Computer vs. tablet

Updated: 08/31/2020 by Computer Hope

Consumers have a wide array of options when purchasing a computing device. 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.


An Apple iPad and an Android tablet are both considered "tablet" devices.

Topic Computer Tablet
Power Powerful computing processors with the necessary power to cool high-end processors. Tablets are more compact and cannot offer the same amount of processing power as a high-end computer.
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 often have a screen sizes of at least 17" with support for a TV or projector. Laptops generally feature a maximum screen size of 17". Tablets, due to their more compact size, feature smaller screen sizes ranging from 5" to 10". However, most can still connect to an external display.
Portability Desktop computers are not portable. Laptop computers are portable, lightweight, and easy to place in a backpack, but laptops with larger screens (17") can become bulky and more difficult to carry around, weighing several pounds. Tablets are more portable than any computer or laptop. 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 can be over one TB (terabyte). Even the most basic computer comes with a 250 GB (gigabyte) hard drive, which for many is more than enough storage for most users. Tablets come with built-in storage ranging from 8 GB to 128 GB. In some cases, an expansion slot may be available for adding additional storage.
Battery life The battery life even for the most efficient laptop is still not close to the battery life of a tablet. A tablet has a smaller screen and has fewer components than a laptop computer, which makes for a longer battery life.
Operating System Desktop and laptop computers come with more fully featured operating system due to having the computing power and memory requirements. These operating systems support more than any tablet operating system. Tablets come with a more slimmed down operating system because of the limited computing power and memory. The Android OS and Apple iOS are adequate operating systems for tablet users, but not as complete as computer operating systems.
Boot time The latest computers running the latest operating systems have improved a lot on their boot time. However, are still slower than a tablet. Generally speaking, most tablets are much faster at booting than most computers.
Data entry and user input A computer uses a keyboard for data entry that most users are familiar with and comfortable using. The mouse is also available for easy scrolling and right-clicking. Tablets use an on-screen 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.
Touch screen Although some laptops and desktops now support touch, most still have no touch screen support. All tablets support a touch screen, that's easier for new computer users.
Upgrade All computers have 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's pretty much it for upgrade options.
Software Most application software is designed for the computer, so you have 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's still nothing compared to the available programs, games, and utilities available for a computer.
Accessories Computers have thousands of peripherals and accessories that connect to them. Most tablets offer a limited amount of accessories that usually include input devices such as a keyboard and access to some printers.

Today, many people have a tablet and computer and use a tablet for browsing the Internet and other small jobs and a computer for more complicated projects. If you're trying to decide between only a tablet or computer, also consider a hybrid computer that offers the best of both.

I still do not know what device is best for me

If, after reading the above comparison you still do not know what is best for you, consider how you plan on using the device. A tablet is best used for consuming information — watching videos, browsing the Internet, reading e-mails, etc.

If you plan on creating or editing documents, a laptop is probably the better choice. There are more options to connect to printers, scanners, cameras, drawing tablets, and other input devices.