Why Tablets Aren’t Yet Able to Replace Laptops

The world of computers is very dynamic. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to make computing easier, more portable and more powerful. Each new form factor of computing comes along with benefits and drawbacks. When the first generation iPad was released, Apple showed consumers that many tasks could be done with a flat, thin and light notebook.

Progressively, laptops have gotten thinner, lighter, more powerful and come with premium build qualities. Tablets now range in size from the seven inch form factor all the way up to the almost 19 inch form factor of the Samsung Galaxy View (see our thoughts here). This all raises the question, can one of these tablets really replace your laptop? In short, my opinionated answer is no.

Software: The single most noticeable difference between a laptop and tablet is software. Chances are, your laptop either runs Windows, Mac OS, or Chrome OS. Contrarily, your tablet most likely either runs Android, or IOS. There are a few exceptions to this, keep reading. Tablet operating systems are generally identical to those found on mobile phones. For example, the software on your iPad is nearly identical to that on your iPhone and the software on your Samsung Note Tablet to your Samsung Note phone.

Sure, there may be one or two extra features and adjustments to compensate for the larger screen, but functionally, they are very similar. Basically, these mobile operating systems are good for basic tasks: email, web browsing, and running apps from the Play Store or App Store will all be a breeze. Here’s the drawback: mobile operating systems can’t run desktop apps. This means that when running programs, you will be running the “mobile version” of this program. For example, the Photoshop you use on your computer is different than the mobile app on your iPad or Android tablet. This is even noticeable on simple tools such as Google Drive. In my experience, it is far easier to create and edit documents on the desktop or web version of Google Drive than using the mobile app. Maybe that’s just me and my personal preferences, but there is definitely a difference. With mobile app stores rapidly growing, more and more program developers are creating mobile versions for their programs. Because of processing limitations on tablets and phones, mobile versions of programs are predominantly inferior to their desktop versions. Other than running programs, I generally feel more productive when using the computer. For example, Samsung’s multi window multitasking is cool and works well, but side by side multitasking with Windows just works better and is less of a hassle.   

Power: Speaking of power limitations, this is the next reason that tablets will not adequately replace laptops. Similarly to how tablets run mobile operating systems, many tablets are powered by mobile processors. Again, there are exceptions to this, keep reading. Intel is the leading manufacturer of processors. They make both high power and low power processors. For laptops and desktops, Intel makes their i series (i3, i5, i7, etc.) Many mid range and premium laptops either run on an i5 or i7 processor. Some low range laptops run on Intel’s Celeron or Atom processors. Tablets, on the other hand, run on any processor from Samsung’s Exynos chip to Nvidia’s Tegra chip and so on. There’s no need to bore you with gigahertz comparisons and such, just take my word for it: tablets generally run on processors that are far less powerful than those found on laptops. Tablets also have less memory (RAM) than laptops do. Many high end laptops run on eight or more gigabytes of RAM while most tablets don’t have more than three or four gigabytes. With that said, tablets require less power because of the simplicity of mobile software relative to computer operating systems. This inferiority of power limits tablets to mobile software and mobile editions of apps.

Exceptions: Because of the dynamic tendencies of the field of technology in general, manufacturers are beginning to counteract these drawbacks of tablets. The most notable example of this is Microsoft’s Surface Pro series. This tablet runs full Windows software and is therefore able to run desktop versions of programs on the tablet.

There is also a lot more “under the hood”. The Surface comes equipped with the Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, and four, eight or even 16 gigabytes of RAM depending on which configuration you choose. Seeing this much power on a tablet is quite impressive. In fact, the Surface is so powerful, I hesitate to even refer to it as a tablet. The biggest drawback with the Surface, is the price. Premium specs and the ability to have a tablet that really will replace your laptop comes at a price. The Surface will set you back anywhere from $899-$1799 depending on your model choice. Mandatory accessories such as the keyboard case will set you back over $100. With budget laptops becoming more capable, it is difficult to fork up this much for a similar device. Other notable exceptions are the tablets that run full Windows but still sport budget specs.

This category is quite interesting and in my eyes, underrated. There are many devices that fall into this category from various manufacturers. A quick search on Amazon shows you that these devices can be quite inexpensive, many under $300. Because of inferior specifications relative to laptops, these won’t run nearly as smooth as a laptop would. However, in addition to running a full computer operating system, the capabilities in terms of what you can run with one of these is certainly superior to tablets running mobile operating systems.

Final Thoughts/Summary: To summarize, any laptop running IOS or Android won’t replace my laptop, as far as I’m concerned. These devices are plenty powerful when it comes to running basic mobile applications and completing basic tasks. Many are also thin, light and feel great in the hand. However, for a true laptop experience, a user needs the ability to run desktop applications and a desktop operating system, which has more features and is generally easier and more productive to use. The tablet form factor limits how powerful they can be, making these tasks difficult. There are exceptions to these drawbacks, many of which come with their own individual drawbacks such as price or performance. I predict that the tablet form factor will soon be phased out. As laptops get thinner and lighter, tablets seem more and more pointless, at least in my eyes. If you want a portable, powerful device to get work done on the go, get an ultrabook. This way, there is no need to settle for inferior specs and software.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the subject. Do you agree with my opinions? Disagree? Let’s talk about it! Feel free to leave your comment here on the site, or tweet us @amcoffeetech. Otherwise, leave me an email at john@morningcoffeetech.com. Thank you so much for reading and we’ll see you in the next one!

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3 thoughts on “Why Tablets Aren’t Yet Able to Replace Laptops

  1. On the limitations of processors across platforms: I believe that the spec is dead and doesn’t matter as much anymore. People are not interested in processors or RAM, people are interested in Androids, iPhones, Macbooks etc. They don’t necessarily think of their computing needs.

    These days, people are looking to manufactures for solutions to problems rather than powerful machines.

    Some interesting points.

    1. Hi Shane,
      You are absolutely correct, consumers are more concerned with actual performance regardless of specs on paper. Thanks so much for the feedback and for reading.
      Best,
      John

  2. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thanks

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