3 things to consider before ditching your laptop for a tablet

For a few years now I’ve been watching tablets develop into ever more potent machines, with an eye towards making the jump from a laptop to a slate for my mobile workstation. Sure, people have been working on iPads for years, but until recently it’s always seemed like a bit of a hack to me.

But between a legion of slimmed-down, powered-up Windows tablets hitting the streets and the increasing performance of the iPad, the day may soon come when I officially make the leap. And PCWorld senior editor Mark Hachman has already embraced the Surface Pro 3 for work and for play.

If you’ve been thinking about making the switch too, here’s a look at three features to keep top of mind when pondering the jump from a clamshell to a tablet.

What’s your platform?

The first thing you must decide on is which platform you want to use on your tablet: Android, iOS, or Windows. This comes down to a mix of personal choice and what you need your new mobile workstation to do. If all you need is Microsoft Office, for example, then a Windows tablet would suit you best—although the Office apps are also on the iPad if you have an Office 365 subscription. (Android tablet versions are not yet available.)

But if you work mostly in the cloud with Google Apps or something similar, then your choices get much wider since all you need is a modern browser.

At this point you can start to look at the app catalogs for each platforms to see what appeals to you.

But don’t forget about the power of the Windows desktop over mobile apps. If you’re buying an Intel-based tablet like the new 13-inch Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows, you can get the convenience of the traditional desktop OS as well as Microsoft’s new touch interface. Only Windows 8 tablets can run desktop PC programs, though they aren’t touch-optimized like Windows Store apps or the apps available for Android or iOS.

Try that keyboard, and maybe a mouse?

If you think the on-screen keyboard is going to be good enough for productivity you’re kidding yourself. The fact is you’ll need some kind of physical keyboard to get some serious work done.

Tablets like the Surface Pro 3 and the aforementioned Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 both work with optional keyboard covers, for example. If at all possible you should try out these kinds of keyboards before you buy to make sure they’ll work for you. A wide variety of third-party keyboard accessories with a far-reaching range of features are also available for iPads and Android tablets, however.

Also, if you’re going to need a mouse for your tablet, then you’re looking at a Windows slate.

All about storage

So now you’ve got your tablet picked out and the keyboard works, but what are you going to do about file storage? Do you even need additional storage? All tablets come with at least 16GB of storage and if you’re going for a Windows tablet then you’re often looking at about 64GB minimum, though some newer ultra-low-cost Windows tablets have only 32GB.

If you need more than that, then it’s time to look at pricier step-up models with increased onboard storage, or tablets with SD card slots so you can store your less frequently files on a small external drive.

Alternatively, tablets are a natural candidate for cloud storage where you can upload, download, and stream files at will. Microsoft recently announced that OneDrive would soon offer unlimited storage to Office 365 subscribers. With Office 365 Personal subscriptions priced at $70 a year that means you get full access to Microsoft Office on one PC plus one iPad or Windows tablet and all the cloud storage you could possibly need. Microsoft’s new unlimited cloud offering is still rolling out, so at first you may be stuck with just a measly 1 TB of storage, the current standard for Office 365 subscribers.

If you need access to your music library you could also augment OneDrive with Google’s free Play Music storage locker that lets you put up to 20,000 songs in the cloud for free. Both Google Drive and Dropbox have recently slashed the price of their cloud storage services, offering 1TB of Internet-based storage for $10 per month. Relying on cloud storage means you’ll need a consistent Internet connection, however.

Those are just the basics for the laptop-to-tablet switch. Windows tablet users may also want to consider the number and type of USB ports, and if you do a lot presentations then Lenovo’s Android flavor of the Yoga Tablet 2 and its built-in pico projector may be just the tablet you need.

via 3 things to consider before ditching your laptop for a tablet | PCWorld.

Lenovo recalls dangerous laptop batteries citing fire hazard

Affected battery packs can be identified through their part number, starting with the fourth digit on a white sticker below the bar code. The identifiable numbers are 42T4695, 42T4711, 42T4798, 42T4804, 42T4812, 42T4822, 42T4828, 42T4834, 42T4840 and 42T4890.

Alternatively, you can also head over to this web page to know if your battery is being recalled. Just call the phone numbers provided on the web page to order replacements, which the company claims will ship in three business days.

