may only work optimally for kids but, naturally, those with a mobile computing requirement will have an interest. When you think about tablet or 2-in-1 scenarios, it gets even more interesting, especially when you consider the power that can be packed into the size wth the new X86 processing platforms. Here’s a list of all the PC solutions with 10-inch screens. Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is the perfect example of how much you can fit into a 10-inch tablet. Fast SSD, Core-i5 (ultrabook-style) processor and fast memory with FullHD touchscreen and some impressive battery life, all in a light-weight package that attaches to keyboard cases and other mobile accessories. There’s a dock that will allow you to use the Surface Pro 2 as your only PC. There are a few trade-offs though. Weight is relatively high for casual usage scenarios however, so you can’t use it to read a book for an hour in bed for example. It has a fan too. When you get to working on the desk, a FullHD screen may not be comfortable at this size. Working with the Surface Pro 2 on your lap (some people do it!) isn’t going to be confidence-inspiring either. 10-inch tablets can work in casual scenarios, but only when they weigh much less than the Surface Pro 2.  When they weigh less, they usually have a smaller battery however. The 10-inch category was always the ‘tweener’ category that was hidden by low cost netbook sales but now those have gone it’s exposed a screen size that, although it can do everything, comes with serious trade-offs. It’s no substitute for a grab-and go 8-incher either. It’s important to note that as weights go down in this category, reading and casual usage becomes better. A 10-inch screen can be a really nice reading experience when we reach sub 600 grams / 1.2lb. The problem is that a keyboard will always need to be bigger than one that matches a 10-inch screen. If you’re tablet-focused, watch the 10-inch sector. If you’re keyboard focused, watch the 11.6-inch sector.

pavilion-x2-hero_tcm_245_148941711-inch Touch PCs

As we move up to 11-inch screen we reach a size where the matching keyboards become much more user friendly and where desktop apps on high-density screens are more useful. 11.6-inches is the smallest screen size I would recommend anyone to have as their only PC screen and even then, only if you need to be extremely mobile or, as could happen in the future, want a very nice lightweight newspaper-style to your tablet. Weights are too high now, but are coming down quickly. Here’s a list of PCs with 11-inch screens. A laptop in the 11.6-inch range, at around 1KG / 2.2 pounds brings together not only a comfortable screen and keyboard but, in a well-designed device, can offer processor power, battery life and quiet operation. Look at the Sony Vaio Pro 11 which is an Ultrabook-style device but also check out some of the netbook+ devices. The Acer Aspire V5-122P has great graphics power for the price and it comes with a touchscreen for a third of the price of a Sony Vaio Pro 11. The most interesting style of device in this size category is undoubtedly the 2-in-1. In early 2013 the 2-in-1’s were a bit underpowered and tablet-heavy but that is changing now. Look at the Dell Venue 11 Pro which runs a Baytrail CPU and weighs 726 grams / 1.6 pounds. That’s 20% lighter than the Surface Pro 2 with its 10-inch screen. The Sony Vaio Tap 11 brings an Intel Core CPU in an 11.6-inch screen in 780 grams. As these tablet weights get towards 600 grams you’ve got an enjoyable tablet experience, a screen that’s good enough for desktop work and the possibility to match a ‘real’ keyboard. In 2014 you won’t see anything that light with a Core CPU inside but you will see Baytrail tablets approaching that. For some people, this could be all the PC you ever need.


8-inches. For travellers, adventurers, sofa surfers, hotel hoppers and those that love modular flexibility. These are also the ‘gadgets’ of the Windows 8 PC world and as such, quite exciting for many. At $299-$399 it’s a perfect second PC that will integrate and sync with your main PC more and more as time goes on.  Example: Dell Venue 8 Pro 10-inches. Very interesting possibilities as a 2-in-1 for the more tablet-focused user and a perfect replacement for a netbook. As a laptop it will interest hot-deskers if you choose one with enough processing power. As weights get less the tablets get more interesting but the keyboards will remain cramped. Example: Microsoft Surface Pro 2 11-inches. The entry-level for productive laptops or tablets with keyboards. Currently the tablet sections of most 2-in-1s are too heavy for a comfortable sofa, bed, coffee shop experience but that problem will go away over time. A few products are getting close though. Example: Sony Vaio Tap 11.

What am I using?

Please, let us know what you’re using in the comments below. As I mentioned earlier in the article, I have a number of devices I use regularly. The tablet section of the Acer W510 gets a lot of use as it’s a good size and weight for living-room use. I’m using it to edit this post now as I sit in the back of a presentation room. For productivity, however, I use a 13.3-inch Ultrabook. For the future I’m considering a Sony Vaio Tap 11 and one of the 8-inch tablets as a replacement though. I haven’t used a 7-inch Android tablet (my previous favorite form factor) since I was given a Nokia Lumia 925 to test. (7 weeks ago!)

Find out more.

