With all the home working and Zoom streaming we're doing, our laptops are getting worked to the bone. While your thick, grey 13-inch box is adequate as a desktop replacement, you might be finding it harder to fit other parts of your life in between, such as audio-visual stuff, movies or even casual gaming.
Wouldn't it be good to get something that covered all bases a bit better? Something that you could grab and bring around with you, no matter what room you were in?
This is the strength of 'pro' tablets. Using Windows, iOS or even Android, these devices are designed for power, work compatibility and leisure time in almost equal measure. Here are three of the best options to look at right now.
MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO
This is the king of Windows-based 'two-in-one' devices. The Surface Pro line takes the real power of a premium laptop and compacts it into a nicely designed touchscreen with a detachable keyboard case.
Because it's Windows, you can run anything you would on any normal laptop or desktop with no workaround.
The Pro 7 is the powerhouse of the line, with Intel chips (up to Core 7) and up to 16GB of Ram.
It is the one to get if you think you'll need to throw some heavy lifting at your Surface Pro, up to and including things like Photoshop or video-editing programs.
The model I personally favour is the Surface Pro X, because of the extra consideration given to its design. The Pro X is thinner than the Pro 7 and has a slightly larger display (13 inches versus 12.3 inches), as it has thinner side-bezels.
It's probably the best-looking two-in-one device on the market too - this makes a difference when you're going to be living with it, day in and day out.
It isn't quite as powerful as the Surface Pro 7 as it uses an ARM processor rather than a beefy Intel one.
But the difference is not noticeable for the vast majority of functions; you'll only really feel it if you're using graphics-heavy applications.
The keyboards on the Surface Pro devices are also excellent, relative to other pro tablets. And they also naturally have trackpads. The Pro X also has an ingenious way of housing the stylus pen.
The X model is the most expensive of the Surface Pros. There is a budget version called the Surface Go (from €459), which is good, although you need to make sure to get the higher configuration (8GB Ram).
There's also a 'version two' of this likely to emerge next month.
iPad Pro: Now offering users a new ‘Magic Keyboard
In one sense, the iPad Pro is the most versatile all-purpose laptop on the market.
It's just as handy as a streaming or a sketching device as it is for Zoom, Skype, word processing or Office productivity apps.
And its keyboard has now evolved to include a trackpad for cursor control on the device, something that would have been hard to imagine a few years ago. (All iPads running iOS 13 now support cursor control with a mouse or trackpad.) Indeed, Apple has slowly ramped the iPad Pro up to a bona fide laptop replacement device, with updates that let you multi-task with different windows, import files using its USB-C port and then place them in the iPad's 'Files' folder.
The work-based apps (from Microsoft and many others) have also been fine-tuned now to such an extent that there's almost nothing you can't do on them relative to a Windows laptop.
It's also the only non-Windows pro tablet that offers a laptop-sized 13-inch display as an option. That starts to make a difference if you're using it a lot for multi-tasking during the day.
And Apple has had quite a year in reassessing its approach to the importance of keyboards.
In its new 'Magic Keyboard', it has provided something much closer to a real professional touch-typing unit, with backlit keys that 'travel' nicely.
Even though the Magic Keyboard is pricey (around €400), it's backward compatible with the 2018 iPad Pro models, which you can still find in some online stores.
When you're finished working for the day, the iPad Pro beats all rivals hands down. It's simply better for things like photos, videos, games or streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube or Disney+. It's also quicker for things like shopping from the main online stores.
The new 2020 models (11-inch or 13-inch) add only a bit more engine power than the 2018 versions, but they now also come with Lidar laser cameras.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6: An alternative to iPads and Windows devices, with under-appreciated features
Samsung (or Android, in general) isn't often thought of in the pro tablet space. But if you're looking for an alternative to iPads or Windows, its Tab S6 offers quite a lot and is competitive with semi-pro models like the iPad Air (which is almost identical to earlier iPad Pro models).
Samsung has had a nice feature in its business-focused phones and tablets for a few years that has been relatively under-appreciated.
Its DeX system lets you hook the tablet up to a monitor and use it as you would a laptop, including the use of a mouse (or, if you don't have a mouse, your S-Pen stylus).
By and large, it's really quite decent for those who sometimes feel they need a mouse-and-cursor powered session, especially since it lets you open lots of windows at the same time.
If you want the full use of a keyboard, it's good advice to go for Samsung's own 'Book Cover Keyboard'. It acts as a protective cover as well as a decent keyboard, complete with trackpad.
If the €185 for that keyboard cover seems steep, you can get Logitech equivalents for around €100.
You get Samsung's S-Pen with the tablet, which is a nice feature. (Apple's Pencil costs over €100 and you only get Microsoft's stylus included with the Surface Pro X if you purchase the high-end keyboard option.) It has a choice of either 128GB or 256GB of storage, which is about right for this kind of device at this price point. It also comes in either 6GB or 8GB variants.
If I were buying one, I'd go for the higher 256GB, 8GB version as it's currently only €80 more (€729) than the 128GB, 6GB variant.
The device's 10.5-inch display is excellent, although it's a shame you can't get this in a bigger size.