Buying a Windows tablet: Core, Atom or ARM?

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Buying a Windows tablet: Core, Atom or ARM?

Don't make the mistake of getting the cheapest Windows 8 tablet, or you might be in for a disappointment.


Sure, the iPad is far and away the best known tablet computer,  but the new breed of Windows 8 tablets have their place - mostly, if you spend all day, every day in Microsoft Office.

Add to this the fact that certain Windows 8 tablets can run the same programs as you do on your computer at work, and some have a fancy keyboard (the Microsoft Surface tablet) - there's the temptation to think, "ok, maybe I can buy one of these instead of my next laptop".

If that's you, you should know that not all Windows 8 tablets are safe bets for replacing a laptop.

For one thing, there are two types of Windows tablets - one running Windows RT , which won't run all those desktop computer programs, the other running the "full" Windows 8 operating system. You can read more about that here.

Recently we also stumbled across this Microsoft article, titled "Which tablet should you choose for your business?"  It's an older article from late last year, but we decided to flag it here, because it's interesting to see what advice Microsoft itself is giving on this topic.

The important tip here is to treat buying a Windows tablet like you are buying a Windows laptop. They come in different configurations, some with more power for running software you need for work and some with less (and some won't even run certain software). Battery life will probably differ, so will price.

In a nutshell, there are three types of Windows tablet, as outlined by Microsoft:

  • Windows tablets with Intel Core processors (running Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise)
  • Windows tablets with Intel Atom processors (running Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise)
  • Windows tablets with ARM-type processors (running Windows RT)

There are two important points to glean from the Microsoft article:

  • If you want to use a Windows tablet as a laptop, then Microsoft is recommending you get a model with a Core chip.
  • The other important thing is battery life: Microsoft recommends Intel Atom processors or Windows RT tablets for better battery life.

It leaves us wondering about Windows tablets with Intel Atom chips. The Microsoft article we linked to gives the impression that Atom tablets are in the middle - not as good as Core tablets for "heavier workloads", and not as good as ARM tablets for battery life (that's just our reading of the article - it's something we'll be interested in seeing more test results about).

The bottom line 
Don't go buying a Windows tablet like you would an iPad. They're not all essentially variations of the same model with more or less storage.

Take a little bit of time to understand the different types and you'll avoid disappointment.

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