Help Me, LAPTOP! Should I Get a Tablet to Take Overseas to College?

It's not just businessmen and women who travel abroad. Students, too, go overseas for college, and like those they'll eventually join on that long gray line, need something portable yet powerful. Ri, one such student, is looking for such a laptop, and possibly one that's a tablet, too.

Ri writes:

I'm a high school student going overseas for college next year in January and so I'm planning on getting a new laptop to go with me. Currently I own a netbook and a 4 year old Fujitsu T4210, but they're both proving to be too slow for strenuous use. So, I'm looking for a practical laptop for some serious work, including elaborate powerpoint presentations, basic graphic design and relatively intense video editing that isn't overly heavy (anything around 2kg will do me good) and won't have me living off the nearest power outlet, as I constantly work on the go.

I've done some research and is quite interested in Alienware MX11, HP Touchsmart, Fujitsu T900 and Toughbook C1. Because I've been using tablet PCs for 4 years, I'm not sure if I'll be comfortable without one but they are more expensive that normal laptops; however are more portable than typical laptops and more practical than netbooks. At the same time though, I can forgo some of the computing power on the laptop as I have the option of bringing my heavy-duty desktop overseas with me and choose to have a laptop that is portable and practical for note taking, report writing and won't lag when multi-tasking and running simple presentations. Especially with a very flexible budget, I'm torn between buying a tablet netbook AND a practical laptop or just heavy-duty tablet and or a good old traditional laptop. Please help!!

First off, I would say to leave the desktop at home; you don’t want to schlep that thing overseas. If you feel you can’t live without a tablet, we very much like the Panasonic Toughbook C1, which, although quite expensive (around $2,800 for the configuration we tested) has the benefit of being a rugged system. A less expensive option is the Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet; when we reviewed the system, it cost around $1,900, but now a base model (Core i5 processor, 2GB RAM, 250GB hard drive) costs $1,499—just be sure to get the extended battery if you’re going to be on the go all day. However, since both have integrated graphics, neither  is particularly suited for intense video editing. We would advise against buying a tablet netbook; in our experience, their weaker processors make for a less than desirable tablet experience.

If you don’t need a tablet, then the Alienware M11x would be a good fit for a laptop that not only is powerful, but lasts a good while, too. You may just want to invest in a larger monitor for when you get back to your dorm room. Other options would be Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro which, while its GPU isn’t as strong as Alienware’s, can also do a fair amount of video editing, and has excellent endurance and a larger screen.

LAPTOP Reviews Editor