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Tablet vs Laptop: Real-life scenario shows strengths & weaknesses

Posted on by Trevor Jones

The Tablet vs Laptop choice is a tough one for those who, for whatever reason, can’t or prefer not to have both. Obviously tablets cost a little less, but there are several other reasons beyond dollars and cents to choose one over the other. One of my recent experiences illustrates some of the reasons why the choice is so difficult.


A tablet is much more practical for taking notes and monitoring social media at conferences.

A tablet is much more practical for taking notes and monitoring social media at conferences.

Tuesday, I attended the Inbound13 conference in Boston. For the trip, I carried with me a tablet, a laptop and a smartphone. Seems kind of like overkill, doesn’t it? When I first got my tablet one of the applications I had in mind for it was use at conferences, and I figured I wouldn’t bring the laptop anymore. Sadly, it hasn’t quite worked out that way and instead of getting lighter, my bag has gotten heavier. So, why did I carry both the tablet and the laptop? It comes down to the strengths and weaknesses of each device. Here’s how I used each device yesterday and what it says about the devices advantages.

Laptops work best for content creation and document editing

When I attend conferences in Boston I usually take the bus. The bus costs less than driving and offers a free Wi-Fi connection so that I can work during the two hour trip. My laptop was in use during the entire trip down and most of the trip back. During that time, I responded to emails and worked on Word documents and spreadsheets. While it is possible to edit documents and spreadsheets on a tablet, it can be difficult, for a couple of reasons:

  • Obviously the built-in keyboard on a laptop is a significant convenience. When you’re doing really focused work and a lot of typing, this is important. The wireless keyboard that I can use with my tablet helps, but it doesn’t compare to my laptop when I’m doing a lot of typing.
  • Tablets have limited storage and rely on cloud computing applications like Google Drive to store and process your work. While I appreciated the bus’s Wi-Fi, it just wasn’t fast enough to make editing documents effective on the tablet. Having them stored locally was a much better option, and the laptop works better for that. There are document editing apps that you can use to make this better, though.
  • Laptops have a lot more processing horsepower. If I had been editing videos for our YouTube channel on the trip down, that would have been important.

Tablets are best for communications and content consumption

While at the conference, I kept my laptop in my bag and I mostly used my tablet to check the conference schedule, keep up with my email, follow what other attendees were saying on Twitter, and take notes during sessions. The tablet has some pretty clear advantages over the laptop for this:

  • Tablets are more portable, so they are easily carried around.
  • Tablets have a much longer battery life than a laptop, so you can use them all day without needing to hunt for an outlet or sit in an inconvenient location while you wait for your device to charge. This is really important when you’re at a conference, where you often sit in the middle of the room and frequently move from room to room.
  • To be really convenient your device must always be turned on. At my conference, my laptop would have had to at least be put to sleep most of the day to have any chance of having enough battery life to get me by. Not so with the tablet.
  • Tablets are basically a screen connected to the Internet. They work great for social media, email, web browsing, watching videos, reading e-books and other simple Internet related activities.
  • A tablet’s on-screen keyboard is large enough that they are fairly comfortable to type on, making them ideal for basic note-taking activities.
  • Tablets have built-in cameras if you want to take a quick picture. At a conference, this is great for capturing that really detailed slide. (I usually use my phone for this though, because holding my iPad up to take a picture seems a bit inconsiderate of my fellow audience members.)
  • Many tablets have built-in 3G/4G cellular data connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi. Conference Wi-Fi is notoriously bad and the organizers don’t want attendees using mobile hotspots because it makes the problem even worse.

Hopefully, my inability to choose between devices for this trip tells you something that will help in your Tablet vs Laptop choice. I wish you good luck!


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