Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Should I Buy a Laptop or a Tablet?

I get asked this question at least once a week.  So I figured I'd take a moment and elaborate on my answer for those online who may be wondering the same thing.  I personally own an Android based tablet (Acer Iconia a500), have access to an iPad (first generation), and of course my desktop pc, and my wife's laptop.  So coming from the standpoint that I have access to each of the major methods of common, everyday computing; here is my advice.

The argument for a PC (personal computer) is a completely valid argument.  Let's be real, in this day an time you have two types of computers: the Windows based PC, and a Mac.  What you're looking at from the PC standpoint is probably a Windows 7 based PC.  If you want to spend more, get pretty good customer service, but be somewhat limited to the software you can run; go Mac.  Nothing against Apple or their Mac's; I just happen to bump into about a dozen Windows-based PC's and laptops for every 1 Mac I see in the wild.  Those who have Mac's absolutely adore them; so no Mac hate here.  lol

With a PC (or equivalent) you're looking at running a wide selection of software applications, the common web surfing and everyday computer usage.  Maybe some Facebook or Farmville, and you have the ability to either buy software from a brick and mortar store, or downloading from an e-store online.  You'll have the ability to hook up to a local or network based printer, and have the option to go either Wireless or Wired networking.  Most PC's are upgradable so adding things like memory and large hard drives later (or the need to add a new graphics card for gaming) becomes a better solution than replacing the unit at a later time.  Some upgrade options aren't available when using a laptop (such as a videocard upgrade); however, adding more RAM or a larger hard drive later is a more viable solution.

The argument for a tablet (or equivalent) is also a very valid point.  Tablet's are designed for one thing: mobility.  Yes, many of them do look pretty sexy and sleek too.  However, they are meant for the mobility and convenience of a laptop or netbook, but without the bloat.  There are some Windows based tablet floating around out there, that use a current version of the Windows Operating System but optimized for the touch input.  However, most tablets you see with either be running a version of Android or will be an iPad running iOS from Apple.

What can you do with a tablet?  Pretty much any of your basic, every day computing can be thrown at any of the modern tablets on the market right now.  It all comes down to which side you want to lay down your rifle for.  With Apple's iPad you're looking at paying for the device and for most of your apps you can download that are iPad optimized.  From my experience looking around Apple's App Store, some of their iPad version apps are more expensive than the iPhone versions.  However, with the iPad and iOS, it just works.  Right out of the box.  There is very little room for error (as long as you don't jailbreak it).  That opens a whole new door that can be awesome, or cause headaches depending on your goal.  But from a stock standpoint, the iPad is a very competent tablet style device.  It has great accessories available and plenty of apps to keep you busy.

The other side of the tablet world right now revolves around Android based devices.  Most of the $400-$600 range Android tablets now are dual-core processor based tablets.  They are more than competent for web surfing, gaming, and media consumption.  They aren't quite as smooth as the slide, tap, and use method that the iPad employees; meaning it feels like a computer more than a big iPod.  The same can be argued about Android apps.  There are plenty of apps in the Google Android Market to appease your appetite.  However, the actual "Tablet Optimized" category is pretty low.  With that being said, many of the other apps in the market will work on a tablet without any trouble.  Many times the Android tablets are comparable if not cheaper than the iPad.  Available accessories are out there, but it depends on which tablet you use as to the level of what is available for it.

Personally, I find a tablet to be a great complement to my daily computer usage.  I use a desktop PC for most of my work and gaming based tasks.  Then when I need to casually surf, check me email, or compute on the go; I roll out with my tablet.  If you are looking to replace your PC with a tablet, I'd hold off for the time being.  I just don't think tablet's are designed with that intention just yet.  If you are new to the computing world, and only have needs to surf the web or read a book; by all means, a tablet may be best for you.

It all comes down to your personal needs.   My wife uses her laptop a couple times a week for Facebook access and web surfing.  For her, a tablet would be ideal.  Simply because, she doesn't need to level of usage that would warrant a full sized PC or Laptop.  But would give her the similar features.  But for me, I have to still use a desktop at least until I give up some of the PC only games I play.  :)