What’s new in Tablets and Notebooks for 2014

2014 isn’t turning out to be an earth-shattering year for tablets or notebook laptop computers. However, a number of interesting (and sometimes, terrific) new models have been introduced so far this year – and more are on the horizon. Here’s a look at some of them, categorized by manufacturer.

What's new in Tablets and Notebooks for 2014
What’s new in Tablets and Notebooks for 2014

SAMSUNG
Chromebook 2
The Chromebook 2 was released this spring, and in many ways it puts a new spin on machines running the Chrome OS. It’s large for a Chromebook, with a 13.3 inch screen – there are a few bigger ones on the market, but not with the impressive 1920×1080 resolution of the Samsung. It comes in at just over three pounds, a nice weight for everything you get: a 2.1 GHz eight-core processor, 4 gigs of RAM and full HD capability plus nice extras like a 720p webcam that’s certified for Google Hangouts and an AirDroid web app for managing other devices. It looks good as well (although some feel it’s a bit tacky, with fake leather on its edges). The machine is more expensive (listing just under $400) and has a shorter battery life (about eight hours) than most of its Chrome OS competitors, but it’s as close as you’ll find to a true notebook laptop in a Chromebook. (Samsung has also released an 11-inch version that’s cheaper, but it doesn’t have the resolution or extras of its big brother.)

ATIV Book 9
On the laptop front, Samsung has come out with a new version of the ATIV Book 9 for 2014 and it’s a big step forward – with resolution and battery life among the major improvements in this latest model. The 15.6 inch, 1920×1080 display is noticeably brighter than in the past, and provides true HD far superior to the previous ATIV Book 9; it also allows for wide-angle viewing that wasn’t previously possible. As for battery life, this model averages an impressive 14 hours and you won’t find much better. You can store a lot of data with the Book 9 2014 model, with dual SSDs allowing for more than a gig of hard drive storage; it also comes with 8 gigs of RAM. Audio capability has been improved for 2014, with an SPlayer and a Wolfson DAC chip. At just over four pounds and carrying a price tag of anywhere from $1500-$2000, it’s a premium machine for premium performance.

Galaxy Note
Samsung has updated its Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet for 2014, but a new addition to their product line has drawn the most interest. It’s the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, a tablet that almost seems to be a laptop because of its size and price (between $750 and $850 depending on whether you choose the 32 or 64GB model). It should also be noted that only WiFi capability is available right now; an LTE version is due this summer. Size aside, the Note Pro 12.2 outperforms the smaller models, mostly because it includes a better version of Android, is equipped with USB 3.0 and is able to remotely connect to a computer. For 2014 Samsung has improved the viewing experience on all of their Note tablets, switching to a TFT LCD display that’s not as bright as previous editions but shows detail much better on the 2560×1600 screen.

LENOVO
ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The ThinkPad laptop has come a long way since its IBM days, and Lenovo has outdone itself in rebuilding it for 2014. Both the outside and inside have undergone big makeovers this year resulting in a beautiful 14-inch machine with terrific performance. Chief among the improvements to the X1 Carbon is the use of Intel’s newest dual-core processor, the i5-4200U with integrated HD 4400 graphics. Not only does that mean more processing power and a vastly improved display, but longer battery life as well. One disappointment is that a 1600×900 display is standard, but 2560×1440 WQHD is available as an upgrade. On the outside, this machine is much more solid than its predecessors, due to the use of a different carbon polymer in its construction; it feels lighter than in the past, but will hold up to wear a lot better. Two smaller changes worth mentioning is that the 2014 version no longer has trackpad mouse buttons and that the keyboard has only five rows of buttons rather than six. That may take a bit of getting used to, but doesn’t really detract from the performance of this terrific ThinkPad.
N20 and N20p Chromebooks
Lenovo has finally decided to move into the huge consumer chromebook market, with its first models due in the summer of 2014. The N20 and N20p will be very similar; the major differences will be that the N20p will come with a touchscreen, and will be hinged so that it can flex 300 degrees allowing you to tuck the keyboard behind the screen (but not 360 degrees, so you can’t use it in “full tablet” mode). It will be stylish (looking much like an IdeaPad Flex) but apparently won’t break much ground under the hood, with a quad-core Celeron processor, 16 GB/4GB of storage, and an 11.6 inch 1366×768 display. Connectivity should be one of the N20p’s strong points, though, with both 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 in order to make WiFi video conferencing a selling point for this machine. Retail price is expected to be around $329, quite a bang for the buck if this chromebook performs to its promise.

