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Should You Buy a Tablet?


A few years ago, I let the general enthusiasm for tablet computers get the better of me. I bought a seven-inch Winbook W700 tablet for $60 that runs Windows 8.1. I almost never use it. When I bought it, I had the idea that this was something I could carry around with me everywhere I didn't want to take a laptop but needed more than a smart phone. This never happened, I think, for two reasons. One is that Windows 8.1 is just too difficult to use on a screen that small. And the the second is that I've found that nearly everything I do with my tablet, I can do with my phone. Since tablet sales have been down for the last 15 consecutive quarters, including 13.5% in the second quater of 2018 alone, other people may be coming to the same conclusion.

It's not that I hate Windows 8.1. It's not a bad operating system, even though I don't like the fact that you have to do anything other than basic operations in a command window. But my biggest problem with it is that I've found myself ignoring the tiles and using the desktop emulation mode exclusively. The problem with that is that I just can't get the text large enough to be able to tap on it consistently with my fingers. I'm always afraid that I'll delete some file instead of copying it.

Here are the uses that I've found for my phone, tablet, and laptop.

Uses Phone Tablet Laptop
listening to music X X X
watching movies X X X
listening to podcasts X X
reading ebooks X X
email X
games X
taking pictures X X
surfing the internet X
reading Wikipedia articles X X
writing X
moving files around X X
running Linux X
work-related things X
everything else X

As you can see, the only thing I use a tablet for that a phone doesn't do just as well or better is moving files around. By that, I mean moving files off a USB stick where I've stored them and onto the device I'm using. My $20 Hauwei smart phone won't do that. I've found that I can read and watch movies on my phone without any problems at all. And listening to podcasts is easier on my phone, because I can carry it around in my pocket while I'm listening.

I'm also disappointed that this particular tablet won't allow me to run Linux. It's not that I couldn't otherwise run Linux, but this tablet has UEFI that is locked down so that Windows is the only operating system that will run on it. I really hate UEFI. One possibility that I was hoping to realize was using my tablet as both a tablet and a desktop replacement. I specifically bought a tablet with a full-sized USb port and an HDMI port for this reason. But using this tablet as a desktop replacement would, for me, involve running Linux. And UEFI has killed that. Thank you Microsoft.

A couple of months ago, my sister gave me her 10" Android tablet. So, far, I haven't found a use for it. And I'm starting to think I never will.

I keep hearing about journalists that have moved from laptops to tablets for their work. But given the amount of effort required to find apps that work on a tablet anywhere near as well as programs that run on a laptop, and the difficulty of typing on a piece of glass, I don't see why the minimal weight savings during travel is worth it. And if you were to add an external keyboard, mouse, and USB dock, you'd be taking up more space in a bag than a laptop and perhaps nearing the cost of a laptop. Add to that the fact that tablets have an outward-facing piece of glass that is just begging to be crushed in a bag, whereas laptops fold to protect the screen. It's not hard for me to see why tablet sales are falling.

My recommendation to you is that you think very carefully before spending your money on a tablet.

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