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Tablet vs Laptop – Which Is Best For You?

Would you prefer a tablet or a laptop for your needs? Here’s a comprehensive overview that may be helpful.

A tablet is more portable and ideal for casual activities like browsing the web, watching videos, or playing mobile games.

Laptops are more productive due to their powerful hardware and more feature-rich software.

Furthermore, laptops can be a good alternative to desktops when it comes to gaming, although a desktop is always the better option in terms of performance and cost-effectiveness.

Both laptops and tablets are viable options if you need a portable computer, although one inevitably fits specific purposes better than the other.

In this guide, we will compare the capabilities of laptops and tablets so you can decide which type of device is right for you.

If you’re unsure about which one to buy, keep reading to learn what to do.

Portability

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First and foremost, there’s the issue of portability. Tablets win most of the time.

Tablets generally range in size from 7 to 13 inches, not including some larger tablets geared towards professionals. In general, 8-inch and 10-inch screens are the most popular for tablets because they manage the perfect balance between screen size and ergonomics.

The smallest and lightest tablets tend to weigh around 300 grams (about 10 ounces). Larger devices, such as the 13-inch iPad Pro, can weigh up to approximately 700 grams (about 1.5 pounds).

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On the other hand, laptop screens cover a wider range of sizes. As low as 12 inches and as high as 21 inches are possible. Although most mainstream laptops are in the 15- to 17-inch range, there are a few exceptions.

The average 15-inch laptop weighs about 2kg (around 5 lb). While this is heavier than a tablet, laptops cover a wide range of weights just like screen size. Some notebooks can easily weigh under 1kg, while some gaming laptops can weigh over 4kg, and even over 8kg in some cases.

In any case, tablets are smaller and lighter than even the lightest laptops currently available, so they definitely win in terms of portability.

Display

We should also mention the display while we’re on the subject of size. The two most important factors to consider here are size and resolution. Since laptops naturally have larger screens due to their larger frames, they will always have the upper hand in terms of sheer volume.

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In terms of resolution, the smaller tablet display would offer a higher pixel density, which would result in a sharper image and fewer visible pixels.

The quality of the display depends on the price – a 1080p display in a $150 tablet is unlikely to be as good as a 1080p display in a $1000 laptop.

Anyhow, tablets tend to offer better visuals in the lower price ranges than similarly priced laptops, mostly due to the aforementioned higher pixel density.

Storage

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Another crucial factor to consider is storage. Laptops almost always win in this case. The cheapest laptops usually feature either a 500 GB HDD or a 128 GB SSD, which outperform most tablets.

In general, tablets in 2021 will range from 8 GB to 256 GB in terms of internal storage, but some of the pricier high-end models may also come with up to 512 GB or 1 TB of storage. However, default storage capacity is not everything – expandable storage should also be considered.

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MicroSD memory cards can easily expand the storage capacity of many tablets (except Apple’s iPads). There are currently memory cards starting from 1 GB and going as high as 1 TB. However, the maximum supported capacity varies from device to device.

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Laptops have more options. Although many laptops have memory card readers, memory cards are not the most popular type of external storage for laptops.

As a result, external hard drives are often used in conjunction with internal SSDs, as they provide tons of storage at a low price per gigabyte. For those who need high-performance external storage, external SSDs are also available. On top of that, you can upgrade the internal storage drive on most mainstream laptops, something you cannot do with tablets.

See: Best Gaming Laptop Under $1000 To Buy 2021

As a whole, we’d give the advantage to laptops since an SSD can easily match the memory performance of a tablet. In addition, there are cheap external storage solutions, as well as the option to upgrade the laptop’s internal storage.

Additionally, you should also keep in mind that you might not need much internal storage to begin with. Mobile operating systems and apps, for instance, don’t take up much space. As such, as long as you don’t plan on filling up your tablet with media files, 32-64 GB of internal storage combined with cloud storage might be sufficient.

Cameras

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Both tablets and laptops come with built-in cameras, although tablets tend to have the advantage in this regard.

Tablets are not only equipped with both a front and rear camera, but their cameras are also usually of higher quality than those found in similarly priced laptops. When we consider that they are more portable than laptops and have many of the features of smartphones, it makes sense.

Laptops rarely have rear cameras. Although some laptop models do include a rear camera, most only have a front camera for video conferencing. The quality of these cameras is not stellar, especially on cheaper laptops.

In any case, tablets are more versatile in this regard and offer better cameras at lower prices. It is important to keep in mind, though, that only the more expensive tablets have cameras as good as those found in most mid-range and flagship phones.

Battery Life

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Without a good battery, what good is a portable computer? Let’s take a look at the battery performance of tablets and laptops.

Tablets can usually be used for 8 to 12 hours continuously. On the other hand, laptops are typically more power-hungry, lasting between 2 and 6 hours, depending on what they’re being used for.

The batteries on some notebooks and high-end laptops, however, can last well over 12 hours in some cases, so they can often compete with tablets in this regard.

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Why do tablet batteries last longer? There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that they use ARM processors, which are simpler and less power-hungry than even the mobile versions of desktop CPUs found in laptops. 

Furthermore, these CPUs generate less heat, making them ideal for devices like phones and tablets that lack active cooling. In addition, mobile operating systems, such as iOS, tend to be relatively well optimized.

