Recs for tablet/netbook that's portable, good for writing & games making
July 6, 2017 5:00 AM   Subscribe

I've got some extra money coming in and I'm thinking of getting a small tablet or netbook (circa 10 inch) that I can bring on the go to work on writing and possibly games making (& playing on occasion). I already have a Macbook Pro but am interested in something with Windows because some of the software I'm interested in is Windows-only. My budget is around $500, in Australia.

I have a 13-inch MBP which is fine on its own, but can be a bit bulky to bring with me. I mainly want something that I can bring with me in my usual bag (which can accomodate around 10 inches), whip out at a cafe or library or friends' house, and work on some writing (I do a lot of writing/media work). I primarily use Google Docs though often have to deal with people sending me Office files; I wouldn't mind using MS Office.

I'm considering Windows systems because I'm exploring the world of games development and a lot of software (as well as a few games I'm interested in) out there are Windows-only. I've found some Surface 3s and Surface Pro 3s for sale second-hand within my price range; would they be able to run games from Steam or any sort of Windows software (e.g. Construct 2)?

I used to be a bigger Android fangirl but got frustrated at the lack of apps I could find useful, though it has been a while. I am familiar with Ubuntu but again I'd like more flexibility in the kind of things

I am not always near anything with reliable Internet connections (I travel a lot) so I wouldn't want something that relied on online access to function. If I could use it on a plane that'd be awesome.

Other potential uses:

* I probably wouldn't be doing resource-intensive visual/audio/video editing work on it, but the ability to edit a small image for upload or mess around with Audacity would be good

* I have a Kindle Paperwhite for my reading but it'd be good if I could read comic books or other books where colour is important

* Keyboard is very important (doesn't have to be bundled with the main device); stylus is less so

* The ability to record audio/video/photos is optional but a bonus

* I watch a lot of YouTube (and Steven Universe) and listen to a fair bit of Spotify, Soundcloud, and some podcasts. I'll probably be using the MacBook as my main media watching device

I've liked Acer and Asus in the past, Acers in particular have always been pretty hardy. HP laptops have died on me spectacularly so I am not very impressed. Chromebooks seem like they'd limit me in terms of apps (esp for stuff like game dev or media dev). As I mentioned I have a MBP and also an iPhone but I'd like to get out of the Apple ecosystem for a bit just so again I have access to a wider range of apps. I don't mind second-hand, that might be the main way I get this anyway.

posted by divabat to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A few thoughts:

I find the compromises necessary to fit a keyboard into a 10 inch form factor bad enough that they make serious typing (especially something like coding) difficult and error prone. If you know someone with a 10 inch device, you might borrow it and see if you have the same problems.

The Surface 3 has an Atom processor, which is OK for web browsing and light tasks, but will be limited in its ability to play games or do anything CPU intensive. The Surface 3 Pro has an i series chip, which will be substantially faster, but is still low power and using the onboard GPU, so it's not going to play high end games. Either would run Construct, but you'd be much happier with the Pro and it's still not going to be fast in your price range.

The Kindle app for Windows 10 is not as good as the one for iOS and Android. I don't remember exactly what I hated about it, just that I found it frustrating in ways the others were not. It's definitely clunky in its layout with 16:9 tablets in a way that things like the iPad are not.
posted by Candleman at 9:01 AM on July 6, 2017

I'd look at the 11" or 12" size, just because, as Candleman mentioned, keyboards on 10" devices are pretty compromised. On a quick look, the Surface Pro 3, Acer Switch Alpha 12, Huawei Matebook, Asus Transformer Book Chi.

The Surface Pro 3 with the Surface Pro 4's keyboard is a really good, portable device. I don't think you'd be able to do any high resolution gaming on any of these devices. They have about as much GPU power as your Mac, and maybe less.

Stay away from the following, which are all woefully underpowered.
* Anything with Atom in the name
* Anything with a "Z" like Z8700
* Anything with an "N" N3050.
Do buy a Core i3, i5, i7 or a Core M. The Core "i" series are faster CPUs.

I would stay away from off-brand devices. They can be a great value, or a buggy piece of junk.
posted by cnc at 9:28 AM on July 6, 2017

11" and 12" aren't really going to work sizewise; I've dealt with small keyboards before so that's no issue.

I'm also not looking at high end games per se (though if it's able to run The Sims that would be awesome but again that's a pipe dream thing).
posted by divabat at 4:11 PM on July 6, 2017

Take it with a grain of salt, as I believe they're just referencing the game company's state minimums, which might be optimistic, but you can use this site to see what CPUs will meet minimum requirements.

If I were buying a 10" Windows tablet, personally I'd be looking at something made by either Asus or Microsoft. They both have a lot of experience in that form factor at this point and I've either had good luck with them or know people that have.

If you want something small and lightweight and have good enough eyes to get away with it, you might also consider something in the 7-8 inch range instead and a Bluetooth keyboard. Having owned a lot of tablets ranging from 7 to 10 inches (as well as an assortment of slightly larger netbooks and Chromebooks), it's the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini that have been my most constant companions for casual travel, just because they are so much smaller than the 10 inch ones (which I like for using around the house).
posted by Candleman at 7:57 PM on July 6, 2017

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