Tablet and ultrabook manufacturers are touting their products as the new necessity for just about everyone; but will they really give you anything you can’t get from a laptop or smartphone? Depending on what you need and like, it might be worth the investment, but they’re clearly not for everyone. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before you take the plunge on a new gadget.
What’s the difference?
Before you let someone sell you on one or the other, make sure you know what you’re getting. A tablet operates using a touchscreen instead of a conventional keyboard and mouse, and it sacrifices power in exchange for greater mobility, longer battery life, and a quick startup. A similar compromise is struck in manufacturing laptops as opposed to desktops—laptops are sleeker, smaller, and more efficient, but you definitely get more power-per-dollar if you buy a desktop.
While the word makes them sound like the super-charged muscle cars of the laptop world, Ultrabooks are actually the opposite—extremely light, extremely portable laptops, often combining the touchscreen interface of a tablet with a keyboard and mouse; they look like thin conventional laptops, and are marketed as the “no-compromise” option. That’s not accurate, however; ultrabooks are great for light tasks, but are predictably less-powerful than full-size laptops, and feature shorter battery life and slower startup than a tablet.
What do I need?
Ultrabooks: Ultrabooks are a great option for someone looking for the middle ground between a tablet and a laptop. They’re a lot easier to haul around, and longer-lasting than a laptop computer, and you can get a lot more done than on a tablet. For gaming, you can find ultrabooks that will run recent releases, but right now, they’re more expensive than an equally-endowed laptop—and the price gap is even wider for a desktop. Gaming ultrabooks will soon have the same performance ability as full-sized laptops—but when that happens, the term “ultrabook” is likely to fade away, as the mobility and battery advantages of ultrabooks become the standard for all laptops.
You should get an ultrabook if: You’re looking for a laptop replacement. You use your computer for light tasks like writing, browsing, research, and email. You like to get work done on public transit. You value aesthetics and style.
You should avoid it if: You need your computer for high-performance tasks like 3D graphics, video editing, and power gaming. You’re okay with your laptop’s bulk, look, and portability. You’re clumsy.
Tablets: If you already have a laptop that is meeting your work and leisure needs, a tablet is a great supplement that you’ll use all the time. They’re great for winding down with a good e-book, checking email, watching videos, or casual gaming—and if you’re a college student, downloading textbooks to your tablet can save you a lot of money (not to mention back pain). The business model for tablet software is also radically different—if you like the app model of paying a buck apiece for a lot of little bite-sized programs, you’ll find tablets easy to load up with cheap, handy apps.
You should get a tablet if: You already have a laptop or desktop that serves as your workhorse for video editing, long-form word processing, and high-performance gaming. You’re a student who would otherwise have to lug textbooks around all day. You like e-books and casual gaming. You spend a lot of time on the subway, on road trips, or otherwise unoccupied.
You should avoid it if: You’re thinking of buying a tablet instead of a laptop. Your computer stays plugged into the wall all day, and mobility isn’t that important to you. You need high performance for work or gaming. You prefer your books on paper or e-ink. You’re clumsy.
Guest article written by:Patricia Shuler is a BBGeeks.com staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.