Laptop vs. Tablet: Which Device is Right for You?
Considering a new computer, but can't decide if a tablet or laptop is the better choice? Learn the pros and cons of each and see how 2-in-1 laptops compare.
Updated March 4, 2020
Are you considering a new computer, but can't decide if a tablet or laptop is the better choice? Learn the pros and cons of each—and also find out how 2-in-1 laptops compare.
Your old computer has given up the ghost and gone to that big PC graveyard in the sky. Now it is time for some tough decisions. Technology changes rapidly, and there are so many more options for computer use compared to just a few years ago.
If you enjoy sitting on the couch, outside or at a coffee shop as you work or play on the computer, there are two main transportable options that you are probably considering: laptops and tablets. But which one is the right choice for you?
With more flexibility and portability than desktops, laptops feature a traditional keyboard on the bottom and screen on top. They fold closed for easy travel. Most form factors feature a traditional operating system, such as Windows or iOS, along with endless configurations of inputs, outputs, DVD drives, memory, storage space, processor speeds and more.
What is the Main Purpose of the Device?
The first consideration when choosing a new laptop or tablet is the main purpose for which the computing device will be used.
Will you be using the device as a home workstation? Working from home involves dedication and attention to detail, as well as a high quantity of software. From videoconferencing applications to webcams to word processing tools, your device will need to handle all the apps effectively and efficiently. The device will also require a long battery life or fast charging capability, plus a fan to keep the device cool if it is being used all day. In addition, you will want an ergonomically-friendly computer if you need to type for long periods.
Will you be using the device for simple web browsing or watching videos? If you plan on just using the device for pleasure, you might want to consider something completely portable like an iPad or lightweight Android or Windows tablet that can be used both in your home and outside of it. These lighter devices may not be able to run complex games or intensive apps, but they are great to take on-the-go as a larger alternative to a smartphone. If you will mainly use the device for reading, consider a dedicated e-reader, which sometimes offers other apps or web browsing capabilities.
Pros and Cons of a Laptop
Consider the pros and cons of a laptop — the personal computer that you can tote around.
Laptops, otherwise known as notebook computers, include higher-performing processors because they are large enough to feature internal fans, which effectively cools the processors. As a result, laptops have more power than tablets and can easily run multiple programs simultaneously. This makes laptops particularly efficient and conducive to multitasking.
Because laptops use traditional hard drives, they have greater storage capacity relative to tablets. Most laptops today can have as much as 1 Terabyte (TB) or 1000 Gigabytes (GB) in hard drive capacity, which means you’ll have plenty of room for all your files, images and videos. Although the latest innovations in tablet technology make it possible to expand storage capabilities, it is more difficult and less seamless than doing so on a laptop. It is a simple process to connect laptops to external hard drives in order to store additional content and files.
An attached physical keyboard provides an easy, ergonomic typing experience. Without question, laptops offer a more convenient typing experience and are more useful for putting together longer word documents or presentation decks with a high quantity of text. The trackpads on laptops also enable easier navigation in some cases relative to the touchscreen experience. And when trackpad navigation just won’t cut it, it’s a cinch to use a wireless Bluetooth mouse with your laptop.
Due to their thicker superstructures and heavier batteries, laptops weigh more than tablets. Most laptops weigh at least three pounds. Laptop screens are also considerably larger than most tablet screens, generally between 12-17 inches. Because of their weight and screen size, laptops can be more difficult to transport and may require the use of larger work bags or backpacks to fit them.
Laptops are more expensive because of their higher quality hardware. While some lower-priced, basic laptops are now emerging in the market, laptops with the best functionality and most versatility will set you back considerably more. Some of the highest quality laptops can be as much as $3000 or more. Because of this, some might consider a laptop a higher involvement purchase than a tablet.
Laptops can be vulnerable to viruses and malware attacks. Viruses are designed specifically to attack computers, so laptops are more at risk than tablets. If you purchase a laptop, you may want to consider purchasing anti-viral software to help protect your files and information.
Laptop cameras do not have great quality and primarily exist for video calling purposes. If you are looking for a PC that can also function in lieu of a digital camera, most laptops won’t be up to the task.
Pros and Cons of a Tablet
Consider the pros and cons of a tablet—a portable, handheld touchscreen device.
