In the market for a new device? Should it be a desktop PC, laptop PC, Mac device, Windows unit, Chromebook, tablet computer, 2-in-1 laptop-tablet combo, smartphone, smartwatch, or TV? Choices, choices, choices.
As usual, much here depends on you, specifically how you’ll be using the device, what your past experience is, and how much you’re willing to spend. But here’s what others are doing.
A survey last year by the market consulting firm Deloitte asked consumers which devices they prefer using for specific activities.
For reading the news, conducting online research, doing online shopping, checking bank balances, watching short videos, and making video calls, most prefer a laptop. For checking social networking sites, playing games, recording videos, taking photos, and doing voice calls over the Internet, most prefer a smartphone. For watching live TV and streaming movies and TV shows, most prefer a TV.
Conspicuously out of favor are desktop PCs and tablets. Of these five types of devices, desktops are favored only by males for playing games and by men and women age 55 or older for checking bank balances. In this survey tablets are favored for particular activities by nobody.
Desktop PCs still have their benefits, and they still have a sizable market. Their greater speed and capacity make them better suited for video editing, computer-aided design, and high-end gaming. Their larger size for many makes them easier to type on and easier to view with.
People using desktops are generally less prone to neck and back strain from slumping over a smaller machine. For the same computing power, desktops cost less than laptops. On the other hand, desktop PCs are big, bulky, and stationary.
Tablets have their benefits as well. If you need to work while truly on the move, while walking around an office, store, or factory, tablets are more convenient than laptops and with their larger screens can be easier to work with than smartphones.
Tablets are also easier to set up and use than a PC or Mac laptop, their battery life is longer, and they cost less. On the other hand, with smartphone screens getting larger there’s less benefit from switching from a smartphone to a tablet these days. This is the key reason they’ve declined in popularity since their heyday in the years after the launch of Apple’s iPad in 2010.
The Apple iPad Pro remains a well regarded if pricey tablet. At the other extreme, the Amazon Fire Tablet is an under $100 purchase that can be a good choice if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber.
Further, with the increasing popularity of 2-in-1 laptop-tablet combos, you can have the portability of a tablet when you need it and the superior typing of a laptop when you need that. The combo devices, however, cost more than tablets. Well-regarded high-end 2-in-1s include the Microsoft Surface Pro.
Chromebooks, which are sold primarily by Google and its partners such as Samsung and Acer, are inexpensive laptops designed for computing while connected to the Internet, the cloud. They run not Windows or the Mac operating system but a version of Linux called Chrome OS. They’re used most heavily in schools. You can’t use whatever program you want, but they now have available Google Apps and others that can run while you’re offline.
One main distinction that remains among varying computing devices is whether you intend to use them primarily for production or consumption. You still can’t beat a desktop or laptop computer in writing papers for work or school, creating presentations, working numbers in spreadsheets, editing photos and videos, or designing websites.
Smartphones and tablets are more convenient for exchanging brief emails, posting short messages to social networks, surfing the web, watching a movie, listening to music, or reading a book. The ultimate consumption device remains a television, with most TVs these days having WiFi connectivity for optionally streaming TV shows and movies.
Even more devices are out there. Dedicated ebook readers such as the Amazon Kindle retain advantages in terms of readability and battery life if you read a lot of books on a computerized device. Game consoles such as Microsoft’s Xbox remain the top of the line for dedicated gamers, and they can stream TV shows and movies as well.
Portable media players such as Apple’s iPod are still out there, but with the versatility of smartphones these days their market has greatly diminished. Despite the splash surrounding the release of the Apple Watch in 2015, smartwatches have little market presence because of their limited utility.