I remember when I started using Apple’s first iPad in 2010; I realized that this was the future of computing. It was a small, thin, (relatively) light device that allowed me to perform many of the tasks that I performed. No more mouse or trackpad, and no more keyboard; the keyboard was on the display itself, but only when I needed it. I could use it anywhere, in any position, even lying down in bed. But could a tablet replace a laptop?
When you’re on the road, you need to bring one or several computing devices with you. Your smartphone may not be sufficient for the work you need to accomplish, so you probably also bring a laptop on your journeys. But, with the power and flexibility of today’s tablets, do you really need a laptop? Can you do all or most of the work you need with a tablet?
In this article, we compare the tablet vs. laptop and look at the pros and cons of replacing a laptop with a tablet.
Tablet vs. Laptop: Pros and Cons
There are many advantages to taking a tablet with you instead of a laptop when you’re traveling. A tablet is lighter, thinner, and obviates the need for a special bag to protect it and its peripherals. You don’t need a special charger – you can use the same one you use for your phone, perhaps with a specific USB cable. You also don’t need peripherals or dongles, and you generally don’t need to bring anything to back up your work, as most of it can be stored in the cloud.
Tablets are more minimalist. You can take them out of your bag and wake them up quickly, tap a few icons, and perform tasks with little friction. If you’re on an airplane, it’s a lot easier to work with a tablet than unfolding a laptop in the limited tray space available. And there’s a different feeling when you’re working with a touch-screen device, tapping rather than clicking. Tablets feel, to many, more personal, less like computers.
In meetings, tablets are more discreet. You know how it looks when people are hunched over their laptops, typing notes as meetings go on but avoiding debate; people look isolated, out of touch, and are not really paying a lot of attention. With a tablet, you can place it flat on a desk or table, and you will be more attentive to the people around you.
Can a Tablet Do Everything?
“But,” you might say, “I need to do serious work when I’m on the road.” There are certainly cases where a tablet doesn’t cut muster. There are apps that need a full-fledged computer – complex database apps, CAD tools, etc. – and, if you depend on these, then a tablet is out of the question. But for most people, a tablet can accomplish all your needs.
Since many of the tools you use may be cloud based – think of Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, organizational tools like Slack, CRM tools like Salesforce, and business intelligence or project management apps of all types – you don’t even need to store files locally. The tablet can be a thin client, a computer that connects to a remote server, allowing you to perform tasks that the device itself would not be capable of, because of its storage, resources, etc.
And you can store much of your data in the cloud, and not worry about what is on your tablet. Tablets are available with 4G/LTE access, in addition to Wi-Fi, while only some laptops offer this. Apple’s laptops do not offer LTE, though you can tether a laptop from an iPhone (you can also do this with Android phones), but there’s a greater amount of freedom when your tablet doesn’t depend on your phone to function.
The limitations to a tablet are its operating system. Apple’s iOS is quite advanced, and offers a number of multi-tasking options such as split screens. Microsoft’s Surface Pro line has Windows 10, which is both good and bad. It’s good because you can do pretty much anything you do on Windows. It’s bad because it’s designed for computers, and is not a true tablet operating system. This device is often called a “two-in-one,” because it functions as both a laptop and tablet, but the OS just isn’t designed to work without its keyboard. The Android tablet OS is a bit of a hybrid; it’s pretty much the same as the phone operating system, but it does offer some multi-tasking features such as split screen.
Working with a Tablet
Recent tablets have enhanced the way you interact with them through more extensive use of styluses, improved keyboard support, and better multi-tasking, such as being able to use a split screen. While it’s a good idea to get a cover for your tablet that includes a keyboard – so when you do need to type a lot, you can do so easily – most people can simply type on the device’s screen. Unless you touch type, that external keyboard won’t make typing that much faster.
And if you want a display that is closer to the size of a laptop, today’s tablets come in larger sizes than Apple’s first iPad – it had a 9.7” display – with Apple offering a 12.9” model, and Microsoft a 12.3” screen. The trade-off is extra weight, and higher cost. But if you need a larger display, such as to show clients a portfolio, or to better navigate a complex spreadsheet, then tablets are practical.
A Different Way of Working
In the end, deciding whether to work with a tablet vs. laptop all comes down to a state of mind. With a laptop – or a desktop computer – it’s the computer that controls you. You have lots of windows, lots of objects that get in the way. With a tablet, you often work in just a single, full-screen window, and you feel more in control of your devices. It’s tactile, and in many ways it blurs the lines between you and the device, making computing less abstract, less distant. And that leaves you with more room to think, to reflect, to create. To be yourself.
Which device do you prefer to use in business or when traveling: tablet or laptop? Or both? Have a question or feedback about this story? Drop us a comment below.
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