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Transform a Windows tablet into a full-fledged Windows PC

Chris Hoffman | May 14, 2014
Today's Windows tablets offer such solid productivity chops that they can easily become the heart of a potent sit-down workstation with the help of a few peripherals and some smart software choices and tweaks

Some Android phones offer Mobile-High-Definition-Link (MHL) support, which allows you use a Micro-USB-to-HDMI adapter. This would mean a Windows 8.1 tablet with a standard Micro-USB port could output to HDMI with the proper adapter, if the display also supported MHL. However, we're not aware of any Windows 8.1 tablets actually implementing this feature yet.

Check your tablet's specifications to see what it supports and pick up the appropriate adapter. If you're shopping for a tablet you want to also use as a desktop PC, be sure to get one with a video-out port so you're not stuck fiddling with Miracast.

USB keyboards, mice, storage devices, and printers
Input will be easier to handle. Practically every Windows 8.1 tablet should support Bluetooth, so you can easily use Bluetooth mice and keyboards without worrying about ports.

However, there's a good chance you'll want to use standard wired keyboard and mice, or wireless keyboards and mice with a receiver that plugs in via USB. In this case, you'll just need to plug your USB mouse and keyboard into your tablet's USB port.

Yes, sometimes this is easier said than done! Some tablets will have only a micro-USB port, for example. You'll need a micro-USB-to-full-size-USB adapter to connect your USB devices to such tablets.

Other tablets will offer a full-size USB port, but only a single one. You can get around this limitation by purchasing a USB hub. You'll probably want an external USB hub with a power cable of its own that connects to a wall outlet. Your tablet will only provide so much power through its single USB port, and it may not be enough to power a mouse, keyboard, and all the storage devices you may want to connect.

Printers can be connected directly with USB, too. Plug that printer into the USB hub--or directly into the tablet--and you'll be able to print.

You can connect a wide variety of peripherals to your tablet PC with via USB. For example, you could read and burn optical discs from a tablet if you buy an external optical drive and connect it via USB. Leave your peripherals plugged into the USB hub and you'll only have to disconnect a single USB cable from your tablet if you ever want to pick it up and walk away.

Headsets, additional storage, and docks
Windows 8.1 tablets generally have a single combined headset-and-microphone audio jack, like iPhones, other smartphones, tablets, and even Ultrabooks do nowadays. If you're old school and have a headset with separate audio jacks for the headset and microphone, or if you have a pair of headphones and a separate mic, you can purchase an audio splitter adapter--like this one--that allows you to connect an audio-out and audio-in connector to the single audio port on a typical Windows tablet.


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