Tablets that are designed with docking keyboards and better known as 2-in-1 tablets have long been touted as an ideal compromise between the portability of a tablet and the productivity of a keyboard device.
However, the cost of most of the options available in the South African market is often higher than that of a reasonable laptop.
For example, a 15.6-inch HP Celeron notebook with a 500GB hard drive and Windows 10, can be had for as little as R4999. An Asus 2-in-1 Transformer Book with 11.6-inch screen costs more than R6000. Granted, it comes with the versatility of a detachable tablet that can also be flipped round on the keyboard to become an effective display or presentation device.
The tablet portion can be used to continue working in settings that are often too cramped for a fold-up notebook – ranging from buses and taxis to economy class seats on aircraft. Laptops come into their own when the trackpad and keyboard are essential for productivity applications like Word and Excel.
The challenge is to get the best of both worlds at a down-to-earth price. Now, solutions are beginning to emerge.
A local company called Inclusive Solutions has become South African distributor of a new range of low-cost 2-in-1 laptops under the Venturer brand. It is offering a basic 10.1-inch model called the BravoWin, but it is more likely to make inroads with the EliteWin 11K, an 11.6-inch device retailing at under R4 000.
Aside from the regular laptop mode, as the 2-in-1 format implies, it can also be used in tablet mode and display mode – with the tablet section reversed on the keyboard dock. It also offers a presentation mode similar to that of Lenovo’s Yoga devices, in the shape of an open laptop overturned and resting on the edges of the keyboard and tablet.
A multi-touch capacitive touch screen means the tablet screen is fairly responsive. Along with an Intel Atom 1.44GHz processor and 4GB RAM, the system is not too shabby either.
The one drawback is storage space, which comes in at a stingy 32GB. Once the operating system and basic apps are installed, that doesn’t leave much room for a modest collection of music, photos and movies. In North America and Europe, on-device storage is becoming less of an issue as access to cloud storage becomes cheaply and widely available.
However, Inclusive Solutions has come up with its own local solution, bundling the device with a 64GB micro SD card, making for a total 96GB capacity. That is still not massive but, considering the device also has both USB and micro-USB ports, storage on peripheral devices becomes a viable option. The drives are both positioned on the side of the tablet component, making this one of the few tablets on the market with multi-USB functionality.
A Mini HDMI port for connecting to a TV, 2MP front and rear cameras, 1366 x 768 resolution, and 8 hours battery life round out a set of fairly straightforward features. It is a sturdy unit that will appeal to students and those starting out in the working world.
It’s closest competition is likely to be the 2-in-1 Alcatel Plus 10, with almost identical features but a slightly smaller screen, at 10.6-inches. Launched in South Africa late last year, it also has slightly lower screen resolution, of 1280 x 800.
It’s standout feature is a keyboard that doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 15 users. This all comes with a recommended retail price of R3600, positioning it as another alternative for students and young users.
Both the Venturer and the Alcatel options are ideal for school use when iPads are either too costly or do not meet productivity needs. But there is one more factor that gives these devices an edge at their price: they provide a laptop format with touch-screen capabilities – a feature that would add almost the cost of these devices to any standard laptop.