Business Technology

Monday 22 January 2018

Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems


Apple iPad 10.5-inch 256GB plus Smart Keyboard (€1,028)
Apple iPad 10.5-inch 256GB plus Smart Keyboard (€1,028)
Fuji Instax Mini 9
Nokia 3310
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Q. My daughter is starting college soon and I want to get her a ­suitable computer. I was going to get a laptop but my sister bought her son a 'pro' tablet and he seems to be happy with it. Which is best?

A It partially depends on your budget. If your chest is under €700, get a laptop (I'd recommend a Lenovo in that price range). If you have over €1,000 to spend, a pro tablet beats laptop equivalents in some ways while lagging in others.

A 'pro' tablet is considered to be something such as Apple's iPad Pro, Samsung's Tab Pro S or Microsoft's Surface Pro. Generally, these cost at least €1,000 (with the keyboard) and they don't come with as much storage as an equivalently-priced laptop.

Apple's iPad Pro is probably the leading model and comes in 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch variations. I've used the 12.9-inch model for a year and it has become my main computer, mainly thanks to its improved multitasking, speed, portability and amazing screen.

If it were me, I'd go for the 256GB version of the new 10.5-inch model (€1,028 including Smart Keyboard). You can save €100 if you choose the 64GB storage version instead, but that's a false economy in my view: 64GB isn't really enough for a modern computer. (It's barely enough for a phone these days.)

The main benefit to a pro tablet is its speed of use and portability. Laptops take longer to start up than tablets and there's more hassle involved in using them on the go. They also usually need their own separate bag, sometimes with room for a charger or other accessories. A tablet can be slipped into any regular bag and it generally charges up using the same adapter as the one for your phone.

Tablets are also much easier to control in awkward positions, such as standing up. This means that things can be looked up on the fly, as students are sometimes forced to do.

One of the other rarely-articulated advantages that tablets have over laptops is linked to a generational change in computing. Anyone entering college now is far more familiar with a mobile computing system than a Windows or PC-based one. That means the iPad or Android interface doesn't appear as a 'lite' solution to an 18-year-old in the same way as it would to a 45-year-old. Don't underestimate this as a factor: kids can whizz through complex tasks (often many at a time) on phones and tablets in a way that their late-adopting parents cannot.

At this point, you might ask: does it have to be a 'pro'? What's the difference between it and a regular tablet? You can actually use a regular tablet, especially with decent keyboard available from the likes of Logitech. However, your tablet won't have the same speed or power. It's also not 'future proofed'. Apple, especially, tends to offer its best new features only for recently-sold gadgets.

Laptops still have some advantages over tablets. Aside from more storage and (sometimes) faster processors, most still support things like USB. This means you can use inexpensive USB storage sticks or even give your phone a quick recharge from your laptop. They're also still considered to be a default option by many businesses and universities. There's probably nothing your daughter will be asked to do in college that can't be handled with one.

Lastly, pro tablets from Microsoft (Surface Pro) and Samsung (Tab Pro S) are really hybrids rather than 'tablets' as they use Windows. To my mind, this lessens their attraction as Windows has fallen way behind in apps availability.

RECOMMENDATION: Apple iPad 10.5-inch 256GB plus Smart Keyboard (inset, €1,028)

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Two to Try

Fuji Instax Mini 9  (€95, Conns Cameras)

Fuji Instax Mini 9

Instant cameras have hit a revival wave as teenagers discover what it was that fascinated their parents and grandparents in the 1970s and 1980s. Fuji's Instax Mini 9 is probably the best option you can get for under €100 and comes with 10 free photos. The prints are 2.1 inches by 3.5 inches and it's fairly idiot-proof to use. A setting guide even lets you pick between lighting conditions. It comes in five different colours and has a flash.

Nokia 3310 (€85,

Nokia 3310

The most-hyped phone of the 2017 is finally on sale in Ireland. Nokia's retro-looking 3310 is the same old-fashioned phone you remember from 2005 with a few minor style tweaks. It has the familiar physical number pad and a small colour screen. There's no 3G or 4G and its camera has a modest two megapixels. Battery life is amazing, though: a week between charges.

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