First off, this isn’t a painless transition. Most notebook computers have many times more power than a tablet. And they usually have much more screen real estate as well. If you’re used to a 17 inch display, or you know, three of them, this is probably not a leap you want to make. And even if you go for a gargantuan, like the large iPad Pro? Some stuff is just going to be more clumsy on a mobile operating system. And whether you’re willing to deal with that, depends on how much you value the benefits you get in return. For me, the most crucial of those benefits is, surprise, mobility.
A tablet is a much more mobile platform than most notebooks. And in order to preserve that portability, a low profile keyboard is essential. When I’m using the Google Pixel C, a tablet I adore, I use it with its Google-built keyboard companion. Yep, it’s expensive. Especially given the Pixel C’s advancing age.
But it’s got variable angle settings, great key travel and feedback. And when you separate and close it, you get a nice durable, metal clamshell. Best of all, the keyboard charges itself when docked. So you don’t need to worry about keeping it topped up. When it comes to the iPad Pro, I mainly use the stock solution as well. But this being Apple, it’s thinking different.
The keys are fabric covered and insanely comfortable to type on. And the fact that it’s using the iPad’s magnetic smart connector, means typing is instantaneous and very reliable. You don’t have the added hassle of babysitting a bluetooth connection. It only offers one angle in typing mode though, so, if you want something a little more like the Pixel solution, a company called Bridge offers a set of keyboards that give you the same robust tactility and some nice bonuses, too. Dedicated short keys for functions like brightness, volume and Siri. Rubber stoppers to keep the whole thing steady on a desktop, built in speakers and button back lighting, so you can type in the dark. On the down side, it’s a bit clunkier and you need to charge it separately with a different kind of connector.
Meaning, you have to pack a spare cable. And like the Pixel’s keyboard, it’s prone to double key strokes on occasion. You win some, you lose some. Let’s talk battery. This is a big reason to do the tablet trade-in. You get much more endurance than a typical notebook. And there’s an even bigger benefit on top of that. When you do need to top it up, you might be able to use the same portable power pack that you use to charge your phone. If you’re in the market for one of those, keep these guidelines in mind, when you’re shopping. You want as much capacity as possible, ideally double the value of your tablet battery. Also, pay attention to the ports. To keep up with a tablet’s power appetite, what you’re looking for is a pack with a 2.1 amp output or quick charge or the kind of adaptive charging technology that better known manufacturer’s include.
When I travel, I tend to rely on this pack from Ravpower, which I bought for myself before Mr. Mobile even launched. It’s not the highest capacity pack out there and it’s certainly not the smallest, but it’s got everything I need to power my Pixel C and iPad Pro on the go, not to mention whatever phones I’m carrying. Then there’s storage. Tablets tend to have less capacity than their computer counterparts. If you still maintain a computer at home for your big files, you’ll probably want to invest in a remote desktop application, so you can access those files on the go. Unity is the only one I’ve used so far, and it’s pretty simple to set up. You download its host program to your computer, download the client app to your tablet or phone and once it’s done indexing your computer, boom sauce, you got access to everything on your machine remotely.
This is assuming you have a solid Internet connection, of course. And that you’re willing to shell out for the subscription fee of three bucks a month. Finally, complete the PC illusion with a USB Dongle. I know, I know. Donglelife is a big joke. But after I read Andrew Martonik’s piece on how much he was able to accomplish with this anchor accessory connected to his Pixel C, I joined the club faster than you can say dong gle, dongle. Plug it in to the single USB-C port and suddenly you’ve got a wired ethernet connection and three type A USB receptacles. That means you can plug in a jumpdrive and access its files, plug in a Smartphone and do the same, slip in a low profile receiver for a wireless mouse, even mount a solid state hard drive on the thing, like this Passport. Now I’m using this drive, so no, I’m not going to reformat it now, but I could if I wanted to. No such fancy tricks on the iPad Pro.
But you can get dongle’s from Apple that give you different port options. And companies like SanDisk offer lightning-based flash storage if you want to move media between i devices. Dumping your notebook for a tablet is an imperfect solution, to be sure. For those who need the heavy lifting of a true computer, there are portable solutions, like Microsoft’s Surface line. And Apple’s new Macbooks are getting lighter all the time. For those on the opposite end who need an even more streamlined or affordable solution, Chromebooks might be worth a look. But for those in the middle, who don’t need a thousand dollar experience, but could live with a 500 dollar one, tablets with the right keyboard are plenty good for writing and browsing. They’re much easier to carry around town with or without a bag. And the fact that they easily transform into an e-reader or game console, makes them, in my book, far more versatile than most other machines.
February 5, 2017