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Laptop/tablet advice

Laptop/tablet advice

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I've previously bought three or four laptops and hardly ever used them except on the odd conference, holiday or training.

I'm now expecting to want to use a laptop/tablet on one day out about once a week. Yes, I'll be going to football by train. I don't want to be talking football with other fans all the time!

The journey times it will be from one hour to three hours. I didn't realise you could get from London to Newcastle so quickly nowadays!

I'm not planning to do client work but I would be doing marketing: my website, newsletters, blogs, etc.

I suppose battery life will be the main issue. I suppose I can tether it to my mobile phone but most trains on main routes seem to have wifi nowadays I think. If I could get something really cheap that does the job fine but otherwise I am happy to spend the money as long as I don't get too carried away. I realise that most of the time it will just be keeping my mobile phone company.

I've liked the look of the following machines that can be used as laptops or tablets:

Microsoft Surface Pro

http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-gb/surface-with-windows-8-pro/

HP ENVY x2 11-g000ea 11.6" Touchscreen Convertible Laptop

http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/laptops-netbooks/laptops/laptops/hp-envy-x2-11-g000ea-11-6-touchscreen-convertible-laptop-aluminium-17056526-pdt.html

Does anybody have any other advice or suggestions?

Replies (30)

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By zebaa
01st Jul 2013 18:19

Go first class & book ahead as far as you can. East coast main line is cheaper to book with than Train-line ( but look up the times & fares on train-line 'cos it seems easier). On the web-site you can get reminders issued to your e-mail address, so you don't miss a good fare. Will that do?

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By petersaxton
01st Jul 2013 18:35

Thanks

That's a good start!

The prices are incredible on trains nowadays. I will book ahead but only when Sky and BT Sport announce the changes for the games on TV. You can pay nearly £100 second class to Hull or £15 if booking well in advance. I will also get a third off when I get a senior railcard. Sometimes I booked first class and you get a free meal on FirstHull.

 

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By Captainblack
01st Jul 2013 18:58

Try a MacBookAir
You could try a MacBook Air
www.apple.com/uk
Very portable, huge battery life, great screens.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By duncanphilpstate
04th Jul 2013 11:18

But hugely expensive (MacBook Air)

Nothing with an Apple logo comes cheap and the MacBook Air conforms to that requirement :-) even though it's a beautiful piece of kit.

Surely this would be a very expensive option for only occasional use?

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
01st Jul 2013 21:36

Peter
Have you become a Newcastle fan. Would an iPad not do the trick. Or a whey aye pad as they are known in Newcastle these days.

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Replying to mbee1:
By petersaxton
02nd Jul 2013 00:03

Hull City

Glennzy wrote:
Have you become a Newcastle fan. Would an iPad not do the trick. Or a whey aye pad as they are known in Newcastle these days.

At least Newcastle fans are getting a lot of sympathy.

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By girlofwight
01st Jul 2013 21:42

Chrome book
I'm loving my Samsung chomebook, and am rolling them out to staff. Boots in a flash, relatively, 6 hour battery life. Perfect for anything that can be done via a web interface.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B009RF0AQ8/ref=s9_al_bw_g147_ir02?pf_...

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FirstTab
By FirstTab
01st Jul 2013 23:27

Ipad
Go for ipad. I think you will end up using it a lot.

It is light, easy to use and works all the time.

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By Steve Holloway
02nd Jul 2013 09:47

I'm looking this too but ...

no idea what I want it to do really. Ideally I would like remote access to my emails and other work files while on the mainland but no idea how to make this work. I can see that accounts review could be easy even with electronic signature etc but totally in the dark as to what is out there!

As for Hull City ... well you are clearly beyond help on that one!! I might start tripping across the Solent to see my once beloved Pompey now that they have sunk to a level that I can appreciate.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
By petersaxton
02nd Jul 2013 10:22

Hull City

Steve Holloway wrote:

no idea what I want it to do really. Ideally I would like remote access to my emails and other work files while on the mainland but no idea how to make this work. I can see that accounts review could be easy even with electronic signature etc but totally in the dark as to what is out there!

As for Hull City ... well you are clearly beyond help on that one!! I might start tripping across the Solent to see my once beloved Pompey now that they have sunk to a level that I can appreciate.

Seeing as in 2008 at Wembley I could still never imagine us playing in the Premier League, it's amazing that fans now see it as possible to become "established" there!

