Within the last few years the PC industry has experienced a new phenomenon, the Tablet PC. The tablet is quickly emerging as a strong niche in the PC industry, and the functionality of it is being defined as users discover the strengths and weaknesses of its computing sessions, as well as the unique human touch interaction that defines so much of its appeal and unique interactive qualities. We're going to examine the ultimate question: should you put out the bucks for one or stick with the traditional laptop instead. To answer that question, we need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of both platforms. Let's start by considering the interaction with these devices.
There are some tablet considerations you should think about. Do you use programs that require input; perhaps a considerable amount of input? If so,the tablet may not be for you. It uses a touch interface and point and click for inputing information. Although tablets usually have a virtual keyboard, similar to many stylus-operated SmartPhones, using one is clumsy at best, and limits your input speed. You can get around this issue by obtaining a bluetooth keyboard, but this would be an additional cost and another item to be carried and accounted for if you travel often.
If lugging around something continually is a hassle, the tablet choice would certainly be a consideration. Tablets weigh under two pounds and are about the size of a small paper tablet, thus contributing to its genre name. A keyboard/trackpad addition is the primary reason for the size differential. Additional laptop constraints also include a higher power requirement, which generates more heat, so a means of cooling is necessary as well. This equates to a larger battery/power supply and the addition of a cooling fan, increasing its size and weight.
Ultrabook vs Netbook
However, with that said, there are two alternative genre of laptops: the netbook and ultrabook. They are for customers who want a smaller dimensioned device, but their computing needs are not successfully met with a tablet. They are a viable option if you're in this category, but be prepared to spend more money for the ultrabook, ranging from $700 to well over $1000. The ultrabook size isn't necessarily smaller than a regular laptop, with screen sizes ranging from 11 to 15 inch. It's their weight that makes them unique, about three pounds, accenting their portability. The netbook costs less than a regular laptop, roughly $200 to $300, but has a smaller hard drive, and the screen is smaller than the average laptop, averaging about 10 inches. Ultrabooks and netbooks don't have a DVD/CD in them, but will take a thumb drive; for portable data usage. The ultrabook uses the more expensive solid-state drives because of their smaller size, but because of the cost, they can be smaller in capacity than the traditional mechanical drives still used by the netbook and most laptops. Since the engineering costs of manufacturing a smaller laptop are significant, the more expensive ultrabook cost is passed on to the consumer.
The one strong suit of the tablet is its power requirements. Since a tablet's hardware is much less sophisticated than a laptop, the power requirement is small and the battery can last as long as 10 hours before needing a recharge. Contrast that time with a standard laptop battery, with a charge life of two to three hours, and you can see the clear winner.
In order to keep the size of a tablet small, solid-state drives (SSD) are used in capacities of 16 to 64GB, in lieu of the traditional mechanical type of drive still used in laptops and netbooks. This will undoubtedly increase as SSD costs drop. Compare that capacity to a traditional hard drive on a laptop, which hold several hundreds of gigabytes. Even a netbook will have more hard drive storage space. However, using the cloud for storage is available and would certainly supplement the needs of a tablet. Keep in mind that for backing up data, connecting the tablet to a PC is necessary.
If you're using the tablet for email, internet, low-requirement audio or video, these applications would be as acceptable as they are on a laptop. When you start getting into applications that require heavy processing such as 3-D games, intensive graphics, or just multitasking, you run into problems, and would have to opt for the laptop's superior hardware. There are scaled-down versions of regular programs that can be used, but remember that the lack of data inputing combined with limited hardware capability will significantly impact what type of programs you will be able to use for a tablet.
Tablet and Laptop Cost
Although many low-end laptops and netbooks are available for the same price as tablet, the average-priced laptop is still at about $650, taking it out of the price range of the average priced tablet, which is about $450. Keep in mind that for that $200 category price difference, you have the full functioning capability of a PC by going with a laptop.
All things considered, at this point in time with tablet technology, there is really only one logical choice if you don't already have a desktop or laptop PC. If you do in fact already have a PC, there are some good tablets out there; some of them are available for as little as $199, with excellent value. Remember though, that since a tablet is used mostly for web usage and entertainment purposes, right now it is really more of a luxury than a necessity. As time goes by, this tablet scenario will certainly change, as with all new technologies, but for now, in these tough economic times, your association with a tablet may really be best limited to the paper variety you touch with a pen instead of the silicon type you touch with your finger.