In response to our article, What’s The Difference Between Laptops, Tablets and iPads?  Rick wrote:  “I was hoping for information on what a tablet can do that a laptop can’t, and what a laptop can do that tablets can’t. Wanted to know capabilities, not the types of operating systems.”

I focused on the operating systems because that’s really the main difference between these devices, the operating system that they run and which types of apps you can purchase.

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Your choice of device places you in what’s frequently called an “ecosystem.” That means you’ll be limited to using apps purchased from the particular app store for your device.  If you  have an iPad, you’ll make your purchases from the Apple App store and buy your music from iTunes. You’ll be limited to the apps available in that store.

Any of these devices will allow you to use the Internet, check your e-mail, play games, listen to music and read eBooks.

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Tablets are, of course, highly portable and can fit easily into a purse or be carried with one hand.

Besides portability, the main difference between a laptop PC and a tablet is the types of programs they can run. Tablets run lightweight programs, called apps.  Laptops can run desktop apps, which use more computing power, like Microsoft Office, Photoshop and complex video editing programs.  Although, you can find app versions of Office programs along with lighter-weight video and photo editing apps. But these app versions usually aren’t quite as powerful. Often times that’s perfectly fine for home use, but an issue in a business setting.

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The only tablets capable of running desktop apps are Windows tablets that use the full version of Windows. If you buy one with enough processing power, like the Surface Pro 4, it can do the same job as your laptop.

If you want to run the full version of Windows programs, you need a desktop, laptop or a Windows tablet.  (This excludes RT tablets, they don’t run a full version of Windows.)  Also, if you want to run Flash-based items, you’ll need a PC or a Windows tablet.   If you play web-based games, you’ll probably want a PC unless there are versions of the games you like available in the app store for your tablet.

The reverse is also true. You can’t run your Android or iOS apps on a laptop. For example, you can’t take an Instagram photo and post it with your PC. You can access Instagram via the web, but you don’t have full functionality.

If what you need in a device is to access e-mail, surf the net, play a few games and listen to music, a tablet or even a smartphone might be all you need.

If you need to run specific desktop apps or require a browser that supports Flash, a laptop probably fits your needs best.

One exception to this laptop rule is the Chromebook. While it looks like a laptop, it functions more like a tablet, limiting your choices to Chromebook apps available in the Chrome App store.

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Also remember that tablets, smartphones and Chromebooks depend on a fairly constant Internet connection. If a high-speed connection is a problem where you live, you are probably better off with a laptop where you can do more of your work offline.

Let’s not forget about peripherals. Tablets, (other than Windows tablets) do not have USB ports. So no plugging in USB flash drives. You won’t be able to use a mouse with an Android tablet or an iPad.

~ Cynthia