Tablets v laptops: which has most power?

CLAIRE ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 01/09/2012
Tablet computer power

iPROPHET: Which device has the most power?

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Tablets are competing with a wide range of laptops to be your portable computer of choice. Both can be complementary, but how do they compare? It depends on what you're after.

Battery And Boot Up

Unplugged, you'll get more juice out of your tablet than your laptop/netbook. Tablets are also faster to boot up as they typically have a lighter software load.

PORTABILITY

Netbooks and ultrabooks are ultra light but tablets again win this one - particularly the smaller tablets with 7-inch or 8-inch screens. The lightest ultrabooks are still just under 500 grams heavier than most tablets.

AFFORDABILITY

Tablets at mainstream electronics stores cost anywhere between $329 (for the Samsung Galaxy S 5 at Harvey Norman) to $1228 for the highest-spec Apple iPad. Netbooks start at $399 for the Acer Aspire One (online at Dick Smith) and ramp up to $4499 for an Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (at Dick Smith and Noel Leeming).

MOVIES, GAMES AND BOOKS

There is a wealth of apps that you can download to your tablet for endless hours of amusement but for more involved and graphics-hungry gaming then a higher-spec laptop is probably best. Tablets such as the iPad or Samsung Galaxy have great screen resolution and are excellent for watching YouTube clips while you're waiting for the bus but most laptops have more processing power to handle images, meaning they are probably better suited for watching TV and movies.

One advantage tablets do have is that they also double as ereaders, meaning you can do your emailing and delve into your favourite book on the same device.

PRODUCTIVITY

Sure a tablet is great for surfing the web and watching YouTube videos, but what about when you need to send a lengthy email or work on that presentation? While you can get productivity apps for tablets such as Google Docs and QuickOfficePro (for Microsoft Office users), they can be scaled-down versions of the desktop apps you're used to. Laptops have a far richer range of software and in many cases more grunt (processing power and memory) to handle more power-hungry tasks such as photo editing. Typing at length on a tablet can also be a frustrating and cramp-inducing experience, although you can buy separate keyboards for many tablets.

DURABILITY

Tablets may be easier to cart around but their exposed touchscreen can mean they are also more susceptible to damage should you knock or drop them. This risk can be reduced with a protective case or cover.

STORAGE

Laptops win this one hands-down. Tablets currently tend to have about 64GB of flash storage at the most (Microsoft's new Surface tablet range will have a 128GB model), compared to upwards of 250GB for laptops.

EVEN MORE

Need something more than a tablet - but in a knot about netbooks, notebooks, laptops and ultrabooks? Here's a quick guide.

Laptops are the old boy in the lineup and the closest to a portable desktop PC in capability. For that reason they were traditionally the biggest and heaviest in the mobile computing family. More and more they are also called Notebooks - which are technically the next step down in terms of size. But their performance specs can often be the same as those of traditional laptops, which are slimming down in size and weight, so the two terms are often used interchangeably.

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The Toshiba Satellite C850 is an entry-level notebook at $799 - with a 15.6-inch screen, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive and a 2.3GHz processor. Further up the price chain, you can get the Sony Vaio 15.5-inch notebook, with 4GB of RAM, a 2.1GHz processor and a 750GB hard drive, for $1499.

Netbooks are smaller again - screen size is typically 12 inches or less, and they usually weigh in between about 400 grams and one kilogram. They are designed to be "lite" laptops for basic computing and internet tasks. They are lower cost than laptops and notebooks, less grunty and typically do not have an optical drive. Their popularity is fading, as consumers opt for more powerful ultrabooks and notebooks or the more portable and more trendy tablet computer.

Examples include: the Acer Aspire One AOD270 with a 10.1-inch display, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 320GB hard drive and a 1.6GHz processor ($399 online at Dick Smith) and the Hewlett Packard Mini with a 10.1-inch screen, 320GB hard drive and a 1.6GHz processor ($499 at Noel Leeming).

Ultrabooks are the hot new thing in mobile computing outside tablets. They are basically very thin and lightweight laptops, but with more power and RAM, a bigger screen, and better storage than a netbook. They are the creation of computer chip maker Intel, and use Intel high-power, low-voltage processors. They are more expensive than netbooks and some notebooks.

Examples include the Samsung Series 9 - which is 12.9mm thick, weighs 1.16kg, has 4GB of RAM and a 1.9GHz processor (RRP $2599), and the Dell XPS range 14 (from $1799 to $3499), which at 2.1kg is a heavier ultrabook but you can customise RAM, processor and storage size to suit your needs.

JUST CAN'T DECIDE?

Manufacturers have started producing tablet-laptop hybrids. Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga, due for release this year, is a tablet-laptop running Windows, has a 13.1-inch screen, 8GB of RAM, two solid state hard drives of 128GB and weighs less than 1.5kg. The IdeaPad Yoga looks like a laptop but the keyboard can be folded away so it becomes a tablet.

Sources: TechRadar, PC World, Dell, Parts People, Noel Leeming, Dick Smith, Information Week, Engadget, Top Ten Reviews, Tablet Buying Guide, LapTopMag.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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