If you use a massive program like Logic or Avid to get your work done, then you need a computer. If you’re a programmer, no question, you’re married to that machine. And if you’re regularly filling up memory cards, then a computer is a must. But what if you mainly check email, do a li’l word processing and read a li’l Buzzfeed? Is a computer still your one-and-only?
Let’s play a digital dating game. You might find that one of these (less expensive) computer alternatives could become your new perfect match.
You: A PC pro who lives and dies in Microsoft Office, is a word processing whiz, and knows your way around a spreadsheet. Oh, and you don’t mind sitting on a sofa while you work.
Your device: Intel Compute Stick
This $99 stick looks like a USB, but it’s an entire PC that comes pre-loaded with Windows 10. Just plug it into your TV or any HDMI monitor, connect a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse, and you’re good to compute as usual. The storage is minimal (32GB) until you install a micro SD card (that’ll up the storage to 128GB). Yes, you’ll be supplying your own monitor, mouse and keyboard, but a hundred bucks for a miniature computer? Wow.
You: Windows user who likes to keep her options open. Tablet? Laptop? How about two for one? You do a lot of online surfing, plus you stream videos, look at photos, and play games. Fast Internet and a sharp picture are important to you.
Your device: Windows Surface Pro 4
For under $1000, you get both a tablet and an attachable keyboard. Flip the kickstand and attach the keyboard, and it functions like a touchscreen laptop, running Windows 10 Pro with a fast processor and 9 hours of battery life. Detach the keyboard, and you’ve got a tablet with a responsive Surface Pen, perfect for taking notes or doodling. The 12.3″ PixelSense screen has high contrast and low glare, so your picture is beautiful and won’t strain your eyes. The whole shebang weighs 1.79 lbs. so it’s easy to tote anywhere. I wish the colorways had a bit more polish (a rose gold back would be nice), but it’s a sleek, versatile
Head in The Clouds
You: Google and Android devotee who surfs, streams, and games, and wants plenty of battery life. You’re not a saver—your life is in the Cloud, so you don’t need tons of storage.
Your device: HP Chromebook
If the bulk of your digital life is online or in the Cloud (most of your day is spent on Facebook, in email, and apps like Evernote or Dropbox), then this sleek Chromebook might be an economical choice for you at less than $200. It comes with a tiny 16GB of storage, but includes two years of Google Drive access, which will up your storage to a respectable 100GB. (Right now, Google Drive costs $1.99/month for 100GB.) You’ll have access to more than a million Android apps in the Google Play App store, and 90 days of free Google Play Music— it’ll be $9.99/month after that. It weighs about two-and-a-half pounds, and boasts up to 11.5 hours of battery life— you can’t beat that portability.
Creative to the Core
You: Apple fan and creative type who works with photos and video, makes music, or draws digitally. You also write, so you want the option of a keyboard. Your work might include spreadsheets and video calls, but a PC doesn’t feel intuitive enough. And you believe there’s still nothing like the feeling of a pencil in your hand.
Your device: iPad Pro
At a quarter-inch wide, the skinny iPad Pro comes in two sizes: 9.7 inches, which weighs less than a pound, and 12.9 inches, tipping the scales at a little more than a pound and a half. They range from $600 up to $1,130, depending on the size and options you choose, and both are available with either Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi plus cellular.
Apple claims that you can use the iPad Pro to do things you’d ordinarily do with a PC. Well… if you’re talking about doing some photo editing, drawing, music editing and even film editing, then yes. But if you’re planning to do a lot of these things, then consider that the two machines are unofficially reported to have only 2 or 4 GB of memory, respectively. Four gigs could get you somewhere, but two will likely have you closing out apps in order to make sure your programs don’t slow to a crawl. Still, if you’re thinking of doing a little work at your local coffee shop and the brunt of your work on a desktop, then this could be a nice machine on the go. Or if you want a high-tech sketchbook or jot pad with fantastic resolution, this could be it. As for storage capacity, you can choose from 32, 128 or a generous 256GB (and of course, you can use Cloud-based storage to supplement).
Artists and handwriting fans may be drawn to the Apple Pencil stylus ($99). Unlike other styluses that force you to contort your wrist so you won’t touch the screen while writing, the Pencil allows you to actually can rest your hand on the screen and not worry about messing up your marks. It even has tilt sensors so you can create shading effects. You can also add a “smart keyboard” for about $150.
Are you thinking of signing off from your computer and switching to a device like these? Tell me about it in the comments!