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Windows 8.1 Tablet Buying Guide

These days a tablet is very much the device to have if you need to get computing done out and about. They’ve actually been around in various forms for a number of years, but a massive drop in pricing over the course of 2012 and onwards has led to them becoming incredibly popular.

What people may not realise is that Windows tablets have also fallen dramatically in recent months as processor prices have fallen and Microsoft have introduced incentives to get more Windows devices on the market. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the latest Windows 8 tablets you can buy and compare their features.

We’re going to be looking at five Windows tablets – the Linx 7, Dell Venue 8 Pro, Asus Vivotab 8, Linx 10 and the Asus Transformer Book T200.

Linx 7

So let’s kick off with what is by far the cheapest and smallest of the tablets we’re looking at today. The Linx 7 comes in around £77* on Amazon which is pretty impressive when you consider it comes with a ~£50 one year Office 365 subscription. Being the cheapest, it also has the most basic specifications – we’re looking at a quad core Intel Atom processor which clocks in at 1.33Ghz (up to 1.8Ghz turbo boost), 1GB RAM and 32GB storage. The processor you see in this device is common to a lot of Windows tablets these days – but considering its pricing it really does perform pretty well and, being quad core, it can handle opening applications pretty quickly. My main concern with this tablet is the measly 1GB RAM is provides. Let me be clear, though – 1GB will probably be plenty if you’re planning to use the device on the go for the odd bit of web browsing or email here and there. You’d be more likely to run into problems if you started running several applications at once – you’d find Windows will eat up that RAM fairly quickly and that’ll start to hamper performance. Overall, though, it’s a damn good tablet for the price and when you consider Office is included, you quickly begin to realise this tablet’s potential for being able to touch up your Word documents on the way into work.

Buy Linx 7 from Amazon

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Next up, we’ve got the Dell Venue 8 Pro. The Venue 8 Pro is probably the Windows 8 tablet I’ve heard the most about since I started looking into the market. It’s a decent all-rounder that features slightly better specs compared to the Linx 7. You’ve got a slightly bigger screen at 8 inches, a better Atom processor which will turbo boost up to 2Ghz, and (crucially) 2GB of RAM. This brings the tablet much more in line with a netbook, and that extra RAM will allow you much more freedom in terms of having multiple applicaitons open at any one time. I can’t help feeling that you’re paying for the Dell logo with this device, though – coming in at around £185* on Amazon. I’d still argue that it’s a good deal as I’d be more keen on the better specs, but if you’re on a tight budget this might not necessarily be your answer as you’ll see later in the article that there are larger tablets at a similar price.

Buy Dell Venue 8 Pro from Amazon

Asus VivoTab 8

The Asus VivoTab 8 is by far the most characteristic of the tablets we’re looking at today. The tablet features a Wacom stylus included in the box, which makes this device ideal for note-taking. It’s coming in on Amazon at around £210*, but you do have to bear in mind that it includes 64GB of storage as opposed to the 32GB storage in the Dell and Linx devices discussed in this review. That extra storage will be a big bonus if you’re looking to carry more data on the go. The tablet also comes with Windows 8.1 Professional – presumably to allow for business use, although we struggle to see any huge benefits in having this extra functionality on a tablet of this size. It doesn’t, however, include a copy of Office so you’ll have to fork out for that on top if you want it. The VivoTab 8 is an impressive device and having the stylus will definitely suit those who would normally spend time writing notes with pen and paper. Additionally, the stylus proves very helpful in navigating the traditional Windows UI which is obviously fairly small on a screen of this size. I feel that the VivoTab has a very specific market and perhaps isn’t so much an all-rounder as other devices, but for those who do need the stylus and business features of Windows, this certainly is a good contender.

Buy Asus VivoTab 8 from Amazon

Linx 10

The Linx 10 is the only device that we’ve previously reviewed here on GEEK! and still stands to be one of my favourites – certainly amongst the 10″ range at least. Currently available on Amazon for about £169*, it features a 10″ display, 2GB of RAM and 1 year of Office 365. You can read my full review here, so there’s no point in going to in huge amounts of detail here – but suffice to say it’s a very good value for money tablet that has decent build quality and can also be purchased its own keyboard case if necessary. Keyboard cases will generally only be available on 10″ devices and above – only because there just incase enough space in a 7″ or 8″ device to justify a keyboard. Performance was pretty good on this tablet and having the larger screen definitely made Windows easier to use. This device is probably the value device that I’d recommend as it does bring exceptional value for money and I’d argue you’ll find it difficult to find a 10″ device with better specs for the same price.

