I’ve been tracking ‘smartbooks’ for a few years now. I’ve tested the Android-based Compaq Airlife 100 and owned the Toshiba AC100. I also have a couple of Android tablets here in my life, one of which I use daily for work. I have tried many times to integrate them into my work processes but only the Galaxy Tab 7” has made any impact because it fits nicely as a microblogging and social networking tool. There are some good music, radio and podcast apps that I use too. The problem with the ‘laptop’ style devices is that although they are light, fun and have good battery life (8hrs out of the 800gm Toshiba AC100 was great!) the quality of apps doesn’t match the scenarios where you use the product – on the desk.
Android Ice Cream Sandwich will bring new products and focused software development to the large-screen Android space and as the number of sold products rises, more and more software houses will start to take the platform seriously but that could take a few years. In the meantime, Windows or OS X on an X86 laptop is the only way forward for productivity. [Yes, there are some very interesting developments in the IOS world. In many cases the devices are too locked down to be good enough for a smooth productivity experience though.] For mobile users, the 1KG mark is about as good as it gets. While we’ve had netbooks at that weight for a while we’re now starting to see laptops with high-quality processors at the same mark. The Samsung Series 9 is one of them. the Toshiba Z835 (occasionally showing at $699) is another and there will be a lot more during 2012
What surprised me today was the price of the ASUS Transformer Prime 64GB with the keyboard dock. In Germany you’re looking at €750. Did you know that the Samsung Series 9 11.6” 64GB is only 100 Euro more? That’s two devices with a similar screen resolution, similar weight, similar style and similar price but in completely different computing categories. I thought it would be interesting to put them side-by-side with each other to see where they shine. Obviously there’s no winner but if it’s productivity you’re looking for, go for the Samsung Series 9 every time!
The Transformer Prime is quite the flexible beast. As a tablet it works extremely well. 600gm, good battery life, relatively (to other Android tablets) good battery life, touch input, some great social and geo-enabled apps, good quality 1080p video playback, great sharing capabilities and some impressive gaming experiences. While I’m not a fan of 10” ‘social’ tablets, if you’re looking for something in that range, the Transformer Prime has to be near the top of your list.
I’ve rated the ASUS Transformer Prime against 17 criteria and it scored 115 points
I’ve also rated the Samsung Series 9 11.6”against the same criteria. It scored 110 points
Additional reading: 2 years ago I wrote about
ARM’s ‘lock-in’ opportunity in ‘social netbooks.’
So far their customers haven’t capitalised on that opportunity
An overall points score is pretty useless if you don’t know the distribution so for some more detail I used a comparison and choosing tool I put together some time back. It allows you to set your priorities on the score criteria and to get a recommendation as to which is the best.
Remember that this is based on one persons ratings and there’s room for argument in many areas but take a look, set your priorities and see what device suits you.
The point here is that these two devices look quite similar, look quite sexy, but have completely different hidden specifications and are good for different things.
The Ultrabook excels at productivity, multi-window working, a full web experience, connectivity options and processing power.
The Android-based smartbooks and tablets excel in battery life, social and sharing, low-cost applications, touch user interface and overall price.
The Bottom Line
What needs to happen over the next year is that each category learns from the other. Intel, Microsoft and their customer seem to be making progress towards some of the smartbook features. I wonder how long it will take to get the apps on smartbooks sorted out though. Ultrabooks, ultrathins and similar PC-based devices look to have the better position right now and that’s good for Intel, bad for ARM.