By Reid Goldsborough
Are you in the market for a new device? Should you get a desktop PC, laptop PC, Mac device, Windows unit, tablet computer, Chromebook, or 2-in-1 laptop-tablet combo? Choices, choices, choices.
Much here depends on you - specifically how you'll be using the device, what your past experience is, and how much you're willing to spend. But here's what others are doing.
A survey last year by the market-consulting firm Deloitte asked consumers which devices they prefer using for specific activities. Here are the results:
Conspicuously out of favor are desktop PCs and tablets. Of these five types of devices, desktops are favored only by males for playing games and by men and women age 55 or older for checking bank balances. In this survey, no one favors tablets for particular activities.
Here's a further breakdown of various devices:
Desktop PCs still have their benefits, and they still have a sizable market. Their greater speed and capacity make them better suited for video editing, computer-aided design, and high-end gaming. Their larger size makes them easier for many to type on and easier to view with.
People using desktops generally are less prone to neck and back strain from slumping over a smaller machine. For the same computing power, desktops cost less than laptops. On the other hand, desktop PCs are big, bulky, and stationary.
If you need to work while truly on the move - walking around an office, a store, or a factory - tablets are more convenient than laptops and, with their larger screens, can be easier to work with than smartphones.
Tablets also are easier to set up and use than a PC or Mac laptop, have a longer battery life, and cost less. On the other hand, with smartphone screens getting larger, there's less benefit from switching from a smartphone to a tablet these days. This is the key reason tablets have declined in popularity since their heyday in the years after the launch of Apple's iPad in 2010.
The Apple iPad Pro remains a well-regarded, if pricey, tablet. At the other extreme, the Amazon Fire Tablet is an under-$100 purchase that can be a good choice if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber.
Chromebooks, which are sold primarily by Google and its partners such as Samsung and Acer, are inexpensive laptops designed for computing while connected to the internet, the cloud. They run not Windows or the Mac operating system but rather a version of Linux called Chrome OS. They're used most heavily in schools. You can't use whatever program you want, but they now have available Google Apps and others that can run while you're offline.
2-in-1 Laptop-Tablet Combos
Increasing in popularity, 2-in-1 laptop-tablet combos offer the portability of a tablet plus the superior typing of a laptop. The combo devices, however, cost more than tablets. Well-regarded high-end 2-in-1s include the Microsoft Surface Pro.
One main distinction that remains among varying computing devices is whether you intend to use them primarily for production or consumption. You still can't beat a desktop or laptop computer for writing papers for work or school, creating presentations, working numbers in spreadsheets, editing photos and videos, or designing websites. Smartphones and tablets are more convenient for exchanging brief emails, posting short messages to social networks, surfing the web, watching a movie, listening to music, or reading a book.