ThinkPad 10 Tablet and Yoga Tablet 10HD+
The Lenovo ThinkPad 10 is due out in early summer and looks like it could be a winner. It’s a solid, yet slim and light 10-inch tablet that runs full Windows applications with a lot of power. It uses a quad-core Intel processor which still allows for a 10-hour battery life, according to Lenovo. Noteworthy in the ThinkPad 10 is an active digitizer, which should provide better “digital writing” performance than the iPad. It will be easy to connect this tablet to a ThinkPad dock with HDMI, USB and Ethernet ports, as well as to an optional keypad, in essence turning a nice tablet into a full notebook laptop. The tablet is expected to launch at $599 (without accessories).
This summer will also see the debut of Lenovo’s new-and-improved Yoga Tablet 10HD+. They’ve taken the positives of the old Yoga tablet, including impressive battery life and a low price, and added a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and doubled the RAM to 2GB. They’ve also bumped the screen resolution up to 1920×1200 (it used to be 1280×800), improved the on-board camera from five to eight megapixels and moved it to the center of the tablet’s screen where it belongs. Despite all of the improvements, the list price should still only be $349, $50 more than the old model – not a bad price for what this tablet should be able to do.

HP
Pavilion x360
Available now but due for a full roll-out later this summer, HP’s Pavilion x360 is primarily aimed at the convertible laptop market, equipped with a hinge that lets you use it as a laptop or tablet-style. However, it’s priced more like a tablet with a price in the $400 range – and in order to be priced so low, it leaves much to be desired in terms of performance. The processor is a dual-core Bay Trail-style Pentium N3520, more suited to a tablet than a notebook laptop; the display is just 720p, lower than most users would expect in a convertible. The Pavilion x360 comes fully equipped in terms of necessities and nice add-ons like WiFi, Bluetooth and Beats audio, and is striking in its appearance. It remains to be seen, though, whether HP can successfully serve the convertible market at a tablet price.

Slatebook 14
Later this year, HP is expected to release an interesting new machine, a 14-inch touchscreen notebook that won’t run Chrome, but Android instead – an odd choice, since most of the world is moving to Chrome for this type of machine, with Android mostly confined to the tablet world (with the exception of a machine from Lenovo). Not a lot is known about the new Slatebook 14 yet, but word is that it will come with a quad-core Tegra processor, 1080p, HDMI output and Beats Audio. It supposedly will also be fully-certified for GMS (Google Mobile Services). There is no target release date or expected price available yet.

HP 7 Plus and HP 8 Tablets
New this spring is HP’s effort to hit the very bottom of the price ladder with an Android tablet: the HP 7 Plus. Performance is certainly not the selling point when it comes to this device; it has a 1 GB quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 2 megapixel (rear) and 0.3 megapixel (front) cameras, a 7-inch 1024×600 display, about four hours of battery life and mono sound. But it’s pretty well built, and it’s certainly the only name-brand tablet you can find on the market for $99.99. It even beats the HP 8, which was also introduced this year at a $170 price point; it also runs on a Chinese quad-core processor with a 1024×768 display just under 8-inches, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of expandable storage, seven hours of battery life and stereo sound. They’re both what they promise to be: cheap Android tablets.

ElitePad 1000 G2 and ProPad 600 G1 Tablets
At the higher end of the HP product line, several updated products are either on the market or on the way for mid-2014. The ElitePad 1000 is a sleek and pleasing 10.1-inch business tablet with Windows 8.1 Pro, running on an Intel Atom Bay Trail 64-bit quad-core processor with some of the best connectivity options available on a tablet. The 1920×1200 screen has been improved and USB 3.0 has been added. It’s priced around $800 with an optional docking station with all the bells and whistles you’d expect. The ProPad 600 G1 is an Atom-powered tablet quite similar to the old ElitePad 900, except it isn’t as pretty and doesn’t have as many accessories. No pricing is available yet.

APPLE
MacBook Air
There are only tweaks – but good ones – to the MacBook Air for 2014, the two major ones being processor and price. All of the newer models are now running on an Intel 1.4GHz dual-core processor, as opposed to the 1.3GHz processor found in 2013 models. Prices have also come down an average of about $100 for all models this year, which is certainly welcome. All other specs, including 4GB of storage and 128GB or 256GB of flash storage, remain the same in 2014.

iPad Air, iPad Pro and iPad Mini
The latest version of the iPad (which was actually released at the tail end of 2013 but still sets the standard for 10-inch tablets) is the iPad Air, and it’s a terrific update for this ubiquitous device. It’s much thinner and lighter, has the Retina screen but with better visibility from a steep angle (along with stereo speakers), and the Apple A7 64GHz chip (used in the iPhone 5s) boosts battery life while improving processing power dramatically, for only around $500 as a starting price. Rumors say a new version of the iPad Air with an A8 chip, 8 megapixel camera and fingerprint scanner, is expected late in 2014. An even larger version of Apple’s tablet, the iPad Pro with screen size of around 13-inches and either 2K or 4K screen resolution, is also rumored to be close to release, possibly in the fall of 2014. There’s rampant speculation about whether there will be a new version of the iPad Mini released sometime this year; several insiders say not to expect it, with the iPad Pro and the new iWatch taking priority in Apple’s development chain.