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By MissAccounting
02nd Jul 2013 09:58

I wouldnt go with an iPad personally because of the lack of proper keyboard, people say you can type properly on them but you cant and I often find myself getting frustrated typing things out on the touch screen and instead go and fire up the laptop to do the task in half the time.  Tablets are great for looking at the news and doing a bit of shopping etc but for anything else you need a netbook or a laptop.

What software will you need installed on it?  If its Sage or anything similar then you will have to go for a full windows laptop or if its just email and office based docs then a Chrome Book or the Microsoft Surface you linked to will suffice.

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By Henry Osadzinski
02nd Jul 2013 10:01

We reviewed a Windows 8 RT device earlier this year (essentially one step down from a Surface Pro) and weren't entirely convinced by it but I have heard much better things about the Pro. Price vs. the amount of time you spend using it is the biggest factor I'd say you'd be facing - a Macbook Air is generally my laptop to recommend to anyone but it's a lot of money for something that may only get occasional use. 

It's a bit of a punt but I'd echo girlofwhite and suggest taking a look at a Chromebook. If you're able to get the apps to do what you need (especially if it's just web / word processing most of the time) then it's a well-priced and light option. Or, as FirstTab and others suggest, an iPad (with a keyboard dock) might do the job and is fun for personal use as well.

If you want a full PC-style laptop then Acer and ASUS are leading the way in terms of bang for your buck.

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Replying to pauljohnston:
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By MissAccounting
02nd Jul 2013 10:21

Keyboard Dock?

Henry Osadzinski wrote:

We reviewed a Windows 8 RT device earlier this year (essentially one step down from a Surface Pro) and weren't entirely convinced by it but I have heard much better things about the Pro. Price vs. the amount of time you spend using it is the biggest factor I'd say you'd be facing - a Macbook Air is generally my laptop to recommend to anyone but it's a lot of money for something that may only get occasional use. 

It's a bit of a punt but I'd echo girlofwhite and suggest taking a look at a Chromebook. If you're able to get the apps to do what you need (especially if it's just web / word processing most of the time) then it's a well-priced and light option. Or, as FirstTab and others suggest, an iPad (with a keyboard dock) might do the job and is fun for personal use as well.

If you want a full PC-style laptop then Acer and ASUS are leading the way in terms of bang for your buck.

 

Why is this the first I have heard of a keyboard dock for the iPad? This could totally change my opinion on the trusty fruity tablet!

Peter, ignore my previous advice until I get purchase one of these and try it out!

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By Captainblack
02nd Jul 2013 10:27

Logitech do some well-regarded iPad keyboards. See

http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/laptops-netbooks/ipad-tablets-and-ereaders...

Captain

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By petersaxton
02nd Jul 2013 10:33

Thanks

I'm not a fan of Apple so I don't see an iPad as an option but I understand it does a lot of nice things even with one or two serious limitations.

Keyboard docking is possible with just about any tablet. I don't plan to do any accounts with it. I think (see below) I would be limited to browsing the web, PDF reading and MS Office - a lot of my notes are in Outlook or refer to web pages, PDFs or Word files.

None of my clients use Sage Accounts. I don't expect I'd want to use QuickBooks or any client based work but I think you rule things out at your peril!

Henry, you have given a great suggestion. The only thing I worry about is the battery life. Is it possible to swap batteries?

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By Henry Osadzinski
02nd Jul 2013 10:45

Chromebook?

Do you mean the Chromebook? I haven't had a proper look at one, just played about with the OS, but it looks like all the current models have replaceable batteries and, because the laptops themselves are relatively light on added features, battery life is in the 5 - 6 hour ballpark, which is pretty good.

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Replying to Mr J Andrews:
By petersaxton
02nd Jul 2013 11:13

Yes, Chromebook

Henry Osadzinski wrote:

Do you mean the Chromebook? I haven't had a proper look at one, just played about with the OS, but it looks like all the current models have replaceable batteries and, because the laptops themselves are relatively light on added features, battery life is in the 5 - 6 hour ballpark, which is pretty good.

replaceable batteries would make the difference.

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AS
By AS
02nd Jul 2013 11:07

It depends
Where is your data? Is it in the cloud or accessible from anywhere? What applications will you need to use? Are the applications touch enabled?

I recently bought a Samsung Chromebook. It is very light (like a Macbook Air), very fast (you could be working in about 15 seconds after switching it on) and cheap. I got the 3g version which you can use with a sim card if wifi is not available and cost £299 incl VAT + 2 year warrant from John Lewis. The battery life is amazing for something so light. I use a remote desktop app to log on to my work terminal server and have access to all my data and applications. Please note that very little information can be saved locally on a Chromebook as most of the data is in the cloud.

