Computer vs. Tablet

When looking for a computing device, there are many options out there. Two of those options include a full fledged computer system (either desktop or laptop) and a tablet. Both can provide computing capabilities, run software and perform other tasks, but there are many factors to consider between the two options. Below is a chart to highlight some important factors to consider including the pros and cons of each device.

Topic Computer Tablet
Power More powerful computing processors typically require greater amounts of power and cooling. Computers are more equipped to provide the increased power and cooling requirements for processors, thus being able to feature higher computing performance. Tablets are more compact and do not have the capability of providing the increased amount of power and cooling that more powerful processors require. They are limited to lower voltage processors, although processors of this type are becoming more advanced and powerful.
Cost Prices for a computer (desktop or laptop) can vary widely, depending on its capabilities, storage, and other features Prices can range from $400 to $2000. Tablets can also vary in price based on power and various features, but not as much as computers. Prices can be $150 to $500 in most cases, with a few models ranging up to $600 to $800.
Screen size Desktop computers can connect to monitors with large screen sizes. Standard monitors sizes are between 17" and 19" in most cases, but a desktop computer can connect to even larger display units, like a TV or Projector, allowing for even larger screen sizes. Laptops typically feature screen sizes up to 17". Tablets, due to their more compact size, feature smaller screen sizes ranging from 5" to 10".
Portability Desktop computers are not considered portable since they are not easy to move around. Laptop computers are considered portable, being more lightweight and easy to place in a backpack, but laptops with larger screens (17") can become bulky and more difficult to carry around, weighing up to seven or eight pounds. Tablets are more portable than any computer. They are very lightweight and can fit in a purse or small bag with relative ease. They are designed to be taken everywhere with you, thus the very definition of portable.
Storage Computer hard drives are already over one terabyte (TB) mark and continuing to increase in size. Even the most basic computer will often come with a 250 gigabyte (GB) hard drive today, which for many is more than enough storage. Tablets come with built-in storage ranging from 8 GB to 128 GB. In some cases, an expansion slot may be available for adding an additional memory.
Battery life The battery life even for the most power efficient laptop is still not close to the battery life of a tablet. A tablet has a much smaller screen and generally fewer components than a laptop computer, which makes for a longer battery life.
Operating System Computers come with a more fully featured operating system due to having the computing power and memory requirements. Both desktop and laptop computers can run a fully featured version of an operating system with the option to choose your operating system on PCs. Tablets come with a more slimmed down operating system due to having more limited computing power and memory. The Android OS and Apple iOS are adequate operating systems for tablet users, but not the fully featured operating system found in a computer.
Data Entry and User input A computer uses a keyboard for data entry that most users are familiar with and comfortable using. In addition to a keyboard, the mouse is also available for easy scrolling and right-clicking. Tablets use an on-screen touch keyboard that is smaller than a standard computer keyboard, takes time to learn, and users with bigger fingers may have a hard time typing. Some tablets allow for an external keyboard, providing a more comfortable and familiar medium for typing.
Upgrade All computers offer some form of hardware upgrades including easy upgrades like adding more memory, disk storage, or even a new expansion card. Some tablets do offer the ability to expand the storage capacity with an additional memory card, but that is pretty much it when it comes to upgrade options.
Software Most software programs are designed for the computer which gives the user an almost endless supply of options. Programs on the computer are also usually more feature rich than apps designed for tablets. Although there are millions of apps available for a tablet it is nothing compared to the available programs, games, and utilities available for a computer.
Accessories Computers have thousands of peripherals and accessories that can be connected to them. Most tablets offer a limited amount of accessories that usually include input devices such as a keyboard and access to some printers.

Most users today have both a tablet and computer in their homes and use a tablet for browsing the Internet, reading e-mail, and other small jobs and then a computer for more complicated projects or work. If you are trying to decide between only a tablet or a computer, also consider a hybrid computer which offers the best of both a laptop and tablet.

Additional information

  • See our computer and tablet definitions for further information and related pages.