Android tablets have become better over the years, but despite certain advantages it's still challenging to be highly productive with them out of the box (though they have ). However, with a couple of accessories and a few apps, you can make them feel a lot more like a laptop.
If you're looking for an Android tablet to apply this guide to, our Hive Five roundup of the best Android tablets from almost a year ago is still a good place to start. 10 inch tablets are often better for getting work done as they provide more space for windowed apps, but that's largely up to personal preference. Also, be sure to check out our essential pack of Android tablet apps for useful software to install on your device.
Connect A Keyboard And Mouse
Most tablets are pitched as simple touchscreen devices that don't require peripherals, so you'd be forgiven for not realising that Android includes support for Bluetooth keyboards and mice out of the box. A couple of the keyboards in our iPad keyboard Hive Five will also work with Android devices, but there are plenty of Android-specific options at a variety of price points.
If you prefer to use USB peripherals, you can use a USB OTG adaptor to connect USB devices. These are typically very cheap, though not all Android tablets support USB peripherals via this method, so be sure to check on your specific model first. Assuming your device supports USB OTG, your keyboard or mouse shouldn't require any additional configuration.
Multitask With Floating Apps
Your peripherals are only part of the equation. There are a number of floating apps you can download that allow you to multitask in much the same way you can on a full laptop or desktop. Here are a few of the best:
One of the most important apps on any device is the browser. While Chrome is fine for most casual browsing, Overskreen allows you to create a floating browser window that will hover over your regular apps, allowing you to take notes or get things done while you browse.
Tiny Apps is actually a suite of mini apps that fill a variety of basic needs including a calculator, note pad, music player controls, and even a rudimentary paint window for scribbling down miscellaneous doodles. While there are many other floating apps that can perform these same functions (and in some cases slightly better), Tiny Apps puts them all in one place and will do the job well enough for most people.
Floating YouTube is an app we've featured before that allows you to play a YouTube video over whatever you're doing. This functionality is similar to what the YouTube app does natively, though it works outside of the app as well.
It's no secret that we love the terminal, so why should Android miss out on all the fun? AirTerm creates a floating command line window. While the app itself doesn't require root, it's worth pointing out that you may be pretty limited in what you can accomplish without it.
Previously mentioned Quickly was originally designed to add rows of shortcuts to your notification shade, but a recent update brought the ability to create floating versions of your regular home screen widgets. Any widget can be launched directly from your shade, which means you can have a floating version of a calculator, to-do list, device settings, email, RSS, calendar, or any of the other incredibly versatile widgets that are available to your Android phone or tablet.
Do Everything With Remote Desktop
Sometimes a couple of extra floating apps won't really do the job. If you need a proper laptop operating system, you can use a remote desktop application to log in to your existing Windows machine. Microsoft actually has its own version of remote desktop for Android which is free.
If you prefer something with more options, there are plenty of other remote desktop applications that will allow you to use your tablet to work on your Windows machine. PocketCloud was our pick for best VNC app, but others such as Teamviewer and Splashtop have seen substantial development.
Your Android tablet probably won't be fully replacing your laptop any time soon. However, with much better battery life, more portability, and features such as a touch screen, built-in voice transcription, and deep integration with all your online services, there are plenty of reasons why you should give tablets a try as a real productivity tool.