Difference between a Laptop and a Tablet
By Theydiffer - March 18, 2016

Having trouble choosing between a laptop and a tablet? There is one way to help you decide, and that’s learning the differences between the two. It will not only educate you about how these two work, but it could also help you decide on which one suits you the best.


Getty Images/DigitalVision/Klaus Vedfelt

Laptop – Often called a notebook (slightly smaller in size and usually slower in terms of performance), a laptop is a small, portable personal computer or desktop computer that can sit on your lap, hence the name. Originally, there was a distinction between a laptop and notebook, the latter being bigger, faster, and heavier. But with technology advancing quickly, there is now little to no difference between the two, except maybe their origins.

Same as with your personal or desktop computers, a laptop has a display screen, speaker, keyboard, I/O sockets, and pointing devices. The difference is that in a laptop, these components are all combined into a single unit, making it portable. It can be powered either from electrical outlets through an AC adapter, or from a rechargeable battery.

Classifications of laptops

  • Traditional Laptops – These are your ordinary laptops that usually come with a screen size of 11×17 inches (measured diagonally). These are the most common forms of laptops. An example would be the Apple MacBook Pro.
  • Subnotebooks – These are your ultra-portable laptops that are designed with an emphasis on portability. They are often smaller in size, lower in weight, and have a longer battery life. These laptops usually weigh between 0.8 and 2 Kg, and have 10 or more hours of battery life.
  • Netbooks – These are your inexpensive, energy-efficient, light-weight laptops that are suited for wireless communications and internet access. These laptops weigh less than a kilogram, and usually have a display of 9 inches or less.
  • Convertibles, hybrids, 2-in-1’s – These are the laptops that feature detachable keyboards and touchscreen displays. Typically, these are laptops that share the traits of both tablets and ordinary laptops.
  • Desktop replacements – These are your larger class of laptops that are intended for use as compact and transportable desktop computers. These are also heavier and are capable of containing more powerful components. They usually have a 15-inch or larger display.
  • Rugged Notebooks – These are laptops that can operate in harsh conditions such as extreme temperatures, strong vibrations, and dusty or wet environments. They are also larger and heavier than your regular laptops.

Advantages of Using a Laptop

  • Portability – Allows users to use laptops anywhere and anytime.
  • Productivity – Being a portable desktop, a laptop can be used at times where a PC couldn’t. This means an office worker in traffic or on a train can take advantage of that time by managing their e-mails and other office tasks.
  • Connectivity – A laptop comes with a Wi-Fi network and other wireless connectivity, meaning it can have easy internet or local network connectivity while remaining mobile.
  • Size – Much smaller than desktop PC’s, laptops can be stored in small spaces and are easy to carry around.
  • Lower Power Consumption – Typically, laptops use only 20 to 120 Watts, compared to a desktop’s 100 to 800 Watt power consumption.
  • Quiet – Due to laptops’ smaller hard drives and cooling fans, they produce less noise.
  • All-in-One – Everything is integrated into the chassis, unlike desktops, where the keyboard, mouse, display, and other peripherals are a separate unit.

Tablet – Shortened from the term ‘tablet computer’, a tablet is a mobile computer that features a touchscreen display, circuitry, and a battery in a single device. Tablets offer the same usage as the desktop computer, but do not require a keyboard and are often slower in performance. Instead of a keyboard, tablets offer on-screen, pop-up virtual keyboards instead. They are often compared to smartphones as they have the same features, but are usually larger and heavier.

The tablet was first conceptualized in the mid-20th century. The first mass-market tablet was the iPad (the first-generation tablet computer by Apple Inc.) that was released in April of 2010. Prior to its release, there were already projects that pushed with the creation of the tablet such as the Dynabook (a portable personal computer forf all ages) that was developed in 1972 by computer scientist Alan Kay, the ST-Pad in 1992 from Atari, the NewsPad project in 1994 from the European Union, the Tablet PC in 2000 from Microsoft, and the DelphiPad in 2001 from Ericsson Mobile Communications.

Types of tablets

  • Slate – This is your standard tablet that varies in different sizes starting from 6 inches and up. Examples of these are Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro, Dell XPS, Sony Xperia Tablet Z, and iPad Pro.
  • Mini Tablet – This is a smaller and lighter tablet than standard slates. Sizes can only go from 7 to 8 inches. Examples of these are Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, 7-inch Galaxy Tab, and Nexus 7. They usually have lower specifications.
  • Phablet – This tablet is a combined feature of a tablet and a phone. Examples of these are LG Optimus VU, Samsung Galaxy Note, and Dell Streak.
  • Convertible, Hybrid, 2-in-1 – This is a tablet that features a detachable keyboard, has typical laptop I/O ports, and can connect to a number of PC peripheral devices and external displays.
  • Gaming Tablet – This is a tablet that features physical gamepad buttons such as D-pad and thumb sticks. Its intent is to provide a better gaming experience for users. An example would be Nvidia’s Shield Tablet.
  • Booklet – A tablet that offers a dual-touchscreen feature, and can fold like a laptop with its clamshell (flip/fold) design.

Advantages of Using a Tablet

  • Portability – Allows users to use laptops anywhere and anytime. Much smaller and much lighter than a laptop.
  • Functionality – While it may be smaller than a laptop, it can still provide the same functionality, but to a lesser degree. Also, it does not have the need for a keyboard.
  • Battery Life – Tablets have better battery life than laptops.
  • Flexibility – A tablet can fill the role of a laptop, while acting as a larger smartphone. This means it can perform most of a laptop’s functions and can also perform some features of a smartphone such as shooting videos, or taking photos in an easy manner.

Laptop vs Tablet

What’s the difference between a laptop and a tablet? There are a great many differences between the two, but only several are noteworthy.

In terms of their performance, laptops take the advantage of typically having higher RAMs and faster processors. In today’s laptops, RAM usually tends to be between 4GB and 8GB, while tablets only have 1GB or less. Storage is also another factor where laptops win again. While a tablet can reach up to 512 GB of space, a laptop can reach up to 1 TB. Now consider the pricing of both storages: a 512 GB tablet will cost you more or less $2,000, but with a 1 TB laptop, it only costs $1,000. In terms of display, laptops usually are bigger with a standard screen size of 13 inches at 116 pixels per inch, while tablets usually have a screen size of nine inches with 218 pixels per inch.

Now here is where tablets have the advantage; in terms of portability, there’s no doubt tablets are more easily carried around with their smaller size and lighter weight. In addition, tablets also have a longer battery life than laptops. Regarding their functionality, they each serve a different purpose, making their features dependent on what users need. If you’re looking to get some work done, then a laptop is hands down the better pick, but if you’re into some smart phone features with a little bit of PC functionality, then a tablet can be the one you’re looking for. In the end, it all comes down to your budget and your needs.

Comparison Chart

Bigger (Standard size at 13 inches)Smaller (Standard size at 9 inches)
Costs less (in relation to its specifications and manufacturer)Costs more (in relation to its specifications and manufacturer)
Recommended for office tasksRecommended for Media and simple internet usage
Battery life lasts shorter time (1 to 6 hours)Battery life lasts longer time (10 hours or more)
More connectivity optionsFewer connectivity options
Requires keyboard usageDoes not require a keyboard (Touchscreen feature)
More data storageLess data storage
Upgradeable componentsCan’t upgrade components