Thin and lightweight, tablet PCs are extremely portable and can fit in purses and some pockets. Some tablets weigh less than a pound. This makes them an ideal choice for frequent travelers.
Because of their smaller screen sizes and less hardware, tablets have longer battery life. Tablets can also have more reliable batteries. Some tablet models boast battery life for up to 14 hours.
Tablets are less expensive than laptops as they have fewer features. It’s possible to find a functional tablet for less than $200. More cutting-edge tablets can also still be quite affordable and offer more functionality than the more basic models.
Tablets’ large screens make it easy to consume video content, e-books and other types of media. Because of their large touchscreens, tablets offer a pleasurable viewing experience and are great for catching up on your favorite TV shows, movies, or books while on-the-go.
Because some tablets operate on closed systems, it is unlikely that you’ll catch a virus or malware on the device. As a result, your sensitive information may be more secure on a tablet. For business use cases, a tablet may be a great option because it has this built-in security feature.
Tablets have cameras on par with the leading smartphones, which means they can be great for taking photos. If you plan to take a tablet along with you when you travel, this means you’ll have the ability to take high-quality photos.
Tablets use SSDs (solid-state drives) for storage. This makes most tablets less bulky but also means they generally have less storage capacity. Tablets can now be connected to external hard drives, but it is usually more complicated to expand the storage capability of this kind of device relative to laptops.
Tablets only have touchscreen keyboards. Therefore, you'll need to invest in an external keyboard with Bluetooth connectivity if you plan to do a large amount of typing on your tablet. An external keyboard is usually not quite as comfortable or functional as a built-in keyboard on a laptop, and it can be cumbersome to attach the keyboard to the tablet.
No matter the task, the iPad Pro is up to it - and then some. It offers far more power than most PC laptops, yet is delightfully simple to use. The redesigned Retina display is as stunning to look at as it is to touch. Everything you want modern computing to be. Now even, well, better.
While traditional tablets lack the ergonomic typing experience that a full keyboard offers, a 2-in-1 PC offers full typing capability. As a result, you don’t have to sacrifice the ability to comfortably type long documents on your device. There’s also no need carry around a clunky external keyboard, as it’s built into the computer or easy to seamlessly attach.
Because 2-in-1 laptops feature both trackpad and touchscreen capabilities, users have multiple ways to control the navigational experience. This offers ultimate flexibility when using your device. If you’re scrolling through complex software programs, you can use a full trackpad. On the other hand, when you want to just put on your favorite Netflix show and relax, the touchscreen makes that a cinch.
Much like traditional laptops, 2-in-1 laptops often feature powerful processors that enable multitasking and efficient use of multiple programs at the same time. Therefore, you won’t need to compromise on productivity with a 2-in-1 or worry about overloading the device with too many open apps; you can toggle between all your favorite apps worry-free.
Because a 2-in-1 PC might enable you to pare down your devices, you can save money in the long run if you opt not to purchase a separate laptop and tablet. This also means you can ditch that massive work bag or backpack when you’re on-the-go since you’ll have fewer devices to tote around.
It’s important to note that all the functionality of a 2-in-1 laptop comes at a price. 2-in-1 devices tend to cost as much as higher-end laptops, which means that tablets are still the more affordable option. 2-in-1 devices are usually a substantial investment, and the leading models aren’t necessarily easy on the wallet.
Right now, 2-in-1 laptops only run on either Windows or Chrome operating systems. Therefore, if you’re an avid iOS or Android fan, you won’t have those options available with a hybrid device. There are also fewer choices in general on the market right now compared to traditional laptops and tablets, which means your 2-in-1 options can be limited.
The Dell Latitude 3000 2-in-1 features an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD, making it a very capable 2-in-1 laptop.
Which Should You Choose?
Whatever your needs, the main consideration for your choice between a laptop and tablet (or a 2-in-1 device) should be convenience. Pick whichever device is most convenient for you and will make your life and personal computing easier. If you need to do a large amount of typing or work with multiple software applications simultaneously, a laptop is probably your best bet. If you just need a device for internet browsing, keeping up with the news, or kicking back with your favorite movie, a tablet can easily accomplish that. There is no right or wrong here — pick the device that works for your life.