They said Android is limited. Impractical to use on a larger than 10-inch screen. Worthless with physical keyboards, and utterly inoperable on “full-on” computing machines. They scoffed at the idea of mainstream Android laptops, which was filed under megalomaniac fantasies from overly imaginative, reality-disconnected nerds.
Well, we showed them. And by we, I mean a handful of visionaries that left no obstacle get in the way of unlocking Android’s true potential. Sure, Google’s “mobile” OS is still light-years away from becoming a Windows challenger in the PC décor.
But the first steps have been made, and most often than not, what comes next is far easier. One thing leads to another, and boom, before we know it, we’ll start viewing Android smartphones as abnormalities.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, and stay in the present. A present where Android aficionados have a bundle of hybrids, crossbreeds, convertible devices, full-fledged laptops and PCs to choose from.
Here are a few of the top options, arranged in no particular order as comparing them wouldn’t really be fair. They’re each different and unique, and they’ll all contribute to a better, more diverse tech tomorrow:
HP Slatebook 14 – available at $430 on Amazon
The freshest of our magnificent seven, HP’s Slatebook 14, finally began shipping earlier this week after months of making the rumor rounds and slowly building hype. The first full-fledged, non-convertible Android laptop in history isn’t half bad in terms of processing power and battery life, but suffers in the RAM and storage departments.
With an estimated 9 hours of continuous juice on a single charge, the Slatebook can outlast most Windows 8 rivals around, however the 16 GB SSD is minuscule. Ditto for the 2 GB RAM. Thank God for Full HD screen resolution, touch technology and Tegra 4 oomph, although we must say, we’re disappointed to see gadgets, especially pioneering ones, debuting with pre-loaded Jelly Bean in August 2014.
Asus Transformer Pad series – starting at $196.50 on Amazon
Look, we appreciate HP’s courage and its healthy marketing push for what’s ultimately an extremely nichey product, but the Slatebook 14 could have never happened were it not for Transformer Pads. These neat tablet/mini-laptop mongrels planted the seed in the minds of everyday Android buyers and manufacturers that maybe, just maybe, you can incorporate the best of both worlds into one versatile device.
Several years after the inauguration of the Transformer Pad line, the hybrids are doing better than ever and cater to the needs of more users than ever, covering multiple price points and ranges. The cheapest TF Pad is $196.50 (the entry-level 2012 TF700T without a keyboard docking station), whereas the costliest is $534.99 (the 32 GB TF701T-B1 bundle).
In between, you have a $289 TF103C-A1 tablet/keyboard bundle, and a $310 TF300T-B2 slate-only option. Meanwhile, docks can be had at $85 (in red), $100 (white/champagne), and $120 (blue), for the TF300T family, or $140, for the TF701T.
Asus PadFones – as low as $0.00 with AT&T contracts
Android’s versatility isn’t striking only when talking tablet/laptop hybrids, and smartphone/tablet transformer devices may actually be more impressive and handy for present-day tech consumers. Besides, the possibilities of the PadFone line are limitless, as first-gen gizmos proved back in the day.
Before the laptop part of the ensemble makes a comeback, the most intriguing PadFone around is the X, comprised of a 5-inch Full HD handheld and 9-inch FHD tablet. It’s not the punchiest PadFone ever, but it’s one of the most affordable, going for nada with AT&T pacts and $599.99 outright.
Alternatively, you can score the lower-end PadFone mini combo at $543 free of any contractual obligations, or $729 the Padfone Infinity 2 phone only, which you can then bundle with a $79 station dock. Yeah, no, the PadFone X is still the best option.
I have a dream. That one day, Lenovo, probably the all-around heavyweight Windows convertible champion, will deem the Android market as important and alluring and bring all of Yoga’s magic over to the Google camp.
Some of it is already here, courtesy of this 8-inch/10-inch pair, but fancy advertising talk aside, the “multimode” tablets are only that: tablets. The built-in kickstand is neat and all, but it’s no detachable keyboard. That said, if you want to buy an Android Yoga, don’t be chintzy, get the $350 model. It’s got a breathtaking Full HD display, beefy quad-core Qualcomm chip, and, yes, 18-hour battery life.
And if you care to spend a little extra to turn it into a laptop, $44 buys you a nice, spacious, light Bluetooth keyboard cover.
HP Slate 21 all-in-one – $349
As much as I love Android (and I do, to death), I must admit, it’s pretty pointless on a gigantic AiO. Unless you keep this baby around as a backup computer. Or you don’t do much on it. Of course, there’s always the option of rocking it as a tablet, but that’s even stupider crazier.
So why am I “recommending” the Slate 21 in the first place? That’s the thing, I’m not. I’m just signaling it exists, and hoping Android can evolve up to the point it can do all the things Windows 8 can on a 15, 17, 21-inch touchscreen. Fingers crossed.
Asus Transformer Book Trio – $965
In a way, all gadgets on this list are, or started out, as experiments. But the Transformer Book Trio has that experimental vibe written all over it. Google officials themselves are skeptical about the whole Windows/Android dual-booting concept, so I can’t see it going anywhere in the future. Near or distant.
But hey, in case you want to own something that people will believe was never possible in ten years, the Transformer Book Trio is not that expensive. Not for a device that pulls triple duty, as an 11.6-inch Android tablet, Android laptop and Windows laptop. With Intel Core i5 heat, 4 GB RAM (in laptop mode), and Full HD screen resolution.
HP Slatebook 10 x2 – $370
Basically an Asus Transformer Pad clone, the Slatebook 10 x2 (such an uninspired name, by the way) somehow refines and polishes the 2-in-1 concept, looking much better and feeling much natural when used as a 10-inch mini-laptop.
The keyboard is beautiful, state-of-the-art, productive and functional, and it can attach and detach to the tablet body at the flick of a switch. Under the hood, you also get plenty for the sub-$400 price point, a Tegra 4 chip and 2 GB RAM included, and the display is Full HD. The Achilles’ heel? Aging Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Come on, HP, step your software support up and fulfil your destiny as Android’s biggest innovator.
- HP Slatebook 14 – available at $430 on Amazon
- Asus Transformer Pad series – starting at $196.50 on Amazon
- Asus PadFones – as low as $0.00 with AT&T contracts
- Lenovo Yoga – $206 in 8-inch flavor; $238 for the standard 10 incher; $350 for the 10 HD+ version
- HP Slate 21 all-in-one – $349
- Asus Transformer Book Trio – $965
- HP Slatebook 10 x2 – $370