The problem with dominating any industry is that something newer and better will inevitably come along to dethrone you. Microsoft’s Windows empire isn’t crumbling, but it’s sure seen better days. The company hoped that Windows 10, the operating system that it introduced last year, would help it modernize the Windows ecosystem and turn things around.
PC sales from this past holiday season don’t show a remarkable resurgence of Windows notebooks coming, but Microsoft seems to have positioned itself for the future. The company is hoping that having one operating system, store and ecosystem across devices will lead to better sales of its own Windows 10 devices and the products of its hardware partners. Windows 10 devices can be anything from notebooks to tablets and phones.
Choosing which Windows 10 device you need in this sea of choices is hard. Different form factors are meant for different things. As technology always does, deciding with device to invest in requires you to have some idea of what you plan to do with it.
Windows 10 Notebooks
Windows 10 devices don’t get more utilitarian at this point than notebooks. For years, manufactures matured their lines of Windows notebooks. Every so often Apple would waltz into the mobile computing market and change the game, bringing us the Ultrabook form-factor or eliminating an unnecessary port. Notebook makers would then follow the company’s lead, introducing Windows versions modeled after the latest Apple innovation.
Lately, Windows notebook makers have gotten a bit more interesting. They’ve stopped trying to go thinner and focused on unique segments of the market. Windows 10 notebooks can be broadly classified into three groups. There’s the ultra-cheap devices aimed at fighting off the Chromebook. There’s the ultra-expensive machines meant specifically for gamers and media professionals. In the middle are well-designed notebooks that aren’t too thick and are made of premium materials.
Windows 10 doesn’t do a lot to revolutionize the notebook form factor, but does bring some advantages. Unlike with Windows 8.1, a Windows 10 notebook has a redesigned and miniaturized Star Screen that looks like the Start Menu of days gone by. All apps run in Windows, unless you want them to be fullscreen. Some machines even feature optical technology and fingerprint readers that let users login with a glance or a thumb.
Windows 10 notebooks are for shoppers that need as much performance as they can muster absolutely anywhere. Of course, this includes gamers. Also, everyday office workers that aren’t fans of notebooks that can become tablets.
On the low-end, the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 is great for $229 without a touchscreen display. The $799 Dell XPS 13 is the Windows Ultrabook gold standard. For high-end media makers and gamers, the Lenovo Y Series of notebooks is great. The $799 Lenovo Ideapad Y 700 is terrific, though heavy. Stay on the lookout for Intel’s new 6th Generation Core Processors. They produce way less heat than their predecessors.
Windows 10 Tablets
Microsoft pioneered tablets. The company and its partners then proceeded to blow their own advantage by not improving and innovating on the devices they created in any meaningful way until Apple introduced the iPad.
Some have said that Microsoft’s latest operating system makes Windows tablets more difficult to use than they were with Windows 8. I’d say that they’re wrong. The cohesive Windows Store makes it easy to buy music and video – two primary uses for any kind of media tablet. What’s more, there are on-screen ways of switching between apps, and using Microsoft’s personal assistant, Cortana. Most notably, Windows 10 tablets can morph into PCs in a moment’s notice since they all use Intel processors that’ll run apps from the web.
Only people who stick to entertainment should purchase Windows 10 tablets. If you’re going to be reading, taking notes, listening to music, or watching video a Windows 10 tablet is great.
The $329 HP Envy 8 Note Touch is a terrific Windows 10 tablet.
Windows 10 Desktops
Desktops are the oldest form-factor still available. Some would say that they’re least exciting of all Windows 10 devices because of how mature they are.
The benefits of purchasing a desktop with Windows 10 is the same as notebooks. The software makes them infinitely easier to use and understand than anything running Windows 8.1. Design wise, things have changed to reflect our growing taste in all thing small.
Towers are still around, but the new breakout form-factor for desktops are tiny unassuming bricks that fit on your desk instead of the floor. All-in-one PCs with built-in displays, speakers and cameras are growing in numbers too.
Desktops are for people who need the most power their money can buy and don’t mind not being able to take that power anyone but around their home. They’re also for people who have a tablet or other mobile device, but need something at home to connecting everything too.
The positively tiny Dell Inspiron i3050 fits in your hand and costs $169. It comfortably falls into low-end, basic PC territory. The HP Pavilion 23 all-in-one offers decent processing power in a thin and well designed package. It’s costs $799 from the Microsoft Store.
Windows 10 2-in-1s
The newest, most interesting Windows form-factor is the 2-in-1. For starters, it seems to be the only category that Microsoft managed to pioneer and bring to fruition. Even Apple stands accused of taking inspiration for the iPad Pro from Windows 2-in-1s.
The 2-in-1 can either be a notebook that morphs into a tablet through a hinge or a tablet that becomes a notebook with a keyboard attachment or dock. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is probably the most recognizable Windows 10 2-in-1 there is. There’s also the Surface Book and Surface 3 to consider.
If you’re not a fan of tablets with add-on keyboards, look into a notebook that doubles as a tablet. In that field, the Lenovo Yoga series of devices are unmatched. The Lenovo Yoga 900 is $1,199, but definitely worth it. HP has an often mentioned Surface Pro 4 rival in the $799 HP Envy Spectre X2. The Spectre X2 comes with built-in support for Verizon’s mobile data network and USB 3.0 Type-C, something the Surface Pro 4 lacks.
The more tablet like 2-in-1s don’t offer stellar battery life or processing power. What they do offer is a potent mix of portability and options for transformation. They’re the device you get if you want something to play media and aid at school or work.
Remember to shop around and weigh your options before committing to any Windows 10 device. Good luck choosing the one that’s right for your needs.