I received a great question by email from a radio show listener. Here’s a brief description of his situation:
Q – With Microsoft discontinuing support for Windows XP in 2014, he is considering replacing his 10-year old Desktop PC. He also has a newer laptop with Windows 7 and mostly does web surfing, checking and printing emails, Skype, typing letters and a very CPU intensive function of burning videos to DVD (now it takes about 4-5 hours to do this on his desktop, which runs overnight since the PC is practically useless for anything else while the rendering takes place). If the Desktop is retired, he is considering a Tablet (with keyboard) for a second device. Would a tablet be able to handle these tasks (minus the disk burning) or would it be under-powered and awkward to use? What would be your opinion as to the best brand/model for this flexibility? After all is said and done if the tablet could measure up it may be the same price as another laptop, but be more versatile and mobile?
A – First, keep in mind that your desktop will NOT stop working after Microsoft stops issuing updates for Windows XP in 2014. You may want to consider keeping the desktop as a limited purpose machine (authoring and burning the DVDs and typing letters, for example). This would alleviate the issue of not being able to use your laptop while the DVDs were burning if you got rid of the Desktop and used the laptop for this purpose.
In general, a tablet is GREAT for portability. Most are small, light, and have a long battery life. I highly recommend one as a ‘secondary’ device. With the exception of the new Windows Tablets (which have frankly been a huge sales failure for Microsoft so far), a tablet will be running either iOS or Android. Like your smartphone, it’s great, but has limited practical functionality. Printing – VERY limited and spotty on most tablets (can be done with some newer tablets and printers, but not easy & versatile like from your Windows laptop). Typing – awkward and slow with the on-screen keyboard and most of the external keyboards are just ok, and they add a bunch of bulk to the tablet (almost defeating the purpose of settling for a tablet in the first place). Skype – great with most newer tablets (with a decent front-facing camera). Web surfing – good, but many websites will send you the ‘mobile’ version because the resolution of many tablets is not nearly what a laptop will be (also, lack of Flash support on a tablet will make a few websites not useful). Other tablet benefits – Instant On (no ‘boot up time’). Negatives – very limited storage capacity compared to a new laptop.
You can get some great deals on both laptops and tablets. For laptops, I really like ones with the Intel i3/i5 CPUs. If I were buying a tablet, I would strictly stick with a popular model from a large ‘name’ (Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc). Stay FAR away from any ‘off-brands’ you may see advertised for a seemingly cheap price (they’re not as terrible as they once were, but still, stay away). Also, keep in mind that most tablets are basically disposable and not made to be repaired/upgraded in any way (some can, but most, not really). This may decrease their useful lifespan as compared to many PCs where it is not unusual to be in your situation of having a 10 year old one that is still useful.
We don’t fully know what will happen after the 2014 ‘Sunset’ of Windows XP. Remember Y2K? (hint – basically everything still worked fine!). You would be well advised though to limit any Windows XP computer’s Internet activities when the last updates are in the rear view mirror. I’ll be talking more about that in the future.
Thanks for your email!