The 10 Best Windows Tablets
The Little Computer That Could
Many companies tried their hands, notably Palm, Nokia, and, in 2002, Microsoft itself.
Many experts say that this iconic moment helped move a niche gadget toward what we know today as the tablet computer.
Ever since early desktop PCs were introduced, engineers have been developing ways to pack more and more power into end-user computers. From the first bulky IBM dinosaurs to the release of the svelte iMac and today's high-end gaming rigs, that power has often been built into stable, desktop configurations. These heavy beasts have many purposes–server housing, network workstations, high-resolution 3-D graphics–and they serve them well. Yet, so many times, users need something smaller and more portable for simpler tasks.
Enter: the tablet computer.
While tablets have been around for over 20 years, they haven't always been very popular. Steve Jobs may have foreseen a "great computer in a book" as early as 1983, but most early models were too heavy and lacked the functionality and battery life needed to be worthwhile. They were bulky, with pixellated screens, and different brands often lacked easy compatibility with each other. Many companies tried their hands, notably Palm, Nokia, and, in 2002, Microsoft itself. However, It would be an entire 27 years after Jobs' prediction before Apple released the iPad and redefined the landscape. Many experts say that this iconic moment helped move a niche gadget toward what we know today as the tablet computer. Immediately, many companies followed suit and the market became flooded with lightweight, powerful options.
Initially, many were geared for purposes like e-reading, video and photo capture, web browsing, and e-mail. As Moore's Law still continued (to some effect, at least) to prove correct that CPUs would become faster every year, the capabilities of these little devices grew quickly. Advances in solid-state drives allowed for greater amounts of storage, while screens became clearer and higher-resolution than ever before. The accuracy of the touchscreen, which had long been a major drawback to tablet computing, was exponentially improved. Many new models were equipped with wireless broadband capabilities from the beginning. All of these developments, plus an influx of competing software developers, turned the tablet PC into the all-purpose, incredibly useful tool we've come to love.
What's So Great About These Tablets, Anyway?
There are many potential uses for slim and convenient mobile PCs. Nearly every electrical appliance in the modern home is available with wireless connectivity, whether via Bluetooth or a Wi-Fi network. A compact, portable visual interface like a tablet lets you program the thermostat, set the alarm, change the channel on your TV, or even turn on your sprinklers. Chefs can easily monitor the temperature of their outdoor hardwood smoker without having to leave the kitchen. Audio engineers have the freedom to check the sound from every position in a concert hall, bringing attendees and performers the best possible sound quality. At project presentations and high-stakes contract pitches, you'll have near-endless multimedia features at your fingertips. Taking notes in class or at board meetings is simple and unobtrusive, thanks to the ever-shrinking form factor of these computers. Video conferencing and telecommuting, as well, have never been easier than with these modern machines.
Still, these apparent hybrids of smartphones and notebooks are worth even more than just their portability, convenience, or connectivity.
Today's tablets are constantly evolving and competing, with innovation always pushing the envelope of what they can do. Since the significant evolution of the device in 2010, new manufacturers have cropped up regularly and others have liquidated flagship lines that failed to sell. Yet, there have always been some power players in the computing industry who keep coming back. So, it's no surprise that Microsoft, after the generally unimpressive and quickly discontinued Microsoft Tablet PC from the early 2000s, would return to grab a significant market share from a crowded field. Partially due to the ubiquity of its famous OS, Windows, and also thanks to the evolving ingenuity of programmers and coders, it's continued to thrive in the world of tablets.
To this day, Microsoft provides users with highly capable and multifunctional computers that are compact, ultra-lightweight, and easy to use. It's developed operating systems that take advantage of precision touchscreen and gesture-command capabilities. Its engineering team's constant support updates help to ensure that its products are safe from the most aggressive or unsavory bugs and security breaches. High-speed internet can be available around the world with mobile broadband access. Still, these apparent hybrids of smartphones and notebooks are worth even more than just their portability, convenience, or connectivity. They allow professionals across all disciplines to integrate their work and skills with those of their colleagues and community.
So, Which One's Right For Me?
There's a number of different styles of tablet design that suit different needs. The classic slate design is usually the first layout that comes to mind. These are simple and often very thin units that can measure as much as 18 inches diagonally. Miniature versions of these tablets, pioneered by groundbreaking products like Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook, are popular for e-reading, retail transactions, and on-the-go note-taking, thanks to their very low profiles and light weights.
Ever-smaller and faster chip designs promise constant increases in power and functionality in mobile computing for years to come.
Some models other than the slate come with physical keyboards, like the elegant booklets that flip open and allow stable, comfortable use just like a laptop computer would. Other styles have keyboards that can be hidden or even detached during use, adding to their versatility. The largest of these convertible designs, known as 2-in-1s or hybrids, are somewhat similar to notebook computers and can serve many of the same purposes.
Considering that the smallest tablets are essentially tablet/smartphone blends, we can't expect to find an exhaustive selection of connection ports on all of these mobile devices. You will, however, find some with HDMI output, as well as high-speed USB 3.1 ports. Screen resolutions also vary, so if you're planning to consume a lot of HD media on your tablet, make sure to choose a model that offers true 1080p video quality or higher.
It's a foregone conclusion that digital technology will continue to grow more efficient over time. Ever-smaller and faster chip designs promise constant increases in power and functionality in mobile computing for years to come. A quality Windows tablet can help you stay ahead of that curve.