A laptop?… or a tablet? The Nigerian ordeal

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Many of us reading this post are most likely to have asked, pondered and maybe dreamed about the question at least at one time or the other. Others were put on the spot with it and some lucky people didn’t really need to bother since someone else helped them out in making the silent, salient yet important choice between the two prevailing forms of mobile technology that has swept the whole world all too sudden.

Buying a Tablet or Laptop isn’t an easy choice. You need to be clear about your requirement in order to decide between them; except you have money to buy both which, from the Nigerian perspective, doesn’t seem to be a likely option in most cases. Surely there are extreme advantages of having both (I use both actually so I can tell) but nevertheless, it does make one wonder about the real decisions to make before you go ahead with either of the two. This post is aimed at helping even you to understand the main differences to consider as clearly as possible.

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Keyboard and input

The most obvious difference between a tablet and a laptop is the lack of a keyboard. Tablets rely solely on a touch interface on the screen for all input. This is fine when it involves mainly pointing, dragging or tapping to navigate around a program. It can also pass off to be a very savvy way of getting things done. Tablets give you full control of the screen, features and applications. By using your finger or a stylus, you can directly touch the screen to make gaming more interactive, and the hands-on approach provides a more tactile experience than a mouse for drawing and illustrating. The problems come in when you have to input text into a program when such as an email or document. Since they have no keyboard, users are required to type on virtual “touch” keyboards that have varying layouts and designs. Most people cannot type as quickly or as accurately on a virtual keyboard and this could pose as a really annoying experience. Users do have the option of adding an external Bluetooth keyboard to most tablets to make this more like a laptop but it adds costs and peripherals that must be taken with the tablet.

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Design and battery

The design of all the laptops is almost the same, that is, they have a “clamshell” design. There may be various colors, back panels and textures that are available, but… the basic design remains the same; very much unlike tablets. Aside from some hefty price tags, you must take special precautions in the care of your tablet; not like this does not apply to the laptop itself but as a tablet may have a durable body, the touchscreen display is exposed. If the touchscreen is damaged, your device could become useless. You can buy a case to protect the screen, but these are not included with the product and require a separate purchase. Compared to laptop computers, tablets are small and smart. Most tablets offer anywhere from a 7-inch to a 10-inch display screen and weigh less than 1 pound. You can store all your music, capture photos or videos, video chat and even read books on their built-in eReaders. Truly ideal for the on the go, take around personality.

Tablets are designed for efficiency because of the low power requirements of their hardware components. In fact, the majority of the interior of a tablet is taken up by the battery. In comparison, laptops use more powerful hardware. The battery component of the laptop is a far smaller percentage of the laptops internal components. Thus, even with the higher capacity battery of laptops, they do not run as long as a tablet. Many of the tablets right now can run up to ten hours of web usage before require a charge. The average laptop would only run for roughly three to four hours with a few systems able to stretch it out to eight hours but that still less than a tablet. This means that tablets can achieve all day usage which few laptops can achieve.

Storage

In order to keep their size and costs down, tablets have had to rely on the new and pretty much more reliable solid state storage memory as a means to store programs and data. While these have the potential for faster access and low power usage, they have one major disadvantage in the amount of files they can store at the moment. Most tablets come with configurations that allow between 16 and 64 gigabytes of storage. By comparison, most laptops still use traditional but more fragile hard drives that hold far much more data. Extremely affordable netbooks still have 160 gigabytes of storage which allows for ten times the amount of data as the most affordable tablets. This won’t always be the case though as some laptops have moved to solid state drives as well and may have as little as 64GB of space. However, we can predict that solid state drives will be the future of storage computing which, if you ask me, could wipe off the ever exasperating hard disk problem laptops today face.

Power

Since most tablets are based on extremely low powered processors, they will generally fall behind a laptop when it comes to computing tasks. Of course, a lot of this will depend on how the tablet or laptop is being used. For tasks like email, web browsing, playing video or audio, both platforms will typically work just as well as neither requires much performance. Things get more complicated once you start doing more demanding tasks. For the most part, multitasking or graphics performance is typically better suited with a laptop but not in all cases.

Even though it is possible for a tablet version of a certain software to have similar functions as its desktop version, it is expected that the desktop version would have more capabilities. But again, while traveling, if you are having some sort of work to be done, then tablets are a decent choice as most tablets have sync properties that help us to access our files from anywhere across the world.

The software that runs on a laptop or tablet can be vastly different in terms of capabilities. Assume that a tablet is running Windows 7 for example.  It can theoretically run the same software as a laptop but will likely be slower or have less features of a sort of the other.  Major tablet platforms available right now are Android, iOS, Blackberry and the new Microsoft Windows 8 RT which require applications specific to their operating systems. There are tons of programs available for each of these and many will do most of the basic tasks that a laptop can do. The problem however, is the lack of the input devices and hardware performance limitations mean that some more advanced features supplied by corresponding laptop class programs may have to be dropped in order to fit into the tablet environment.

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Data Security

Concerning malware and other security threats, tablets are claimed to be safer when compared to laptops. This statement is very arguable. Most security threats are as a result of Windows operating System and not the form factor. Laptops that are loaded with Linux or Mac, are considerably secure and claimed to be free from malware attacks. On the other side, tablets are not so free from security threats as many assume. Currently, malware apps are uploaded on the Apple store and even Google Play Store. An example was the debated “Find & Call” app which was supposed to offer the service of  aggregating and simplifying contacts but simply harvested data from users’ address books and uploaded information to the developer’s server which was used to spam users with SMS messages. The number of security breaches for tablets have become a concern that are as horrid as that for desktop/laptop based operating systems; especially with the concept of “jailbreaking” devices which allow third party applications to be installed on tablets.

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External Devices

Tablets these days, are coming with USB ports or OTG (On-The-Go) cables which means they are steadily rising to be on par with laptops as regards external storage devices. Many tablets even now have Bluetooth enabled joypads and accessories which allow a laptop like experience with your tablet. But the question is if you are willing to spend even more money for that after spending so much already acquiring the tablet.

If you’re trying to decide between a laptop and a tablet, it all depends upon you and your needs. If you are planning to carry your computer for extended periods of time, especially to do light based tasks such as watching movies, picture slides and listening to music, the lighter tablet may be ideal for you. Writing out what features you must have in your device is a very good approach to making the right investment. Compare and contrast different products to see which ones have the specifications you are looking for. Only by figuring out your needs will you discover which type of computing device you prefer.