Choosing the right hardware is just as important as using the compatible version of Windows. When you're researching online or looking on store shelves, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of choices available. But choose wisely; making the right selection when you purchase your next tablet convertible, ultrabook, laptop or workstation can save you money, time and efficiency in the long run. The most important aspect of choosing your form factor is sticking to your budget. Tech buying can be costly when you pick aspects of hardware you don't need, and it's especially important when it comes to purchasing a laptop or tablet. If it's beyond your means or not the best device for you, you'll still be stuck with something you don't need. So start with your priorities, whether you want a device for on-the-go or will be working from a stationary location. Make a list of features you know you can't live without on your laptop. Need a powerful processor? Make note of it. Desperate for gaming options? A performance laptop is the one for you. Need a certain amount of battery life? Write that down, too. Don't get sucked into a certain device because it's shiny and neglect everything you need on a daily basis. Once you have one or two devices in mind, browse the nearest search engine to see what people are saying who own that device—or send us an email and we'll get back to you with our findings. Spend 10 minutes to get to know your laptop before purchasing it. You might just find that it sputters after a month or fails to do something you hoped it could do. You should read reviews that we and other tech sites write until the laptop or tablet goes out of style. Also, make sure to try before you buy.
Of course we all know what a tablet is, but what are 7- to 11-inch, touchscreen-enabled, low-power processor-packing devices actually good for? The absolute best thing about a tablet is its portability. Whether it be taking notes in class, presenting at a meeting, watching a movie or playing a game, just tuck it into a bag and you'd never even know it was there. Tablets are perfect for those on the go. Despite the fact that you only have an on-screen keyboard, Bluetooth-enabled tablets allow you to pair accessories such as wireless mice and keyboards directly with the device. Battery life is often fantastic on small tablets thanks to low-power processors, so you'll get longer work time from your tablet than you would ever get from a laptop or even an ultrabook.
You do need to consider just how much you want to get done with your tablet before you shore up money on it, though. These devices can have a habit of becoming an expensive secondary tool for those who own a laptop or ultrabook already, so consider your needs. Do you really need a second screen to complement your laptop, or is it just something you're going to watch movies on? If it's the latter, consider avoiding a tablet and investing your cash in a souped-up ultrabook instead.
If you're going to be dragging a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse around all the time just for your tablet, it might be worth getting a convertible or even an ultrabook. Low-power processors mean more than just slower battery drain.
Convertible (Tablet docked to a laptop)
A convertible. Sounds nice owning one, doesn't it? A convertible can mean one of two things: it's either a tablet that converts into a laptop-like device with the aid of a clip-on keyboard, or a tablet that flips out to expose a keyboard. Devices that have clip-on keyboards usually benefit from greater battery life because the keyboard attachments often come with extra batteries. Clip in your keyboard and expect to double your battery life, depending on which device you buy. Windows 8 convertibles straddle the tablet and laptop/ultrabook categories, meaning you get the benefits of both in one small yet powerful package: the touchscreen, battery life and portability that you'd normally find on a tablet, paired with the practicality of a touchpad or mouse nib and, more often than not, a full-sized keyboard. Some convertibles can cost as much as an ultrabook, though, so make sure you do a tit-for-tat comparison between the specs. Also be mindful of which version of Windows your convertible comes pre-loaded with.
Good, old-fashioned laptops still exist in the Windows 8 range. Unmatched, unbeaten, unequivocal power is the promise of a high-end Windows 8 laptop. We're talking desktop replacement territory here. Because these are essentially desktop replacement machines, you'll save money buying one because you don't have to buy both a laptop and workstation. These devices look incredible because they're built as machines you can roll to a LAN or keep in your office. But they're not without drawbacks—when running high-end hardware in a tiny device, two things tend to happen: excess heat and loss of battery life. When are laptops preferred over ultrabooks? Gamers, movie fanatics can answer you that. Most 1080p movies and high-end games require Intel Core i7 and upgradable hardware. That's a step closer to a desktop workstation, though its portable to take anywhere with a limited battery life.
"Ultrabook" is a fancy marketing buzzword created by Intel that means your PC has to meet certain criteria that makes it an ultraportable version of a conventional laptop. Specifically, the criteria state a device must have between five and nine hours of battery life and a power-up time (from hibernation) of under 7 seconds, all while fitting into a specific height weight and processing speed threshold to be considered an ultrabook. These devices are also surprisingly pocket-friendly—because ultrabooks are so thin and light, they're nearly as portable and bag-friendly as convertibles. An ultrabook is good as an everyday work or study machine and minces your productivity tasks. But it's still not cut out for playing the higher-end games you might want to indulge in. Only a handful of ultrabooks currently have touch-enabled panels, so be careful. Without touch, you miss out on a few features of the Windows 8 experience.
Workstations (Tower, Small-Form Factor and All-in-One)
The term "desktop" has expanded into three different workstation factors. First is the Tower, with dedicated cooling and upgradable features. Secondly, the Small Form Factor (SFF) takes the small form of a workstation. The third, the All-in-One workstation, comes with touchscreen features along with a wireless keyboard and mouse. There is not much to say about Tower workstations. With upgradable features including HDD and RAM, a processor, multi-USB inputs, and DVD/Blu-Ray inputs upgradable to two or more, the Tower stands as the mega workstation that would be ideal for those looking for a powerful machine that lends itself well to routine upgrades. The small form-factor (SFF) is about 30 percent smaller than competitive Tower offerings, making it easier to use in less spacious areas. When it comes to the All-in-One, the most important aspect of its usage is the screen. With a screen ranging from 16 to 27 inches, you can enjoy movies, TV shows or even games through the TV-like workstation.