Wednesday, June 12, 2024

I’m finally excited for the future of Windows tablets again

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Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Computex 2024 logo.

This story is part of our coverage of Computex, the world’s biggest computing conference.

Windows tablets have slowed to a halt.

Contents

  • A new breed of 2-in-1
  • The future is still cloudy

In its beginning, the Surface Pro was a shining beacon for Windows tablets, a device that other manufacturers could follow the lead of. But over the years, the Surface Pro eventually became the only player in the game — a sad reminder of a trend that never reached its full potential.

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But change is afoot. The transition to Arm has arrived in Microsoft’s Copilot+ PC platform, meaning Windows tablets will perform better and last longer. They’ll feel like proper iPad competitors. The new Surface Pro announced in May was the beginning, but at Computex 2024, a new Windows 2-in-1 has now arrived to compete. Some momentum is building again, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

A new breed of 2-in-1

Asus

Following up on the new Surface Pro, Asus has announced the ProArt PZ13, a new 2-in-1 Windows tablet to join the Copilot+ platform. It shares a lot in common with the new Surface Pro, of course. It has a 13-inch OLED screen, comes with a detachable keyboard and kickstand, and uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon X chips. That last aspect is the most important, of course. The Arm architecture used by Qualcomm’s chips allows for some huge advances in efficient performance and battery life. I won’t repeat all the benefits here, but devices built on these new chips are going to provide a huge leap forward — making them much more capable rivals to the MacBook and iPad.

But these advances are particularly important for a device like this. These are meant to be highly portable — easy to slip into a bag and not stress about the extra weight. In other words, they’re exactly the types of PCs that will benefit from having lots of extra battery life.

Asus didn’t make any specific battery claims about the ProArt PZ13 beyond what Qualcomm has stated about the platform in general, but this device has a large 70 watt-hour battery inside, which sounds promising. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro will get 14 hours of local video playback, but it only has a 52 watt-hour battery.

Asus

Beyond battery life, the other main advantage of these Snapdragon X laptops is thermal efficiency. As we’ve seen with recent Apple designs, these Arm devices should be able to shrink in size without a huge drop in performance. The ProArt PZ13 exemplifies this with its compactness and portability, measuring at just 0.35 inches thick and weighing 1.87 pounds. That’s not quite as thin and light and the iPad Pro, but it’s getting closer and it’s actually slightly smaller than the new Surface Pro.

This is something I’d like to see improve in future generations of Windows 2-in-1s, especially since you still need to add the weight and thickness of the keyboard cover for the overall package. At the very least, though, there is now the potential for manufacturers to go for more extreme designs, emphasizing portability over performance. That’s the great strength of the openness of the Windows ecosystem — it allows for more variation and customization.

The future is still cloudy

Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

And this is only the beginning. We haven’t even got to fully test these new Copilot+ systems out yet, since they don’t come out until June 18. In the case of the newly announced Asus ProArt PZ13, we don’t even have a final price yet for it.

I’m not going to pretend like just one additional 2-in-1 means we’re seeing a renaissance in the category. There are still plenty of Windows device manufacturers who have chosen to sit it out for now. Until we see new 2-in-1s from the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo, with new innovation in the form factor, the Surface Pro and ProArt PZ13 will remain more niche than mainstream devices.

But consider this: Many of the biggest complaints against the iPad Pro have to do with software. It’s extremely powerful and has the most premium hardware available — and people love the form factor. But the limitations of iPadOS make it impractical or inefficient in some settings, and that’s something Apple has been very slow to address.

This should be a chance for Copilot+ 2-in-1s to step in. These devices have the advantages of the tablet design, paired with a full version of Windows 11 that’s capable of running every app imaginable in a familiar way. It might still lack the expansive touch-first mobile app ecosystem that the iPad has, but if it can fulfill its performance and battery life promises, that might not matter as much today as it has in the past.

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