10 Laptop Alternatives for Working on the Go

With so many recent advances in smartphones and tablets, do you really need to replace your aging laptop with another laptop?

Laptop alternatives

My Motorola Atrix 4G has twice the processor speed and amount of RAM, and more storage space than the first laptop I owned.

As mobile devices advance, it could be time to replace aging laptops. Smartphones with laptop docks, and tablets with keyboard docks, provide needed functionality with less weight, more battery life, and more flexibility than laptops offer. Though most of these devices don't run full-featured desktop office productivity suites, there are lightweight options for managing word processing documents, spreadsheets, and even ways to control your work computer via VNC. These devices won't replace PCs completely, but can replace a laptop when traveling. Check out these laptop alternatives for working on the go.

Samsung Galaxy Note

Smartphones are beginning to rival tablets in terms of power and productivity options. If you can live with a 5.3-inch screen, you might consider a jumbo smartphone as a laptop replacement, paired with a Bluetooth keyboard for typing. The Samsung Galaxy Note also has a digital pen for handwriting notes. In addition, that 5.3-in. screen packs a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, coming close to many midsize laptop screens.

The Galaxy Note (video) runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread on a 1.4GHz dual-core processor. It's available in Europe now, and confirmed to be heading to Canada in early 2012. Potential buyers in the United States will have to wait a while longer though, as no U.S. release date has been confirmed yet.

Motorola Android smartphone with universal dock

With dual-core processors and 1GB of RAM, smartphones are catching up to netbooks. Motorola's been pushing the concept of a smartphones as the center of digital life since it showed off webtop accessories with the Atrix 4G at CES. The line includes two universal docks (10.1-in. and 14-in. screens) that work with webtop-enabled phones such as the Droid Razr, Droid Bionic and Atrix 2. The docks also offer a comfortable keyboard.

Though the phones run Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), the webtop software provides a full desktop version of Firefox for Internet work. And yes, if a call comes in while you're working, you can still answer it without having to take the phone out of the dock.

Droid Bionic with lapdock

If 10.1 in. is too small for you, and 14 in. is too big, Motorola has another docking option that might be just right for you. The original Atrix 4G and Droid Bionic handsets each have a model-specific 11.6-in. dock. Rather than connecting with a cable, your phone plugs straight into one of these docks. The phone-specific docks are also much slimmer than the universal docks, though they have fewer ports. All of these docks have their own batteries, too, so your little phone battery doesn't have to power a big screen -- in fact, the phone actually charges while it sits in the dock.

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

For those of you still tied to a BlackBerry smartphone, the PlayBook tablet is another option to consider. While the 7-in. screen may not be quite as big as the display on your laptop, the tablet's tight integration with what's already on your BlackBerry brings your information to a bigger screen. And since the PlayBook has Bluetooth, you can also pair a keyboard with the tablet when you need to do more typing.

Apple iPad with keyboard

Ever since the iPad first hit the streets, people have been trying to replace their laptops with one. You can find many keyboard folio-style cases on the market now that turn the iPad into a miniature laptop. As long as you can find the apps you need, you might be able to leave the laptop behind and just carry an iPad and a keyboard. Since the iOS ecosystem is so big now, you'll encounter many apps that can help you get your work done.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

The Eee Pad Transformer Prime will be one of the first quad-core tablets on the market -- that's more cores than in the laptop I'm typing this on. With the keyboard-dock accessory, you can turn all that Android power into a little laptop, complete with extended battery life, a few more ports, a nice keyboard and a touchpad. Once again, your ability to truly replace a laptop with a setup like this will depend on whether the apps exist to cover the tasks you need to accomplish.

The Eee Pad Transformer Prime will run Honeycomb when it is released in December, but Asus has promised an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Lenovo is well known for high-quality and comfortable keyboards, so it's no surprise that the optional keyboard folio for the ThinkPad Tablet is top-notch. It does add quite a bit of bulk; however, it offers a physically connected keyboard, which you can still use on an airplane (unlike Bluetooth ones), plus a little optical track stick for navigating while you keep your hands on the keyboard. It comes wrapped in nice leather.

The ThinkPad Tablet runs Android Honeycomb and bundles Docs to Go, Citrix receiver, and other tools to take care of office tasks. It also comes with a digital pen and note-taking software.

Acer Iconia Tab W500 Windows tablet

Windows 8 isn't out yet, but that doesn't mean manufacturers have been ignoring the market for tablets that run Microsoft's current OS. Windows 7 may not be as touch-optimized as Android or iOS, but sometimes there is no substitute for that Windows program you need. If you want to escape to tablet land and poke around the Internet, the Acer Iconia Tab W500 runs Windows 7 on a 10.1-inch touchscreen slate. It also comes with a keyboard attachment for those occasions when you really need it to be more like a laptop. If you want to get a taste of what Windows 8 will bring to the table, the Developer Preview is available for download, and will run on this tablet.

Samsung Series 7 Slate Windows tablet

There are some tablet options for those not ready to give up the power of a laptop. Samsung's Series 7 Slate packs a Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM into an 11.6-in. touchscreen tablet. It also comes with a Wacom digitizer and pen, for artists seeking a portable digital sketchbook. With the accuracy of its active digitizer and Windows 7's enhanced handwriting recognition, you may not need a keyboard. But you can always pair up a keyboard over Bluetooth.

Since this slate is very similar to the hardware that Microsoft gave out at its Build conference, the Developer Preview of Windows 8 runs very well on it. Keep that in mind if you're looking for a taste of what's to come.

Google Chromebook

They may look like laptops, but Chromebooks such as the Acer AC700 and Samsung Series 5 run Google's Chrome OS. If you find that you spend 99 percent of your laptop time in a browser, why mess with the bloat of an operating system that takes ages to boot and drains your battery with background tasks? Chromebooks give you a simple portal to the Web, plus great battery life, optional 3G connectivity, and quick sleep and resume times. The downside is that local storage is limited, and you won't be able to do much without access to the Internet.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.