There’s a huge amount of fun to be had looking around the market and imagining usage scenarios. Be honest with yourself though and think about your main usage and consider two devices rather than compromising when buying a 2-in-1. A solutions that does ‘95% of what I need’ is a device that is useless for 5% of what you want to do. Your solution should be able to do over 100%  of what you need to achieve. Have fun in the product database where you can select form-factors and sort by processors and screen sizes, weights and more. The UMPCPortall Product Database is here, for you.

Ultrabook Comparison Tool Now Active. Find *Your* Ultrabook

Late last week I added new features to the product database. You can now filter the database in real-time by selecting a form factor, touchscreen technology or by simply typing in the search field. Today I’ve added the comparison feature.


Not only does the comparison page allow you to view much more information in-line, it allows you to sort more fields than in the normal database overview. In addition, it completes a short process you can use to drill down into Ultrabooks like never before.

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Top 11.6″ Ultrabook and Ultrathin Choices

For those looking for netbook-style sizing and laptop-style performance, the 11.6” category of Ultrabooks is the place to be. It’s not the most active category, that belongs to the 14” segment, but it’s an important one for many. To make an 11.6” Ultrabook though takes skill, leading-edge components and some trade-offs. Battery capacities are generally smaller than in the 13.3” Ultrabooks and screen resolutions must be kept to sensible levels to avoid having to boost font sizes. One the other hand screen backlights take much less power making the 11.6” Ultrabook one of the most efficient there is. In this article I take a look at the options.

11inch ultrabooks

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Ultrabooks and Removable Batteries

There’s an Ultrabook battery report out from the Electronics TakeBack Coalition – a company that “promotes green design and responsible recycling in the electronics industry” and it doesn’t look too good. Only 2 Ultrabooks have been highlighted as having removable batteries but there’s a different side to this story that hasn’t been considered by the ETBC.

removable batteries

Report PDF here.

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Poll: What are you Waiting For in Ultrabooks?

Readers of this post will have at least given some thought to the word in the last minute but many of you are probably considering whether it fits into your buying plans. Let’s assume you’re looking to buy but haven’t pulled the plug yet. Why are you waiting?

Intel ultrabook slide

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Ultrabook Reference Updated

If you are looking for a primer on Ultrabooks, we’ve got just the thing for you as we’ve just finished updating three of our main reference articles.

Ultrabook reference

What’s an Ultrabook? – An overview of the Ultrabook.

Ultrabook Features Guide – Looking into some of the key features of an Ultrabooks

Ultrabook Buying Tips – Read this before you buy your Ultrabook

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Announcing The Ultrathin Laptop Buying Advisor driven by Chippy and Larovo

ultrathin advisorOver the last 6 years of product blogging I’ve always believed that  professional product blogs should be niche, run by experts and focused on guiding people to solutions rather than just being an open information and advertising platform. It’s the reason I started building a product database just months after launching my first product blog in 2006. That product database has become a great reference, a focal point for external review and information links, a conversation channel and for me, one of my most important revenue channels. Without it, I wouldn’t be blogging professionally.

I’ve always wanted to add two things to that database though. I wanted to add current pricing and a web-based advisor. While I try to map readers to products as much as I can through my articles, providing a separate channel to map readers to solutions has proved beyond my means. Until now.

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Discussion: Which Ultrabook? Why?


I’ve just pushed the button on a Toshiba Z830 Ultrabook which might be here next week (although I suspect the 7th Nov delivery date is not going to be honoured.) I went for the Toshiba Z830 because I think it’s going to be the best for me. It’s very light, has the full size SD card slot I require for my photo and video work, a promising battery life and upgradeable SSD and memory. I’ve ordered a 4GB Core i5 model, the Z830-10J, for €999 in Germany.

Continued below. . .

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The Argument For Ultrabooks

In this article I put a case forward for the Ultrabook. It follows a similar article in which I put forward an argument against the Ultrabook. You can’t say we’re not assessing all angles on Utrabooknews!

The Ultrabook project, a three-stage plan by Intel to change they way that laptops are designed and manufactured, is now producing its first products and already we’re seeing combinations of weight, price and power that have never been seen in the industry before; Truly ground-breaking notebooks. Early reviews have been very good and despite the expensive changes in design and manufacturing, the price points are competitive.

I’ll talk more about todays Ultrabook products further on in this article but first lets talk about why the Ultrabook project, over 3 years, is advantageous for everyone.

More important than the initial products is the massive change that is being asked of the laptop industry to move to ultra-efficient electronic designs [the battery companies are going to hate this part of the equation. Environmentalists will love it.], sealed unit and single board production by choosing and tightly integrating components and processes. As the change in the laptop continues the result will be advantages for all parts of the industry – a move towards solid state storage, smaller batteries, lower part counts and lower shipping weights. Windows 8 will combine to bring a scenario where the laptop covers a wider range of usage scenarios than ever before. Style included – Dont forget that very important style element for the mature markets.

