Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th Feb 2014 23:10 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

So, convertibles. Laptop/tablet hybrids. I think their popularity started with early Asus Transformers, but since then, they've become a pretty big staple in the device landscape. Since I'm in the market for a replacement for my dreadful ARM Surface RT, I've been looking at this market segment again, and have noted that there's a lot of choice out there.

After the dreadful experience with the Surface RT, I'm steering clear of anything Windows RT-related. An x86-based convertible Windows 8.1 machine, however, still has some major appeal due to its excellent desktop application support that fits in nicely with my existing workstation. The tablet side of Windows 8.1, however, is still woefully underserved, with very few applications, and even those that do exist are of abysmal quality.

As far as hardware goes, the Lenovo Miix 2 10" (not to be confused with the older Miix 2!) has really grabbed by attention. It's supposed to end up at around EUR 400-500, which is acceptable. The Surface 2 Pro is also interesting, but quite expensive - although it does have a far better processor than the 10" Miix 2. There's also an 11" Miix 2 which sports the same processor as the Surface 2 Pro, but 11" seems a bit large in my view.

I've also been looking at Android convertibles, and here I run into a bit of trouble - most of them tend to run outdated versions of Android, and I'm really not looking forward to figuring out which of them have the best AOSP support. Do any of you have any suggestions here? Any models to look for? Experiences with custom, AOSP-like ROMs?

An even bigger question regarding Android on convertibles is just how well Android handles laptop-like computing. Does it do a good job of it, considering where Android comes from? It seems like to me that where Windows has the upper hand on the laptop side of the convertible, Android rules on the tablet side of it. Am I right in thinking this is so?

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A Business User Perspective
by lucere on Wed 19th Feb 2014 23:51 UTC
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This perspective prioritizes uptime and considers the cost of downtime as a component of the bottom line.

Exclusive use of a tablet such as the TF701 (one of the best tablets on the market) can result in questionable availability expectations; on the positive side, battery power can be nice, applications such as AndrOpen Office aim to provide feature rich office suites, however the flip side is that desktop grade flexibility and refinement is still lacking thus multi-tasking rapid workflows tend to be less complimented by exclusive tablet use than their full system counterparts.

This leaves various options:

A.) Exclusive use of a laptop with a good GNU/Linux distribution such as the Toughbook CX2 by Panasonic: one of the most dependable computers available and extremely light weight. It's convertible (different meaning - swivel monitor to convert to tablet) is also very nice.

B.) A hybrid approach (this is my favorite - and what I use for my workflow): The advantage of a tablet like the TF701 is that it's light, has a great screen, the keyboard is fairly comfortable, battery power is great, instant on, etc. When greater flexibility is needed, a VM is available ready for remote access (VNC, RDP, etc.). This can provide the advantages of both scenarios. In addition, this provides nice security / privacy characteristics as, if the unit is lost or stolen, simply reject that VPN account and there are no concerns; all sensitive files are avl via the VM.

Interesting characteristic of the TF701: Asus will void the warranty if the boot loader is changed / unlocked. I have first hand experience with this; the backlight physically stopped working and, when they were given the serial number, the Asus rep kindly explained that the their records were showing the bootloader had been unlocked (automatic updating of Asus warranty servers apparently) and they would not honor the warranty even if the issue was clearly not related to the boot loader being changed such as a physical issue.

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