Should I Buy a Laptop or Tablet?

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Should I Buy a Laptop or Tablet?
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As technology gets better and more advanced, consumers are have a lot of options when deciding which gadgets to buy and use in their daily lives. Two of the main contenders in the computer market are the tablet and the laptop. So which of these two should the buyer purchase? It actually depends on what the buyer needs the computer for. In this guide, the features and pros and cons of both tablets and laptops are explored, so that the buyer can decide which would make the better computer purchase.


The Laptop

Laptops are the original form of the mobilized desktop computer, and have been around since the 1970s. Of course, since then the design of laptops has improved dramatically, and laptops have become lighter and better performing. There are many different kinds of laptops including the full-size laptop, the netbook, the rugged laptop, the subnotebook, the desktop replacement laptop, and so on. For ease of understanding this guide will talk about the most popular kind, which is the full-size regular laptop.

Definition and Components of a Laptop

A full-sized laptop is a portable personal computer that is large enough to possess a full QWERTY keyboard. This kind of laptop usually has:

  • A central processing unit (CPU) that has better power-saving options and produces less heat than desktop computers
  • Memory modules (RAM) that can be expanded on most models
  • Expansion cards to give it the various features it needs such as Internet connectivity
  • A power supply to charge the battery and/or provide direct power to the laptop
  • A battery that can hold power for differing amounts of time depending on what the laptop is used for
  • Video display controller to process graphics
  • LED or CCFL display with varying resolutions
  • Internal storage to store data
  • Removable media drives to read discs
  • Input components such as a touchpad and keyboard
  • Ports for connecting USB devices, network devices, or external display devices
  • Cooling components that remove excess heat from the laptop

The features and operating mechanisms of laptops and tablet computer are quite similar; this may be due to the fact that tablets were derived from laptops to start with. Later on in this guide, the buyer will learn of the advantages of laptops when compared to tablets, and also their shortcomings.


The Tablet

Tablets have only become popular since the year 2000, and especially after the Apple iPad was released in 2010. There are two distinct types of tablets: the traditional tablet PCs that run on desktop-based operating systems, and the post-PC tablets that use operating systems that were designed for mobile devices. Both types of tablets offer almost the same kind of advantages and disadvantages over the laptop; therefore in this guide general information on tablet PCs will be provided as opposed to type-specific information.

Definition and Components of a Tablet

A tablet computer is a mobile computer that is larger than a mobile phone or personal digital assistant, but is significantly smaller and lighter than a laptop computer. Tablet computers use touchscreen displays, and input into tablets are performed by tapping on this display rather than through a physical keyboard or mouse. Tablets usually come with a stylus pen that is used for input. While having most of the components of a laptop, they are usually miniaturized versions. These components include:

  • A microprocessor known as the CPU
  • Typically 1 to 2 GB of RAM, but this can be expanded just like on laptops
  • Hard drive that is restricted compared to laptops (around 16 GB to 32 GB maximum)
  • USB ports
  • Memory card slots to hold SD or microSD cards that add extra internal storage
  • Graphic and audio controllers that are less powerful than laptops
  • Battery and power supply

Additionally, a tablet contains an accelerometer to help detect the movements of the tablet, ambient light and proximity sensors, and some tablets even support 3D viewing.


Laptop Pros and Cons as Compared to Tablets

While laptops may not be the latest gadget when compared to tablets, they do have advantages over tablets that tablets have yet to catch up with. According to experts, laptops are still the best choice if the buyer is purchasing a computer for work or business purposes, as laptops can handle a larger amount of processing while not compromising performance.

Pros of a Laptop

The following are the advantages that a laptop can offer over a tablet:

Performance and Multitasking

Due to the fact that they contain better hardware in terms of processing, laptops far outperform tablets when the user needs to multitask. It’s so much easier to use different applications at once on a laptop than it is on a tablet. Not only that, laptops are more suited for heavy Internet use than tablets, since a majority of Internet sites use a lot of data that is processed much more slowly on a tablet. The user should also keep in mind that when it comes to data storage, laptops definitely offer more.

Display

Laptops have a larger display than tablets, making viewing much more comfortable and enjoyable. It doesn’t matter if the buyer is looking at photos, watching movies, or playing games; the experience is still better on a laptop than on a tablet.

Usage Comfort

Since laptops have a bigger screen and a full keyboard, using a laptop is much more comfortable than using a tablet. While it’s true that tablets have an impressive touch input, this kind of input can get troublesome especially when the user needs to key in a lot of data. In this case, it’s clear to see why laptops win when it comes to comfort. Healthwise, laptops are also better ergonomically, since they have a surface for the user to rest his or her wrist and arms on.

Durability

Laptops don’t incorporate a touch display, which means they are less sensitive to the way they are handled compared to tablets. They also have a more sturdy build overall. This means the user can afford to be slightly more rough with a laptop then he or she can be with a tablet.

Cons of a Laptop

On the other hand, laptops also have several disadvantages when compared to tablets, including:

Lack of Portability

While in years past laptops were the most mobile of devices, in the current age they lose to tablets in the mobility department. They are heavier and bigger than tablets, making them quite difficult to carry around for long periods of time.

Short Battery life

Laptops may be better at performance, but since they perform so well they also use a lot of battery power. While a really good laptop battery may hold power for about two hours or slightly more with moderate activity, tablets easily outlast them since users tend not to do as much on them and processing is limited.

