Laptops, desktops and tablets are converging—sometimes colliding—into the single user interface of Windows 8. They’re often marketed as ultra-portables. What is the best choice for you?
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Operating System. The vast majority of advisors use Microsoft today and you don’t need to change at this point. With Windows 8, a new generation of hardware choices has emerged that, at long last, has responded to Apple and Google.
Ultra-Portables For Financial Advisors.
If you have not bought a new computer in two years or more, the hot new category of computers—the ultra-portable—is a good choice for many advisors. These devices can pack the processing power and RAM of your current laptop but weigh much less and give you touchscreen-interface. Some ultra-portables
, like Microsoft Surface Pro, and the soon-to-be-released Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
, are laptop and tablets in one.
Are You A One-Device Person? Some people love having one device, while others do not. Logically, having one device should be your goal. The cloud makes your practice more portable, and using a single device for email, practice management and financial advice applications as well spreadsheets, word processing, and research is convenient and saves time. A two-core laptop-tablet is probably not for you if you create documents, files and other content more than 80% of your working day—working in spreadsheets, manipulating pictures, creating publications or editing videos. You will likely be happier with a processor with at least four cores. You’re probably not a one-device kind of person because two-core processors are all that’s available right now in ultraportables. Consider buying a desktop. Your computer is way too important for you not to have the power of a desktop.
Should You Wait Six Months?
Tablets with desktop power are improving fast. The Lenovo Helix—set to be released in mid-May 2013 with a Intel® Core™ i7-3667U processor
with two cores and a maximum clock speed of 3.2GHz—is the top of the ultraportable heap this month in tablet-PCs. Late this year, a new generation of quad-core processors for tablet/PCs is expected. With the processing power on those devices, an advisor can run complex spreadsheets, most desktop performance reporting apps, and edit videos using an app like Camtasia Studio
. The Helix should be able to meet the processor power needed by most hands-on financial planners, but wait for my review of it in a few weeks. I’m buying a Helix and will let you know. If you are among the 20% of advisors who use their computers creating content most of the time, you should be able to move to a single device at the end of 2013.
What About Surface Pro?
I was really looking forward to the release of the Microsoft Surface Pro (see my review)
, but I used it for about three months and find it too small as a laptop. If you’re not sitting at a desk and hooked up to an external monitor, it’s tough to read it and a little heavy to hold as a tablet. The Surface Pro might be the right computer for many advisors. You can buy it with up to an Intel Core i5-3317U processor
with a top speed of 2.6 GHz. While less powerful than the Helix, it’s got enough power for many advisors to make it their only computer. Personally, I’m a content creator. I need a computer that lets me type and take notes whether I’m on a big chair, sofa, bed, or a park bench. The Surface Pro screen is too small for me to read and manipulate content on when I’m using it as a laptop. If you hook it up to a monitor, it’s probably fine. As a tablet, Surface Pro’s display is gorgeous and the touch interface is transformative for Windows users. But Surface Pro is a little too heavy in the hand as a tablet. It might be the right computer for a lot of advisors, but for a reporter who takes notes and writes in airports, the Surface Pro 10.6-inch display is too small. I’m looking at a 11.6” tablet-PC now and may ultimately wind up with a 12.5-inch.