Tuesday 20 August 2019

Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems


The Acer Chromebook (€279, Argos)
The Acer Chromebook (€279, Argos)
Fitbit Ionic, €339, Harvey Norman
Nokia 8, €519 from Three
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Q I am retiring next year, and I want to buy a laptop. I am presently using an iPad. I need a laptop with Android and a decent size screen as I want to watch some sports on it. My budget is €500 to €600. What type would you recommend?

A In general, Android machines only come in tablet form and don't go beyond 10 inches in size, which is probably the same size as your current iPad. That's not to say that they can't make perfectly decent laptops, but there is a physical size limit, unlike Apple iPads or Windows machines.

A hybrid alternative that might serve your purpose is one of the handful of Chromebooks that are now available on the Irish market. These are laptops that use a Google operating system (which isn't Android) to let you quickly get online and to web apps. In general, they work pretty well and are a good choice for someone who most uses their laptop for online browsing, work or TV viewing.

In addition, Chromebooks are starting to be able to use Android apps directly.

For example, the company's latest Pixelbook laptop (for my earlier review of which, see independent.ie) already has this facility. However, it's a relatively high-end machine with top-notch materials, meaning it costs around €1,200, which is twice your stated budget.

In time, Google says that cheaper Chromebooks will also be able to use Android apps.

If that promise is good enough for you, you have a few options well below your €600 budget. In truth, most Chromebooks are comparatively cheap. A typical model is Acer's 14-inch Chromebook (€279 from Argos). It has a very modest internal storage for a laptop (32GB) and basic power (an elementary 1.6Ghz chip). But it's good enough for almost all day-to-day tasks and it should work fine for watching video.

An even cheaper option is Asus' 13-inch Chromebook (€229 from PC World), which has the same amount of storage but slightly weaker power.

I can't wholeheartedly recommend either machine, as both cut a few corners on power and speed. But they will certainly work at the basic level you're talking about.

Unfortunately, there isn't really much of a middle ground pricing structure for Chromebooks: they're either really cheap or over €1,000.

If you really mean it about wanting a dedicated Android tablet, you're stuck with a 10-inch display. If by "decent size screen", you mean something bigger than this, you'll have to consider either a conventional laptop or a 12.9-inch iPad (which starts at around €800, before the additional cost of the €180 keyboard).

But if a 10-inch screen size sounds okay, there are a few to choose from. I'd recommend either Lenovo's Yoga Tab 3 Plus (€379 from Argos) or Samsung's Tab S2 (€479 from PC World). Both have 32GB of storage, and both have high-quality screens with adequate speakers that will serve as a portable TV as well as a computer. Bear in mind that you'll want an attachable keyboard to use the tablet as a laptop. My choice would be Logitech's Universal Folio keyboard (€75 from Argos).

RECOMMENDATION: Acer 14-inch Chromebook (€279, Argos)

Email your questions to caomahony@independent.ie

Two to Try

Fitbit Ionic  (€339, Harvey Norman)

Fitbit Ionic, €339, Harvey Norman

Want an alternative fitness-oriented smartwatch to Apple's devices? Fitbit, the company that makes all those health-tracker wristbands, has a new smartwatch called the Ionic. With a swipeable touchscreen, it has GPS, water resistance to 50 metres and can track your runs, cycles and swims (including altitude gain). From an app perspective, it's a lot more basic than the Apple Watch, though.

Nokia 8 (€519 from Three)

Nokia 8, €519 from Three

Finally, Nokia is back. Its first "flagship" smartphone is a decent effort, too, if not quite a competitor for the latest iPhones or high-end Samsungs. As well as a solid aluminium design and a crisp, bright 5.3-inch screen, its main appeal is its dual-lens camera system. It can shoot front and back at the same time, splitting the picture: Nokia dubs this a 'Bothie'. It has 64GB of storage and the latest top processor for speed.

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