There has been a huge rise in the popularity of tablet computers over the last couple of years. This has been mainly due to their easy to use interface, portability, and the wide ranging ways they can be used. Recently Google has released their first tablet and Microsoft has announced that they will be bringing out their own tablet in October 2012, hoping to capitalise on the booming market. Some people are now looking at using these devices as an alternative to a laptop; below we consider the pros and cons of both.
The obvious difference between a laptop and a tablet is that laptops have a physical keyboard. Tablets rely solely on a touch interface on the screen for input. This is fine when it involves mainly pointing, dragging or tapping to navigate around a program but when it comes to typing longer documents most people find it easier and more comfortable to use real keys. It’s possible to add an external Bluetooth keyboard to many tablets to make this more like a laptop but it adds to the cost as well as having more to carry around. This starts to detract from what’s great about tablets.
Tablets can’t compete with laptops on data storage. To keep their size and costs down, tablet computers have use solid state storage memory to store programs and data. These do not compare well against most laptops that have hard disks with capacities around ten times larger. With a tablet you may have to be choosier about which photos, videos, music and documents you store locally. The rest has to be stored online, or on a PC or laptop.
Since tablets are usually based on lower powered processors, they will generally fall behind a laptop when it comes to computing tasks. Of course, a lot of this will depend on what the tablet or laptop is being used for. For tasks like email, web browsing, playing video or audio, both platforms will typically work just as well, as neither requires high performance.
This difference becomes more noticeable once you start doing more demanding tasks or multiple things at once (which is not possible on some tablets). For the most part, multitasking or graphics performance is typically better suited to a laptop.
Tablets are designed for efficiency, with battery life being at the heart of the design, whereas laptops run more powerful hardware and so require more power. Many tablets can run for up to ten hours before requiring a recharge. An average laptop, however, will only run for a fraction of that time, so tablets can achieve all day usage which few laptops can achieve.
Laptops and tablets come at a range of prices and generally speaking the more you pay the more you get in terms of quality, data storage capacity and performance. You get a more for your money with a laptop or netbook than with a tablet, but the trade off is loss of convenience, portability and often fun.
Ultimately, it’s not a case of one or the other; laptops and tablets are complementary devices for many people. Each device has its strengths and weaknesses and is suitable for different tasks. Manufacturers are certain to come up with new ways to make tablet devices work more independently from PCs than they currently do. However, it’s still early days for tablets, and competition in the marketplace is rapidly increasing. While tablets haven’t yet made laptops redundant, this might not remain true forever.