Functional Differences Between Tablets & Laptops

by David Lipscomb Google

    The advent of powerful tablets for work and entertainment computing potentially creates a dilemma of whether to select a laptop or tablet. Some laptops share some level of functionality with tablets, such as pinch-and-swipe gestures. However, basic differences between expansion and upgrade options are important considerations. Weighing these factors among others helps you identify whether that newest tablet might be a contender to replace your aging laptop.


    The laptop topology everyone is familiar with involves a keyboard attached to a flip-out screen, typically measuring 17 inches or less diagonally. While the integrated keyboard retains the classic feel of a desktop or even a typewriter, keyboards add some weight and cause the laptop to take up more space. Physical keyboards are superior for extensive writing tasks, and design, accounting and engineering programs customarily use F-key support for macro functionality. Tablets, on the other hand, usually use a touchscreen interface, although some models include a thin deploying keyboard, which adds thickness to the unit. Touchscreen keyboards lack the tactile response of a physical keyboard, but the absence of a physical keyboard goes a long way to keeping a tablet sleek and compact.


    Weight and battery life are important factors in considering portability. The portability of a lightweight device is limited by a short battery life. However, if you are away from the desk or office for only short intervals and you require the lightest hardware, you might not need the longest-lasting battery. Tablets do not have internal optical DVD or CD drives, which use plenty of battery life, but on the other hand, they rely heavily on battery-sapping Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Laptops have larger batteries, but big batteries are bulky and heavy. Compromises exist in the form of notebooks or netbooks with touchscreen functionality, bridging the gap between sleek stowability and laptop-like functionality.

    Apps and Programs

    Many laptop producers attempt to mimic the look and feel of tablets by introducing apps, effectively graphical shortcuts to Webpages or installed programs. Apps in their truest form, as found on smartphones and tablets, are designed to offer as much functionality using less storage for niche jobs such as calendar planning, photo editing or multimedia entertainment. This is primarily due to the comparatively limited storage between tablets and laptops, the latter of which reach into the hundreds of megabytes or more in hard drive space. You obtain these apps directly from an online curated by the hardware manufacturer as opposed to directly from the software companies or independent retailers. Remember, however, that some tablets do not have the universal compatibility common with laptops, such as working with Flash and other media-based programs. For this reason, you may elect to keep a full-fledged computer or laptop at the office, while using a tablet on the go.

    Expanding and Upgrading

    Laptop hardware can be upgraded easily, for example by installing a larger-capacity hard drive or more RAM. USB ports offer plenty of functional expansion through peripherals, and HDMI ports and slots for SD cards have become standard on many laptops. Tablets, in contrast, typically do not offer upgradable memory or internal storage capacity; tablet manufacturers encourage consumers to connect with the Cloud via Wi-Fi or cellular services for additional, online storage. Many tablets have no USB ports or slots for SD cards.

    About the Author

    David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

    Photo Credits

    • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images