At, Jeudcastaned writes:

I’m studying at a university and I program a lot. I’m looking for a tablet PC and wanted to know: what is the best — but cheapest — tablet I can use? Does the Windows Surface run programs like Visual Studio? Thank you!

XPS 12Unfortunately, the current Microsoft Surface won’t run programs that aren’t made specifically for the Modern (formerly known as Metro) UI. You’re sort of stuck with what you get for the tablet. The upcoming Microsoft Surface Pro will run a full version of Windows 8 Pro, which will support programs like Visual Studio Express and just about anything else that runs on the traditional desktop. You end up paying a lot more for the option, though.

You’re looking for a tablet PC, but don’t have a lot of money to spend. Running full-fledged Windows programs on a tablet are possible right now mostly on convertible hybrid laptops that can become tablets.

Lenovo has a great range available. The ThinkPad Twist might not be the prettiest option out there, but it does clock in at well under $1,000 to start. The Yoga is a bit better looking and easier to handle and can be picked up at just over $1,000.

Dell’s XPS 12 is a pretty good option, and its student discount could help you score a good deal. You won’t be spending less than $1,000, but what you’ll get will be a complete Windows 8 experience.

Ultimately, you’re going to have a hard time finding a tablet that is both the best and the cheapest. There are plenty of good options out there, but it’s still too early to expect much in the budget range. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a good deal out there (like the ones listed above). In the next few years, the price of these devices will likely drop significantly as OEMs figure out how to fit the latest processors into tighter spaces. Ultrabooks are already quite a large advancement in the industry, and these convertibles are likely going to give you the best experience for both tablet and productive use.

I still believe that you need a touch screen to have a full Windows 8 experience. If you can put yourself in a position to have a keyboard, touch screen, and a trackpad or mouse, then you should be fine. Touch screens are still fairly pricey, and this goes against the grain when it comes to finding a good, solid Windows 8 solution on a budget.