Oh My Tech!: What to look for in Windows tablets

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: May 3, 2012 07:48PM
Updated: August 28, 2012 11:32PM
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The Samsung Series 7 Slate tablet PC, which runs on Windows.

I’m in the market for an iPad-type device but have always used and like Windows programs. I need the device for email, browsing and picture presentations. Any suggestions for a tech dummy? — Dennis VandenAkker.

For the longest time, there really have been only two horses in the race for computer-tablet supremacy — the iPad and Android-based versions. But this year will be the beginning of a big push for Windows-based tablets.

That’s because Windows 8 is coming out this year and will for the first time be compatible with tablets.

The operating system will utilize an interface called Metro borrowed from the Windows 7 OS for mobile phones, which uses colored tiles instead of icons. And it’s a very slick and easy-to-use design that I like a lot (read my earlier review of the Nokia Lumia 900 mobile phone that uses it).

If you plan to buy a Windows-based tablet, you’ll want to consider one that will be compatible with Windows 8. There are a lot of advantages to its design that earlier versions of Windows for tablets don’t have.

I’ve never owned a Windows version, so it’s difficult for me to recommend one based on experience. But after some research, I’ve narrowed it to a couple of models that will be compatible with Windows 8.

For me, the top-of-the-line would be a model such as Samsung’s Series 7 Slate, which has a massive 11-inch screen and runs on a powerful Intel i5 processor, the same kind used in desktop PCs. At a half-inch thick, it’s also one of the thinnest Windows tablets available. It’s also very sleek. But it’s pricey, running from $1,100 to $1,500.

Another model that looks good is the Asus Eee Slate series, which also runs on i5 processors. The one downside to both models is they are big battery drains, probably because of the more powerful processors.

That may be a little too much horsepower for Dennis’ needs because he wants to use more basic functions such as email and Web browsing. But one of the advantages to a tablet that uses an i3, i5 or i7 processor is that it can run actual Windows desktop programs in addition to Windows mobile apps. Some of the Windows tablets that use ARM processors also will supposedly run desktop programs through Windows 8, but that’s not certain now.

A problem with Windows tablets is the lower number of apps available for that platform. So far, there are 82,000 or so apps for the Windows mobile operating system, compared with the more than 725,000 apps available for the iPad and 450,000 for Android devices. So, there may be some important apps you want for your tablet that are not yet available for Windows.

That’s why when you shop for any Windows tablet, you’ll want to ask if it can operate regular desktop software, as well as apps.

If you have a question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.