MICROSOFT
Surface Pro 3
In an attempt to compete with Apple, Microsoft is introducing its Surface Pro 3 in 2014. The device is actually designed to fit the “tablet that can replace a laptop” market, so the best comparison might be to the upcoming iPad Pro; the Surface Pro has a 12-inch, 2160×1440 screen and Intel chips from the ultrabook class, so its display and performance will come closer to that of a MacBook Air than an iPad Air. Its onboard memory and accessories are more like those of comparable laptops than tablets, as is its weight (when keyboard and accessories are included) – and its anticipated price. The Surface Pro 3 is due to market in mid-2014.

Best Business Laptop

Best Business Laptop

. Most notably, stability and reliability are of higher importance since breakage and data loss are the last things that you want to worry about. Additionally, things like battery life, weight, operating system, pricing, and so on are all significant factors as to whether the money you spend is ultimately worth it.
All of the most well-known laptop manufacturers produce some kind of product series that focuses on productivity, whether it’s Dell, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, and so on. Each of them offers a slightly different approach to business computing, but in the end they still run some form of Windows where you can install anything that you desire. The main difference comes in how it performs in real-world tasks as well as how the actual hardware feels as you type on it and take it with you.

Best Business Laptop
Best Business Laptop

Performance and Battery
Something that you don’t want to skimp on when it comes to business computing is a strong processor. The most intense business tasks will likely demand a fair bit of multitasking, which is an area in which modern multi-core processors excel. The bare minimum would be a dual-core processor; this is considered the current baseline of processing power, and offers some decent multitasking. Many of AMD’s processors as well as the Core i3 and i5 from Intel offer at least dual cores. It’s even better if you can afford a laptop with a quad-core processor, which you can often find in higher-end AMD processors as well as Intel’s Core i7.
Beyond processing power, battery life can be paramount especially if you’re away from an electrical outlet for extended periods of time. This is where Intel processors tend to shine starting with their 4th generation Core series (codenamed Haswell). They’ve gone through a lot of engineering effort making their processors more power efficient, and it shows in the form of 5 hour battery life and higher. You’ll find these processors in the newest laptop models, from the latter part of 2013 and beyond. Look for a four-digit number in the processor model that starts with a 4 (e.g. Intel Core i5-4xxx). You’ll really appreciate it when you can last almost the whole day without charging.

Weight and Build Quality
Another important part of finding the best business laptop is getting something that won’t break your arms or back as you carry it around. More and more, work tasks are becoming mobile, allowing employees to work from home or any place that isn’t the office. This is why it’s incredibly important to have a laptop that you can move around at your leisure without feeling like you’re trying to lift weights. That said, if you’re looking for things like a bigger screen and more power, some additional weight may be unavoidable, but generally you want to look for laptops that are around 5 pounds or less. You won’t have to look that far, either, with more and more modern laptops conforming to the Ultrabook specification, making them incredibly thin and light while still having some significant power. The downside of an Ultrabook is the more expensive price due to the smaller electronics and solid state storage.
Still, whether you go for a regular notebook or an Ultrabook, build quality tends to be quite important as well. It may not seem like a big deal, but having a machine that doesn’t feel flimsy or prone to breaking can do wonders for your peace of mind as well as your productivity. Protection from drops are welcome as well; ideally you’d want to avoid dropping a laptop at all costs, but accidents do happen. Poor build quality, however, does not need to happen.

Operating System
The vast majority of laptops sold today have some form of Windows 8, Microsoft’s newest operating system with a focus on touch interfaces. This may be fine for a lot of people, but there may be businesses and workplaces with specialized software that only work on Windows 7, making a Windows 8 machine practically useless. And even if not for compatibility, many people still prefer the user interface in Windows 7.
Thankfully, a lot of the notebook manufacturers out there offer the option of preinstalling Windows 7 on some of their business-oriented product lines. You can usually select this option when you make the purchase. If not, the company may offer a way to downgrade from Windows 8 without any additional cost. In the end, though, it’s up to you and your personal preferences as well as your work requirements.

Price
Since you want to pay for a little bit of processing muscle in a business laptop, it can end up costing $500 and more for something decent. The best business laptop may even cost upwards of $1,000 or so. Obviously price isn’t the sole factor for making a purchasing decision, but as a general guideline you do indeed get what you pay for. If you’re on a budget, it can be a little difficult finding a good business-oriented laptop for less than $500, unless you look on places like eBay or craigslist for used machines.

Extra Features
Business laptops can also offer a few extra features that consumer laptops normally don’t have. For instance, Lenovo offers a premium, high-end ThinkPad that includes a drawing surface with stylus right alongside the standard touchpad, making it ideal for CAD and design work. There are also other laptops that offer things like fingerprint scanners and other advanced features. It’s up to you and/or your business as to whether you actually need these kinds of features, although if you do, it will be a bit more difficult finding a good price since these are pretty specialized features. In such a case it may be worth the time looking for such a laptop on places like eBay. Just as long as you keep in mind everything else mentioned in this article, you should be able to make an informed purchasing decision.