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Tablet Tuesday: Does it make sense to buy a Surface?

From the Cheapskate: Modern tablets increasingly want to take the place of your laptop. But should they? Plus: two bonus deals!

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I interrupt your regularly scheduled deal of the day to ask a question. (Sometimes I just like to converse. So save your money today, or just skip down to the bonus deals.)

Does it make sense to buy a Microsoft Surface Pro? Or Surface Book? Or an Apple iPad Pro? Or any kind of hybrid device with a screen larger than, say, 12 inches?

Tell me again why this is useful?

Sarah Tew/CNET

I'm asking because I continue to be mystified by this product category, which to my thinking is a solution in search of a problem.

Here's why: If you've ever picked up a tablet with an oversize screen, you know that it's pretty unwieldy -- too big and heavy to hold comfortably for long periods. When it comes to tablet screens, I think there's a law of diminishing returns; you gain little by pushing past the 9- or 10-inch form factor.

Well, except for certain tasks. Gonna do some writing? Update some spreadsheets? Work on a presentation? No problem, bigger tablets are well-suited to that stuff -- provided you prop them up on a desk or your lap and add a keyboard.

In which case, tell me again why you didn't just buy a laptop?

See, as you're no doubt aware, Microsoft charges extra -- a lot extra -- for a Surface Pro keyboard. Apple does likewise for the iPad Pro. Now you've got "a tablet that can replace your laptop," to use Microsoft's marketing-speak. Never mind that it's now even more expensive than most laptops, but with only one major benefit: the keyboard is removable, leaving you with a screen that, once again, is too large to really be practical as a tablet.

Meanwhile, any Android- or iOS-powered tablet with designs on your laptop imposes too many workflow limitations. Something as basic as copying and pasting requires extra effort via imprecise tools. (No mouse means careful text-selection using a fingertip.) The Surface Pro gives you full-blown Windows, of course, but if that's what you need, I'll again make the argument for a laptop.

Obviously there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to computing, mobile or otherwise. I spend my days working on a 13.3-inch Asus Ultrabook, a system that travels with me everywhere I go. It's a powerhouse, with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, an all-day battery and 1,920 x 1,080 display, yet it's just as thin and lightweight as tablet with a keyboard cover. Oh, and it sells for $599.

Never do I have a need to touch the screen, and never do I wish I could separate that screen from the keyboard. When I want a tablet, I pick up my tablet.

But that's just me. Your thoughts?

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