tablet that can run my old Windows programs, has a full-size USB port.
November 8, 2012 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Tablet-as-word-processor search: I'm looking for a tablet that can run (at least some of) my old Windows programs, and has a full-size USB port.

I'm thinking about getting a tablet, but I'm wondering if one exists that would be able to:
1. run an old Windows program called AutoHotKey that runs constantly in the background and performs realtime macros on what I type (ie changes "t" to "the"), and
2. take my old Fingerworks keyboard, which connects via full-size USB.

Does something like this exist? I don't know anything about mobile/tablet OSs. Someone in a previous thread mentioned that the Acer Iconia Tab A200 was the only one he'd seen that had a full-size USB in, and that might be fine, but it runs Android 4.0 and I don't know if that or any mobile OS can run a program like AutoHotKey.

I'm thinking of this machine as basically just a very lightweight word processor, so screen resolution, processor speed and memory are low priorities, but battery life is still important.

Any advice? Thanks.
posted by skwt to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One of the new windows 8 pro tablets should work. Although there are cheaper RT ones, these probably (at least at present) wouldn't run your older windows programs.
posted by JonB at 8:39 AM on November 8, 2012

Windows RT only runs programs designed for Windows 8, so you definitely want a Pro tablet - one that comes with a keyboard, for preference, because otherwise you'll need to buy one; desktop programs are not designed to play nicely with a touchscreen.

But yeah, those should run anything your desktop computer can.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2012

iOS uses "shortcuts", which basically does exactly what your #1 program does: if I type in omw, it'll expand that to On My Way. As far as I know, Android and Windows 8 RT don't do this.

as far as your full sized keyboard though, you're basically SOL though
posted by Oktober at 8:50 AM on November 8, 2012

Weirdly enough, Fingerworks itself was bought by Apple back in 2005, and its multitouch tech was deeply integrated into the iPad. Go figure.
posted by Oktober at 9:00 AM on November 8, 2012

You can use many USB keyboards with an iPad, using the Camera Connection kit. I don't know if there's something special about your specific keyboard.
posted by neustile at 9:13 AM on November 8, 2012

Oktober: I did not know about iOS shortcuts, that's very interesting. I see I already have that on my iPhone.

I also did not know about connecting USB keyboards to an iPad, neustile.

Those two things plus the fact that I'm already partly in iOS land may point to an iPad, especially since they’re selling refurb 2nd gen for $379.

Anyone know whether this would or wouldn't work or might be a bad idea?
posted by skwt at 9:43 AM on November 8, 2012

Windows 8 gives you a full desktop experience, with full blown MS Office applications and full USB support (USB hub, head phones, keyboards, USB drives, DVD drives, etc). It also supports previous Windows applications. Make sure you guy a Windows 8 pro tablet, not the Windows RT.

It is by far the best tablet OS. I am very impressed by what MS released.
posted by LeanGreen at 9:47 AM on November 8, 2012

Except it's not. The actual Win8 devices that exist in the world right now are pretty uniformly terrible.
posted by Oktober at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2012

I am interested in this debate.
posted by skwt at 9:54 AM on November 8, 2012

Except it is. The Surface is an excellent device -- excellent. When they release the Pro version, it will be beyond awesome.

The nearly full driver support is what pushes W8 over the top. Printers, cameras, usb drives... I haven't had an issue at all with using them on the Surface.

The cover keyboard works exceptionally well.

Per this CNET review:

"Summary: Having had a chance to get a hands on with this today (friend of mine works at MS and has had it for a bit but finally let me check it out) I can say I no longer have any reservations about ordering this.It is amazing, and makes my iPad feel kinda old"

We can agree to disagree, but your facts on what is uniformly terrible isn't factual.
posted by LeanGreen at 9:58 AM on November 8, 2012

But then this article from yesterday says the Surface Pro will start at around $900-$1000. So that's an issue.
posted by skwt at 10:04 AM on November 8, 2012

Samsung, Dell and ASUS are making their own tablets with W8 Pro.

This is Dell's first: Latitude 10 -- $750?

