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June 1, 2012 9:41 AM   Subscribe

My laptop is dying. I don't use it for much, and am wondering if a tablet would be an okay replacement. If so, which one?

I have a $600 Dell Inspiron laptop purchased three and a half years ago. The battery died at least a year ago so it has to be plugged in at all times (I know I could have just bought another battery, but, well, I didn't). Now it seems to be dying a slow death for a variety of other reasons. I use it primarily for syncing my iPhone to iTunes and hooking it up to our TV via an HDMI cable for watching shows on iTunes and Hulu's website (free - not Hulu Plus). And some web browsing. I also use it for Microsoft Money, but I can move that stuff to a desktop in another room if I have to.

I understand that the iPad does not support Flash, which I believe is what Hulu uses, so that seems to be out. I really, really do not want to pay Time Warner for cable service, so I need to be able to watch those Hulu shows on my TV. Is there a high quality tablet out there that can handle flash video sites and also has an HDMI output? Or do I need to invest in another cheapy laptop?
posted by something something to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is no tablet that can watch free Hulu. Also there is no tablet that can sync photos to your iPhone.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:45 AM on June 1, 2012

If you pay for Hulu, you can watch it on the iPad using their app. It's $7.99 a month, well below what you'd pay for cable service.
posted by k8lin at 9:58 AM on June 1, 2012

Response by poster: Right, but for whatever reason, a lot of the shows that are available free on Hulu's website are not available on Hulu Plus.

Sigh. I need the new media revolution to hurry up, already.
posted by something something at 10:04 AM on June 1, 2012

Can you wait for a Windows 8 tablet? They are baking Flash support into the Metro IE 10. You will have to wait to see how Hulu treats Windows tablets though - as computer? or as a mobile device, in which case they will likely block you and force you to install their app (and pay for Plus).
posted by misterbrandt at 10:13 AM on June 1, 2012

There are a number of Android tablets with (mini-)HDMI outputs, and all of them support Flash through Google Play/Android Market. They'll generally be the same cost as your laptop was when it was new (some will be more expensive, some less). Some of them, notably the Asus Transformer family of tablets, will sell you a docking station that doubles as a keyboard/trackpad and additional battery life, essentially giving you a laptop with touchscreen capability, which could be useful once people port Windows 8 (which is designed around touch interfaces) to them. Of course, one of the double-sided coins to Android devices is that there's always a newer and better one coming out anywhere from 1 to 3 months later--the link above probably already has outdated prices--as opposed to the 9-12 month schedule Apple likes. In other words, once you find one you like, you're better off buying it rather than waiting for the next best thing or else you'll find yourself in an endless loop. That being said, at this stage the new Android is very likely to be unveiled at Google's official mobile tech conference (Google I/O) in late June/early July, so it's close to a wash as to whether go with what's out now, or wait a couple of months until after and the shinier stuff comes out and drops the prices a bit.

The other option is to just go with a netbook or other low-cost laptop, which are actually not that bad these days, and stick with what you're familiar with. It's probably better to stick with an established brand like Acer or Samsung, and for simple HD streaming and the occasional bit of productivity software you'd be good to go.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:20 AM on June 1, 2012

Also there is no tablet that can sync photos to your iPhone.

Incorrect. An iPad with Photostream enabled will automagically sync photos to your iPhone. You can get photos on and off with a camera connection kit (~$30), which lets you read SD cards on your iPad. To get iPad video to a TV, an AppleTV is the simplest option ($99). It will stream anything you can see on your iPad to a TV wirelessly.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:36 AM on June 1, 2012

How big a factor is portability to you?

I was in the same situation recently...the laptop I had had for 4+ years was dying (slow death--started with the battery, then the CD/DVD drive crapped out, then the fan bit the dust, then it started intermittently crashing, then it was painfully slow, etc. It still works, but it's not great. Can't use the thing unless it's plugged into the wall.

I really only use my home computer for tv/movies, internet browsing, games (though none since the CD drive died), and the occasional times when I need to use word or excel. I used to be a lot more reliant on its ability to move around, but now that I have an iPhone, it's not a big deal.

So I got a basic Dell desktop and an HDTV as a monitor. So far I've been thrilled. It came out to about the same total price as what I spent on my last laptop when I got it (and sounds like you've already got a TV, so you're halfway there!), has much fancier specs, and is WAY better for watching Hulu and movies, especially when there are other people over. The only downside is that it doesn't move, but so far that hasn't been an issue.

Unless you really need the portability of a tablet/laptop, this is what I'd suggest.
posted by phunniemee at 10:44 AM on June 1, 2012

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