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Tablets vs. Laptops: Which Are Better For Mobile Computing?

Sections: Computers, Laptops, Mobile Computers, Wireless

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ID-10041399Today seems to be the day to discuss tablets vs. laptops. Business Insider  had an article on replacing tablets with laptops, and our sister site, TeleRead had an article on the subject as well. Because it’s a topic I particularly enjoy writing about, I thought I’d add my voice to the fray.

ID-100106579Laptops and tablets both fit the niche of mobile computing. They are both good for certain tasks and not so good for others. I gave up a laptop for a tablet a long time ago, and if I need a full computer, I use my desktop PC. Basically, it’s used when I’m working with images, need multiple windows open at one time or for an application that’s not available for tablets (like doing book conversions in Calibre). I also keep Quickbooks on my computer because I’m leery of having my business finances accessible from a device that’s so easily stolen.

That’s a small number of tasks. There are times when I’m sitting at my desk, in front of my computer, using my iPad because it’s better suited for the task at hand. But maybe I’m unusual.

Or not. I spend a lot of time in coffee shops because it’s where I do my fiction writing, and it’s where I meet with my clients. I see people working on both laptops and tablets, and because I’m curious about gadgets, I probably spend more time shoulder surfing than I should. Most of the time, I see people doing the following types of tasks:

  • 1. Web browsing
  • 2. Reading
  • 3. Email
  • 4. Watching video
  • 5. Social networking
  • 6. Light word processing (mostly without complicated graphics, tables or the like)
  • All of those are perfect work for a tablet. I use my iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard to do all of them on the go.

I think a good quality tablet with a keyboard can do almost everything a laptop can do, and it’s more portable. Several years ago, before the iPad became ubiquitous, I bought a netbook, looking for something I could take with me to coffee shops and use around the house. I hated it. Even though it was small, it was a pain to carry around. I never could get comfortable curled up in bed with a netbook. My iPad, however, is perfect. It’s powerful enough to do most of my work, and it’s small and light enough to use almost everywhere.

So when people ask me about “laptop vs. tablet,” I ask what they need to do with the device. If tasks mostly fall in the categories above, I suggest a tablet. I do think most households need at least one full computer, but I’d advise getting a desktop. You’ll get more screen real estate and processing power for less money than a laptop. Use the desktop for the heavy lifting and let the tablet do what it’s good at: mobile computing.

Okay, I know many of you will disagree with me. Bring it on!

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