With ever-changing technological trends and innovations, making decisions about your next computing device can be a tremendous challenge. You want it to run the essential programs you know and love with ease and grace, but you also don’t want to pay hundreds more for a device that can actually handle much more than the tasks you routinely give it.
We wrote this guide to help you figure out exactly how to do that. Read on.
Then there’s the form factor to consider, which is getting all the more complicated these days. Desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, or smartphone? Granted you’ll probably have an inherent idea of which type of device you would to use, but you are usually stuck between two possible choices of devices and then three or more choices in terms of weight and dimensions. With all the options you will face when choosing modern day computer devices, you will need to be more informed than ever on the size and specifications of your computing needs.
Narrowing the Purpose of Your New Device
One of the biggest troubles with choosing a new computing device is that you are faced with limitless options that can all serve a variety of purposes. Some of the features you see will appear very appealing, but are they really features you are looking for in a new computer? This is why it is best to make a list of uses for your new computer before even browsing for what types of computers are available.
The list should include the following:
1. Specific programs you will need to use – Perhaps Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, or various demanding games. Without the right software that you prefer, your new computing device is pretty much useless.
2. How much and what type of traveling you intend to do with the device – This is probably the most important consideration to judge. Will you carry it in your bag every day, on weekends, bring it on planes, carry it easily by hand, fit in your pocket or will it pretty much be on one desk most of the time? Be realistic and practical with this consideration; think constantly why you would need to have it on-hand and whether you would take advantage of its on-hand availability.
3. Operating Systems you prefer – This also largely effects what programs you can use as well. While Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite will work on Windows and Mac, they can sometimes be complicated to work on certain distros of linux, so do your research here. More importantly, choose an operating system that you are comfortable using and can navigate intuitively.
4. Hardware Functions of the Device – If you plan on doing a lot of photo-editing on the device, consider getting a device with an internal card-reader. If you want to do a lot of video chats, consider getting one with a built-in webcam. Remember that you can get external USB peripherals that serve these purposes, but this comes at the cost of mobility as you would have to carry around these peripherals to use them on-hand. Also, remember that not all devices come with a keyboard (tablets, I’m looking at you), so keep this as a consideration if you intend to do a lot of writing on the device.
5. Screen Size – While this technically falls under the category just above, I think screen size deserves its own category. Sure it’s a hardware function. But screen size will determine how easily you can read and navigate on the device, and to an extent, it also dictates multitasking capabilities. Screen size is often the key factor that dictates the size and portability of a device, so bear this in mind when considering screen size.
Deciding Form and Size of the Device
This will probably be the hardest decision you will have to make, and most of it will come down to how strictly you measured portability in your list of considerations for your device. For instance, if you restricted your portability demands to having the device fit in your pocket, you are pretty much asking for a smartphone. Granted, there are many dual-screen smartphones in the works (and a couple available) that will give you a bit more functionality from the added screen size while not sacrificing the form and size of the device.
Even if you have a strict idea of what type of device you will need based on your traveling needs, you will find quite a bit of variation between the same class of devices. For example, let’s say you want a device that you can easily carry in your hand everywhere, like a moleskin notebook. The most ideal solution mobility-wise is a tablet. But the size of the tablet could range from 7-11 inches. The weight could fluctuate as well. Not to mention, many netbooks are being built with more tablet components, allowing them to be smaller (without the need for fans for a hot processor, etc.) if you are looking for a portable device with a keyboard.
Also, many tablets are now coming the keyboard attachments that you can purchase (consider that part of the price of the device though). Docking capabilities will likely become a huge shift if the momentum of tablet computing continues. This way you will always have a portable computer on you that you can carry like a notebook (or even in your pocket) that you can then dock if you need more features such as a keyboard or card reader or media port or what have you.
The best solution to coming to terms with these variations in size and form is to go to an electronics store and experiment with typing, navigating, holding, and carrying all the devices you can find. Note the dimensions of the devices that you think favor your needs of portability. While may electronic stores chain down their devices to prevent theft, ask a representative if you can handle a device without a cord, just so you can experience walking around with it and using it while standing and sitting.
The biggest decision that you will make for your next computing device will likely be between two things:
- Size of device.
- How long it runs on battery.
- Has its own network data plan (not always a necessity, but can be for some).
- Runs the programs you need.
- Has a big enough screen to navigate quickly.
- Has built-in features or ports to external features.
As technological innovations continue, this flexibility between portability and usability will become more seamless. Already, portable devices are becoming incredibly feature reach and dockable, thus slowly bridging the gap between, say, a smartphone and a laptop.