As of now, no human injury has been reported, but the company did receive a couple of reports of the battery packs overheating, resulting in damages to the laptops and to property. Until a replacement battery arrives, the company is advising users to turn off the system, remove the battery, and only power their ThinkPad by plugging in the AC adapter and power cord.






via Lenovo recalls dangerous laptop batteries citing fire hazard – TechSpot.

Intel sees 'no holiday cheer for PCs', says analyst

Things aren’t looking so great for the PC market, and much of the same can be said about the chipmaker and PC hardware sector.
Sterne Agee analyst Vijay Rakesh warned in a note to analysts on Monday that Intel’s fourth quarter likely won’t look so hot compared to the same quarter a year ago, when the PC decline was gathering momentum for a full-blown collapse.
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Rakesh warned that pre-holiday sales during the once-seen as lucrative “back to school” season, typically during August and September, didn’t garner the payout the chipmaker was expecting.
“We believe back to school PC demand has been virtually absent,” Rakesh said in the note.
With this, higher channel inventories and “lackluster demand” now suggests a flat fourth-quarter, compared to a typical seasonal bump of between 5-7 percent quarter-over-quarter. Worryingly, supply chain checks suggest a flat December holiday season for PC sales, where typically many would expect a significant rise — current market conditions notwithstanding.
As a result, the analyst is lowering his end-of-year PC growth estimates down from a 9.6 percent loss to a 10.7 percent loss year-over-year.
He remains concerned about Intel’s lack of progress on the mobile stage. While Windows-powered tablets are on the most part the driving mobile force of the firm’s mobile efforts, the chipmaker has yet to make any meaningful share in the smartphone space.
According to Rakesh: “We believe PCs continue to be challenging combined with potentially weaker Intel handset-mobile segment post the Nokia-Microsoft merger.”
There is an upshot for the chipmaker, however.
During the second half, Rakesh said Intel was expecting a datacenter bounce with enterprise rebound, which falls in line with Sterne Agee’s 10-15 percent datacenter growth estimate. Rakesh said this was in spite of the flat second-quarter datacenter spending across the industry, as well as the flat year-over-year federal spending.
via Intel sees ‘no holiday cheer for PCs’, says analyst | ZDNet.

Widespread reports of Sony Vaio notebook Wi-Fi issues

Several people have come forward to report wireless problems with select Sony Vaio notebooks – particularly the Vaio Fit – over the past few months. Issues range from capped speeds over Wi-Fi to signal strength significantly diminishing the further the system is from a router.
One of the most prominent threads on Sony’s support forum seems to suggest the issue stems from the Broadcom wireless card (BCM43142) inside the machine. One user reported a max signal strength of just two bars with speed tests resulting in just 1MB/sec download speeds and anywhere between 1-5MB/sec upload.
Sony issued a series of updates for the wireless card about a week ago according to Vaio Fit owners but these did little to quell the connection issues. Multiple users said they have contacted customer support and have been offered numerous fixes – most of which didn’t work. The only solution it seems is to physically replace the Broadcom card with a unit from Intel (Centrino 6235).
Replacing the Wi-Fi card is a simple enough procedure that could even be accomplished by those that aren’t very tech-savvy but having to do so on your own dime on a brand new notebook is uncalled for. We’ve reached out to Sony for a comment on the issue but we have not received a reply as of writing. If we do hear back, we’ll update this story accordingly.
Do you own a Sony Fit laptop that has experienced similar Wi-Fi issues? If so, have you had any luck with Sony customer support in solving the problem?
via Widespread reports of Sony Vaio notebook Wi-Fi issues – TechSpot.

Chromebooks take 20-25% of sub-$300 laptop market in US

The excitement surrounding netbooks is long gone, with every major manufacturer walking away from the market in favour of higher-margin products and people opting for tablets or more powerful ultra-slim laptops instead. But there’s still room for laptops in the low budget marketplace, and one unlikely player is slowly but surely gaining traction: the Linux-based, cloud-centric Google Chromebook.
According to data from NPD, the devices have snagged 20 percent to 25 percent of the sub-$300 market in the US. Although that’s not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, it’s at the very least noteworthy given that they are now the fastest-growing segment of the PC industry based on price.

