Is it really a debate at all? It’s a question that often gets asked amongst those who like to talk about tech – or, more importantly, those who are looking for their ‘perfect’ non-desktop PC device. “What’s the difference between a laptop, a Chromebook and a tablet?”
It’s a great question, isn’t it? But, really, it can be broken down a bit more: “What is a tablet more useful for than a laptop?” for instance. Or “In what way is a Chromebook superior to an ‘ordinary’ laptop?”
Each of the three devices can be perfect for certain situations or uses, and each of them is suitable for different users and their specific needs. In fact, it’s possible that a user may end up with one of each device, for different functions, needs or situations. So, here, we’re going to look at each of those devices and explain a bit about them and a bit about why they might be suitable for you. Or, in fact, whey they might not be suitable for you!
What is a laptop?
Seems like a daft question, here in the 21st-century, doesn’t it? But it’s one that’s always worth answering. A laptop is a small portable device which comprises of a keyboard, a screen and the inner workings of a computer.
So, essentially, it’s a portable computer, designed for convenience and ease of use, which can sometimes have the same computing capabilities as a desktop PC (which generally cannot be moved from its environment as it is big, heavy etc). In fact, the very best laptops can sometimes be more powerful than older desktop PCs!
Laptops have a thin LCD or LED screen on the inside of the lid, and a keyboard (alphanumeric) on the inside of the lower part. The ‘inner workings’ of the computer itself tend to be in the lower part of the laptop. The size of a laptop is pretty much dependent on the size of the screen.
You will find that there are various different sizes available but the average sized laptop, and therefore the most common sized laptop, is 15.6”. This is perfectly adequate for efficient and ‘user-friendly’ computer tasks, and also if you wish to watch a film or play a game, it’s a comfortable size. There are, of course, some smaller laptops and some bigger laptops on the market. Perhaps a laptop with a bigger screen would be more useful for you if you are, say a graphic designer or photographer or video editor.
Laptops tend to have almost all of the capabilities and functionality of a desktop PC. So that means a screen, small audio speakers, a keyboard, some sort of data storage, a cursor-control device (such as a touchpad or trackpad instead of a handheld mouse), plus an operating system, a processor and memory. Most laptops also have an integrated webcam and microphone, meaning web communications are easy (essential during the working from home era of recent times).
Many laptops also have some form of connectivity port – at the very least a USB or HDMI. Other connectivity options are available too, of course, but you should be able to find a laptop which will be able to handle connection to any of your peripheral devices. Perhaps an external hard drive for further storage of data, or perhaps you would prefer a slightly bigger keyboard. A laptop’s hardware specifications (such as the processor speed and memory capacity) can differ from model to model and from manufacturer to manufacturer.
So is a Chromebook a laptop? It sure looks like one!
Yes, in a manner of speaking a Chromebooks is a laptop. But there is an important difference between a Chromebook and a ‘normal’ laptop.
Chromebooks are controlled by Google’s Chrome operating system, which runs using the Chrome browser. So a Chromebook works through the use of internet-based applications (and cloud storage) rather than with everything running ‘live’ on your device and desktop. Saving files to the cloud rather than to a hard drive, and streaming rather than downloading, makes life so much easier. With a Chromebook, the chances of your device contracting viruses are less likely too.
Chromebooks do have some major ‘operating advantages’ over laptops. They generally boot up much faster than laptops and this is due to their use of solid state drives and the Chrome operating system. In comparison to a standard laptop, a Chromebook is a really fast device not just when booting up but also in general use. It has very little storage on the device itself, with work, documents and whatever else being saved to the cloud. This helps with keeping the internal workings of the device dedicated to the task in hand.
So Chromebooks have less built-in hardware and that means that the Chromebook’s size can be kept to a minimum. They tend to be incredibly tactile devices due to their compact nature. They are also quite light in comparison to other devices, so that also helps with the general tactile nature of them. Chromebooks typically have multiple external ports so that various peripherals can be attached – but there are fewer ports than on a laptop device.
Generally speaking, a Chromebook will be a cheaper option for you to buy than a laptop, though there is obviously a wide range of price options for both devices. There are different models you can consider before you find your perfect choice of Chromebook.
So what is a tablet?
Well, that’s an interesting question. Debate has raged for a long time as to whether a tablet is ‘a large mobile phone’ or ‘a small laptop’. Interestingly it is neither, though it does have something in common with both of them.
Tablets have the portability of smartphones, because they are small and compact enough to easily carry around with you – perhaps in your handbag, manbag, briefcase, backpack or even your pocket in the case of some of the smaller tablets. A tablet also has a touchscreen, so you they are very easy and convenient to handle and use. There’s no need for peripherals like a keyboard and a mouse, as every function can be done with a tap or a swipe of a finger on the screen.
Tablets, like the best smartphones, can also alter the orientation of the screen, so they can be used in a landscape or portrait mode, which means they are highly user-friendly and can be used for different needs. You can read or work on text documents in portrait mode, surf the internet and look at your social media feeds in portrait mode, or watch video (streaming) in landscape mode.
The best screen size for a tablet really depends on your own individual taste. Some tablets have quite large screens, and some of the ‘mini’ tablets have screens of much smaller size. We think the best is around 10” as that is comfortable enough at all levels. A 10” tablet is quite suitable for watching things on Netflix, BBC iPlayer and even YouTube without getting that nagging feeling that you’re viewing something on a screen that’s too small. It’s a comfortable size. Obviously you can force perspective changes and alter the size of your screen anyway on any portable device by holding it closer or further away from you – so no more excuses from your Grandparents about them not wanting a tablet as the screen is too small to watch films on!
Tablets are also brilliant as internet devices, and virtually all of them available on the market today is internet / Wi-Fi capable. Obviously more-or-less everyone has some form of smartphone these days, and the internet experience on a tablet is roughly similar – but a tablet can enhance usability. The bigger screen means a more pleasing interaction.
If you decide not to go for a tablet which has its own 4G capability (and you should check before you buy, if you require this feature) then you can still connect to the internet when you are out-and-about because there are Wi-Fi hotspots everywhere in the country which you can connect to with great ease.
To round up on tablets, laptops and Chromebooks… It’s obviously your call on which you decide to go for. And we hope that this article has given you a few more pointers which will help you make up your mind. Just remember before you buy that you should consider what you will primarily be using your new device for, and choose from that basis. It’s be no good, for instance, buying a 15” laptop if you are looking for ‘a little something’ to take to the beach to read your socials. Similarly, it’d be daft to buy a mini-tablet if your intended purpose is to catch up on work documents!