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Ask Slashdot: Using a Tablet As a Sole Computing Device? 417

cashman73 writes "My mother's six year old desktop computer finally bit the dust due to an electrical surge. It's out-of-warranty, and not really worth fixing. Plus, I'm 2,500 miles and two time zones away, so I can't exactly troubleshoot things from here. I recently got a new tablet, and even 80% of the things I do are done easier with it. Plus, she really likes the size, convenience, portability, and the screen. Virtually everything she does is simple web browsing, email, light photo sharing but no heavy editing, and other simple tasks. We're thinking that using a tablet as her sole 'computer' might be the best solution here. What are other Slashdotter's experiences using tablets without a separate desktop computer?"
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Ask Slashdot: Using a Tablet As a Sole Computing Device?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2013 @04:55PM (#42489905)

    While it is a nifty idea your going to run into lots of problems. Be it due to the lack of support from your bank, an inability to print, or some fallback mode that your email provider forces on you all of the sudden.

    When I initially did it everything seemed to work perfectly. Then disaster struct. I actually started using it in place of my computer when I went on the road. There are so many problems with tablets it isn't funny. Even for just consuming content.

  • Untethered iPad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rogueippacket ( 1977626 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @04:57PM (#42489917)
    For the past year, my iPad has been entirely untethered from my Mac - it can self-update and self-backup to iCloud. Can't speak for other tablets, but historically you had to have a Mac or PC to tether your iPad to.
  • Using a tablet... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zacherynuk ( 2782105 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:00PM (#42489939)
    ...Can really strain the hands... and the neck. And the eyes.

    In fact, tablet use in general goes against 30 odd years of human interface ergonomics. I wouldn't wish it upon myself for extended periods of time, let alone an elderly loved one.

    Buy her a sensible chair, 24 inch monitor at the correct height and a correctly fitting keyboard and mouse in a neutrally lit space. I don't care what you connect to those peripherals.
  • by TheoCryst ( 975577 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:00PM (#42489949)

    My mom is the very definition of computer illiterate -- my sister and I have been trying to teach her to use a computer (first a PC, later a Mac) since the mid '90s, and she simply cannot grasp the basic concepts. She can sort of work a keyboard (it looks like a typewriter), but mice constantly thwart her. Add to that the fact that she has trouble discerning "windows" on a desktop as being discrete items, and you can see why we finally gave up trying to teach her once we had both gone away to college.

    About a year ago I managed to acquire an unneeded iPad, and made the decision to gift it to my mother. For a woman who has literally never used a computer without assistance, never mind owned one, she took to it immediately. She's now able to browse the internet, send and receive emails, and even navigate the app store when she wants additional functionality. And after a full year, I haven't received a single "oh no, I think I broke it" call.

    That being said, my mother is not your mother (AFAIK), so your mileage may vary. If you think her needs can be satisfied by an iPad (web browsing, shopping, email, media consumption, and no more than light content editing), I highly recommend it. There's just no beating its ease of use. An external bluetooth keyboard would be nice for longer writing sessions, however.

  • by esldude ( 1157749 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:03PM (#42489961)
    Actually, despite the eyesight and other issues, from what I have seen, older people, especially older women love tablets. Even some that type enough I wondered how they could prefer them. Not sure I get it, but I have seen that to be the case in several instances, and most of them had/have a desktop or laptop. So they aren't people new to computers. I think less dexterity is needed to poke the screen in your hands than moving a mouse, along with the OS being set up for touch screen interaction. Those who get comfortable dictating longer emails and notes do seem to need nothing else. Their other computers seem to sit idle. If the person in mind needs only a desktop device a chromebook might be the better choice. But I have also seen older folks once they have the portable tablet, make much more use of it all over the house when they didn't spend as much time actually computing at a desktop. So despite lots of things saying a tablet is under-powered and not best to interface with for all purposes, something about it seems to get along with older people better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:07PM (#42489981)

    Mmy grradnma-a-a-a hasz Pakrins-s-s-sons disz-z-z-zeaseee andd typpes liikje sthis-s-s-s-s-s. T-t-t-thatt isz wyhyy tablets-s-s-s re a baadd-d-d ideea.

  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:10PM (#42490003)

    yes, people have requirements that may not be the same as yours

  • by esldude ( 1157749 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:10PM (#42490005)
    My mother was a little more capable with computers than you describe yours, but didn't like them or use them all that much. Yet, the story is just like yours. Once she got a Samsung Galaxy tablet, she uses it so much it is almost constantly with her. And she doesn't need my assistance other than what I showed her the first couple days she owned it. Two of her friends have also gotten them having seen hers. They too went from minimal computer use to being regular enthusiastic users of the tablets they own.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:12PM (#42490019)

    I mostly agree, but I haven't personally met anyone older who's been happy with dictating to a text-to-speech program unless they literally can't type. But most of the people I know who tried tried it a while ago, so maybe the programs are better now?

    One of my relatives uses a tablet for most things: web browsing, reading emails, writing short replies, making notes, watching videos, etc. But she still goes up to an ancient desktop to type out longer emails.

