If it has been a while since you contemplated buying a new laptop then it is time to look again.
There are essentially three types of portables: the pure tablet (aka slate), the pure laptop or a hybrid of the two (e.g. the keyboard that flips or rotates). Your personal preference will have a large influence on which one you select.
Here are some common questions to ask yourself before you decide which model is right for you:
How will you use it?
Think about the types of programs/apps you will regularly access, and how you will use them. If you are simply surfing the net on your couch then a tablet is ideal, but if you are regularly typing long emails and documents then a laptop with a good keyboard might be a better fit.
Usage determines specifications. For example, there are choices to make about the type and speed of processor (Intel Corei processors are typical for work, Intel Atom for basic tablet use), the amount of memory (4GB or 8GB RAM is common for work, 1GB for basic tablet use) and hard drive speed and capacity (256GB SSD or 512GB+ HDD is recommended for work).
Is weight a critical factor?
The general consensus these days is that anything over 2kg starts to feel quite heavy. But how important is an ultralight device? Does it really make a difference to you if your device weighs 800gm or 1.3kg? Don’t make your decision without first playing around with the various weights and sizes.
How many hours of battery do you need?
There is generally a trade-off between battery life and weight. However Intel and the device manufacturers are doing some neat things to squeeze out as many hours as possible.
Make sure you select a device with long enough battery and consider an expansion\second battery if you spend your life on the road.
Do you need a touchscreen?
Windows 8.1 is optimised for touchscreen, and those who use their touchscreen effectively never look back. Touchscreen is great for some tasks but not others (e.g. spreadsheets and complex apps).
What input devices do you need?
How important is a keyboard to you? These days you can use a docking station to benefit from an external keyboard & mouse at work. Some touch screen devices offer a fantastic stylus that tucks away when not in use.
What ports do you need, and how many?
It gets frustrating when you run short of USB ports, but a docking station can fix that problem at work. You don’t need to overcapitalise on connection options, but make sure you have enough. An important consideration is the VGA adapter for an external screen. Do you need one, and if so can you make do with a mini VGA port or do you need the full-size version?
Do you need the device to have 3G/4G connectivity?
Are you happy with just using local Wifi networks to connect to the internet? Adding 3G or 4G capability to a portable device is the ultimate in freedom as it allows you to work from just about anywhere with access to the internet, your email, file stores in the cloud or on your office servers if they support mobility.
A final thought…
If you are using your device for home then you have full control of your decision, but if you intend for it to be used in the workplace then first check with your IT department to make sure they are OK with the device and Operating System that you select.