You are thinking of a portable computer device that can stand between your smartphone and your regular 15”-17” laptop computer. But where do you go?
Firstly, we have seen the tablets like the Apple iPad family and the newer crop of Android-powered tablet computers. These units have a touch-driven user interface and range between 7” for a unit that can be stuffed in to a large pocket on your coat) to a 10” unit that can sit on a coffee table. They are good for viewing previously-written material or performing limited data-entry tasks like responding to email in a brief manner, due to the nature of the touchscreen keyboard.
There has been talk of these tablet computers displacing netbooks in their computing roles but the netbooks can still work for some users when it comes to taking notes or responding to letters and they want a keyboard that they can feel properly.
Ultraportable / Subnotebook computers
On the other hand, you have ultraportable or subnotebook computers which typically range up to 14” and are optimised for portable use. These units will have a regular keyboard as well as the separate larger screen. Also, they run a regular desktop operating system in the Windows or MacOS X families, which allows them to run regular fully-functional software like Microsoft Office or work with a large range of computer hardware.
There have been some new examples of very capable 13” ultraportables that have been cited in this article. One was the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, which is Lenovo’s attempt to respond to Apple’s cool designs. This is even though it is built by a company preferred by corporate “fleet-computer” buyers due to inherent ruggedness and security features. Another is the Toshiba Portege R830 which is a lightweight Core i5-powered model with an integrated DVD drive and USB 3.0. Yet another emerges from Hewlett-Packard as the HP ProBook 5300m, a Core i5-powered subnotebook that has had its audio subsystem worked with Beats Audio technology.
The author who wrote the article for the Technology Spectator that I am commenting on even had prepared the manuscript for the article on the Lenovo X1 and had found that the proper-size keyboard had allowed him to do the job. This is in a similar experience to what I had when I reviewed the Dell Inspiron 13z last year for this site and found that this class of computer is a proper size for those of us who want a travel-friendly computer to type up work on. It is because these computers use a keyboard layout and area that is commensurate to a standard typewriter keyboard, thus allowing you to properly touch-type without your hands feeling cramped; and you also have the proper tactile feedback that you have when you operate these computers’ keyboards.
This form-factor has become very useful especially amongst those of us who do a lot of public-transport travel, especially air travel because the can easily fit on those economy-class airline tray tables; as I have seen for myself on my flight back from Sydney. Here I have seen a person who was sitting next to me have one of these machines on their airline tray-table just for viewing some video material; and they didn’t look cramped when they used that computer.
As well, they are highly valued for wireless-hotspot use because they could fit on a typical cafe table or a window / wall bench that is very common at these places. This is more so as a lot of us use the cafe as a “second office” where one can get on with their work without office-driven distraction.
The possibllity of convertible “bridge” computers
Manufacturers could consider placing in to their market “convertible” ultraportable computers that have a touchscreen so one can benefit from the bonuses of touchscreen computing as well as have something with a proper keyboard. This could be augmented with Windows 7 fully utilising its touch and tablet abilities and support for applications that have proper touch-operation benefits. Of course, there has to be improvements with battery runtime and the ability to work with multi-touch gestures.
As for “big-time” media who want to preserve their “tablet-editions” of their newspapers; they could also run desktop front-ends for the Windows platform to provide the newspaper experience to these touchscreen-enabled portable computers.
I would reckon that a secondary portable computer that you use should be dependent on what you intend to do with it. If you do intend to just use the device for reading and viewing material; and occasionally creating emails, I would go for a tablet computer. On the other hand, if you are doing a lot of correspondence or creating a lot of material like writing articles while out and about, a subnotebook / ultraportable could suit your needs better.