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Windows Laptops, Tablets take Center Stage

Category: Hardware Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001

Whether you run a small business or are an avid gamer, there's a laptop or mobile device that can fit into your lifestyle.

We've been playing with four Microsoft Windows-based devices that run the gamut from vanilla, strictly business computers to feature-rich devices that could possibly replace your old desktop gaming rig. 

The E-FUN Nextbook 10.1 ($199) is an entry-level Windows tablet aimed at the user who may want to use it to check email, keep tabs on Facebook friends and troll the Internet. Although it has all of the features of a standard Windows 8.1 device, it is definitely not a go-to machine for power users. Instead, it's aimed at moms, pops and their offspring who need a reliable way to stay in touch with what's happening in the universe without shelling out the big bucks being charged for more powerful tablets.

The one we tested worked perfectly out of the box. We signed on using our Microsoft account and, as if by magic, everything we had set up on our main computer appeared on the screen.

The only big drawback that really bugged us was how slow it was. It took twice as long to upload web pages and documents - - - which could be due to a slow Intel ATOM quad-core processor and only one gigabyte of RAM - - - when we compared it with the other three devices. But again, this wasn't meant for those of us that want a lean, mean machine.

The tablet comes with a keyboard that magnetically docks with it. All you have to do is fit it into a slot on top of the keyboard and, voila, you have a 10.1-inch laptop. We docked and undocked it several times to see if it would become "confused" by the switch from a keyboard to a standard touch-screen mobile device and it detected the change perfectly every time.

The Nextbook is also a bit heavier than the more expensive devices. The weight isn't listed among the technical specifications on the company's website, but the weight difference is noticeable just holding it in one hand (docked and undocked) and another similarly equipped tablet in the other.

The built-in cameras were also a bit of a disappointment. The front-facing camera is only rated at 0.3 megapixels (which is minimal even for a webcam) and the back camera, which you would use to take pictures or videos, is rated at two megapixels.

The inputs are pretty typical for tablets (but not for laptops) - - - a mini-USB port and micro-HDMI port plus a micro SD card slot.

Here are the rest of the specs:

  • A 10.1-inch IPS screen rated at 1280 by 800 megapixels
  • 32 gigabytes of onboard storage
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • A certificate for a free year of Microsoft Office 360
  • A built-in microphone

The Quantum View 10.1 Tablet ($399) from Quantum Suppliers is another fairly inexpensive tablet/laptop combo, but it can definitely give the higher-priced models some healthy competition.

The one we tested came with a keybord/magnetic docking station that doubles as a stand, allowing us to use the device either in touchscreen or keyboard mode. We, again, docked and undocked it several times and it immediately recognized whether we were in laptop or keyboard mode.

As with the Nextbook (and all of the Windows machines we tested) it picked up all of our settings when we signed in using our Microsoft account, including giving us access to a previously purchased version of Microsoft Office 2013.

The Quantum View is also one of the faster tablets we've played with, loading websites and programs quicker than we expected from a device in its price range. This could be because the device uses the new Intel Baytrail quad-core processor rather than the older ATOM processor found in older machines.

It is also fairly light, even with the keyboard/case attached.

Again, as with the Nextbook, it comes with mini USB and micro HDMI ports and a micro SD card slot and its back-facing camera is rated at two megapixels. The front-facing camera is a bit better than the Nexbook's, rated at two megapixels.

The only thing missing that would really make it more of a fearsome competitor to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is a stylus. But, on the whole, this Quantum View tablet, at about half the price of the Surface Pro, qualifies as a "must-have" for budget-conscious consumers needing a good, reliable tablet.

Other key features include:

  • A certificate for free access to Microsoft Windows 360
  • A 1280 by 800 resolution touch screen
  • Gen 7 Intel HD graphics
  • Two gigabytes of RAM and 32 gigabytes of onboard memory
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Built-in WiFi
  • A 3G dongle to connect to your wireless provider's network
  • A mini USB switch to Ethernet
  • A standard headphone jack (which is a necessity if you want great sound) 

Toshiba's new Tecra C-50B laptop ($579) is aimed at the small/medium-sized business user. There are no frills or juiced up innards. This is strictly a machine designed for those of usespending our time analyzing spreadsheets and writing memos and letters.

The basic unit comes with an Intel i3 processor and Windows 7 with a free upgrade to Windows 8.1, a 500 gigabyte hard drive, four gigabytes of RAM and standard HDMI, USB 2.0 and 3.0, VGA and Ethernet ports. It also comes with a DVD optical drive and a multicard reader. I mention this because, in today's world of lightweight ultrabooks, the DVD/CD drives have become extinct.

Toshiba's use of an older 5400 RPM hard drive instead of a newer solid state drive tends to slow the device down a bit, but that has little impact on business users. Also, because it has an Intel i3 processor, it tends to drag a bit when loading websites and multitasking slows it down.

Overall, as with everything bearing the Toshiba brand, this is a great computer for anyone needing a good, reliable laptop to take on the road for their business.

Other features include:

  • A slot for a security lock
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Built-in WiFi
  • An HD webcam and microphone
  • Built-in speakers (fair, but adequate)
  • A 15.6-inch 1366 by 768 display (good enough for 720p HD)
  • One open memory slot to boost RAM
  • It weighs five pounds
  • A one-year limited warranty

Last is the ASUS Zenbook NX500 ($1,399), which is not only beautiful to behold, it has brains too.

Featuring a highly polished aluminum case, this higher-priced laptop/ultrabook is truly the shining star in this quartet - - - in size and features. Weighing a hair less than five pounds, the Zenbook features a 15.6-inch 3840 by 2860 display, a 256 gigabyte solid state hard drive and eight gigabytes of RAM.

Like most ultrabooks, there's no DVD or CD-ROM drive, but its Intel Core i7 processor, plus the solid state drive, make it a speed demon when compared with the other devices in this group. Add to this three full-size USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port and an SD card reader and you have a high-end package most computer fanatics would spend their last dollar to purchase.

Other key features include:

  • An HD webcam and microphone
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • An NVIDIA G-Force GTX85OM two gigabyte graphics card
  • Windows 8.1
  • Bang & Olufsen speakers
  • A soft case to protect the aluminum finish 

Plus, for those needing something extra, there's a 4K version that sells for about $2,700.












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