HP TECH TAKES
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Settling the Debate: Tablet vs Laptop
October 14, 2018
The great tablet vs laptop debate
Every few years, a great conflict within the electronics field threatens to divide techies. Generalizations are made. Sides are chosen. Battle lines are drawn. Friendships are destroyed.
The latest, greatest debate is between the two dominant forms of mobile computing: the tablet and the laptop. The laptop has been an incumbent champion for the last decade. But, in recent years, a mighty challenger - the tablet - has risen in power and popularity.
The fighting analogies may be a bit dramatic, but they capture the fervor with which PC users clash on divisive topics. If you’re in the market for a new operating system, ignore all the clamor from either side. We’ll help you draw your line in the sand.
Let’s help you choose between a tablet or a laptop. First, let’s differentiate between a tablet and a laptop. What are they, exactly?
A laptop is a portable PC, named so because its portability allows you to place it comfortably on your lap. "Now tell me something I don’t know,” you say. Bear with us. While some of this information might sound redundant, it’s actually critical in helping you make your final decision.
A laptop is built to do all the things a desktop computer can do, along with all the features of a desktop computer. It can run the same kind of operating system as a desktop computer, and it’s also designed with the ports, hard drive, disc drive, and keyboard that you’d find in a desktop.
The only real difference between a desktop computer and a laptop is that the laptop has been folded into a smaller, portable device, but the components are essentially the same.
Tablets are less similar to desktop computers and more akin to smartphones. Some tablets even have cellular access. That’s not a criticism. Most modern smartphones are basically miniature computers. Tablets are, too.
Tablets noticeably lack a physical keyboard. They instead use a virtual keyboard on a touch screen interface. Many websites and applications have mobile versions that are specially designed to be navigated on a tablet touch screen.
Comparing tablets and laptops
Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of the differences, let’s talk about what they mean for you. Here’s how a tablet and a laptop compare in some key areas:
Laptops come in a variety of different sizes. Some laptops are built as light as air, while others are built bulkier for the sake of having a larger display, longer battery life, or more processing power. Either way, they’re easy to take with you wherever you go. Most laptops can fit comfortably in a backpack.
Tablets are also built in different sizes, but most are typically small enough to slip into your purse or glove compartment. They’re smaller than laptops, and so they’re easier to carry around with you.
Most laptops have dual-batteries and a variety of energy-saving features, and they can typically run unplugged for 10 to 12 hours.
Tablets have a much better battery life. In fact, most of their interior consists of a battery. Because they’re smaller than laptops and don’t require as much power, tablets can run for a longer amount of time.
Size is the deciding factor again, this time in favor of laptops. Laptops are larger and thus have larger hard drives with more storage space than tablets have.
Laptops can harness more processing power than tablets, mostly because of their size. Tablets are very thin and can’t fit internal fans, so they use less-powerful processors that won’t run the risk of overheating the device.
Those comparisons might’ve been helpful in exposing the strengths and weaknesses of the two devices. And that’s exactly the point. The truth is, one is not wholly better than the other. Each is optimal for different purposes. If you’re trying to choose between the two, you need to know which one better suits your needs.
You should buy a tablet if…
1. You work in the field or industrial sector
If you’re doing work in the field, you might enjoy using a tablet because it’s smaller, more maneuverable, and won’t get in your way quite as much as a laptop will. If you have a tablet that can double as a cell phone, then it’ll be even more useful when you’re doing work outside of an office environment.
2. You need a simple note-taking device
If you’re a student and you want a simple, lightweight device to take notes on - and preferably a device you can easily slip into your backpack or purse en route to school - then a tablet might be a good option for you. The touch screen interface can come in handy if you have to note math equations or drawings.
You should buy a laptop if…
1. You need the power of a full keyboard
If you do large amounts of typing, edit video or music, or just need a wide set of keys, then a laptop is ideal for you. A key difference between a laptop and tablet, after all, is that a laptop has a physical keyboard.
2. You dabble in intensive applications
Creative professionals often use applications that draw heavily from a computer’s subsystems and require a massive amount of processing power to run. Laptops are built with the right features to accommodate intensive applications. Many of those creative applications aren’t even available on tablets because tablets aren’t powerful enough to run them.
3. You need to plug stuff in
A laptop is built with lots of inputs, so if you use them frequently - or simultaneously - then a laptop should be your choice. A laptop is better suited to handle external equipment.
Convertible laptops bridge the gap
How about a laptop that turns into a tablet?
If you’re still on the fence, you should consider getting a 2-in-1 laptop. A 2-in-1 is a laptop that can detach its keyboard or a laptop that can fold the keyboard all the way around to rest flat against the back, so it can operate as a tablet.
But is it a gimmick, or a legitimate personal computer?
Rest assured, it’s not a gimmick at all. A 2-in-1 would be a great platform for you if you need a versatile mobile computing device. In fact, you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Advantages of a 2-in-1 laptop
If you use your mobile device while you’re standing or walking, you’re probably hindered by the clunky shape of a keyboard. A 2-in-1 allows you to completely detach the keyboard or fold it back behind the screen so the laptop will have a more compact tablet shape.
Of course, if you need to use the keyboard or keyboard inputs, you can quickly return it to its standard laptop design.
It’s nice that you can get the keyboard out of your way without permanently removing it from the device. For that reason, the 2-in-1 is an easier device to carry around than a standard laptop, but it’s still got the keyboard functionalities a tablet lacks.
Touch screen capabilities
A 2-in-1 laptop has a touch screen, which is a useful function that most standard laptops don’t have.