I agree, the price is kind of hefty right now, since it is all brand new. I forgot to mention that it has expandable Flash, so if you bought the cheaper version with 32GB, you can put your own flash in it, right under the kickstand. It also comes with free MS Skydrive (cloud storage), so that saves you flash space too.

It really is IMHO, the only "Tablet-as-word-processor". iPad and Android are mobile devices that can do some processing. W8 is a real OS on a mobile device. My wife no longers uses her Xoom, laptop or other tablets.. she always takes my Surface.
posted by LeanGreen at 10:15 AM on November 8, 2012

The Samsung slate runs Windows 7 and has usb ports... Might be worth investigating.
posted by Speculatist at 10:17 AM on November 8, 2012

That Latitude is interesting. I'm a bit wary of Dell though. I might just have to wait for the prices to come down a bit if I go that route. Anyway thanks LeanGreen you've been real helpful.
posted by skwt at 10:23 AM on November 8, 2012

I'd give more credence to, say, This Surface review from The Verge, which seems emblematic of most that I've read: the Surface is a really nice piece of hardware with a somewhat sub-par screen, iffy performance, and no apps.
posted by Oktober at 10:40 AM on November 8, 2012

We can go back and forth all day, but I own one. I am an Android developer by profession. I have been in the VoIP profession for over a decade. I know hardware and tablets inside and out.

My use cases: I leave my desk, take my Surface RT with me to the meeting or coffee shop. I then use the Remote Desktop app to log into my PC back at my desk and continue to develop in Eclipse, plug in my USB headset and listen to the free xbox music service. Then call into a meeting and I use the MS Office on the RT to take meeting minutes, save it to my Skydrive and then head back to my desk later in the day. I go home, snap some picture of my adorable toddler, plug my T1i into the Surface and import the pictures.. then post to Facebook. It has essentially replaced my laptop.

With that all said, I have no technology religion. I was curious about W8, so I early adopted and I am here to give my opinion to the OP. The Verge is a notorious Apple fanboy site, so I do not give it more credence than say, this review -- which is more in line with what have to say from my personal experience.

It is up to the OP to take in and process it all. I am out!
posted by LeanGreen at 11:11 AM on November 8, 2012

I have a Xoom now, and had an original iPad for a while when I was developing apps for it. There is literally nothing in your list there that I couldn't do with either of those devices. I can remote into my home machine, listen to music (I prefer Spotify) take notes in Pages/Quick Office, use Dropbox/Google Drive, take pictures, etc.

You bought this new thing, and I'm glad you like it, but you've posted in this question like five times already. Relax.
posted by Oktober at 11:47 AM on November 8, 2012

I think the SurfaceRT is the tablet for people who thought they wouldn't be happy with an iPad because it doesn't run their old Microsoft apps, but once they've bought the Surface, realize that they didn't really need them anyway. That's pretty much the case LeanGreen makes. Everything he describes can be done easily on an iPad with a keyboard cover, unless you are committed the exact software and services he describes.

The SurfaceRT is a weird product. The intel-based Surface Pro is less weird, but I suspect that most of the people who "need" a Surface Pro would be better served with a Windows Ultrabook, or a convertible tablet because they'd allow more flexibility for typing positions.
posted by Good Brain at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2012

I personally really liked the Arstechnica review of the Surface.
posted by Admira at 10:52 PM on November 8, 2012

It's also in that ~$1000 range, but I have a Lenovo Yoga that runs Windows 8, and I adore it. It's a full laptop (I have the 13", which runs the full version of Win8, not RT), but it converts into a tablet when I don't want to use the keyboard. It's big for a tablet, so that could be a concern, but it's quite lightweight for a laptop, and the battery life has been really great for me thus far (about 6-8 hours of wifi-enabled use). It runs all of my old Windows 7 programs (which is good, because the App Store is pretty hm.. scarcely-populated right now). I have an iPad from work that I haven't touched since I got the Yoga.

On rereading the OP, one advantage of this particular form factor is that you could set the Yoga up in what they call "presentation mode" (like an upside V) and have your keyboard hooked in, and the laptop keyboard wouldn't be in your way at all. In testing it like that just now, it's really surprisingly stable. I've been very impressed with the flexibility of the thing, and it feels very sturdy too.
posted by ashirys at 8:09 AM on November 9, 2012

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