I could have used an ipad to log on to my terminal server as well but the main applications (Caseware, Aplhatax, etc) are not touch enabled so I would not have been able to use them without a proper keyboard and mouse. If you want the full Windows experience, one of my collegues uses a Dell tablet that turns into a laptop. It works very well.

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By petersaxton
02nd Jul 2013 11:15

In the cloud

I was thinking that would be a good option in case I lost the machine.

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
02nd Jul 2013 11:26

This is your train conductor speaking...

East Coast Mainline - even second class has power points so battery life needn't be a constraint. Also gets 15 minutes free WIFI.

I would recommend Hull trains though, around 20-25% cheaper than Grand Central, free WIFI too.

Or you can get a railcard and save 30% on ticket prices.

 

I used to travel to the North East at least once every month until very recently so I'm used to the journey ;)

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By Healthpay
03rd Jul 2013 09:42

Notebook and Wuala

I still need Windows for my away times mainly because I spend so much time with Moneysoft, so I bought an Asus Aspire One notebook.  Very small and light, battery life 5-6 hours of continuous use, and no compatibility issues.  I paid under £250.

And as for where the data is stored - I use Wuala to synchronise between my base machine and my notebook/tablet/phone etc. It uses client based encryption, so the files are secure from prying eyes in the cloud and in transit.

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
03rd Jul 2013 14:32

Examine your personal tastes and ergonomic preferences

Hi Peter et al - thanks for contributing to a great thread, and one that is very close to my heart.

I was a long-time iPad sceptic because of the size and the keyboard issue - until I got an iPad mini which conveniently fits in my jacket pocket. Since my Dell Inspiron laptop is roughly the size and weight of the 2001 monolith I'm quite happy to leave it behind for trips away and just rely on the iPad.

The on-screen typing is a bit of a drag, but I've been learning to cope - and casting jealous glances at people using Bluetooth and other keyboard arrangements. Now I've got the device, that may well be what I get next.

If you're a keyboard man like me (I type a lot), then maybe an integrated machine is the way to go, and I have to confess that I was almost won over by an 11in MacBook Air when I tried it. The low profile keys look way too cool for school, but are surprisingly fast, quiet and responsive. If only I had £850 to spare...

So to the other options: Chromebook is the cloud-purist and probably cheapest option aside from a pure-breed tablet. But since we're getting a Windows vibe from your direction, the MS Surface is definitely one I'd like to try, but is trying to keep up with Apple with its £719 asking price. Same goes for the HP Envy, which is only a few pounds less. 

A couple of people have also mentioned ASUS devices - they've been doing small format netbooks for years now, and have a few years' head start on hybrids. Before making your mind up, see if you can try out an 11in Vivobook S200 (currently going for £350 from John Lewis) or similar. They've also got a 13in Transformer Book with detachable tablet/screen, Intel i7 processor, 128GB solid state drive and up to 500GB hard drive storage - all yours for an almost Apple-worthy £1,200.

PS - There's a good discussion of the choices facing someone in a similar situation to you from Jack Schofield in the Guardian back in May.

Let us know which machine fits your needs the best and how you get on with it if and when you make your mind up.

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By Edward Beale
04th Jul 2013 11:16

Asus Eee Pad

The problem that I found with the iPad was how to get access to files, especially when wi-fi connections were patchy, slow, or non-existent.

I went for the Asus Eee Pad because

    it incorporates a keyboard so I don't lose half the screen when typing

    it has 2 USB ports and an SD card slot

    the keyboard contains additional batteries giving much greater usage time.

The downside is that the extra batteries make it much heavier.

As with all technology, what's right for you depends on what you will be using it for.  All items have trade offs and there is no universally perfect machine - Apple there's your next challenge!

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By petersaxton
04th Jul 2013 11:27

I think anything Apple is too expensive, too

I couldn't really justify the more expensive PC options on a pure use/cost basis but I do like the Surface Pro. The ChromeBooks seem a good value choice.

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By duncanphilpstate
04th Jul 2013 11:35

Android tablets (and Samsung)

With all the fuss over iPads, it's easy to overlook the Android world.

My wife and I have ended up with a Samsung Android tablet each, hers a 10" version, mine the 7" (it came free from John Lewis with a Samsung Ultrabook - the equivalent to a Mac Air since you ask).

As with iPad you do still have the issue of needing a network connection for anything you didn't since before leaving home.

But the Android world offers more options (in my opinion) than Apple-world - for instance, a choice of on-screen input methods including my personal favourite, Swype, which doesn't need you to lift your finger and does a really good job of recognising what your swyping means.