Introduced in 2011, Chromebooks represented a major paradigm shift that ditched traditional desktop applications for web-based services. But their initial $350 – $430 price range made them a hard sell against Windows machines. Although Microsoft is still far from losing the throne, Google has been winning over customers by iterating with better hardware, lower prices, and expanded retail availability. NPD also notes that Chromebooks allow much more off-line activity now through a series of updates to Chrome OS.
Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung are all selling Chromebooks through nearly 7,000 retail outlets including Best Buy, Fry’s, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Walmart, Amazon and Tiger Direct.
Google even began selling its own branded model earlier this year, though with a starting price of $1,300, the Chromebook Pixel is more of an experiment than anything else. The device features a 12.85 inch 2560×1700 touch screen, Core i5 CPU, a 32GB or 64GB SSD and 1TB of storage on Google Drive for three years.
via Chromebooks take 20-25% of sub-$300 laptop market in US – TechSpot.

Alienware refreshes gaming laptops with Haswell chip, new look

Alienware has delivered a redesigned range of gaming laptops at E3, complete with a new magnesium alloy and aluminum casing instead of the old plastic one, as well as Intel’s next-generation “Haswell” processors. The company also simplified the naming scheme for its laptop lineup by dropping the extra ‘M’s and ‘x’s and instead dubbing the new models Alienware 14, 17, or 18 depending on screen size.
All three are available in a base configuration with different upgrade options and share similar design traits. Among them are angled and rounded edges, color-customizable LED light pipes around the edges and lid, and an illuminated trackpad. Alienware also moved vents all the way to the back so they are as far as possible from gamers’ hands and added color zones to the keyboard — ten on the larger models and five on the 14-inched.

One area that didn’t see much improvement was overall thickness. The new Alienware machines are as thick and heavy as ever, but that’s only because they don’t compromise performance and run every component at its full TDP rather than throttling things down, according to Alienware General Manager Frank Azor.
In terms of hardware specs, Alienware 14 comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 750M GPU, 8GB of RAM, 750GB of HDD storage, a slot-loading DVD drive, and WLED HD 1366×768 display. That’s the standard $1,199 model but you can fit the machine with up to four drives (HDD or SSD), upgrade to a 1080p screen, double the RAM, and upgrade both graphics and processor.

Bumping up to the 17-inch model gives you the same processor, memory and storage, but a higher-performance 2GB GTX 765M GPU as well as a 1600×900 display for $1,499. Meanwhile, the base 18-inch model is mostly the same save for dual GTX 765M GPUs and a full 1080p PLS display as standard for $2,099.
All of them support 802.11ac wireless, miniDisplay and have HDMI outputs, but the 17- and 18-inch notebooks also have an HDMI input. There’s also three or four USB 3.0 ports, multi-format memory card reader, a 2-megapixel webcam, Bluetooth 4.0, 2.1-channel Klipsch speakers, and audio in/out ports.
via Alienware refreshes gaming laptops with Haswell chip, new look – TechSpot.

Touchscreen laptop sales jump 52%, making up for a tenth of units shipped in Q1

Many of the stories regarding PC sales data since Microsoft unleashed Windows 8 upon the world have been negative. But amid declining sales there’s at least some good news for Redmond’s latest operating system. A new report from DisplayBank, a division of market research company IHS, suggests that about 10 percent of all laptops sold have a touchscreen.
The report claims that 46 million laptops shipped during the quarter, and of those, 4.57 million had touchscreens. If the numbers are correct, that means the amount of touch-based devices sold increased by 51.8 percent over a single quarter. Almost every major PC maker offers a touch-based option, so the numbers certainly makes sense.
The most interesting part of this report is that while the price of laptops continue to decrease, many users are willing to play extra for a feature that could be considered unnecessary.
The number of laptops with touchscreens are likely to keep growing, as companies like Asus and Lenovo continue to push models with them as options. In addition, Intel’s former CEO has said that he believes the price of touch Windows 8 machines could fall down to $200 for the cheapest models, removing the price barrier for many users still on the fence.
Of course, an increase in touchscreen penetration is a good thing for Microsoft and Windows 8, but it doesn’t change the fact that PC sales are declining. That said, if more users decide that touchscreens are how they want to interact with their PCs, at the very least it will help boost Windows 8 adoption.
via Touchscreen laptop sales jump 52%, making up for a tenth of units shipped in Q1 – TechSpot.