Buy Linx 10 from Amazon

Asus Transformer Book T200

This is the final device we’ll see in this article. I’ve included it for good measure. It is by far the most expensive device in this article coming in at around £365* on Amazon, but it does have useful extra features which makes this device much more of a laptop when docked to the included keyboard. As well as your usual specs, you’ve got a 500GB HDD on top of the 32GB drive so storage will not be an issue on this device – but the 500GB HDD is in the keyboard dock, so the device must be docked to access it. You’ve also got two USB ports (one USB 3, one USB 2) onboard the keyboard dock making connectivity considerably easier. This device is much more aimed at people who want to have a laptop and a tablet in one device. It packs a good tablet for on the go usage, plus an easy to use dock which adds extra features you’d normally see in a laptop.

Buy Asus Transformer Book T200 from Amazon

So there you have it – five very capable Windows 8.1 tablets. It’s easy to see how many different shapes and sizes are available – many of which at decent price ranges. If you’re browsing rather than buying at the moment, keep an eye out for the upcoming launch of Windows 10 (likely later this year), as it’ll be interesting to see what this will bring to both the tablet and laptop market.

Best Macbook Pro with Retina Display 13″ case – Clear mCover Hard Shell Case

I’ve owned my 13″ Retina Macbook Pro for well over a year now and during that time I’ve tried many cases in an attempt to keep scratches and dirt off it. There’s no doubt that you can go to places like eBay and pick up a case for well under £10, but I’ve found most of them don’t work very well. They either fall apart after no time at all, or actually end up putting scratches on your device that weren’t there before it was fitted!

However, I did come across this case – the CLEAR mCover Hard Shell Case for 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I’ve had it on my Macbook for around 3 months and I have to say it is without doubt the best case I’ve bought so far.

The case snugly fits on your Macbook and is almost completely see-through – so much so that many don’t even realise my Macbook has a case on it. The case is sturdy and will definitely be strong enough to protect your Macbook from a small drop or from being scratched.

The biggest selling point for the case by far and away, though, is the feet that are fitted to the bottom of it. They allow the back of the Macbook to be raised slightly, which makes it much more comfortable to type longer documents (particularly if you’re used to working on a desktop keyboard). It works seamlessly and is a very neat little design feature.

You can buy the case now from Amazon.

It’s also worth noting that they have Macbook Air 11 inch and 13 inch versions available too, as well as 13″ Macbook Pro (non-retina) solid colour variants.

Review: Linx 10 Windows 8.1 tablet and keyboard dock/case

Over the last few months, Windows 8 tablets seem to have been nose-diving in cost. The introduction of Intel’s new Bay Trail Atom processors, paired with the new Windows 8.1 with Bing operation system setup for tablets, has meant manufacturers can start to get tablets out at prices that are even competing with some budget Android tablets.

This is great news for people who like the idea of a tablet but need more of the productivity factor. Tablets that have recently joined the market include the HP Stream 7
and the new Linx tablet range (coming in 7 inch, 8 inch and 10 inch variations). All of which come with a free copy of Office 365 Personal lasting for one year – which in itself saves around £60. When you bear in mind that the HP Stream 7 comes in at just £99.99 on the high street, you could be onto a real winner if you need a basic tablet for web browsing which also gives you the ability to touch up those PowerPoint presentations on the way to work.

The basics

I got a chance to get my hands on one of the more recent additions to the market – the Linx 10
– fetching mine for about £179 which includes the manufacturer’s own keyboard case (you can get them without the case for about £160). I chose to give this tablet a try as it is one of few in its price range to come with 2GB RAM. Many small Windows tablets (including the HP Stream 7) come with 1GB RAM – which will be fine for the odd web page or email here and there, but you’ll struggle more if you attempt any multitasking. 2GB RAM is a little more comfortable for Windows – and while I’d really like to see a minimum of 3GB, 2GB will be fine for on-the-go usage. The Linx 10 comes with a (you guessed it) 10 inch IPS display coming in at 1280×800 pixels – this is nothing on, for example, the iPad Air – but you’ll find the pixel density is still ample for watching videos on the go or browsing the net. You get a quad core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.33Ghz – and it’ll “Turbo Boost” up to just over 1.8Ghz in short bursts when you need it. You’ve got 32GB of on-board storage (of which about 20GB is usable) – and that can be expanded with a microSD card of up to 64GB in size. Other notable features include a micro-USB port (which you can use with an adapter – which was included with mine – to convert into a normal USB port for memory sticks or mice) and a micro-HDMI port for external viewing. It’s also worth noting that it comes with a 1 year subscription to Office 365 Personal – something quite common with Windows tablets these days.

