Tablet vs Laptop: What’s the Best Choice for You?

tablet vs laptop

It’s hard to imagine our world without a computer. Between school, work, and free time, we spend a lot of time in front of screens, so the decision of what device you should use is an important one. For those of you doing the hard core pro/con charts of which computer to purchase, I’m about to rock your world with another option: tablet vs laptop.

In the middle of the summer I pooled together my savings to get a new iPad to replace my old laptop. I was nervous about the prospect of using a tablet to do my work instead of a more powerful machine, but I was quickly converted over to the idea that, for some people, a tablet is the way to work. My iPad fit into my work life so seamlessly that when I moved into my dorm at the beginning of the school year, I realized after a few days that I had actually forgotten my laptop at home.

tablet vs laptop

Let me walk you through how you might be able to tell whether a tablet is right for you, and some of the apps I use that make my iPad run as smoothly as possible.

First, you need to analyze your specific needs.

What kind of work do you do on your machine? Most of my classes require me to do a lot of reading, and I don’t need access to powerful statistical or computing software, so iOS works just fine for me as an operating system. I need to be able to manipulate PDFs and documents for writing up essays. Students who take more math and science classes may find that they need access to software that’s too powerful for tablets to handle, especially Apple products.  iOS has trouble working with some common software. FYI, if you can’t do it on your phone, you often can’t do it on an iPad.

Very few people will be able to do 100% of the work they need to do on a tablet, but that doesn’t rule it out as a reasonable choice. The follow-up question to ask yourself is, “How easily can I access a desktop or laptop to do work I can’t do on my tablet?” For my computer science and statistics classes, I usually can’t do my homework on my iPad. But because I live on campus, it’s super easy for me to swing by the CS lab or library and jump on one of the school’s computers.  If you don’t have easy access to a secondary machine, do extra research to make sure your tablet option can do all you need it to do.

So far we’ve looked at the challenges of a tablet vs laptop. What are the benefits?

There are three reasons why I decided to take the plunge: cost, size, and ease of use. An iPad frankly costs a lot less than a new laptop, and that was a big consideration for me. There are definitely huge ranges of price for both laptops and tablets, but on average you’ll be forking out less money for a tablet. Second, I often leave my dorm room in the morning and don’t come back for twelve or fourteen hours, and I don’t want to be lugging around a heavy laptop all day.

laptop vs tablet

My iPad weighs about a pound; light enough that I don’t even notice it in my bag, and that’s a huge plus. I also travel frequently and my iPad doesn’t need to come out of my bag when I go through airport security. Third, I like using iOS. I find it clean and free of distractions. Other people don’t like working on that particular operating system, so to each their own. It’s a matter of personal preference and work style. As a bonus for me, because I use an iPad and an iPhone, it’s super easy for me to keep my devices in sync.

In the tablet vs laptop battle, let’s say the tablet option wins. Now what? Tech hacks coming up.

Decide to go for a tablet?  You’ll need some applications and programs to actually do the work your machine is capable of. Here are a couple of apps that I love for keeping my schoolwork, jobs, and other life projects straight.

Google Drive, Docs, Slides, and Sheets
I started using Google Drive to manage all of my files four years ago, and I’m barely a couple of percentage points towards my storage capacity. The G-Suite, or Google suite of apps is fantastic for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and works great for collaborating with others. I’m able to store all of my personal, work, and school files for free and access them at any computer, and it’s easy to share family and classmates on files that we need to work together on. I use these apps to manage all of my files and absolutely recommend them.

fantastical app
image via apple.com

Fantastical
I’m not a huge fan of the in-built Calendar app for iPhone or iPad, so I use Fantastical 2 instead. It has a great interface and syncs quickly between my devices. There’s no huge functionality that’s different from the plain old Calendar app, but I prefer the user interface and I like how Fantastical handles reminders, which is nice because I like to put little tasks that I have to accomplish into my calendar rather than my formal to-do list, which I manage with…

Omnifocus app
image via omnigroup.com

Omnifocus
If you need a to-do list manager with lots of power, Omnifocus might be for you. I’m not going to beat around the bush, this app is expensive, but it has seriously changed how I do work. The real power behind Omnifocus is the way that it handles types of projects: you can set projects as parallel or sequential, which will either allow you to accomplish any task in that project’s task list or make you do them in order. Individual tasks can also have either parallel or sequential sub-tasks. Pair this with Omnifocus’s powerful sorting tools to look at different groups of the things that you have to do (by due date, by project, by type of task, etc.) and you have an extremely powerful task management system.

Switching from laptops over to tablets isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking into buying a new or used machine it’s worth considering whether a tablet might be for you. I was nervous making the jump, but I’m so glad I did. It’s helped me be more productive and flexible in work and school, and that makes it worth it in my book.