  • I've Got All Three (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Whuffo ( 1043790 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:15PM (#42490039) Homepage Journal

    I've got a laptop, tablet, and a desktop computer. I've been going back and forth for a couple of years now and I've discovered what matters to me and how I use them

    I use the tablet a lot - and the desktop gets used a lot, too. The laptop just sits around collecting dust; it's been powered up once in the last three months - and only because I needed a file from it.

    Those who recommend a Chromebook - they don't consider that there will be times when you have no internet connectivity and want to use your tablet. This, and the availability of tablet apps that meet your needs will point your way to the correct tablet device for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:27PM (#42490125)

    This is a frequent discussion among people in tech situations. My only question is when you can easily find a used laptop for 100 bucks or less, why bother?? A 100 dollar laptop will handle the occasional tasks needed by 90% of users. A decent tablet will run at least 300 bucks, plus a nice case, plus paying for needed apps(many of which have quality free alternatives on a desktop) and so forth. In the end going tablet only is both more expensive and less convenient. Why bother?

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @05:45PM (#42490251)
    Even writing a substantive email (or I guess facebook update these days) would be painful without a keyboard.

    I would be interested in firsthand feedback on how good the bluetooth keyboards are. I had a folding keyboard for my palm pilot 10 years ago, it was semi-ok, but not great. Personally I don't like the compromised layouts that come with mini-keyboards.

  • Acer W500 + Win8 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by caywen ( 942955 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @06:16PM (#42490493)

    A while ago, I had bought an Acer W500 as I was developing a specialized touch screen type of app for Windows 7. That project kind of died, so I ended up with a useless piece of hardware for almost a year. After Windows 8 was released, I upgraded for $40 and put that on there.

    Recently, my MBP and Acer netbook both died, leaving me with nothing but this W500. My first reaction was to whip out the CC and go to However, I gave the W500 a chance. Here's what I found:

    - It works quite well as a desktop. I plug in my USB kb/mouse and 24" 1080p monitor. The traditional Windows desktop is perfectly responsive
          - As a Putty client, it's great. I can easily have 4 big terminals open on the 24", and a browser open on the tablet.
          - Demanding desktop apps can run a bit slow (it's only an AMD C-50), but it depends on what you're doing.
    - With only 32GB, it's pretty space limited. Fortunately, I have a 64GB SD card which mitigates it a bit. Also, I can plug in my external 500GB.
    - I'm also able to plug in my printer, scanner, camera, and external DVD, and they work for the most part.
    - As a tablet, it's OK. It's no iPad, but there's already been endless discussion on that.

    Overall, it's actually impressed me in that there's no way I could do this efficiently with an iPad. I give it a B for desktop productivity, and a B- for tablet functions. For reference, I'd give an iPad an A+ for tablet functions, and an F for desktop productivity (not intended as a knock). My guess is that an Acer W700 (core i5) would be an A for desktop tasks (since it's way faster and more capacious) and a solid B for tablet (since it's faster and has higher resolution).

    In short, at the risk of getting attacked as an MS shill, I'd actually recommend one of the newer hybrid tablet-top Windows 8 thingies if you're looking for a single device. If you can, I'd wait until after CES and the market to settle down a bit before buying anything.

  • Re:Chromebook (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @06:19PM (#42490525) Homepage Journal

    I Second the Chromebook. They just work. They're absolutely easy to use, And have a much better browsing experience than any tablet on the market.

    Hell, I'd recommend the Chromebox. Her Keyboard, mouse and monitor is probably still good and familiar to her, and is probably easier to read and use since the screen will be much larger

    About the only problem with a Chromebook that she'll have is printing, and that could be solved with a Google Cloud Print ready printer hooked up to the network.

  • Re:Using a tablet... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @06:24PM (#42490569)

    Put in another way, there's nothing un-ergonomic about tablets. They're no different than books, paper pads, or chalkboards: you can hold them up, lay them on a table, on an angled stand, any way you like, while sitting, standing, or lying down. And since you're not forced to use them in any particular place or position, there are absolutely no ergonomic issues with tablets.

    There's even a term for it... have you heard of "ipad shoulder", or "ipad neck"? I'm guessing "ipad hunchback" will become common once the young kids of today start to get into their 30's too.

    The problem is that you either hunch your neck forward to look at the ipad while it's in a position comfortable for your hands, or you raise your arms to use it when it's in the non-hunchback position. Either way you're straining your body. It's fine for using here and there but if you were using it more than a few hours a day (eg because it's your sole computing device) then ergonomics really does become an issue.

    A separate keyboard and mouse solves pretty much all of that though, and is probably the best of both worlds - the convenience of a lightweight tablet while you're moving around, and the ergonomics of a desktop computer when you're sitting. Ideal if you move between workplaces too.

  • by Maxwell ( 13985 ) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @06:41PM (#42490667) Homepage

    This. Forget unsupported weirdness of chromebook. You need Angry Birds!

    Just moved my dad (72) from original 20" imac with some weird HDD issues to an Asus transformer with official keyboard. He uses the keyboard when doing email at the desk, otherwise browsing, reading, gaming are all touch.

    We got his P&S camera to upload pics directly to the tablet. The only thing he can't do (so far) is print. He fires up the mac for that.

    So far so good - 4 months no complaints.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson