Do you use devices that connect via FireWire? Do you need an SD memory card slot to transfer images from your camera to your PC? Does your monitor connect through a standard VGA cable or via HDMI? Do you have USB 3.0 peripherals? The available ports vary from one device to the next, so you need to consider all of the devices you might want to connect to the PC, and then choose hardware with the ports that meet your needs.
Windows 8 tablet models, such as Microsoft's Surface RT, generally have more standard ports and connectivity options than Android tablets do, and certainly more than the iPad does. The Surface RT boasts a standard USB port, a Micro HDMI port, and a MicroSD slot. Pay attention, though, to details such as USB 2.0 versus USB 3.0. While USB 2.0 has a maximum data transfer rate of 480 mbps, USB 3.0 is more than 10 times faster, with maximum data throughput of 5 gbps.
Before buying any hardware, consider how you wish to connect to your network or the Internet. For wired connections, you might need a gigabit ethernet adapter; for wireless networks, you may want 802.11n or even 802.11ac capabilities.
Part of the unique appeal of Windows 8 lies in Ultrabooks and tablets that are designed to be used from virtually anywhere. Mobile professionals may need to be able to access information while they're out and about, in which case 3G or 4G broadband access will come in handy. Tablets and Ultrabooks that offer 3G or 4G connectivity as an option, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad 2, do exist, but they are much less common than Wi-Fi-only devices. Of course, mobile hotspots and USB dongles are available to connect Windows 8 devices, so it’s not imperative that a wireless radio be built in.
When you’re carrying around a mobile PC for mission-critical business tasks, you need it to survive a bump or two. You don’t necessarily need a tank (like something from the Panasonic Toughbook line), but you should consider the conditions you'll use your PC in, and avoid choosing hardware that’s prone to cracking or breaking.
Microsoft went out of its way to engineer the Surface RT tablet for durability, and company representatives like to drop them on the ground to prove that point every chance they get. That said, we don't think the Surface RT's kickstand, however durable it may seem, will survive much abuse. Like all moving parts, it's susceptible to a certain degree of failure.
Aside from the physical device itself, another factor to consider is the durability of the storage in your Windows 8 machine. Traditional hard drives can be irrevocably damaged from a sudden fall, while the flash memory in tablets, or the solid-state drive storage commonly found in Ultrabooks, is much more resilient.
Security is a big issue for business PCs—especially portable ones. Your hardware should be equipped with UEFI to take advantage of Windows 8 Secure Boot, as well as a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip for effective use of the BitLocker drive encryption in Windows 8.
You also might want a fingerprint scanner or some other biometric feature built in to the PC for stronger, two-factor authentication. This arrangement can prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive data on the PC.
Dell's new Latitude 10 Windows 8 tablet goes one step further by incorporating a slot for a removable security card. The tablet will display your (potentially sensitive) business data only after reading your personal user card.
One thing that’s new to the world of Windows 8 is the concept of the hybrid. Since Windows 8 is engineered for touch, a slew of Windows 8 tablet models are on the horizon. Many of them, however, combine the benefits of a tablet and an ultraportable, giving users the flexibility to use Windows 8 more effectively in assorted scenarios.
I asked Onuora Amobi, editor of Windows8Update, for his opinion on these unique Windows 8 hardware options. “I think that hybrid PCs and hybrid Ultrabooks will do very well,” Amobi says. “Being able to sit down with a PC keyboard in your office, and then being able to detach the screen (as a tablet) and take that to a meeting, will be very tough for Apple to respond to.”