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Ultrabook Buying Tips

Buying an Ultrabook isn’t going to be simple. Not only do the products all look similar but the internals are similar too. How do you make a choice between an Lenovo Core i5 Ultrabook that looks the same as a Toshiba Core i5 Ultrabook that costs the same? The devil, unfortunately for the consumer, is in the details so to make the process a little easier I’ve listed some hints and tips here that you might want to think about before buying. I’ll update it as often as I can and will add in important tips from anyone that comments below.

toshiba-portege-z830-ultrabook_11Samsung Series 9 UltrabookASUS-UX21-Series-side-angle

Last update: 25th June 2012

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Buyers Guide – Ultrabook Alternatives

We keep an updated list of Ultrabook alternatives here.

Apart from the Apple MacBook Air which is built like an Ultrabook but sold like an Apple product, there are other interesting options that hover just outside the weight and features list of a true Ultrabook. You’ve got options with Core i3 or AMD E450 at way below the Ultrabook price level, options without SSD and even high-end options. If you can handle just 500 gm / 1lb more weight and are flexible on specs you can save hundreds. In this report I list your options for Sept-Oct 2011.

Before you take a look at the Ultrabook alternatives, have a look at these two reference articles to find out exactly what an Ultrabook is.

Backgrounder: What’s an Ultrabook?

Backgrounder: Ultrabook features Guide.

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Buyers Guide – The Mobile IT Manager

It looks like we’ve hit another 7 inch requirement with very few solutions. Any more of these requests and i’m going to go out there and make my own ultra mobile PC and sell it to you all!

Mike contacted me to see if he could get some suggestions for an extremely mobile computer. It’s one that needs a full MS office suite and also needs to do duty as a support system in a light aircraft.

Here’s the breakdown.

·As an IT manager I use the MS Office suite, MS Project, MS Visio, and Firefox to do my job.

· I also travel by small plane for work and I need a unit that runs Windows so that I can use my flight navigation software (www.anywheremap.com)

·The yoke (steering wheel of the plane) can only accommodate a unit with an 8.9 inch screen without blocking critical flight instruments – 7 inches provides the best fit

·When I land at the local airport I often use a car GPS for street navigation.

·I don’t use my computers for gaming or video editing, but I do need to have reasonably snappy performance in the office environment.


That’s a clear requirement. 7 inch, Windows and wallop! right into the no-devices zone.

I initially thought about leading with a device that had GPS installed but that can be problematic. In my car there’s a UV filter on the screen and it kills reception. Where reception is critical, a well-positioned GPS puck is going to be the answer. Bluetooth isn’t the most reliable of connectivity mechanisms but once set-up, it does work.

Now that we don’t need the built-in GPS, we’ve widened our scope ….

I’m looking at the Libretto W100/W105 as I did in the last CCC. Mike is in situations where power is likely to be available and in the plane he can use a power brick. Do they have cigarette lighters in small planes though?! As with our previous CCC, there’s also the Q1 Ultra Premium (2nd-hand) and the Viliv S7 convertible. It’s got a faster SSD, good battery life and is available with 3G. It might not have the oomph to run Windows 7 though. The same goes for the Viliv X70 EX

It’s the Windows requirement I want to get right in the suggestion though. A ultra mobile PC running Windows 7 really needs a fast SSD, a 1.6Ghz CPU and, preferably, 2GB RAM.  It’s why I keep thinking about the Libretto W100 but then there’s the screen area to think about on that. It could be too big!

I’ve got three more to offer-up though. (Click images for more info)

HP Slate 500. 8.9 inch screen. 1.8ghz CPU. SSD.  Includes dual-layer screen. The HP 500 does seem to be satisfying most people that buy it. At 1.8Ghz it’s got just enough more than a 1.5Ghz Z-series Atom, along with an SSD, to make Windows 7 work smoothly. Here are some more thoughts on the HP Slate 500.

Panasonic CF-U1. It’s an expensive rugged 7 inch-er ($2K entry price) but it’s a seriously good bit of kit.  It only has a 7 inch screen but it’s a fairly bulky 7 inch device.

Netbook Navigator Nav 7 (or even Nav 9). I heard from Netbook Navigator yesterday that the Nav 7 is about ready to launch and I’ve just put all the details of this one in the database. Obviously you’ll need to wait for some reviews before committing but it certainly looks compact enough. Unfortunately there’s no docking station or VGA / HDMI out but from your email, Mike, I see you’ve been using a USB-based docking station anyway. This might work for you. I’ll be writing more about the Nav 7 in an upcoming article. [Available here when posted]

So, Mike. What do you think? Will an 8.9 inch device work for you (HP Slate 500) or are you determined to go for a 7 inch device? Are you OK without VGA? Do you want laptop-style processing power?

Chime-in with comments people. Mike needs help!

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