OPINION: WINDOWS 8 LAPTOP-TABLETS
PC World has eight new laptops in our Auckland Test Centre right now, and we're seeing some innovative designs that take advantage of the new touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 operating system.
Tablets are taking over - it's estimated by IDC that tablets will outsell other types of PC in just two years - and laptop manufacturers are taking notice, with many incorporating the best bits of tablet computing into their new laptops.
You'll find touchscreen laptops, tablets with dockable keyboards, and screen-flipping laptops among this season's new designs.
It's worth noting though that in trying to be both tablet and laptop, some designs have limitations. For example, the Sony VAIO Duo has a nifty (and resilient) hinge that pops up the tablet-like screen to reveal a keyboard, and rests the screen at a 45-degree angle. However, the Duo weighs around 1.3kg, which is too heavy to hold one-handed as you might with a tablet, and the screen can't be repositioned, unlike a laptop. It will be perfect for some, but depending on your needs, you may be better off with a cheap laptop and a tablet than a combination design.
It's no exaggeration to say that the iPad mini is the iPad 2, only smaller. It shares the same processor, and the same 1024 x 768 screen resolution - although the screen on the iPad mini is 7.87 inches compared to the iPad 2's 9.7 inches. But aside from the size, there are also key differences.
The iPad mini is faster than the iPad 2 - flicking between screens and accessing settings is faster, and apps load just a little quicker. The mini also offers a better camera and stereo sound which help applications such as Skype or youtube seem richer.
We found that we almost always held it one-handed in portrait mode, unlike the iPad 2 which is generally used with two. It fits comfortably into an adult hand, letting you grip with one hand while you navigate with the other. When using it in landscape mode, it fits into a two-handed grip.
We found that with the iPad 2, we tended to view web pages in portrait mode, but with the iPad mini, we tended to use landscape mode. Games on the mini feel as though you're playing them on the larger screen size - it's no harder to tap, and easier to manage games that tilt and rotate for actions.
Our reviewer commented that it didn't really feel different from using a 10-inch tablet - it was a premium tablet, and that's more important in some ways than size. It was notably smoother than most smaller tablets. Our reviewer slightly preferred typing on the iPad mini because all the keys were easily reachable, even if you didn't rest it on a surface to type.
One other nice touch we liked was that the Smart Cover hinge for the iPad mini is made of polyurethane - so it won't scratch the aluminium like the hinge on the original smart cover.
Threadless is having 48 hours of international free shipping. Why should you care? Free international shipping is a rare beast, and Threadless is kind of unique. There are any number of homebrewed and quirky teeshirt operations online. Some of my favourites include Teefury, which offers one new T-shirt each day, Topatoco, which features T-shirts from many webcomics, and the old standby, Cafepress, which lets anyone design and sell their own T-shirts and merchandise.
Threadless is a little different in that it lets anyone who signs up for an account design T-shirts and vote on T-shirt designs. The highest voting shirts get made and offered online. It's being going for about 10 years now, and even opened a bricks-and-mortar retail store a couple of years ago. The best time to check it out is when you get free shipping. Know a great online T-shirt shop?
Why not drop me a line to let me know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zara Baxter edits New Zealand PC World and has been reviewing gadgets for more than 15 years. Visit pcworld.co.nz