Laptops vs Tablets: Comparing Design on Each Device

It’s round two of our Laptop vs Tablet battle, in which we help you decide which is the best device for you and the way you work.

Last time, it was app-to-app action, as we pitted laptop software against tablet software. Despite iPad-maker Apple’s claims that there’s “an app for that”, it was laptops that came out top, winning the first round for “ultimate, no-compromise experience” when it comes to running software.

This time, we’re looking at hardware design – all with a view to answering the question: can you be as productive on an iPad as you can on a ThinkPad?

Comparing laptop and tablet design

Before the iPad came along in 2010, mobile computers followed this design trajectory: they got thinner, they got lighter. While the screens may have got bigger (in gaming laptops) and smaller (in netbooks), the shape and proportion of mobile computers stayed pretty much the same – upright screens hinged to table-flat keyboards.

The iPad and other tablets challenged the status quo by offering a new kind of mobile computer, where the screen, almost literally, is everything. It’s the display, of course, but it’s also the input, as we tap the screen to command the computer.

Where button presses drove laptops, it’s gestures that power tablet computers – a pinch, a pull, a swipe. These gestures take some getting used to, but it’s worth bearing in mind that laptop keyboards, based on typewriters, also took some getting used to. Typing on a physical keyboard isn’t a natural thing, but we’ve learned how to do it, and there’s every chance we’ll get as good with the software keyboards and interfaces we see in tablets.

However, if your work can’t afford the time to get used to tablet gestures, there are some accessories, for the iPad especially, that protect against drops in productivity – and may even contribute to an increase!

  • Apple Wireless Keyboard. If you do a lot of long-form writing in your work – the kind that demands you sit at a desk – a full-on hardware keyboard is hard to beat, and Apple’s wireless Bluetooth solution is excellent, and surprisingly easy on batteries.
  • Incase Origami Workstation. This handy accessory perfectly protects your Apple Wireless Keyboard and quickly folds up into an iPad stand that works with the keyboard like a traditional laptop.
  • Boxwave Capacitive iPad Stylus. For sketching out quick ideas that are better visualised than written down, a stylus is a great solution for the tablet’s notepad-like form factor.

Winner: Round 2

Despite the laptop’s tried-and-tested clamshell form factor, it’s the tablet that wins the Design round of our Laptop vs Tablet battle. It wins, mainly, for adaptability: you can quite easily attach and detach a keyboard to a tablet per task, whereas with a laptop you’re almost always stuck in the sitting position.

Next time: We discuss mobility – which will win the final round? Can you do more on the move with a laptop? Or is a tablet the way to go?

San Sharma (@sansharma) is a blogger for WorkSnug (@WorkSnug), a mobile app and website that helps you find laptop-friendly workspaces near you.

Photo Credit: Manny Rosas via Compfight cc


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