With Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 going on sale in the U.S. on Thursday, buyers have a new Android-based tablet option, priced much like the iPad. (See our coverage of the full device details that Samsung shared at its Wednesday launch.) The Samsung tablet's main charms may be its stylus and split-screen view. But in addition to the Android vs. Apple tablet battle, another question looms: Can ultrabooks win a special place in mobile users' hearts?
The tablet and ultrabook may have their differences, but in many ways they're quite similar. Both are lightweight and mobile, make good traveling companions, and offer a big-screen alternative to a smartphone--which, despite its popularity, is too simply small for many tasks generally associated with desktop PCs.
A tablet, of course, fills the void between PC and phone. An ultrabook, on the other hand, is a full-fledged PC in a thinner, lighter package. But is one "better" than the other?
Certainly, more than a few tablet-toting business travelers have found themselves mired in tasks their slates can't quite handle--at least not as well as a laptop. The job at hand may involve using a touchscreen keyboard to edit a lengthy Word document. Or perhaps trying to tunnel into the office via a secure virtual private network (VPN) connection, only to find the tablet's VPN app is too complex to use.
No wonder tablet users often relegate their slates to leisure activities. A slate may be great for watching Netflix, checking email, and playing Temple Run. But its skills as a productivity tool are less obvious. Some may run desktop applications (such as Microsoft Office) that you live in every day. Then again, they may run scaled-down versions of these apps that lack the features you need.
Ultrabooks, however, are full-fledged PCs. Most models have done away with legacy peripherals, including the hard disk and increasingly useless optical (e.g., DVD) drive, but they're still x86-based laptops with QWERTY keyboards. They run a desktop version of Windows too, specifically Windows 7 or Windows 8, rather than a mobile OS tweaked for a larger display and faster processor.
Then again, the ultrabook is evolving into something more than just a skinny laptop. Modeled initially after Apple's MacBook Air, it's starting to adopt various shapes and sizes. Ultrabook manufacturers are adding larger and wider displays--and even bringing back DVD and hard drives--to differentiate their products in an increasingly crowded market. And when Windows 8 debuts in October, a new crop of touchscreen-equipped ultrabooks will arrive with it.
In fact, a touchscreen ultrabook may be a significant milestone in the evolution of the laptop, particularly if it's paired with a screen that folds backward. The result: a tablet and laptop in one. Lenovo has already shown such a device, the IdeaPad Yoga, which reportedly will ship later this year.
Dig into our slideshow to see the pros and cons of tablets and ultrabooks.