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September 15, 2021
Laptop Vs Tablet for College

Deciding on a laptop vs tablet for college is not a very straightforward answer. Various considerations come into play. As a college student, you know you need access to a reliable computer to write papers or carry out research. You also know you need something that can put you through several years of college without issue.

So, should you choose a laptop or a tablet? The answer boils down to your academic needs and personal preferences. To help you make an informed decision, let’s discuss the factors you should consider when choosing between laptop vs tablet.

Consider Your Major Before Choosing

Your major is the most important aspect when considering a laptop vs. tablet for college. If you are majoring in software engineering or design, you need a computer. Tablets aren’t feasible for opening untraditional files, executing a large codebase, or running heavy design software. Besides, most colleges teaching these subjects won’t allow using a tablet for conducting classwork.

For language or humanitarian majors, tablets are a better option. Students in these disciplines read books, and we mean a lot of books. The majors need digital books. They will save the student money, and they are good for the environment. Tablets are also enjoyable for reading long-form text, and it is much easier to walk around campus with a tablet rather than carry a bunch of books.

For other majors, it will depend on the college’s teaching method. It is best to talk to your academic advisor or professor in charge to know any specific requirements. They may require you to use collaborative software or other apps needed for attending the classes, so you need to make sure your device supports these apps.

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Not all sponsored colleges have laptop programs

Consider What You Will Do With The Device

Getting studies done is a priority, but that’s not the only thing you will do with your device. You have to think about your preferences and how you will be using the device.

Are you someone who will be streaming a lot of movies? Do you read for long periods? If so, tablets are a better choice. Tablets offer a more extended battery life and are very lightweight. It is more convenient to watch movies and to read books with a tablet.

On the other hand, are you going to build multimedia projects? Do you rely on doing a lot of hardcore multitasking? For that, laptops are by far the best option. In terms of productivity and heavy use, laptops conduct tasks that tablets can’t.

Laptop Vs Tablet: What’s The Difference?

  • Functionality: Tablets use mobile operating systems and mobile hardware. They are not enabled for desktop apps on it. In contrast, laptops are direct rivals to desktop computers. Laptops use the same processors and hardware as desktops and their fully-fledged operating systems provide you with a whole computing experience. 
  • Size: Size-wise, tablets generally range from 7-inches to 12-inches. Also, tablets typically weigh 300gm to 700gm and offer a slimmer design, making them suitable for easy transport. Laptops, however, easily weigh over 2 pounds. Larger laptops tend to weigh around 3.3 to 3.7 pounds. The screen size generally ranges from 13-inches to 17-inches.

Laptop Vs Tablet: Which Is Better?

To help you understand which is better, we have noted the pros and cons of both devices below.

Pros And Cons Of Laptops:

Pros And Cons Of Laptops
  • Pros: Laptops offer more power for heavy tasks. Simpler tasks like web browsing, email, working on spreadsheets can be done flawlessly on both platforms. But things get more complicated when it comes to power use. You will need a laptop when doing stuff like video editing, coding, or running heavy software. The newer iPads can handle video and photo editing but are still limited in performance and actual output quality.
  • Pros: Large screens are more useful. Laptop screens are typically larger than tablets. Having that extended screen real estate means multiple documents and media can be displayed at once. It certainly helps you to be more productive. Even on large screen tablets viewing more than 2 to 3 documents at once is not yet possible. 
  • Pros: Built-in keyboard and peripherals. Tablets at most offer a single USB port for charging and data transfer. Plus, it doesn’t come with a keyboard. You have to cash out extra for that convenience. On the flip side, laptops come with a wide array of port selections. Whether you want to transfer data, attach an external monitor, or insert an SD card, all are included. And the attached keyboard is much easier to use and offers excellent tactile feedback, which is missing on tablets.
  • Cons: Laptops are bulkier and heavier. Laptops take up more desk space, weigh a few times more than tablets, and can be a bit cumbersome to take around everywhere you go. Laptops that are considered light still weigh over 2 pounds, which is heavier than most tablets. And when you add the charger adapter, the weight adds up.
  • Cons: Shorter battery life. Battery life on most laptops is getting better but still not good enough to get you an entire day without recharging. You may need to charge it at least a day once during use.

Pros And Cons Of Tablets:

Pros And Cons Of Tablet
  • Pros: Convenient for online classes. During class, the teacher might ask you to write or draw on the screen. These tasks are much easier to do on a tablet. Most brands offer stylus support, which helps you write on your tablet as if you were writing on a piece of paper. You can also record lectures that you can rewatch later for studying for a test. 
  • Pros: Tablets are easier to travel with. Tablets are the size of a small notebook and fit inside a backpack with ease. So let’s say you are headed to a coffee shop to work on a homework assignment; tablets will be much more convenient. 
  • Pros: Long-lasting battery. Tablets use mobile processors and have fewer component than a laptop. It allows the battery to last a lot longer. If you frequently travel, having longer battery life will surely be helpful. 
  • Cons: Apps can be a hit or miss. Most apps are free but limited in functionality and will require you to pay for the premium version. But even if you pay for the premium, these apps don’t offer the fully-fledged software experience you would get on a PC. For example, the Microsoft Office Suite for tablets is a stripped-down variant of the leading software. 
  • Cons: Adding accessories adds cost. Most brands will not include a keyboard or other accessories with the tablet. For occasional typing, touch keyboards will work fine. But if you need to take a lot of notes, you will be better off with a stylus or keyboard, which you will need to purchase separately. These will add more few hundred dollars to your budget.

Laptop Vs Tablet: Consider Your Budget 

Getting a $2000 machine may not be financially viable for many students. And spending that much on a device isn’t even necessary for college needs. Ideally, you would want a device that will give you the best value for the money. 

You can get a new, good-quality laptop for as low as $300 that will allow you to attend classes and take notes without issue. If you are thinking about to buy used laptops, the price can even go as low as $100, which is still good enough for doing classwork. Even some colleges provide laptop programs to new students. You may consider the offer.

Regarding tablets, you may need to cash out over $300 for the base model that doesn’t offer a keyboard. For more specs or additional accessories, you need to pay extra. So, consider your budget when buying a laptop vs. a tablet.

Laptop Vs Tablet: Frequently Asked Questions

Is a tablet or laptop better for college?

Both are good for college, but you will want to choose one over the other depending on your subject. STEM students will need a laptop to cope with the heftier computing needs. But power use is unnecessary for humanitarian subjects as you will be mostly reading books and taking notes. So tablets will work fine in this scenario.

Can I use a tablet instead of a laptop for college?

If your college allows you to use tablets as a laptop replacement, then sure, you can use a tablet instead of a laptop.

Can an iPad replace a laptop for a college student?

By adding a wireless keyboard and a mouse, an iPad can replace a laptop for college needs. But it would be best if you upgraded to iPadOS to make use of the desktop-class safari browser. Without it, your experience will still be the same as using a mobile device.

Is it better to get an iPad or MacBook for college?

It depends on your preference. If you need a device to get a lot of things done, then MacBook will be ideal. Or, if you need portability, iPads can be a better option.

Final Thoughts

The laptops vs tablets for college debate will continue for the foreseeable future. Both machines have their advantages and disadvantages, so choosing one depends on your budget and what you want to achieve with it. In short, laptops offer greater flexibility in terms of performance and productivity. Tablets, however, pose many technical limitations but offers better battery and good portability. Since both of these devices are commonly used by students, you need to consider your requirements and decide accordingly.