Performance

Let’s face it – a quad core Atom and 2GB of RAM isn’t going to breaking new records in terms of speed, but truth be told performance is still pretty awesome for something as small as this. You’ll find programs like Google Chrome and iTunes load pretty quickly, and getting into any of the included Office programs is nice and speedy too. This isn’t the kind of tablet to be using Photoshop or playing any demanding games with – not only considering performance but also screen size, but the quad core Atom does arguably provide decent levels of performance in most day to day applications. You will still struggle having more than two or three programs open at any one time as the 2GB RAM on-board will quickly fill up – if you’re looking for something more capable of multitasking you’d be better off looking at a 11″ laptop or a Surface Pro (although the price difference might put you off!). Overall, though, I really can’t argue with the performance of this device given it’s size – it’d give a 2010 mid range laptop a run for it’s money in application start up times.

Battery life

Battery life on the Linx was about average – I found I was getting about 5-6 hours usage from one charge. This isn’t half bad – but a 1st gen iPad mini (which you can now get for a similar price) will fetch you around 8-10 hours of battery life on one charge. The tablet also takes rather a long time to charge which can be irritating when you’re in a hurry. The battery definitely isn’t the strong point of this tablet – but to be fair it’s not awful and it wouldn’t necessarily put me off the device.

Practicality with Windows

This is where you really need to have a think. These days you’ve really got three choices for tablet operating systems – Android, iOS or Windows. In terms of what you can do with the operating systems – iOS and Android are more or less the same. If you go for a Windows tablet you either get Windows RT or Windows 8. In my opinion Windows RT is a no-go – only because it provides few advantages over a more intuitive operating system like iOS 8. However – if you grab a Windows 8 device – you’ve got the ability to run many of the applications you run on your main computer while you’re on-the-go. What I mean by that is you can run EXE programs.

The Linx 10 comes with Windows 8.1 built in. In principle this is fantastic. Many people are not a fan of the Metro UI (or Start screen) in Windows 8 on conventional desktops or laptops – but on a tablet it really comes into its own. Navigating the Start screen is a piece of cake on the Linx 10 and it’s actually comfortable to explore.

Being a Windows 8 tablet – you’ve also got the use of the traditional desktop and desktop applications. In principle, this a fantastic tool to have. In reality, however, the benefits of this are somewhat limited. With the tablet’s screen size being 10″, it’s difficult to navigate the small Windows taskbar/desktop icons. You might want to look into a stylus if you feel you’ll be using the Windows desktop a lot – or even better still have a look at the Asus VivoTab 8 which includes a WACOM stylus. So while it’s very handy to have the functionality available – it’s not always easy to use and I found it irritating after a while when just relying on the touchscreen alone.

Keyboard case

The Linx keyboard case you can get with this tablet is probably the only one you’d want to consider as it’s designed specifically for the tablet. You can buy it within a bundle or it’s about £30 on its own. The case itself is quite nice. It’s a nice sturdy case that folds neatly around the tablet. The case also folds up (in an origami style) to make a stand which does the job. Attached to the case is a keyboard and touchpad. Neither the keyboard or touchpad are really anything to shout about – the keyboard’s keys are a little too stiff for my liking and feedback is poor, while the touchpad is too small to work with. They’ll be fine for writing the odd email or short Word document, but I’d struggle to use them for an extended period of time. You can buy the official case here. Of course, if you’re not so fussed about the (official) case, you could use any Bluetooth keyboard to get the job done.

Value for money

At around £160 for the tablet itself or £180 for the tablet and keyboard case bundle, I think the tablet represents very good value for money – especially when you include the bundled copy of Office. You won’t get much better from a 10″ Windows tablet today at that price. If it’s definitely Windows that you’re looking for – this is definitely good value for money.

Verdict

As a budget Windows tablet, I feel this is a very good offering. It has minor flaws that seem to surround the keyboard case, but the tablet itself is a decent little device for the money. If you’re not desperate to run Windows on a tablet, I still feel that you might be better off with an Android tablet or an iPad – but if productivity is your thing then this is definitely a good buy. For browsing the net on the train or sprucing up a Word document on your lunch break, this is likely to be an ideal companion. However, if you’re looking to do more intensive tasks like video editing, you’ll still be better off with a laptop or conventional desktop.

If you aren’t in any hurry, I’d probably keep an eye on Windows tablets over the next few months. The upcoming launch of Windows 10 is likely to bring some new ideas to the table; and once we get to the point where manufacturers are happy to stick 4GB of RAM in a tablet they really might give your laptop a run for its money. For the mean time, though, this is a decent tablet with a wide range of unique capabilities at a promising price.

Rating: 8/10

Buy from Amazon

You can view our full Windows 8 tablet buying guide here >