I was at the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference in June 2010 when Steve Jobs said “When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them.”
I was also present in April of that year when Jobs announced the iPad, and at the time, I called it “underwhelming.” Yes, I was impressed by the achievement, but I declared the device “too big to put in your pocket but not as easy to type on as a laptop.” For a while, the market proved me wrong. Early sales of iPads were impressive, but around 2015, we started to see the tablet market shrink.
A few years after Apple launched the iPad, tablets started losing market share, getting pressure from both sides. Laptops started to get smaller and more versatile and smartphones got larger. Even though I have purchased several tablets over the years from Apple, Amazon and various Android vendors, mine all sit in a drawer or have been donated to schools. That’s because my smartphone is now large enough to read ebooks and watch video, and it’s even big enough for a reasonably OK on-screen keyboard. But it’s also because laptops have shrunk in size and weight. Plus, if I really want to use a device in “tablet mode,” the laptop I’m carrying can accommodate that.
I’m currently testing the HP 12-inch EliteBook x360 1020 G2 “convertible” or “two-in-one” device, which, like Lenovo’s Yoga line, has a screen that can also be used in tablet mode. Actually, it can be positioned at any angle so it can also be tentlike to sit on a table or positioned so that the keyboard faces down. Microsoft Surface PCs are also convertible, but their keyboards snap on and off so you can leave them at home if you want. As someone who does a lot of typing and rarely needs a tablet, I prefer the HP and Lenovo strategy.
The HP model I’m testing weighs 2.5 pounds (weight can vary by configuration and components), which is 1.3 pounds heavier than the first iPad. But even iPads have evolved into PCs. Apple now offers an optional keyboard for it iPad Pro, which turns it into a laptop that runs iOS. There are plenty of third-party keyboards for other iPads as well as Android tablets.
The new HP notebook shares another trait with tablets — its battery lasts all day. HP rates it for 15 hours, but like EPA mileage estimates, your experience will vary. Mine is never as good as what the manufacturer claims, partially because I use some energy-guzzling software, and I like a bright screen. But even if I only get 10 hours of battery life, that’s still enough to leave the power supply at home. And speaking of that, having a 2.5-pound laptop in my backpack is relatively easy on my back, which I will appreciate next month when I’m carrying it around during my five days at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. HP says that you can get a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes.
HP offers several versions of its EliteBooks. The one I’m testing comes with 8 gigabytes of memory and 256 GB of storage
It also comes with a pen (which I’ve already misplaced) that lets you draw on the screen. I wish there were a storage slot for that pen, but that might have made it harder to keep the device as thin (about a half an inch) as it is. There are two USB C ports and an HDMI port for a TV or monitor. I’d be happier if it came with a standard USB A port, but that was jettisoned to keep the device smaller. There are adapters for less than $5 that easily attach to any USB device. Unlike new iPhones and some Android phones, there is a standard headphone/microphone jack. Like many new phones, you can unlock it with a fingerprint. And unlike any MacBook, it has a touch screen, which I find more useful than I had imagined.
The EliteBook that I’m testing sells for $1,599 but you can pay less or more, depending on storage and other features. Some models come with HP Sure View, which is a built-in privacy screen that’s activated by a key press. The model I’m testing has a full high-definition screen, but you can get them with ultra-high definition (UHD) for those who care about the highest possible resolution. Aside from costing more, both Sure View and UHD use more energy, so I’d rather have more battery life and a few extra dollars in my pocket.
HP also has other models including a 13-inch 1030 series and the 14-inch 1040 series that are similarly priced, with varying features. Unlike smartphones, bigger isn’t necessarily more expensive when it comes to laptops. For some people, “less is more,” when it comes to size and weight.
I can’t help but think about that Steve Jobs quote about cars vs. trucks. If a laptop is a “truck,” then I guess I’m a PC driver. But like millions of people who drive pick-up trucks, I prefer laptops that are small, light, rugged, versatile and energy-efficient that can be used for work and play.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.
Published at Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:45:18 +0000