Laptops are a mini computer and act just like a desktop. This means you can run the same programs that are designed for large desktops on a laptop just fine.  This is not the case for many tablet computers.  Many tablets and phones will only run “apps” which are different then desktop computer programs.


The first very clear difference between a tablet and a laptop is the absence of a keyboard. If your tasks don’t involve typing, or only involve a small amount of typing, then you can safely ignore this as a drawback. If you collect a lot of data door-to-door, as some professions do, then a small hand-held will almost certainly be better.

For writing or number-intensive tasks then a keyboard is a given requirement. Voice control is good but many people will prefer an old-fashioned key-it-in approach. There are keyboards and keyboard cases for tablets but these vary in performance; early models tended to make characters appear a split second before they were typed, for example. Go to a shop and try one out; keyboard cases that hold plenty of charge are available for seven inch tablets and they work well, but the physical size means they’re small and cramped to use.

They also require independent charging which means organising yourself so that they don’t conk out while you’re in the middle of something. And keep an eye on the cost. A tablet plus keyboard case might well end up costing as much as a full-blown laptop.

External storage

One advantage of a laptop is its ability to use external storage media. If you have a large file on an external drive and can plug it in via USB, great – but this may not be possible without at least an adapter for your tablet, depending on which model of tablet you’re using. And if you wanted to use a CD drive it’s far simpler if it’s built in to your computer (although these are being phased out on some laptops as well – an external CD drive connected through USB will still work).

File system

Related to external storage is internal storage. Download a file to your laptop, find the downloads file and you can send it to someone else. Download the same thing to your tablet and good luck finding where it’s put it. Picking up more than one document and sending it by email starts to require a new app to help you work out just where they’re located on the disk.

This isn’t a criticism – the essence of tablet computing is that it’s supposed to hide some of the complexities from the person using it. They’re supposed to be as easy to use as your phone and that means the manufacturers are going to conceal as much under the bonnet as they can. Which means you’re going to get a slightly cut-down version of a computer when you use one.