Tablet or laptop? For some of us, the choice is obvious

Yeah, sure, we’ve seen those smart and sexy tablet computers crop up as quick as dandelions across the technology landscape and wondered: Wouldn’t it be cool, neat, sweet — whatever the current lingo — to have one?

After all, they play games, they broadcast movies and TV, they’re great for email and social networking, and the latest ones even shoot and edit video. Steve Jobs, who’s riding the crest of the tablet wave with his Apple’s iPad2, calls these devices symbolic of a new “post-PC” era.

Perhaps he’s right and PCs no longer are PC. But there are a good number among us — word mavens mainly —who aren’t ready to hand over the keys just yet. These touch-type types feel a bond with their qwerty boards that was years in the making and is not adequately replicated by flat-screen keypads. For such folks, the soft click of real keys still makes sweet music.

So, if the time has come for you to make a decision and a laptop still looks like the way to go, consider a few things before buying:

Processor — The brains of any machine typically comes with the name Intel or AMD stamped on it. Of the two, Intel chips are a bit more expensive and current models include, in order of processing power, Core i3, i5 and i7. For word processing, an older Core Duo will suffice.

Memory — Most systems come with 2 gigabytes of RAM standard, although 4 GB is better for anyone who plans on making a lot of video or playing a lot of games.

Disk drive — Systems with 250 GB on a spinning disk, with 320 GB or higher on high-end and gaming computers, are common. However, super-thin systems tend to have solid-state drives derived from flash memory. These drives lack moving parts and thus tend to not crash but for now offer less storage space.

Graphics — The better systems with higher quality image resolution have chips dedicated to graphics that take the strain off main processors. This division of labor is preferred for watching video and gaming.

Connectivity — The USB 2.0 protocol dominates and many systems have four to six ports for it. Also important to have: an HDMI connection for high-definition video. A few of the newest systems include USB 3.0 capability, but not enough peripherals exist to take advantage of it.

Cost — Windows systems continue to lead in affordability, with decent systems available for as little as $300 and mid-range models running up to $800. Macs, on the other hand, start at about $1,000.

Patience — Rumors are floating around that in about a year we’ll see laptops that act more like tablets and tablets that act more like laptops — sporting even recessed keyboards. So maybe better things will come to those who can afford to wait.

David Sheets is a sports editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and, and president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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