Laptop or Tablet – What Will Your Next Computer Be?

Whether your child is going off to college or you are looking for a new computer for travel, work or play, you have many choices in types of laptops as well as the option of forgoing a laptop and getting a tablet instead. Walk into a college lecture hall and you’ll see rows of screens lighting the faces of eager students as they take notes on their laptops and tablets.  Which should you choose: Laptop, tablet or a laptop/tablet hybrid?

Types of Laptops

A wide range of laptops is available, costing anywhere from $300 to over $1,000. Ultrabooks are the cream of the crop. Not only are they equipped with more powerful processors, Intel i3, i5 or i7; they are thin and lightweight. Most have SSD drives (solid state memory) for faster access and lighter weight. Most new Ultrabooks will have touchscreen Windows 8 operating systems, and will “wake up” very quickly so you can immediately start working or taking notes.

On the less expensive end of the spectrum are Chromebooks.  These bare-bones laptops have a special Google operating system (not Windows). Software is available using a web browser–Google Apps, Windows Office Web edition.  Google Drive saves your Google Docs, photos can be uploaded to Picasa,  movies to YouTube and streaming from Google Play.

Types of Tablets

Three types of tablets can be categorized by their operating systems: iOS (Apple iPad), Android (including Galaxy, and Kindle Fire) and Windows (Windows RT tablet operating system and Windows 8 Pro). Prices vary by size, amount of built-in memory (16GB to 128GB) and whether the tablet has a built in 3G/4G connection. The latter feature can connect to your cell phone provider’s data plan to go online even when you are away from a WiFi hotspot. Typically, iPads are on the more expensive end of the spectrum and Kindle Fire on the lower end.

Be sure you know the types of tasks you want to perform before choosing a tablet. While Microsoft Office is available on Windows tablets as well as on iPads and Android devices, other software and websites will only run on computers.

If you choose to buy a tablet instead of a laptop, you’ll want a Bluetooth keyboard to type papers, blogs and otherwise use the tablet as easily as you can type on a computer. Also, because a tablet has an unprotected touchscreen, be sure to get a case or screen cover to reduce the chance of damage.  The Zagg Keys ProPlus is a keyboard that magnetically connects to an iPad or various Android tablets, and will also protect its screen.

Laptop Tablet Hybrid (s)

For people who like a full-functioning laptop but want the ease of taking handwritten notes on a tablet, or who want to use the screen for presentations or watching videos, a hybrid laptop may be the perfect choice.

There are two types of laptop/tablet hybrids. The first has an attached screen that can swivel or slide to present the laptop’s display as a tablet. These are often called “convertibles.” The other hybrid has a tablet/monitor that separates from the rest of the computer. These separating hybrids allow you to take the tablet with you during classes, meetings or on a convention floor, yet return to have all of the ports, inputs and processing power of a full computer.

Hybrids have a full PC operating system, so web browsing and software choices are not limited.   The separating system may sound ideal—but they are still expensive and often are not as powerful as other laptops in the same price range.


Making Your decision

Before making your choice, list all of the things you do on your current computer and any tasks you’ll want to do in the future. If you know the software programs you’ll need to complete tasks, research and projects, add those to your list.  If your list is short and you only need to do basics like email, word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, then a tablet may be sufficient and will be easier to carry around all day.  If you occasionally need more power, memory or a special program that doesn’t have an app for tablets, you’ll probably want a laptop.  If it’s in your budget, and you need a laptop more than you need a tablet, think about a hybrid … but be sure that a hybrid can run the software you need and has enough memory to store all of your files.  Good Luck on your decision! - Barb Gonzalez ~ The Simple Tech Guru

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