Specific Input Difficulty

It is much more difficult to "paint" an image or edit pictures on laptops than it is using touch on a tablet computer. Also, certain software such as games and music-oriented programs are not as easily manipulated on a laptop since they would work better with a tablet’s touch input. It is important to note that this applies to a majority of laptops but not all; some laptops do incorporate touch screens just like tablets.


Tablet Pros and Cons as Compared to Laptops

Tablets are the newer devices that are slowly improving, but they generally still have a lot to catch up with in terms of performance. However, for the user who uses computers for simple things like checking email, playing games, going on social networks, and so on that don’t require the computer to process heavily, then tablets just may be the answer.

Pros of a Tablet Computer

These are the benefits that tablets can offer which laptops can’t:

Lightweight Mobility

Tablets are smaller in size compared to even the smallest types of laptops, and this travel-sized gadget definitely appeals to those who don’t want to lug the heavier laptop around but still want to bring along a computer. They are also lighter than laptops, putting less stress on the user’s body and can be handled easily with one hand, unlike laptops.

Longer Battery Life

The best models of tablets can hold power for up to 8 hours or more of typical use, which is significantly longer than any laptop. They can even be on standby for days.

Specific Touch Input

Some users actually enjoy using the touch input as opposed to a keyboard input, and touch input is especially useful for drawing digital images, playing certain games, or manipulating certain programs.

Cons of a Tablet Computer

As new as tablet computers are, they still cannot beat laptops because of the following disadvantages:

Lower Performance Ability

Tablets do not have the same processing power as laptops, and can easily become overloaded if a lot is done on them. They are only suitable for simple computer usage that doesn’t involve heavy multitasking.

Uncomfortable Usage

Most users still prefer the comfort of using a keyboard to type in data, as using a touch input is much more time consuming and can result in many errors if the user isn’t accustomed to that kind of input. Using a tablet and its touch input can also be stressful to the wrists and arms of the user since there is no place for the user to rest his or her wrists, and he or she has to use the arms to hold up and use the tablet as long as needed. However, some tablets do come with full keyboards as an add-on accessory.

Higher Fragility

The touch-sensitive display of tablets are also a weakness, as this renders them fragile and in need of proper care. Otherwise, the screen can easily be damaged, and once the screen is damaged, the tablet is unusable. This also means higher costs to maintain the tablet because the user will have to purchase protective covers and screen protectors. 


How to Decide Whether to Buy a Laptop or Tablet

Deciding which gadget to buy actually boils down to what the user wants to do with the gadget, and what he or she is most comfortable with. If he or she wants to do a lot of work on the computer, and be able to multitask at the same time, then the laptop would probably be the ideal choice. If entertainment and light Internet surfing is what the user is mostly interested in, then a tablet would more than suffice.

However, the user should also be comfortable with touch input if he or she is interested in investing in a tablet. It is possible though for the user to get accustomed to the touch screen input method over time if the tablet is the first device the user owns that is a touchscreen device. Do note though that for some tablets it is possible to buy an add-on keyboard for more ergonomic use.

Once the decision has been made, the user can proceed to buy the chosen device at computer stores anywhere, or online from platforms like eBay and individual business sites. It is also possible to buy a refurbished or second hand device if budget is an issue.


Buying a Laptop or Tablet on eBay

eBay is convenient because you can sit at home, browse through as many items as you like, buy something, and wait for it to arrive. And, if you purchase an item with Paypal, the purchase can be covered by the eBay Buyer Protection Program, so you get the peace of mind of knowing that your buyer rights are protected.

Laptops and tablets are sold in the Electronics category, and under the Computers, Tablets & Networking subcategory. If you want to fine tune your search even more, you can opt to type in a particular brand or model of laptop or tablet into the search box provided by eBay. After you look up the gadget of your choice by category or by search, then the items available for sale that fit your criteria will show up on the screen. To view an item and see more information on it, all you have to do is click on the listing.

If you are satisfied with a particular listing, you can purchase it using the various payment methods eBay offers. However, do note that sellers can choose the type of payment method they choose to receive. For some listings, you will have to bid for the item. Always check if the laptop or tablet you want to buy is a used one or a brand new one; you don’t want to accidentally buy a used one when you didn’t mean to. This information is given in the listing by the seller. Once the transaction has been finalized and the seller has received payment, he or she will send the item to you.


Summary

The table below sums up the key points of the advantages and disadvantages of laptops and tablets according to criteria.
 

Criteria

Laptop

Tablet

Battery life

Less than two to three hours with moderate use, short

Up to eight hours or more on some models, can be on standby for days

Performance

Better with efficient handling of data processing

Acceptable but not suitable for heavy use

Multitasking

Can be easily done

Limited due to limited capabilities

Mobility

Heavier and bigger than tablet, less convenient for moving around with

Excellent, very easy to bring and use when on the go

Input method

Keyboard and mouse

Touch

Display

Larger and more comfortable for viewing, majority are non-touch

Smaller and adequate for simple use, touchscreen

Ergonomics

Better for long periods of use, but not convenient for use away from desk such as on the bed, while traveling, etc

Not good for the wrists and arms, but convenient for one hand use or usage away from desks

Ideal for

Buyers who want to get more work done on their computer and could benefit from good processing and data storage

Buyers who want a computer for light usage while constantly on the move


All in all, it’s up to the buyer to evaluate his or her needs and decide on whether a laptop or a tablet would be best. Both are equally good for different purposes.

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