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Tablet devices have become a major part of some organizations' managed device fleet in recent years due to their versatility, but the quickly-evolving landscape of tablet models is a lot to keep track of.
The use of tablets in the enterprise
Tablets are helpful for displaying business-related charts, enabling staff to join in on email chains and video chats and other business-critical tasks that might require mobility. These devices have become indispensable to a workforce increasingly on the move.
Tablets are especially suited to the challenges of field work that workers face, ranging from engineers and technicians who work off-site to salespeople on the road. Tablet devices offer the battery life to last a full workday or shift while not being connected to a power source. Some are even rugged devices built to handle harsh conditions or inclement weather.
Additionally, the current pandemic has made it necessary for many employees to work from home, thereby increasing the need for accessible devices that can run video messaging applications from anywhere -- a task that modern tablets excel at.
While Apple iPad or Samsung Android-based tablets are better established in the consumer market than their Windows-based equivalents, many organizations are choosing tablets based on the Windows 10 operating system for business tasks. Connecting and syncing an enterprise network with Windows tablets streamlines device management and creates a simpler landscape for device administrators. Familiar Microsoft applications make it easier for employees to access their email profile in Outlook and other Office apps without having to learn a brand new interface.
The Windows tablets available now are similar to cut-down laptops in their processing power. They have come a long way from the early days of tablets -- back when the devices were little more than souped-up smartphones with larger screens.
This new breed of 2-in-1 tablet supports touchscreen operation and allows users to type via a clip-on smart keyboard or enter data directly on the device's screen via a stylus. This versatility has expanded the type of applications that a tablet can be used for. The devices now see use in every field, from the oil and gas industry to museums for tasks from data visualization to mobile record-keeping.
Organizations looking to deploy and manage Windows tablets should look through this selection of current Windows tablets that are suitable for business use cases.
Windows Surface Pro 7
The latest device in Microsoft's long-running tablet line is the Surface Pro 7. Rather than a major leap from the previous Pro 6 model, it's a decent step up with the 2-in-1 tablet now offering Wi-Fi 6 connectivity and a USB-C port with a 12.3 inch PixelSense display that supports capacitive touch and stylus operation. The tablet is equipped with between 4 GB and 16 GB of RAM and offers between 128 GB and 1 TB of storage.
A drawback of the Pro 7, however, is that it offers less battery life compared to the previous Pro 6 model. Users report battery life of around 6 hours, which doesn't meet the 10.5 hours that Microsoft claims for the device under perfect circumstances. The tablet costs $749.99 from Microsoft, but the price may vary depending on storage and other add-ons.
Windows Surface Go 2
For a cheaper and more portable Microsoft tablet offering, the Surface Go 2 tablet starts at $399.99. Battery life will last for around 10 hours with typical usage, though this could fluctuate depending on the resource demands of the user's tasks. The addition of an Intel Core M3 processor with LTE cellular connectivity bumps the price up to $729.99. The device offers 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage in the more expensive configurations.
For users who are working while on the road, the Surface Go 2 may prove to be an ideal companion. While it's not as powerful as top-of-the-line business tablets, the Surface Go 2 is light and extremely portable, yet able to handle standard business tasks with ease.
Acer Switch 5
There are plenty of alternatives to Microsoft's tablets that still run Windows. The Acer Switch 5 uses an Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, sports 8 GB of RAM and offers 256 GB in SSD storage. The unit supports a 12-inch touchscreen that works with the Acer Active Stylus pen. The device can be connected via 802.11ac Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
The Acer Switch 5 deals with everyday office tasks with ease and offers good battery life while doing so. One flaw is that the device only has one USB connection. Users will need a USB port to use an external keyboard, mouse or any additional peripheral if they are not wirelessly linked to the device via Bluetooth. The Switch 5 currently retails for $1,119 on Amazon.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th generation)
The latest Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga runs a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 CPU with 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage. With a 14-inch touchscreen and an included active pen, the X1 is ideal for marking up documents, handling emails and performing other everyday business tasks.
Lenovo claims that the ThinkPad X1 Yoga has a battery life of up to 18 hours for the device. All-day battery performance can be cut into, however, if the device is set to the 4K UHD-resolution display option rather than lower-power alternatives. The 2-in-1 starts at $899.99 from Lenovo.
HP Elite x2 G4
HP's Elite x2 G4 tablet uses an 8th Gen Intel Core processor, offers a choice of a 12.3-inch or 13-inch display, and comes with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.
The vendor describes its unit as among the world's most secure PCs, but there isn't an independent metric to back this up. The tablet was, however, designed with a bevy of built-in security features, including an HP security camera, malware protection, and recovery software. Naturally, the security upgrades add to the cost of the device, which checks out at $1,771.25.
Dell Latitude 7212
On the ruggedized side, Dell Latitude 7212 takes drops and falls, water spills and bad weather in its stride. The tablet sports an ingress protection rating of IP65, meaning the device can withstand water sprays but not complete immersion in water. It is virtually impervious to dust and can function in extremely cold weather. Users can operate the 11.6-inch touchscreen while wearing gloves, which may be a major boon for field workers.
When a Wi-Fi network is not available, this device can also support LTE cellular connectivity. With the ability to access the FirstNet public safety LTE network, the tablet is particularly useful for first responders in the U.S. The tough tablet is suitable for use on factory floors or outdoors in inclement weather and other harsh environments. The $1,899 base model teams a Core i3-8145U processor with 8GB of RAM, and 128GB storage.