Whether you’re trying to decide between one of the best tablets or laptops for school or work, it can be a tough decision. After all, tablets and laptops are both portable computers capable of handling similar tasks.
Deciding between a laptop and a tablet comes down to each individual’s needs. There are a few key differences between laptops and tablets that’ll help you choose the right device.
Laptop vs tablet: Portability
The biggest difference between laptops and tablets is their form factor. Laptops typically have a sturdier build, bulky batteries, internal fans, more powerful components, and a built-in keyboard and trackpad, which makes them larger and heavier than tablets.
This isn’t to say that laptops aren’t portable. There are certainly thin laptops available that don’t take up much space at all in your backpack, but tablets are almost always going to be more compact and lighter.
If you wanted to use a powerful tablet as a makeshift laptop while traveling, you’d probably end up using a wireless keyboard and mouse. These extra components, however thin or compact, would require more space in your bag, but everything would likely still have a smaller footprint than a laptop.
Laptop vs tablet: Performance power and storage
A laptop’s larger size allows for more powerful components inside. Laptops have faster processors that are capable of handling demanding programs or casual games, even with integrated graphics. Some laptops even feature a discrete GPU to run AAA games, like Cyberpunk 2077.
Generally, laptops have more RAM and more storage space. Many tablets average 32GB or 64GB of storage, whereas budget laptops often offer 256GB or 512GB of storage.
The tradeoff for more powerful internals is battery life. Laptops are more powerful, but tablets have a better battery life.
Laptop vs tablet: Operating system
Some modern tablets run on Windows, like the Microsoft Surface tablets, but the majority of tablets you’ll find run on a tablet-specific OS, like Apple’s iPadOS, Fire OS, or Android adapted to a tablet. Even the tablets that do run Windows can often feel slower or less capable than Windows laptops because there’s less room inside for powerful hardware.
Depending on what you need a tablet or a laptop for, the restriction of tablet operating systems might not be that big of a deal. If all you need to do on your tablet is write papers, check emails, and stream your favorite show, a mobile operating system will work perfectly. But if you need to download more powerful software, like Steam or Adobe’s full-featured Creative Cloud Software, a laptop is the better choice.
Bottom line: Should you buy a laptop or a tablet?
If you want a portable computer to stream videos, browse the internet, hop on video calls, or work in cloud-based services like Google Docs, a tablet will work beautifully.
If you want to do anything besides the activities just mentioned, a laptop is often your best bet. Or, the best 2-in-1 laptops combine a laptop and a tablet into one convenient, powerful device.