The Samsung 10" also has a built-in smart stylus if you don't want to use your fingertips. The stylus among other things gives you more precision in where you touch the screen and does open up a handwriting recognition option (which I haven't played with much as that's hte wife's machine). The 10" also has a split screen option which provides visibility to two running applications - useful if you want to refer to a spreadsheet or report while typing an email.

One downside of Android I must admit to: the BBC iPlayer doesn't allow you to download programmes, only to stream them; whereas on the iPad you can download to watch on the train without a connection (which is probably what you'll observe people doing). I think this is blatant discrimination by the taxpayer-funded Beeb and I've a good mind to find out if it's illegal under some general access requirement. But it could be an Android deal-breaker for your train journeys.

Lastly, as you'd expect, Android tablets may not cost as much as Apples but YMMV

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By Charlie Carne
04th Jul 2013 13:13

MS Surface

You seem to prefer Windows to Apple, so I'd definitely look at the Microsoft Surface tablet. The Pro version is very expensive (£599 ex-VAT), but take a look at the RT version (£332.50 ex vat). Not only is RT cheaper, it's much lighter, has longer battery life and includes MS Office free (you have to buy it separately for the Pro model). You only need the Pro version if you want to install full versions of other Windows 8 software on the device, as the RT version only allows installation of apps from the Windows 8 App Store.

I bought the RT a few weeks ago and I'm delighted with it. I can run full* versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and MS are soon releasing Outlook for RT (free download). I run most of my programs via a hosted desktop, so I can log in via RDP and run all my office tax and accounts production software from the RT. (*I say "full" versions: MS call it the Home and Student version, and I believe that it may not run macros and VBA stuff, but it's pretty much 'full' for most users)

The screen cover doubles as a very workable keyboard with integrated trackpad (BTW iPad keyboards do not include trackpads, as there is no facility in the iPad OS to accept mouse instructions). When I bought my RT, MS were giving the keyboard/screen cover free at the time (they may still be doing so), but it's an essential accessory. I'd recommend trying both the Touch and Type covers to see which you prefer (John Lewis have display models). I prefer the thinner Touch cover, but a faster typist than me may well prefer the Type cover.

You can certainly write your blogs, newsletters and other marketing work on this device. You say that you don't plan on doing accounting work but, if you did need to run local QuickBooks, you need a tablet running the full version of Windows 8 (eg the Surface Pro). But QuickBooks Online or other cloud-based packages work fine from the RT, as will reading PDFs and browsing the web.

As a small, light and relatively cheap device to use on the move for online activities and local use of MS Office, I think the Surface RT can't be beaten. If you need other Windows programs to be installed on the device, the Surface Pro is great, but there are cheaper options.

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By KH
04th Jul 2013 15:10

My wife doesn't like the MacBook Pro I've just bought her....

Just bought my wife a MacBook Pro ... last of the Macs to have a CD/DVD drive, and I've been cherishing one for some time now, so when she started complaining about internet access on her 8-year-old Macbook I thought it was probably time for an upgrade for her ... fortunately, though, she still prefers her old white Macbook, which suits me just fine ....... am I just a truly nasty scheming and totally unforgivable guy?

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By markabacus
05th Jul 2013 13:18

Dell Inspiron Duo 10.1 Win 7

Hi Peter

Like you not an Apple fan. I bought a Dell Inspiron Duo netbook with atom cpu for when I was away for watching video tax updates, emailing and web browsing. That said our HP media laptop 17" had to go back under warranty and for 2 weeks I had to use the dell at my regular wkly visit to a client. It ran Sage and excel no problem and the smaller screen was not an issue, so much so when the HP came back I have continued with the Dell.

You can either use it like a laptop or flip the screen, close the lid and it's a tablet

I bought via Ebay, it was a manufacturer's refurb with 3 yr warranty for £320

It's been to Lembeh Straits last year where a part from connecting to our email systems at home I also used it to upload digital pictures from my underwater camera.

Works great for me

Battery around 2hrs, not great but I bought a Xpal power source to provide another 8hrs, also handy for other devices when travelling.

Mark

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By petersaxton
05th Jul 2013 13:31

Mark

I thought Dell brought out something similar a few years ago and then withdrew it quickly.

It sounds ideal - subject to battery!

 

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By markabacus
05th Jul 2013 14:11

Dell Inspiron Duo 10.1 Win 7

You could be right, I only bought mine Spring 12. There are certainly a few on Ebay at present, search "dell duo 1090".

Not sure if there is anything on the market today like it i.e. New

 

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