By turning on the power-saving mode, you can extend the battery life of your laptop. By limiting the laptop’s performance and screen brightness, you can prolong its lifespan.

Overall, we’re inclined to give this one to tablets since they tend to last longer as they don’t have additional throttling. Tablets cannot do some things that laptops can, but more on that below.

Performance

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Performance is mainly determined by the price point and the intended use of the device. When it comes to performance, tablets tend to be roughly equivalent to laptops in the lower price ranges, but the gap widens as the prices rise.

In other words, a tablet would likely perform better than a low-end laptop if it is primarily used for web surfing, multimedia, and casual gaming. 

In this category, however, since laptops offer better performance than most tablets in the midrange and higher price ranges, the laptop comes out on top, and that’s even excluding the limitations of the operating system.

Operating Systems and Software

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In addition to the hardware differences, there are also software differences between laptops and tablets. Most tablets today run either iOS or Android, although Amazon’s Android-based Fire OS is quite popular in their low-end Fire tablets. 

Laptops use the same operating systems as desktop computers: Windows, macOS, and Linux, with Windows a very popular choice among hybrid devices as well.

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Instead of delving too deeply into the differences between individual operating systems, we will focus on the differences between mobile and desktop operating systems. 

Mobile operating systems are simple and quick to use, but desktop operating systems have more features and access to more powerful software.

Many people find that tablets are not a good substitute for laptops or desktops due to how limiting mobile operating systems can be. 

There is a good chance a mobile app version of a desktop program will lack some features found in the desktop version. Due to this, the desktop operating systems would win in this regard.

Interface

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The next thing to consider is the way you interact with the device, especially its interface, which is quite straightforward.

Laptops mostly rely on a physical keyboard and a touchpad for input. Nevertheless, laptops support all the peripherals that desktops do, so you can use an external keyboard and mouse as long as your laptop has the necessary connectors. 

In addition, wireless keyboards and mice are supported if the laptop supports the wireless technology used by said peripherals.

See: Best Gaming Laptop Under $1000 To Buy 2021

A tablet, on the other hand, relies entirely on its touchscreen for input and uses a virtual keyboard. Fortunately, most — if not all — tablets support Bluetooth keyboards, although mouse support can sometimes be tricky.

Whatever the case, when it comes to productivity, the mouse and keyboard are unsurpassed, but there can be no clear winner in this category since both KB&M controls and touchscreen controls have their merits and flaws depending on how they are used. The former is more precise, but the latter is more intuitive.

Connectivity

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Now let’s take a look at tablet and laptop connectivity options, both physically and wirelessly.

Modern laptops are equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but relatively few support cellular connectivity as well. In ports, the situation varies greatly. 

Bulkier laptops typically include all the ports you’d find on a modern desktop motherboard: USB 3.0, Ethernet, analog audio connectors, HDMI, etc. Typically, more compact laptops have smaller USB-C ports instead of larger ports.

Tablets, too, are all equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, although many manufacturers also offer models with cellular connectivity, a feature that is much rarer on laptops.  

Price

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Tablets generally start at a much lower price than laptops do, as low as $50, while the cheapest laptops start around $150.

On the other end of the price spectrum, tablets can go up to $1000, excluding high-end tablets and hybrids geared towards professionals.

Mainstream laptops also cost about $800. The price for high-end laptops, notebooks, and gaming laptops can range from $1000 to $5000, and even reach five digits on rare occasions.

Anyhow, in addition to being cheaper in general, cheap tablets often perform better than cheap laptops. If you’re on a tight budget, keep this in mind.

Conclusion – Which Should You Choose?

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Tablets and laptops are very different devices, which makes sense since they were designed for different purposes. 

In fact, Steve Jobs said when introducing the original iPad that tablets would fill the space between smartphones and laptops and do certain things better than both of them.

What do tablets do better than laptops, and which type of device is ultimately the best choice for you?

A tablet would probably be the best option for you if all you need it for is browsing the web, watching videos, listening to music, and playing casual games. 

Tablets are light, portable, and compact, have excellent battery life, and probably have a better display than what you get with a laptop at a lower price. Check out our selection of the best tablets available right now if you’re considering this option.

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As an alternative, if you also plan to use the device for work or if you generally need to type a lot, we’d suggest a laptop. 

If you pair a tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard, it becomes much easier to type, but having a larger device would enhance overall productivity.

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If you’re seriously into gaming and want a device that can serve as your primary gaming machine, a good gaming laptop is what you need. Check out our list of the best gaming laptops available if this is the case.

As a result, gaming laptops are only really worth it if you travel a lot and need a portable device for gaming, as they are usually more costly and offer inferior performance to PCs with similar specs. 

However, an external GPU can turn any laptop with a sufficiently powerful CPU into a proper gaming machine. Yet, the bandwidth limitations mean that the performance won’t be as good as if you installed the GPU in a desktop PC.

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Lastly, if you’re a professional and need a proper workstation, a laptop would be the best option.

Since professional software such as Adobe Photoshop is quite limited on mobile devices, a high-end laptop, such as a MacBook or a Surface Book, is the best alternative if desktop workstations are not an option.

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