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The new wave of tablets might be all a biz traveler needs (and will save your back)

By Kevin Sintumuang

This may be the decade of the iPhone, but take a look at the airport-security area and you will see laptops clogging up the conveyor belt in their own bins, a kind of First World ball-and-chain we rely on for "real work" (i.e., time not spent on Facebook). Though they became ubiquitous in the early '90s, they're somehow still ruling our on-the-go lives.

The tablet was supposed to be that liberating bridge between those clunky laptops and our phones. We could use these futuristic slabs to polish PowerPoint presentations on a business trip and feel like a coach holding a clipboard with the stunt play that would lead to championship glory. We could throw these lightweight devices into a carry-on without thinking twice. They were the promise of a new mobile creative class, bringing out the inner artist in all of us. Even those with ranch houses would feel like they dwelled in urban lofts.

Mostly, though, if we're being honest, tablets turned out to be very good for watching Netflix in bed. Surrogate televisions, essentially. When it came to work, we still preferred to lean into our aging laptops.

The idea of the tablet as a magical work device is finally coming to fruition, however. The device that's leading the business-tablet revolution is Microsoft's Surface Pro ($800). It's a wonderfully original device with innovative accessories like a responsive stylus and an old-school stereo knob that you place on or off the screen to control some applications -- it brings a bit of the analog to the digital world. (It's popular with architect types for this reason.) When you want to use it like a laptop, you can pop on its suedelike, Alcantara-covered keyboard and pop out its kickstand. At less than two pounds, it runs a full-on version of Windows 10, just like your desktop model.

The leisure center that is the iPad Pro has caught the "real work" bug, too. The new 10.5-inch version ($649) can accommodate a case with a full-size keyboard -- no more typing with the posture of a T. rex. The high-resolution screen is the most mind-boggling you've ever seen on a mobile device. And when iOS 11 rolls out in the fall of 2017, it will bring a slick multitasking experience that will make answering emails fun.

For those who really want to jettison the work weight, Samsung's Galaxy S8 ($725) can act like a full-fledged computer. With a dock the company has dubbed DeX, you can attach the phone to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and pretend you're back at the office. DeX may show up in hotel rooms soon -- for many, that would be a more welcome accessory than those tinny-sounding iPhone alarm clocks.

Are you prepared to take the no-laptop plunge? I can attest: It's not that hard. I recently traveled with just a Surface Pro and the office did not grind to a halt, as far as I could tell. You can do it, too. Now, if only we could learn how to leave actual work behind while traveling, that would be a world-changing disruption.
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