Laptops vs Tablets: Differences and Similarities


Tablet Computers, popularly known as tablets, are, essentially, mobile computing devices. They usually have mobile operating systems such as Android or iOS and have a touchscreen display that can be used to control and run different apps. They usually come with a rechargeable battery and have all its primary features contained in a single, portable device.

They have the same utility as a personal computer but may be limited in their comparative computing power. They may also lack some input and output abilities commonly found in other types of computers. A lot of tablets today look like larger versions of most smartphones. In fact, a lot of tablets in the market have smartphone capabilities such as the ability to support cellular network connectivity.

The modern form of tablet computers can trace their history back to Stanley Kubric’s classic 1968 movie – A Space Odyssey – which depicted fictionalized versions of tablet computers. Tablets have now been around for a few decades and achieved widespread popularity in the 2010s with companies such as Apple and Samsung entering the market. Since then, it has had a huge impact on gaming, connectivity, education, and even has numerous professional applications.


Laptops are smaller and portable personal computers that, usually, have a ‘clamshell’ appearance and build. They usually have a screen, sometimes with touchscreen capabilities, on the upper inner side of the clamshell and a keyboard on the lower-inner side. Laptop computers can be folded shut for storage and transportation. Laptops are commonly used for work, gaming, browsing, and watching movies, and other aspects of personal and home use.

Laptops have the same input and output capabilities as a desktop computer built into a single, slim, and portable unit. They come with operating systems, software, and hardware capabilities that often, if not always, make it as powerful as a desktop computer. Laptops can be controlled and used with a keyboard, touchpad, or mouse pad, and some even have touch screen functionality. They have internal batteries that can be recharged using AC adapters. There is a great deal of variety in laptop features, functions, and abilities based on the manufacturer, model, and price and are highly customizable to meet the users’ needs.

Similarities and Differences

Tablets and laptops are portable computing devices. They share many common characteristics and have some significant differences as well.

1. Best Known Manufacturers

Tablets – Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Asus, Google, Lenovo, Panasonic, Microsoft and Sony.

Laptops – Apple, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo, HP, Acer, Asus, Sony, MSI, Alienware, Microsoft.

2. Portability and Size

The primary function of both these devices is to provide computing power with some degree of mobility. Both can be transported and stored with relative ease. However, tablets win this battle hands down. They are much smaller in size and can be carried with much more ease.

3. Display

Laptops, with a very few exceptions, are larger in size than most tablets. Therefore, they tend to have larger frames that allow for larger screens. Screen resolution, on the other hand is a more complicated subject. Some tablets have higher pixel density than laptops and vice versa. Display quality, therefore, usually depends on factors such as manufacturer, model and price tag.

4. Storage Capacity

Most tablets manufacturers rely on solid-state memory to storage programs and data, in order to keep the price low and the size small. This greatly limits the amount of data that can be stored on a tablet. Most tablets come with a storage capacities between 16 and 128 GB and some go up to 256 GB. While some are compatible with removable storage devices such as memory cards, many are not.

In contrast, most laptops available in the market today use hard drives that can hold more data. Even the cheapest laptops today come with a storage capacity of 500GB or more. In addition they are compatible with numerous external storage devices such as USBs and portable hard drives. A lot of laptops have SD card reading capabilities as well.

5. Input Devices

Touchscreens are the primary source of data input for most tablets. However, some tablets can be used with a wireless keyboard and mouse that can be purchased separately. Laptops offer more input options in comparison. Applications can be run or controlled using a keyboard, touchpad or a mouse. Some modern laptops even come with touchscreen functionality.

6. Cameras

Both, laptops and tablets, come with cameras that can be used for video calls, taking pictures and making videos. However, most tablets come with front as well as rear cameras whereas rear cameras are rare for laptops. Also, typically, tablets have better camera quality than laptops. However, this may vary depending on the manufacturer, model and price range.

7. Battery Life

Both devices, unlike most desktops, can be used without being plugged into a power source for a limited amount of time. However, tablets are designed for efficiency and their components tend to need lesser power. Therefore, tablets have a longer battery life than laptops (depending on usage), and some tablets can even go up to 10 hours without needing to be recharged.

8. Performance

Both devices will work equally well for tasks that do not need high processing power or any special hardware or software. While some tablets can outperform some laptops, laptops tend to be better equipped to handle complicated tasks that need greater computing power – such as multitasking, gaming and HD graphics.

9. Operating Systems and Software

Tablets, typically, use the same mobile operating systems as smartphones. Some of the most popular ones are Android, iOS and Fire OS. Laptops, on the other hand, have the same operating systems as desktop computers. Some of the most commonly used ones include Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Windows is popular used for hybrid devices as well.

While laptops and tablets may share many apps and functions, they may have significantly different capabilities. Mobile operating systems and software are easier to use, but may be more restrictive. A laptop version of the same app is likely to have more features and broader functionality.

10. Connectivity

Laptops and Tablets share many features when it comes to connectivity. Most of these devices are equipped with Bluetooth and are compatible with Wi-Fi. However, there are plenty of differences as well. Unlike most laptops, a lot of tablets support cellular connectivity as well. However, the situation varies greatly when it comes to wire-based connectivity and supporting external devices. A lot of laptops have ports or USB, Ethernet, audio and microphone connections, HDMI, and others. More compact laptops, on the other hand, tend to support fewer and, sometimes, smaller ports. Tablets, however, provide a limited external device and wired connection compatibility.

Making a Choice

Tablets and laptops are two different types of devices that offer a range of similarities and differences. Making a choice between the two devices may depend on the user’s preferences and requirements. Here are some recommendations:

1. Gaming

For casual gamers there may not be much of a difference as both devices have their merits. The choice may depend on the game itself as some are only available for certain platforms and operating systems. However, for more serious or professional gamers, laptops offer more power and greater compatibility with accessories such as wireless remote controllers and specialized keyboards etc.

2. Professional Use

The choice may depend on the nature of the job or task. For example, a salesman may find a tablet more useful as it does not need a backpack. A laptop may be more complicated to handle than a tablet for a waiter taking an order, therefore the size and portability may be a deciding factor in many jobs. On the other hand, a laptop may be more useful for an office or desk based job as the keyboard allows for a faster typing speed and the operating system is better equipped to handle more complicated tasks. Some may even need and use both devices.

3. Personal and Home Use

The users’ preferences, habits and hobbies should be taken into consideration. For example, for someone that wishes to watch a movie on a larger screen, a laptop may be the obvious choice. On the other hand, a tablet may be a better choice for a frequent reader. In fact, there are even specialized reading tablets available in the market such as the Amazon Kindle.

4. Academic Use

Student may find great utility in both these devices. Tablets are handy to take to class or on school trips. However, laptops win this contest thanks to the ease with students can type, take notes and do coursework. For tech related subjects, laptops are the natural choice as they offer more power and diversity of features.

5. Overall Convenience

The definition of convenience may be different for each user. For someone that wants a device that is easy to carry around and offers hybrid functionality, a tablet offers a great balance. It can be used as a smartphone, a camera, and a mobile computer. On the other hand, those that associate convenience with greater power, multimedia functionality, and connectivity such as HDMI compatibility, and a keyboard, a laptop is the way to go.