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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tablets vs. Laptops

Which is better? What are the advantages of a Tablet over a Laptop?

Tablets were never really created to compete with Laptops. They are completely different beasts when we look at the total operating functions, storage capacity, processing power and applications. Still, there will be many that will want to decide between the two when making the purchase or deciding to replace and existing computer. Below are some practical categories that you will want to consider when deciding between the two.

Advantages of a Tablet over a Laptop

Lighter weight, more portable/Size

The first big standout advantage of a table is its smaller size and more portable nature. The difference is pronounced. Even the largest current Tablet – the iPad – weighs only 1.5 pounds, compared to Laptops which generally weight between 5 and 7 pounds. While the Blackberry Playbook, Motorola Xoom, and Samsung Galaxy Tab have a 7" screen size and weigh a pound. Part of the reduction in weight has to do with less processing power and memory which we'll discuss later.Put the iPad in a bag and you probably will not even feel the weight, even with a light case on it. People everywhere in the current environment seem attracted to products that are sleeker and lighter. Size is also so much smaller depending upon screen size but consider the depth of the iPad at .5" depth compared to an inch for my laptop. The length, width, depth comparison is a no-brainer in favor of Tablets. For traveling light, you cant beat the Tablet.

Recently on a Smelta (Delta) flight as I was preparing to get some work done, the person in the seat in front of me reclined his seat. I tried placing my laptop on the fold down tray and realized I could not open it enough to see the screen. Thus the entire 4 hour flight was wasted. A Tablet would have resolved the problem.

Screen Functionality

The LCD touch screen in the iPad is just beautiful, the Playbook is impressive as well. However, the screen resolution on Tablets should not be as compelling for more advanced imagery or videos due to higher processing power on Laptops.

Touchscreen scrolling

Touchscreen scrolling on the iPad, Nook Color and Galaxy Tab is extremely fast. This is one area where the Tablet is just faster than using a laptop – especially with the iPad which is lightning and with exceptional retained picture resolution.

Screen rotation in Tablets

The ultra cool screen rotation feature allowing portrait of landscape view of displayed content is, well just a neat feature that allows some extra flexibility. The screen flexibility will be a major feature of Tablets to come (as in Honeycomb project) for instance allowing fast movement and viewing of Google maps at various angles and with pinch and expand functionality.


As mentioned, the operating system speed of the iPad is blazing fast with its 1 GHz processor and the HP Slate is even faster with a 1.86 GHz processor and a whopping 2GB of RAM. Of course, laptops can easily rival the processing speed – but not with touch screen functionality. That's where the speed really impresses the onlooker. As fast as your finger can swipe, the Tablet can display.

Group Activity/Viewing/Meetings/Sales

Tablets are extremely easy to pass around whether it be in your living room with the family or in a sales meeting with 4 other people. They are also easy to show information to several other people at the same time, say of projected sales gains or other business meeting material showing your products benefits. They are easy to share information on. In a business setting they will succeed among sales people for the light weight, ease of passing, and acceptable presentation stigma which laptops do not enjoy. Laptops are too cumbersome, if not too heavy, to pass around and are not considered a proper presentation device in meetings. Plus the battery might dwindle.

Battery Life

The iPad can run for up to 10 hours without a charge and the Playbook is projected to have a battery life of 5 hours. I'm lucky if I can get 45 minutes out of my HP laptop. This is a big advantage for travel, for meetings, and for other locations that require long viewing times without recharging.

Gaming and Apps via Touch Screen

There are some fun gaming that can be played by touch screen (thinking touch screen air hockey here). If the touch screen is fast and finger sensitive enough, then this is a fun feature. I would say the iPad is definitely a good screen for this, but the Galaxy Tab by Samsung is not.


Advantages of Laptops over Tablets


The iPad and Playbook have a special screen coating that is supposed to reduce fingerprints and it actually seems to work a little better than my iPhone screen. However, generally this will annoy some people – especially at angles when the fingerprints are most visible. Users will likely want to carry a soft cloth for frequent wipe downs.

Keyboard size/Typing Speed

In portrait mode on the 9.7" diagonal iPad screen the keyboard is a one or two finger proposition. In landscape mode the size is much better but I type about a third of my normal speed on a full size keyboard. The 7" Tablets will of course be even slower and more speed limited even though the internal processors will have no problem keeping up with your speed. The iPad and Galaxy Tab do give you a nice click sound for feedback recognition. Also worth mentioning here is that you cannot rest your fingers on the touch screen keyboard. It may seem trivial but as I'm typing this article, my fingers rest on the keyboard in between thoughts. The iPad has an optional ($69) keyboard.

More storage

64GB, the largest drive available on tablets, isn't even half of the storage available on a cheap laptop and a high end laptop can have as much as 10 times or more the amount of storage space of the largest tablets.

More power

For raw computing power Tablets play in the same ballpark as old Pentium 3 and AMD Thunderbird processors. You may even be too young to remember when a 1 gigahertz processor was a big deal in a computer but right now most tablets are right around the 1Ghz mark. These days laptops come with dual and quad core processors and even low end laptops will have more than twice as much computing power in one of the 2 or 4 cores. Any type of processor intensive activity, video rendering, gaming, large calculations are going to benefit from the increased power of a laptop.


RAM is important when working with large files like video or picture editing, large amounts of fast memory make any task using a large file faster. More advanced games also require more RAM. Tablets typically have 256 to 512 megabytes of memory, this was what you'd find in a laptop 5 or more years ago. Today most laptops come with a minimum of 2 gigabytes of RAM though 3 and 4 gigs are common.

Screen Resolution and Color Depth

In the average laptop you are going to have a larger screen than even the largest tablet with more powerful video processing hardware and a higher resolution and more color depth. With high quality video or photographs this will be quite noticeable when compared against any lower quality hardware on a tablet.


From having more and different types of input and output options to the ability to use card and disc based media to the ability to upgrade internal hardware there is added flexibility to a laptop that tablets lack. When purchasing a laptop you will also have more options for customization, buy however much RAM, processing power and hard disc space you will need, you are not limited to only a few options. This is an area that Tablets will likely improve upon in the future.

More Software

No proprietary app store, no manufacturer approval process. Any software you want to run, you can run. If you are so inclined you can even write your own software. Don't like your current operating system? Change it to a different one, run windows in bootcamp, wipe the hard disc and install Ubuntu, go devilish with FreeBSD. There is more software flexibility on a laptop than can be put into a short article.

By John Winger 

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