Two-in-one combination tablet/laptops usually come at a price that makes laptops more attractive, but now low-cost options are emerging, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Tablets that are designed with docking keyboards and better known as 2-in-1 tablets have long been touted as an ideal compromise between the portability of a tablet and the productivity of a keyboard device.
However, the cost of most of the options available in the South African market is often higher than that of a reasonable laptop.
For example, a 15.6-inch HP Celeron notebook with a 500GB hard drive and Windows 10, can be had for as little as R4999. An Asus 2-in-1 Transformer Book with 11.6-inch screen costs more than R6000. Granted, it comes with the versatility of a detachable tablet that can also be flipped round on the keyboard to become an effective display or presentation device.
The tablet portion can be used to continue working in settings that are often too cramped for a fold-up notebook – ranging from buses and taxis to economy class seats on aircraft. Laptops come into their own when the trackpad and keyboard are essential for productivity applications like Word and Excel.
The challenge is to get the best of both worlds at a down-to-earth price. Now, solutions are beginning to emerge.
A local company called Inclusive Solutions has become South African distributor of a new range of low-cost 2-in-1 laptops under the Venturer brand. It is offering a basic 10.1-inch model called the BravoWin, but it is more likely to make inroads with the EliteWin 11K, an 11.6-inch device retailing at under R4 000.
Aside from the regular laptop mode, as the 2-in-1 format implies, it can also be used in tablet mode and display mode – with the tablet section reversed on the keyboard dock. It also offers a presentation mode similar to that of Lenovo’s Yoga devices, in the shape of an open laptop overturned and resting on the edges of the keyboard and tablet.
A multi-touch capacitive touch screen means the tablet screen is fairly responsive. Along with an Intel Atom 1.44GHz processor and 4GB RAM, the system is not too shabby either.
The one drawback is storage space, which comes in at a stingy 32GB. Once the operating system and basic apps are installed, that doesn’t leave much room for a modest collection of music, photos and movies. In North America and Europe, on-device storage is becoming less of an issue as access to cloud storage becomes cheaply and widely available.
However, Inclusive Solutions has come up with its own local solution, bundling the device with a 64GB micro SD card, making for a total 96GB capacity. That is still not massive but, considering the device also has both USB and micro-USB ports, storage on peripheral devices becomes a viable option. The drives are both positioned on the side of the tablet component, making this one of the few tablets on the market with multi-USB functionality.
A Mini HDMI port for connecting to a TV, 2MP front and rear cameras, 1366 x 768 resolution, and 8 hours battery life round out a set of fairly straightforward features. It is a sturdy unit that will appeal to students and those starting out in the working world.
It’s closest competition is likely to be the 2-in-1 Alcatel Plus 10, with almost identical features but a slightly smaller screen, at 10.6-inches. Launched in South Africa late last year, it also has slightly lower screen resolution, of 1280 x 800.
It’s standout feature is a keyboard that doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 15 users. This all comes with a recommended retail price of R3600, positioning it as another alternative for students and young users.
Both the Venturer and the Alcatel options are ideal for school use when iPads are either too costly or do not meet productivity needs. But there is one more factor that gives these devices an edge at their price: they provide a laptop format with touch-screen capabilities – a feature that would add almost the cost of these devices to any standard laptop.
Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets
Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.
Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps.
Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.
Vodafone Smart Kicka 4
At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.
The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018.
Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games.
Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.
Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer.
The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past.
Huawei Y3 (2018)
The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are.
Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.
Comparing the 3
All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker.
Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.
SA gets digital archive
As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive.
The southafrica.co.za site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.
Designed as a nation building, educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.
The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.
At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.
Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.
“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.
Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island. The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.