Ancient Computing

The desktop PC is dead! Tablets are the future!

This certainly seems to be the trend of the last few years, but John C. Dvorak’s column in this month’s PC Magazine got me thinking again about how baffling it is that people want to replace their desktops with tablets.

Dvorak’s argument is mainly based on size and interface, but what baffles me even more is power.

My netbook is one of my favorite computers, in part because I can take it and write wherever I go. But it terms of raw specifications it’s speed, hard drive capacity, and memory are equivalent or less than what I could get 10 years ago (when I bought my first desktop).

ASUS EEE Netbook
Processor: 1.6 GHz (can be “overclocked” to 1.7GHz)
HD: 144GB (real size)

Dell Dimension 5500
Processor: P4 2.53GHz
RAM: 512MB (RAM upgrades were available just never purchased)
HD: 55.8GB (initially, now has two 111GB drives in the tower)

Now I’m not saying my netbook is a bad computer. In addition to being ultra-portable, it has a VGA-out I can easily hook to my TV for a bigger screen, and an SD Card slot that allows me to add even more capacity (I have 15GB in there at the moment). But, it doesn’t have an optical drive (unless I hook an external to it), its speakers are not very loud, and its spec makes playing any PC game made after 2000-2001 virtually impossible. It’ll run Photoshop or the GIMP just fine, but the 10.4″ screen is tiny for the detail oriented work involved in photo editing.

And tablets can be even further back:

Kindle Fire
Processor: 1GHz (Dual core but not always utilized)
RAM: 512MB
HD: 8GB (really seems to be only about 5GB for my content)

Processor: 1GHz (Dual core but not always utilized)
RAM: 512MB
HD: 16/32/64GB

*Spec comparison from here

Both are web browser capable, but stacked up even against my netbook they’re slow. Both can stream video, but my Fire seems to have syncing issues when streaming Netflix.

Now I love my Fire too. It’s one of the best tools for reading books besides the real thing, and it is one of my most mobile ways to view the internet. I can’t hook it to my TV, but the weight is comfortable to hold in my hand (though not for anything longer than 30 min).

The iPad has Photoshop and untold numbers of Apps, and the 10″ size gets the closest to a comfortable typing experience I’ve had on a tablet, but not as comfortable as my netbook’s keyboard, or any USB keyboard you pick up at MicroCenter for $4. (You can get real keyboards for the iPad but they cost you more in the neighborhood of $100).

If I want to play Lego Star Wars or The Witcher or any serious game, tablets and netbooks don’t cut it. If I want to have access to my whole music library wherever I go, Amazon’s cloud doesn’t cut it (just try streaming music at a BN and you’ll run up against bandwidth limits real quick). Encode a CD, better at least use a laptop.

There’s a place for new devices used in concert with conventional desktops, but until the power of tablet devices catches up to where desktops are now they won’t be the only computer I own.

After all, I don’t want to just live in the past.

Note: I like hybrid devices like the ASUS tablet and some of the concepts I’ve read about for Windows 8. I could see replacing my netbook with an ASUS tablet, if it ran an OS that could run my Windows Games and DOS emulators.

Additional Note: Apps are just software! Your Angry Birds or your Cut The Rope are like the flash games of yesteryear (though I love making that little monster happy)!

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