By Tracey Dowdy
Ever since the advent of the tablet, the debate of laptop vs. tablet has raged. Well, maybe not raged, but frequently discussed, occasionally with vehement hand gestures.
Are they interchangeable? Does one perform just as well as the other? Well, yes and no. Before investing in a tablet or a laptop, stop and consider what your needs are and use these tips to determine which device is best for you.
For most of us, price is a primary issue. Laptops generally start at $500, whereas a tablet like the Verizon Ellipsis 8 is available for as little as $79.99. Depending on what your needs are, if you’re on a budget, a tablet may be the way to go.
Most tablets use a variation of a smartphone operating system. For example, the iPad uses iOS and the Verizon Ellipsis 8 is Android based. Like many mobile devices, the focus is on touch screens and ease of use. Consider that tablets generally come with 1 GB of RAM or less. Laptops on the other hand come with 4-8 GB of RAM making it much easier to multi-task. Think of your hard drive as a file cabinet and RAM as your desk. Once you pull files from the cabinet, you can spread them out on your desk and jump around. More RAM means faster speeds and better performance, which is especially important for gamers – and by gamers I don’t mean those playing Candy Crush or Kim Kardashian.
Ah battery life, the bane of our tech existence. To be fair, it’s difficult to compare laptop and tablet battery lives because of the different ways the devices are used. However, if you compare battery specs from the manufacturers you get a better picture of what to expect. The average laptop battery offers roughly 6 hours of continuous use whereas the average tablet offers 10 hours or more. Enough said.
Another important piece of the puzzle is how much storage you will need. Tablets generally come with 16-64 GB of storage. High-end tablets offer much more, but they also come with a high-end price tag. On the other hand, you can get a laptop with a full terabyte of storage for under $1,000. In fact, storage doesn’t really impact the price of a laptop. Of course, cloud storage is an option for tablets but you’ll need to consider security issues, whether you’re willing to pay a monthly fee, and whether or not you’re disciplined enough to regularly transfer those photos and other data to the cloud.
Most newer tablets offer displays of over 250 pixels per inch, with the latest iPad mini coming in at a whopping 326 ppi. That’s why Denzel looks so good on Netflix. Well, that and good genes but I digress. On the other hand, most laptop displays are below 200 ppi, although the number of hi-res laptops is increasing every month. Keep in mind most laptops screens are larger than tablet displays, so that image doesn’t necessarily need to be as crisp.
Before making that purchase, think ports and connectivity. Will you want to connect to your home theater system? Will you need to print from your device? HDMI and USB ports are standard on most laptops, not so much with tablets. Likewise when it comes to printers. It’s relatively easy to connect your laptop to a printer, again, not so much with tablets.
Once you know what your primary needs are, the decision is much easier than you may think. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me ‘splain…No, there is too much. Let me sum up”:
Choose a laptop if you:
- need high performance – think speed and compatibility
- need lots of storage
- will use it as your primary device
Choose a tablet if you:
- already have a laptop or PC and you’re looking for a companion device
- primarily want a device for surfing the net and entertainment
- want something simple.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.