Tablets to outship desktops this year, notebooks next year

According to the latest data from IDC, global shipments of smart connected devices exceeded a billion units in 2012, an increase of 29.1% from the previous year and representing a value of $576.9 billion. Although plenty of smartphones and other “smart” electronics were moved last year, the researcher notes that the market’s growth was largely thanks to a 78.4% on-year boost in tablet shipments, which topped 128 million units.
That’s a pretty significant slice of the computing pie if you exclude smartphones from the billion devices and IDC expects interest in slates to continue for the foreseeable future. Tablets are due to outship desktops in 2013 and notebooks in 2014, while both of those PC segments will either lose ground or see relatively flat growth. The desktop market is expected to shrink consistently through 2017, when growth is expected to be -1%.
All told, IDC forecasts that companies will shift 190 million tablets worldwide this year, which would mark an annual growth of 48.7%, while smartphones shipments are expected to swell by 27.2% to 918.5 million units. Looking further ahead, the researcher says smart connected devices will reach shipments of 2.2 billion units and revenues of $814.3 billion in 2017, with tablet and smartphone growth tapering to 9.8% and 8.5%.
The analyst firm also touched on the latest market share rankings of Apple and Samsung. The iDevice maker is said to have “significantly closed the gap” with Samsung in the last quarter of 2012 after moving plenty of iPhone 5s and iPad Minis, which pushed Apple’s unit shipment share up to 20.3% — just behind Samsung’s 21.2% cut. However, Apple represented a larger slice of the quarter’s revenue at 30.7% versus 20.4%.
via Tablets to outship desktops this year, notebooks next year – TechSpot.

A tale of two gaming laptops: The x17 vs. the Blade Mk2

Razer’s Blade gaming laptop is nothing if not unique. The first version of the attractive-but-expensive laptop launched at a whopping $2,800 and wasn’t the fastest laptop on the block. It tried to make up for it with a stylish design and unique touchscreen-turned-trackpad with configurable buttons.
The revised Blade doesn’t change this equation much, but it is a nice refinement of what came before. More power-efficient chips from Intel and Nvidia (as well as a redesigned ventilation system) help with heat issues while boosting performance. A slight price drop (to $2,500) helps with the pricing issue.
To help see where the Blade falls in context, we’ll be comparing its looks, its build quality, and its performance to a more conventional gaming laptop—Digital Storm was kind enough to send us one of their x17 gaming laptops for comparison. The x17, which is really just a branded version of Clevo’s P170EM, is a gaming laptop in the traditional sense: big, bulky, and only relatively “portable.”
If you’re looking to hang up a big brick like the x17 in favor of something a bit more svelte, does the Blade have the performance to replace one of these monsters?
Full Story: A tale of two gaming laptops: The x17 vs. the Blade Mk2 | Ars Technica.

Can I recover a stolen laptop?

Yes, in the sense that it’s possible to win the lottery.
Actually, that’s only the case if you haven’t taken the proper precautions before it’s stolen. If you do take them, your chances of recovery may actually be pretty good.
I’m only talking about recovering the hardware. The chances of recovering the files stored on that laptop are just about nil. Thieves and fences generally wipe the hard drive very soon after acquiring a hot PC. Of course, if you’ve been diligently backing up your files as you should, that’s not a serious problem.
Even if you haven’t taken precautions, you should report your loss to the police. If you have the serial number, include that in the report. Without it, should the cops recover your laptop along with other stolen loot, they’d have no way of knowing that the laptop was yours. And you’d have no way of proving it, either.
Your likelihood of success goes up considerably if you prepare for the theft before it happens–and I don’t just mean writing down the serial number. Consider subscribing to a service that will help you track the laptop via the IP address should it be stolen.
In fact, your laptop may already have the needed tracking software. Most major manufacturers include code for Absolute Software’s LoJack for Laptops in their laptop BIOSes. That way, your laptop can be tracked even after the thieves have wiped the hard drive. Check Absolute’s BIOS Compatibility page to see if yours qualifies.
If yours lacks the BIOS support, you can still use LoJack’s software, but that doesn’t provide the same level of security.
Either way, you’re not going to get the laptop back unless you subscribe to their service before the theft. The subscription costs $40 a year. The company claims a 75-percent recovery rate, but I have no way of independently verifying that (and no, I’m not going to leave 100 laptops on park benches to find out).
Other companies, such as GadgetTrak, offer similar services at lower prices. Again, it’s impossible to reliably ascertain who does a better job.
via Can I recover a stolen laptop? | PCWorld.