Note: this article has been updated on 28/10/2013
Until just a few years ago, computing purchase decisions were restricted to bulky desktop computers and laptops. Fast forward to 2013 though and the selection for portable computing has become overwhelming making it tricky to figure out which one is right for you. So, if you’re in the market for a tablet, laptop or ultrabook but can’t choose between them, hopefully this article will help you decide.
Before looking at the more technical things like size, features and pricing, I think it’s important for you to consider two important factors; what you currently own and how the tech will be used.
What You Currently Own
Let’s assume that you already own a desktop computer for example, there’s probably little value in investing in a powerful laptop too – since they’ll essentially be performing the same tasks. Of course it all depends on what you do for a living and what you’ll be using it for, but I personally prefer to have my gadgets serve a dedicated purpose.
My MacBook Pro pairs up with the Thunderbolt Display for a powerful desktop experience, my iPad is used for media consumption and the iPhone is always in my pocket for the essentials like making phone calls and sending messages/emails. Each one has it’s purpose and satisfies dedicated needs, so ideally you should go for something that complements your current tech ecosystem.
How It’ll Be Used
Tablets like the iPad and Microsoft’s Surface are now powerful enough to perform many of the important tasks we need quickly and efficiently – whilst offering more portability too.
On the other hand, a top of the range laptop will be able to handle video-editing, intensive applications like Photoshop and gaming with ease.
So that it’s a worthwhile investment, you need to take in to take in to account what you intend on doing with your device – and make sure that your decision reflects that. As I said before, it helps to consider what other tech you already own too; it’ll be a waste of your hard earned money if you have two devices to perform the same tasks.
Tying in to the previous points, how you’ll be using your tablet, laptop or ultrabook will dictate which one will be the right computing choice for you. Think about what you’d prefer to be carrying around all day and what you’ll be doing with it.
A home user may not mind the bulk & larger screen sizes of laptops, but a regular commuter may need the portability offered by tablets and ultrabooks like the MacBook Air or Samsung Series 9.
Based on that, the raw speed and performance of tablets place them in the driving seat for casual use, although the aforementioned ultrabooks are definitely going to be a better option for power users looking for a full desktop experience on the go.
Features & Performance
Tablets like the iPad in particular offer top-flight performance, specs and plenty of apps for pretty much anything – which is why it’s the market leader. The screen resolution on these devices are fantastic, they’re quick and are great for productivity since the dedicated apps are a tap away.
Top of the range laptops are as you’d expect, portable powerhouses. Capable of carrying the latest technologies, multiple inputs like USB 3.0 and HDMI, high resolution screens and capable of handling the most demanding of tasks – these machines provide users with a complete desktop experience without the need for a desk and chair. On top of that, unlike tablets and ultrabooks, laptops are generally customisable when it comes to RAM and Hard Drives, so instead of spending more money on the newest tech you’re able to simply upgrade the hardware in your existing machine.
Ultrabooks meet the middle-ground though, pairing convenient portability with powerful computing capabilities. Although they aren’t as efficient at handling intensive tasks as a laptop, they are great for getting stuff done on the move when a keyboard is needed and a tablet’s screen size just won’t do. Also, since they use flash memory (SSDs) they’re able to boot up and shut down in an instant, making them perfect for quick work on the move.
Ultrabooks satisfy the need for a desktop experience on the move in a lightweight & portable piece of kit. They are however the priciest of the lot, reaching near and above the £1000 mark.
Laptops come in next and although their price points vary depending on features & specifications, you can expect to fork out at least £400-600 for something worthwhile as an investment. It’s important to remember though that these machines offer a powerful and complete desktop experience with the option of further customisation.
The winner for me though has to be the tablet. Assuming that you have a computer to use at your desk at home already, tablets are perfect for tasks like sending a quick email, using social media, browsing the web and even word processing & other office applications. Ranging between £150-£400 for entry level devices, they aren’t by any means replacements for a computer but they are most definitely an affordable solution.
Ultimately the decision you make for a portable computing solution is up to you and what you prefer, but the key piece of advice I can offer is consider why you’re buying it and what you’ll be using it for.
If you own a desktop computer or laptop, I’d suggest a tablet as they are affordable and offer a fast & productive experience.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a one-fits-all solution, a laptop may just be what you need. It might weigh you down a little when commuting from place to place but it prevents you from spending on multiple pieces of tech and is perhaps more future-proof than the other two options.
Hopefully this article has been helpful in your decision-making process! I’d love to hear your feedback so if you have any thoughts, opinions or questions – please leave a comment below!