tablet vs laptopI was meeting with a client recently, and she was admiring my iPad + Bluetooth keyboard combination. She pulled a massive laptop out of her bag and said she’d been meaning to make the switch from her laptop to her new iPad.

We got to talking about what was involved in making the switch from laptop to tablet.

1. What do you do on your laptop, and are those tasks practical on a tablet?

Tablets are very good for certain functions and not so good for others. They are fantastic at:

  • Web browsing
  • Email
  • Scheduling
  • Word processing
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Reading (news, books and magazines)

They aren’t as good for

  • Working with spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Video or image editing
  • Working with multiple screens or applications at once

Tablets can do the above four items. They just aren’t as good at it, and you may need to buy more hardware (like an adapter to hook up your tablet to a projector).

However, if your needs fall in the first area, you’ll be in good shape with the right apps and accessories.

2. Select the right tablet for your needs

8″ (maybe 7″ in a few cases) or 10″ is the big question. Size means a trade-off between portability and screen size/usable area. If you intend to do a lot of word processing or light spreadsheet work, I’d definitely recommend a 10″ tablet. If all you need is email and scheduling on the go, you’ll be fine with a 7 or 8″.

3. Select the right apps

Look at the applications you use on your laptop right now. Most of them have tablet equivalents. Check reviews carefully. Just because an app description makes it sound perfect for your needs doesn’t mean it will work as you expect. When buying a new app, I carefully read reviews, trying to find other users who have needs similar to mine. This is especially important for word processing/spreadsheet suite apps. They tend to be fairly expensive, and you don’t want to have to try three or four before you find the one you need.

4. Operating System

Android or iOS? Fire tablet or not? All good questions, and one size doesn’t fit all.

I’ve used all three options, and I’ll give you my opinions. In general, I’ve found the iPad to be the superior tablet. Small things like screen rotation just seem to be smoother on Apple devices. However, I’ve found my Fire HD 6 to be almost as good, so while the iPad is my preference, you probably won’t be too disappointed with an Android option, and they are generally less expensive.

You’ll need to take a look at your “must-need” apps. Are you heavily invested in the Google infrastructure? If so, definitely avoid the Fire, and look carefully at what’s available for iOS. Most of the Google apps are available for iOS, but sometimes they are lacking features found in the Android versions. Google Now, for example, is lame on iOS. If you rely on its features, an iPad will disappoint.

Some of the better productivity apps aren’t available for Fires, so shop carefully. Note that just because an app is available in the Amazon App Store doesn’t mean it’s Fire compatible. Check your filters.

Windows is another option, and I’m hopeful that Windows 10 will be a good operating system both for mobile and desktop. If you’re not in a hurry to make the switch, you might want to wait a few months and see what Windows 10 brings. There are some decent looking lower cost Windows tablets out there, and I’ve been tempted enough to consider one later this year. Someone’s got to test it for you, right? 😉

5. Select the right accessories

A case and keyboard are the first decisions. I’ve reviewed lots of cases on this site. Again, remember how you’re going to use it. Do you need a case that gives you several landscape positions? How important is the auto Sleep/Wake feature? Do you plan to use your tablets mostly in coffee houses, or will you be using it extensively outside?

Keyboards come in a variety of sizes, shapes and price points. Some are even flexible and roll up, which is great for portability.

Lastly, think about your power needs. Are you going to be using your tablet heavily for a full day? Or just for a few hours? If you anticipate heavy usage, you’ll want to invest in a portable charging solution.

That covers most of the planning process for replacing your laptop with a tablet. Did I miss something? Any questions? App or accessory recommendations?


  1. I’m still using a desktop most of the time. Dual large screens. 24 inch at work and 27 inch at home.

    I use a tablet or phone for casual web browsing and reading, but manipulating code or images still doesn’t work very well with small screens and slow processors. The laptop is a compromise on screen size when doing actual work. It’s usually used to display a virtual screen from the work desktop. Even at work a lot of stuff I do is on another machine in the lab with more processor power and memory.

  2. When my mom’s 15″ laptop died, I got her to try an iPad Air. She loves it, I never even got her to try the keyboard, I’ve asked a few times and she’s perfectly content to not even try it. I only wish we’d gotten the 32GB vs. 16GB, it filled up too quick…

    My buddy, a techy guy, had his desktop die a few months ago, I just realized he’s been using his iPhone at home for whatever he needs to get done. I assume he’ll eventually get just an iPad as he doesn’t seem to need more…

  3. My favorite gizmo of all time is the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. If I could keep only one gadget, that would be it.

    I do Photoshop or LIghtroom on it while the web browser and an editor are busy as well (I chose 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD drive since the 512GB ones were not available at the time) and I no longer use the desktop unless I need to retrieve something old from it. I have a 7-port USB 3.0 hub that I plug into the one USB 3 port if needed. While I have Microsoft Office 2010 on it I don’t need it much except for Excel now and then.

    I also bought a 23″ Eizo Foris monitor to use with it when needing a larger screen but I don’t tend to use it. The 10.6″ is just so convenient, so fast and so easy, it’s been enough, and if I need a laptop while out I can just slip it (a stylus ifor writing old-fashioned notes or as a mouse substitute is attached) into a fairly small purse, as these go and that’s it. Does everything I need. I do use an 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX next to it to watch TV through apps though while working.

    Being able to easily zoom the screen (since it’s a tablet) is huge.

  4. Another thing I like about the Surface Pro 2 is that I can web browse with about 30-40 windows open and it’s fine. Not many tablets you can do that on…

    I recently added a (fits in the palm of my hand) 500 GB “MyDigitalSSD OTG (On The Go) mSATA Based SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Portable External Solid State Storage Drive SSD” which, so far (only two months experience though) works really well for my main photo database, since it has very fast response time when working with photo editing tools. It sells for just under $200 to use with the powered hub. Not something I need to take out of the house, but very convenient if for some reason I needed to do that.

  5. Juli, it’s been almost two years now, and version ‘3’ has come out, with ‘4’ said to be on the way. Have had no reason to want to upgrade to the new model, although I did buy the 500MB external SSD drive, which does enhance it, storage- and live-work wise.

    I often forget that I can pull off the keyboard, but it’s also acting as a cover and is light.

    Very odd to work on laptops and desktops in that I am always trying to tap or zoom the screen and that doesn’t work with those.

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