The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show revealed many common themes, including new Ultra HD TVs with eye-watering price tags. But the trend that caught my eye was ‘best of both worlds’ laptop-tablet hybrids.
Electronics manufacturer Asus brought along their newest tablet-laptop hybrid, which was my pick of the bunch.
The terribly named VivoTab Smart ME400C is a relatively cheap Windows 8 device (£399, or £479 with keyboard) that makes the more limited Microsoft Surface look like an expensive trinket.
While the VivoTab Smart ME400C isn’t perfect, it’s already had plenty of praise from people for giving them everything they want (on paper, at least). So why are laptop-tablet hybrids such a popular idea? It seems obvious to me – they can save us money. After all, why buy two devices when one just one will do?
Phablets, laptabs and tabtops
We’ve already seen this development in mobile phones with a new category emerging, unofficially known as ‘phablets’. These are phones with extremely large 5 to 6-inch screens, and they’ve become a staple in the tech scene. And now Windows 8/RT has brought the hybrid craze to laptops – but shall we call them ‘laptabs’ or ‘tabtops’? Or should we just be old-fashioned and call them tablet PCs?
Whatever you choose to call them, they’re certainly on the rise. But at this stage, I have my doubts about the execution. In the case of mobile phones, I think the transition is far easier – you only need to make them bigger and you’re most of the way there.
But it’s far more complicated to combine laptops with tablets. Finding a balance between a laptop’s best features (easy-to-use keyboard and touchpad, decent size screen and connections) with those of a tablet (great portability, usability and battery life), means making a lot of compromises.
Striking a balance
Whether it’s scaling down on connections; a screen that’s slightly too large to use comfortably as a tablet; or just being too heavy – everything I’ve seen so far tells me the technology simply doesn’t exist yet to make a great tablet PC at a good price. This will probably change, particularly as new, more efficient processor technology becomes available and costs are driven down.
But if you’re thinking of buying a laptop-tablet hybrid now, I’d suggest you do some serious research before taking the plunge. Does the idea of a laptop-tablet hybrid appeal to you? How much would you be prepared to pay?