There’s a variety of ways you can use the touch screen on a 2-in-1. You can:
- Remove the touch screen from the keyboard
- Fold the keyboard and use it as an easel
- Use the touch screen while the 2-in-1 is in a standard laptop position
The touch screen is great for note-taking and drawing, and you’ll really love it if you’re a digital artist. Some models have powerful styluses that emulate precise pencil strokes, and the convertible nature of the device allows you to draw like you’re drawing on a real canvas-and-easel.
2-in-1 laptops have more storage space and processing power than tablets. They might not be as powerful as high-end laptops, but there are lots of 2-in-1 models that are powerful enough to run intensive applications like the Adobe Suite. And you can always use the keyboard inputs to connect the 2-in-1 to an external drive.
HP 2-in-1 laptops can run windows
HP 2-in-1 laptops run the Windows operating system; so, even in tablet form, the 2-in-1 will have the same functions as a Windows laptop or desktop computer. Windows 10 is designed with an interface that’s easily navigable with either mouse or touch screen. Your workflow won’t be interrupted when you switch from laptop to tablet form.
Best HP 2-in-1 laptops
Let’s examine the best 2-in-1 laptops from HP®.
1. HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 mobile workstation
- Windows 10 Pro 64
- 8th Generation Intel® Core i7 processor
- 16 GB memory
- 512GB solid-state drive (SSD) storage
- 15.6-inch diagonal 4K display
- NVIDIA® Quadro® P1000 graphics
The HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 mobile workstation is HP’s brightest 4K laptop, and it’s one of the most powerful 2-in-1 laptops on the market. The hybrid is built with loads of muscle, inside and out.
The exterior is constructed with durable materials that can withstand vibrations, high altitudes, high and low temperatures, humidity, and small particles like dust and sand. In other words, this is a great 2-in-1 for field use.
It’s built tough with processing power, too. It’s powered by an 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, one of the fastest processors on the market. As a complement to these superior features, you’ll enjoy 16GB of memory and a strong graphics processor, the NVIDIA Quadro.
If you’re a creative professional, you’ll appreciate this hybrid’s ability to handle intensive workloads and a vast display of pixels - especially in the Adobe Suite. The screen can fold 360 degrees - hence the name - into optimal positions for detailing and drawing.
2. HP Spectre x360 15t convertible laptop
- Windows 10 Home 64
- 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor
- 8GB memory
- 256 GB SSD storage
- 15.6-inch diagonal Ultra High Definition (UHD) display
- NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 1050Ti graphics
The HP Spectre x360 convertible laptop is another good 2-in-1 that can bend a full 360 degrees. If you’re a keyboard enthusiast, you’ll like this hybrid’s full-sized number keyboard and extra-wide trackpad.
It also has very capable processing power. An 8th Generation Intel Core i7 runs the show, boosted by an NVIDIA GeForce graphics processor. It’s not quite as powerful as the HP ZBook Studio x360 and it doesn’t have as much storage, but it’s lighter and has the same vibrant 4K display.
The touch screen works incredibly well, but because of the full-sized keyboard, this is a 2-in-1 that’s better for users who intend to use it primarily as a laptop.
3. HP Chromebook x2 detachable laptop
- Chrome OS™
- Intel Core M processor
- 4GB memory
- 32GB embedded Multi-Media Controller (eMMC) storage
- 12.3-inch diagonal 2K display
- Intel High Definition (HD) Graphics 615
The HP Chromebook x2 is a fully-detachable 2-in-1 laptop. If you’re sick and tired of the keyboard, you can snap the touch screen off and use it as a tablet. The hinge is magnetic so you won’t have any difficulty making the transition.
Because it’s detachable, the HP Chromebook x2 only has space for a compact embedded eMMC storage - the same kind of storage you’ll find in a smartphone. You won’t have a lot of storage space, but that won’t matter so much if you plan to use this more as a tablet.
The battery life is fantastic and can operate for about 12 hours unplugged. In addition, the keyboard is efficient and has a wide trackpad. This model’s touch screen features a beautiful 2400 x 1600 pixel display with HP Pen stylus support for note-taking or drawing.
The HP Chromebook x2 runs Google’s Chrome operating system. The interface is user-friendly and works well with touch screen.
4. HP ENVY x360 15z convertible laptop
- Windows 10 Home 64
- AMD Ryzen™ 5 processor
- 8GB memory
- 256GB SSD storage
- 15.6-inch diagonal Full High Definition (FHD) display
- AMD Radeon™ Vega 8 graphics
The HP ENVY x360 touch screen laptop is a 2-in-1 that can bend 360 degrees. It’s a relatively powerful hybrid that has strong AMD processors designed specifically to handle creative applications. For all of its muscle, it has a surprisingly long battery life. It’s able to work for 8 hours unplugged.
The HP ENVY x360 is equipped with a full-sized keyboard, but it has a very sleek design. When you fold it into a tablet shape, it won’t have a bulky feel.
Tablet or laptop: The choice is yours
The type of laptop you need depends on your lifestyle and work requirements. A tablet is sleek but may lack the processing power you require to manage your work or school assignments. A laptop has a powerful CPU but it’s not always as mobile or flexible as you’d like. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to choose between one or the other, you can always go for a hybrid device that combines the two. Whatever you decide, HP® has the device to complement your unique demands.
- HP Spectre Laptop Family Review
- HP Spectre x360 13t Laptop Review
- HP ENVY Laptop Family Review
- HP ENVY x360 15t Laptop Review
About the Author: Zach Cabading is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Zach is a content creation specialist based in Southern California, and creates a variety of content for the tech industry.