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Which Windows tablet should I buy?

Which Windows tablet should I buy?


The PlanGrid for Windows beta is finally here! We built it from the ground up, and we understand that you might need to use it in the field, the trailer, the office — or all three. So which Windows tablet should you buy for your next project?

To make your decision easier, we’ve picked our top four recommended models based on value, durability, hardware features, and price*.

Happy shopping!

Best overall

We love the Surface 3.

With a high definition screen, durable kickstand, solid build, and fast, quad-core Atom processor, there’s little not to love about it. Since Microsoft started shipping the Surface 3, it’s been the standard device issued to everyone on PlanGrid’s Windows development team.

Starting at $500 (depending on accessories and configuration), it’s incredible value for a full-featured computer.


Measuring 10.52” x 7.36” x 0.34” (267 x 187 x 8.7mm), the Surface 3 is large enough to see, but a comfortable size to carry all day. A built in MicroSD card slot and USB port make it easy to transfer photos and other data, while a Mini DisplayPort connection allows you to connect to a television or projector in seconds.

One of the things we love most about the Surface 3 is its built-in cellular LTE, which makes staying connected on the jobsite easier than ever. With LTE, there’s no more waiting until you get back into a WiFi zone to sync your changes.

We suggest purchasing the 128GB, 4GB RAM ($600) configuration. This size affords you plenty of room should your projects get bigger in the future.

Available cellular LTE, for always being connected to your project. Image from microsoft.com.

PROS

  • Incredible set of features for the price
  • Optional cellular data/LTE
  • Beautiful, accurate touchscreen
  • Lowest configuration provides an impressive 64GB of storage

CONS

  • Type Keyboard cover and Surface Pen sold separately
  • Battery life could be improved upon

Best notebook replacement

Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 4 is a tablet that can replace your laptop, and we agree. If you’re always on-the-go and prefer to carry only one device, the Surface Pro 4 is the tablet for you.


Microsoft has made their flagship device thinner, enlarged the screen, and improved the display resolution. They’ve also created a battery that lasts all day, and the Surface Pro 4’s performance is on par with a full size laptop. Windows 10 Pro is installed right out of the box.

Image from microsoft.com.

Microsoft has managed to shave off more bulk (as compared to the Surface Pro 3). They claim they could’ve made it thinner, but wanted to include a full USB port.

Using the new Type cover with chiclet style keyboard and glass trackpad is a joy. The type cover is an additional $129.99, but the Surface Pen is included with the Surface Pro 4. Depending on your line of work, we suggest getting the UAG Surface Pro 4 Case ($79.99). It’ll give you added protection on the go, and won’t interfere with the Type Keyboard cover.

PROS

  • Notebook performance without the bulk — can replace your tablet and laptop
  • Includes the Surface Pen, which works beautifully with PlanGrid annotations
  • Thinner and lighter than ever
  • Big, bright, high quality screen

CONS

  • Type Keyboard cover adds $129.99
  • No LTE option, only WiFi
  • No USB 3.1 (common on new hardware)

Durability

It’s only fair to acknowledge that some of us are tougher on devices than others. If cracked screens and water damage are familiar scenarios, then we’ve got just the tablet.

Known for their Toughbook line of PCs — engineered for harsh environments and heavy use — Panasonic claims the Toughpad FZ-M1 is the world’s thinnest and lightest 7” tablet. It works in daylight, can be used with gloves, has optional cellular LTE, and comes with the ability to hot-swap batteries. It can survive drops, rain, dust, sand, extreme temperatures, and thermal shock, but only weighs 1.2lbs.


Note: The Toughpad FZ-M1 comes preinstalled with Windows 8.1 (with the ability to downgrade to Windows 7 if required). If you’re like me and you have already upgraded to Windows 10, this might be a slight inconvenience; at least Microsoft is providing a free upgrade if desired.

PROS

  • Conforms to MIL-STD-810 specs — incredibly rugged
  • Three-year warranty
  • LTE cellular data available
  • Hot-swappable battery

CONS

  • At $1,295, it’s a significant investment

Best value

It’s not always necessary to spend lots of money on tablets for the jobsite. At $300, the ASUS Transformer Book T100HA gives you a great balance of features at a great price.

Permanently attached to the included keyboard, the unit functions as a laptop. 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage is more than enough to handle even the largest PlanGrid projects.


PROS

  • Includes attached keyboard
  • Up to 12 hours of battery life
  • Future forward with USB Type-C port
  • Great storage space for the price
  • Comes with Windows 10 OS

CONS

  • Lower resolution display than comparable tablets

Conclusion

All four tablets will work great on the jobsite, but none may meet everyone’s needs. The Microsoft Surface 3 comes close to being perfect, but lacks the ruggedness that may be necessary for use in the field. Before making a decision, consider how your device will be used, and invest accordingly.

Are you already using a Windows device in the field? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below. Or, download it and give it a try.


*All prices are in USD and are correct at time of publishing.

Originally published on March 15, 2016

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