Most people use either a laptop or a desktop computer for work. Some have a tablet for media consumption and other don’t. What if we could use only tablets? At least for lighter tasks.
This is an old idea and it started when we realized that tablets, while being nice to have, they are not good for anything professional, you can’t do work on them. But me, and many other people would like to be able to write articles, check emails and do some photoshop on the go, without having to use a laptop.
In 2018 we saw some great new tablets promising to be better optimized for actual work. They promise that they could replace your laptop. The three most popular are the iPad Pro, the Surface Pro 6 and the Pixel Slate. Each company has a different approach to solving that problem and this is what i will be discussing in this article.
Apple has had the iPad Pro devices since 2015, and they are indeed the best tablets you can buy. The performance of the A12 chips in those tablets is comparable to a laptop processor, while consuming a lot less power. It lasts forever, despite having a huge, bright display with great resolution and colours.
The iOS, is optimized for the bigger size, it can support multiple apps running side by side, although it is not as usable as on Windows or Mac OS. It has a file explorer, that can show you what’s inside your SD card or camera if you plug it in, but cannot access internal file structures on the device itself. It can read data from cameras and SD cards from cameras when connected through an adapter on it’s single USB-C port, but not storage drives other than that. It can also connect to USB-C displays or connect with an adapter. And is generally a great package.
The problem is that everything on the device is optimized for mobile. Apple wants to take a mobile chip, OS and UI and upscale it, to do more. On the other hand Microsoft does the opposite with the Surface Pro devices. They try to make the laptop, this enough to be a tablet. The problem with Apple’s approach, is that until they do some extreme changes to iOS for iPad Pro devices, the power of the hardware will be limited by the operating system. And apps, while there are many and can get the job done, need a lot more features for professionals. We need to get to a point where a photographer can edit pictures on an iPad Pro as quickly as on a desktop. Right now, you cannot use macros and shortcuts or switch between windows quickly to check stuff while working. There are many small inconveniences with an iPad Pro as a main computer, that become very annoying when you try to do actual work on it.
Surface Pro 6.
This is the newest Surface Pro from Microsoft. It has regular laptop internals but somehow Microsoft managed to fit them into a very small device. It is basically a spec upgrade compared to last years model. Nothing really new. But it was already very good.
I had used the Surface Pro 3 and 4 at work, and they are great devices. For some reason even with a core i3 and 4GB of ram, it manages to be fast enough for casual tasks. The Surface Pro 4, with better specs, was much more capable. I could edit photos on it while having 8 Chrome tabs open. Editing videos is possible too, but it would get warm after 5 minutes of video editing and the storage was expensive so mine didn’t have a lot of extra space for Premiere Pro.
The Surface Pro 6, on the other hand, performs as good as any other ultrabook with similar specs, stays cool according to reviews and is even thinner than the older models. Now the keyboard is even better than the older one and has a fingerprint sensor. The stand can be set in any angle and it still runs full Windows. The only thing you lose with it over an equally prices ultrabook, is battery life, performance and ports.
Microsoft tries to make a laptop as thin as a tablet compared to Apple that tries to make a tablet as powerful as a laptop. The Surface Pro ends up being bigger than the iPad and heavier, but i would prefer it for my only computer, since it is a lot more capable. You never know when you need to run a random software that is only available for Mac and Windows, or when you will need to use a portable hard drive to access some weird file. It is always better to have options.
This is a chromebook/tablet, that is basically a Surface Pro, from Google Engineers. It has laptop specs, a detachable keyboard and is made to be used primarily with a keyboard like a laptop. You can leave the keyboard behind to relax and do some more casual work. It is flexible, but it has one major issue.
The Chrome OS that the Pixel Slate runs, while great, and more desktop like, than the iOS, still lacks some features, apps and is not very well optimized yet. It has matured a lot, and you can get Android apps to run on it, but not all apps work well with it, and those are still mobile apps. At least you can access the storage, and the Google services that are included are great. You can easily write in Google Docs. But more complex things are a bit hard to do. It appears like Google is experimenting, and i don’t expect many people to buy the Slate. But it shows another approach to making computers more portable and easy to use.
At the end it all depends on what you do. Hopefully my article gave you some information you can use if you are interested in buying any of the three products.
I would choose the Surface Pro 6, since i don’t mind a bit less battery, i want full Adobe software and need the flexibility of Windows. If i wasn’t traveling as much, the iPad Pro may have been a better choice, especially if i have a Mac computer at home. But if i leave on vacation for a week, i will still need to edit photos, access documents and maybe do some work. On an iPad Pro this would still be possible, but not ideal for me. And since everything is prices about equally, why not have the extra options.