So I’m looking at buying one of the fancy Surface-esque tablets as my next laptop, and was wondering if anyone has experience in the transition to that sort of a system. My primary concern is that I might not use the tablet/pen form factor near as much as I think I would. I’m in school, so typical use will likely be mostly web/notes/papers/Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign, with the occasional bout of CAD/Revit/Rhino/Sketchup when I don’t have access to either of my desktops.
Right now the Thinkpad X1 Tablet is at the top of my list, as it ticks nearly every single one of my boxes for a tablet. I do wish it had a USB-A port somewhere, but Thunderbolt and USB PD are both ‘must-haves’ for me since I tend to keep laptops for quite some time.
Given Lenovo’s apparent inability to launch that device in a timely maner though (was supposed to launch in January), I’m also looking at waiting for this year’s refresh of the Elite x2 and Surface Pro, although I doubt the later will see a Thunderbolt port.
My only problem with Thinkpads is that awful “pointing stick” (aka the “nipple mouse”) in the middle of the keyboard. I have aboslutely no idea why a 2018-era tablet needs an 80s-era solution to the problem of an old-fashioned clicky mouse being too far away from your keyboard… There’s a built-in trackpad right below it!
IMO the added connectivity (thunderbolt, etc) doesn’t actually make it that future-proof, since most things are becoming wireless and cloud-enabled anyway. But if you have a specific use case in mind, sure, it’s good to be aware of what you can/can’t do with the ports. (For instance, I think the Surface only has USB3-A and mini-DisplayPort.)
The reason I want Thunderbolt is it literally does everything. Video out, charging, flash drives, docks, and external graphics cards. One cable to plug in and you have all of the above. Of course this doesn’t preclude having bluetooth and wifi and all, but with WiGig officially having been killed I don’t see wireless taking over anytime soon.
As for the trackpoint, it’s something that Thinkpad users swear by. I have one, and honestly it’s better than a trackpad in a lot of ways. Unfortunately my laptop is from the 1 model year where they didn’t have dedicated buttons for the trackpoint, instead opting to have defined areas on the trackpad instead. Let’s just say the outcry was brutal and they refreshed all of their models halfway through the year to add the buttons back.
I’m also partial to Thinkpads just because of the incredible abuse my laptop has held up to.
I got a refurbished Surface Pro 4 a year back and I really like it. From my experience, I used the pen for about a week before I stopped caring. In hindsight, I wish I’d considered something with more power, but the portability is nice. 9 times out of 10 I found myself just using it as a laptop. Kickstand is really nice though. One thing to watch out for is the screen. A teacher of mine slightly cracked his and it went apeshit sending random mouse clicks all over the screen.
I don’t have much to contribute here because I haven’t done any research on the latest models, but I do have a Surface Pro 1 from almost 5 years ago. My primary laptop is a much older Dell Latitude which is not very portable, so my Surface has been my buddy on airplanes, buses, classes, and so forth. And I love it. Battery lasts for hours and hours, runs fast on Windows 10, pretty much does everything I need it to. Back when I used to take real classes I would use the pen to sketch pictures and diagrams in the old desktop version of MS OneNote, and that feature worked surprisingly well.
That said I know you have vastly different tech needs than me. Since it’s my auxiliary lappy, I just sync DropBox and don’t use much space (barely filled the 256GB it came with). It runs NetMission stuff just fine, but that doesn’t say much. I’m sure the newer Surface models have much improved hardware over mine.
The only thing I’ll add is that the main reason I don’t carry my other laptop around is because I always have a bunch of stuff hooked up to it which is a pain to undo and redo every time I relocate. If you’re getting a tablet, just a fair warning that you’ll probably have to end up deciding between portability (the defining characteristic of a tablet) and hooking things in.
This is what I’m worried about. On my current system (first gen Yoga) I rarely use the pen because it’s both awful and the device is incredibly unwieldy as a tablet. If the X1 Tablet pen isn’t used then I might as well pick up the X1 Carbon (an actual laptop) instead, and get better battery life plus more connectivity. The biggest negatives are the 16:9 screen (X1 Tablet is 3:2) and lack of any sort of touch/pen/tablet mode (I might not use it often, but when I do it’s really nice to have).
This is the feature set I look forward to most. Sketching is super important in Architecture for obvious reasons, and being able to do that while note-taking on it would be fantastic. Battery life will be much worse than yours (because beefy specs), but they’re claiming 9 hours, so if it gets 6 in the real world that would be double my current laptop.
As long as I can run P2D.
No, this has beefed up considerably over time - will likely grab a 4-core i7 in mine, which means it will be neck-in-neck with the performance of most fast laptops these days. Combine that with external GPUs via Thunderbolt and it would be a fairly capable machine.
Thus the magic of Thunderbolt. I can plug in a single cable, and suddenly my external GPU/HDD is hooked up, my tablet is charging, I have Ethernet, my mouse/kb are hooked up, it’s powering my external monitor, and any number of other things.
One cable. We live in the future.
Edit: Oh hey, look at that. Shortly after I made this post the tablet went on sale. $2500 if I want an i7. Damn that’s steep, but in the same ballpark as a similarly spec’d X1 Carbon, or even the brick that is the T480, which is surprising. I guess I just hadn’t realized how expensive premium laptops have become. I’ll definitely be waiting for a sale and the launch of the revised competition.