LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Since Windows 8's debut in October, there have been a range of hot-looking devices that try to combine elements of tablets and traditional PCs. These hybrids seem as if they would be great both for relaxing with an e-book and for writing stories when I occasionally need to snap back into work mode.
But trying out three tablet-PC hybrids running Windows 8 has convinced me that the good old laptop still reigns for creating documents quickly and accurately. It's still superior for working at a desk, table, counter, or on your lap. And it has the best possible mix of battery life, processing power and compatibility with legacy software.
Unfortunately, where the hybrids worked well as tablets, they fared poorly as document-creators, or the other way around.
I don't think I'm alone in wanting a be-all, end-all machine that bridges the gap between tablets and PCs. The three hybrid computers that I tried didn't meet my needs. They show promise if you're willing to give up typing speed for something compact, or if you don't mind a heavy tablet that you'll have to look down at in your lap. Just be aware of these constraints before you buy.
-- Iconia W510 by Acer Inc. ($750).
The white and metallic Iconia W510 is an instant attention-grabber with its slender profile and detachable screen, which on its own weighs less than an iPad, at 1.27 pounds. In detached mode, small speakers on either side of the screen create a muted, if tinny, stereo sound effect. It's a comfy couch companion when all I want to do is check email and watch Netflix videos.
Unfortunately, the W510's guts didn't match its pleasing exterior. Repeated software updates and spotty Wi-Fi connections led me to put the machine down in frustration at times. I wasn't able to diagnose the Wi-Fi problem fully, but other devices worked fine on my high-speed home network.
Videos played in fits and starts. I needed a half-hour session with a Netflix customer service rep to troubleshoot video issues, which were resolved by uninstalling and reloading two different programs. Xbox Music, which comes with Windows 8, repeatedly failed to go past a single song play when using the service's Smart DJ feature. This problem didn't occur with the other two machines I tested.
As a work tool, the W510 delivers on its promised ultra-long battery life of 18 hours when the keyboard is attached. I never managed to reach the limit in the course of a day when fully charged.
But there were plenty of quirks that detracted from that convenience. It took me several installations of Office, and a call to Microsoft representatives, to figure out that the computer was hiding the Office icons in an obscure part of the tile-based interface. Microsoft said this occurred because I switched my log-in details somewhere in the middle of the process.
After all that, I was able to set up and use the Outlook email program. Changes I made to Word and OneNote documents synced across several devices -- one of the benefits of the latest version of Office, which is sold separately.
But I found the W510's keyboard too small to type accurately and quickly, and the touchpad didn't accept two-finger swipe inputs like the other two.
Most importantly, having to troubleshoot all the software issues and not being able to connect to the Internet consistently made the device too frustrating to use.
-- Surface Pro by Microsoft Corp. ($899, plus $120 for Touch Cover with keyboard).
The latest device from Microsoft is the epicenter of design Catch-22s.
It uses Intel's i5 processor so it can run a full version of Windows 8 well. But the chip gets hot and requires a fan for cooling. That adds bulk and a vent around the outer edge. All this means the Surface Pro is one-sixth of an inch thicker than the Surface RT, which runs a lightweight version of Windows 8 and can run only software designed for that system.
The Pro is also half a pound heavier at 2 pounds. That may not sound like much, but if you hold it like a tablet, you'll definitely notice the bottom corners dig into your palms. For me, it's too heavy to be used comfortably as a tablet.
Then there's the detachable touch keyboard cover. What seemed like a clever invention for the RT seems downright flimsy on the heavier Pro. On your lap, using the keyboard is prone to error and is exasperating. It frequently needed to be detached and reconnected. Opting for the on-screen keyboard doesn't help much because it blocks your view of what you're doing.