Tablet, Netbook or Laptop: Which Should I Buy?

The tablet market is getting interesting.  After being dominated by Apple’s iPad for more than a year, new Android, BlackBerry, and HP tablets are debuting this summer. With a slick user interface and the promise of ultraportability these mobile computers make many business owners wonder if they can ditch a traditional laptop for use on the move. So which is the best portable computer for you?

Pros: Tablets are lightweight and portable, and many offer constant connectivity via 3G or 4G cellular networks. Like smartphones, they awake from sleep instantly at the touch of a button and keep your data updated in the background.
Cons: Mobile operating systems don’t offer the same level of functionality as desktop operating systems. While there are many apps that parallel the software you’re used to, they don’t always format well.
We recommend: ASUS Eee Pad Transformer; $399 (Tablet); $149 (Dock).

Pros: Netbooks generally have 10-inch screens and weigh less than 3 pounds, making them perfect for portability. Most new netbooks run Windows 7 and cost $400 or less, so you won’t need to buy new software or apps, and you know they’ll work the same as on your desktop.
Cons: Because of the low-power Intel Atom processors inside, netbooks are not as powerful as full-size laptops. Their keyboards tend to be smaller, and they don’t have many ports, either.
We recommend: Samsung NF310; $399

Traditional ultraportable laptops
Pros: Just as with netbooks, an ultraportable laptop will run a full-fledged OS and the software you’re used to. Plus, you get business-centric features such as fingerprint readers and eSATA ports for accessing external storage at higher speeds than with traditional USB ports. Ultraportables weigh as little as 3 pounds and can be super thin, so they won’t weigh you down like full-sized laptops.
Cons: Though thin and light, ultraportable computers aren’t easy to break out when you’re standing in line, waiting for a train, or hunkering down in a tight space.
We recommend: Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E220s; $858.30.

–K.T. Bradford