¿Portátil, Netbook, Ultrabook o Tablet?

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Introduction:

It's surprising how many consumers purchase a tablet thinking it's ideal for their needs, only to struggle through trying to use it for what they want. Likewise, too many people buy a laptop when all they want to do is browse the web.

Making the wrong decision every once and again is a part of life - fair enough. But still, when people are spending a decent chunk of money on a product that's not right for them, they need to rethink their motivation.

That's why this guide was written - in order to explain which product is perfect for certain needs, and not so perfect for others.

Media Consumption vs. Media Creation: This is, in my opinion, one of the best ways of explaining the difference between tablets and notebooks. It's what I use whenever someone I know is looking to splurge on some new tech, especially if they're not sure about what they're after.

First off, what is media consumption? Well, while everyone's definition may differ slightly, media consumption is generally held to be any task in which the user is viewing pre-made content, generally with minimum textual input. This means browsing the web, watching a video or movie, reading a book, or checking Facebook.

Media creation, on the other hand, requires a higher degree of user input. While generally the more text intensive activities such as writing long emails, work documents, or programming, it must be remembered that work such as photo or video manipulation is also included in this category. Basically, media creation requires that the user be actively engaged and involved with a high degree of device input.

Notebooks, netbooks, ultra-books and tablets can be sorted into two different categories. They are either ideal for media consumption, or ideal for media creation. The distinction may seem simple enough at first; notebooks, netbooks and ultra-books are ideal for media creation, tablets are ideal for media consumption. Initially this feels like a keyboard against touchscreen argument, and while this does play a significant role in the classification of these products, it is not the only consideration to be made.

Devices designed for media creation have their entire ecosystem centred on this. This means that the hardware, the software and the product design are all optimized for media creation. A high degree of flexibility in software options, ergonomic and easy to use hardware and a high degree of peripheral device support are key factors in media creation.

Media consumption devices, on the other hand, are ill-suited for the tasks best reserved for media creation devices. Sure, typing out a quick email on your tablet is no problem, but you wouldn't want to write a book on it, would you? Even with a fancy portable keyboard, it's just not as easy as using a laptop specifically designed for the task.

Looking at it from the other point of view, media creation devices can perform all of the tasks that media consumption devices can. The difference, however, is that media consumption devices have been designed with solely these tasks in mind. Watching a movie or browsing the web is much easier when you only have to hold the component you are actively engaging with (i.e. the screen).

With that in mind, there is obviously some overlap between the two device groups.

Tablets:

Tablets are designed with media consumption in mind, and their design reflects this. While you certainly can email someone from a tablet with relative ease, you wouldn't want to write a book using one. Tablets really shine when it comes to tasks such as viewing webpages, reading books, browsing photos or watching movies. All of these tasks can of course be performed on a device intended for media creation, but the tablet design and form factor make it easier and simpler to perform these tasks. When you factor in extra portability from both reduced weight and extended battery life, it's easy to see why tablets have the lead here.

Ideally, both technologies work best when used in a complimentary fashion, each covering the other's weaknesses. Realistically this is not always possible. As a consumer, I know that not everyone can fork out for both a tablet and an ultra-book just to get the best possible result. Remember, tablets are ideal if you are doing tasks limited in text or other intensive user input, and as long as you are not reliant on particular software packages on your regular computer.

Ultra-Books:

Ultra-books are the newest addition to the laptop family, even if there have been a couple around for a while now. What are ultra-books designed for?

Ultra-books function in a similar fashion to a regular full size laptop. They have respectable processing power, so it's possible to perform a wide variety of tasks using them. In addition to the functions and abilities of regular notebooks, they bring several advantages with them. Significantly extended battery life is one, which along with a high degree of portability, makes these devices ideal for those on the go. The main downside for anyone looking to purchase an ultra-book is the price - ultra-books cost significantly more than a similarly performing notebook. At present, ultra-books also lose out on storage space and graphical horsepower as well. But as with all technology, their prowess in these categories will only improve with time - and of course, sufficient consumer demand.

So, why sacrifice processing power and storage space for portability? The answer is simple. This is exactly what tablets have done in the last little while, and they have been made immensely popular for it. ultra-books are designed to offer consumers a middle ground. As I'm sure manufactures are hoping at the moment, possibly a very profitable middle ground. Many consumers want a device primarily for use when on the go, to check their Facebook, email, Twitter, you name it. This is the group to whom tablets are an attractive option. Yet there are those in this group, and it is surely no minority, who crave the power of a regular notebook alongside the portability they currently experience. Likewise, users who currently enjoy the benefits of a full size notebook but desire the portability of a tablet are likely to be equally to be drawn to the plethora of ultra-books hitting store shelves. Will they be willing to pay for it? Well, 2012 should give us the answer to that one.

Netbooks:

What about netbooks then? Aren't they meant to be for portable use?

Netbooks are designed with portability in mind, but also price. Netbooks are generally cheaper than entry-level notebooks, and their performance reflects this. They achieve decent battery life, longer than most laptops, but suffer from limited processing power, along with restricting screen resolutions. That said, they are ideal for those who don't need a lot of processing power, such as those who are looking at doing word processing while on the go.

Netbooks may have fired the first shot in the recent war of ultra-portable devices, but at the moment they don't seem to be winning it. That said, they are still an attractive option for many, as they are effective at what they do; provided you don't expect too much of them.

Conclusion:

So is there still a place for notebooks?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is, for the moment, yes. Notebooks offer a wide range of different configurations, but generally, compared to either netbooks or ultra-books, they offer a good amount of processing power, large storage capacities, large screens and high-powered graphics cards. This means that notebooks are ideal for those who play graphically intensive games, those who need significant processing grunt, either for content creation or data simulation, and also for those who like to have a large media library with them at all times. Whether it's for business or leisure, notebooks usually present good prices for solid performance. While they do cover a wide range of prices, they are generally more cost-effective than ultra-books - at least in terms of processing power, graphics and storage.

That said, as technology moves forwards, the line between ultra-book and notebook is sure to become blurred. Increases in speed and solid state storage, decreases in power consumption - it's going to be interesting to see what becomes what. Will notebooks become more portable while maintaining their advantages? Will ultra-books see increases in speed that allow them to replace notebooks entirely? It's most likely that the two technologies will approach each other and meet somewhere in the middle. At the end of the day, as long as it does the job and does it well, it's a win for the consumer.




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