Tablet vs. 2-in-1. Which is right for me?

By their nature, 2-in-1s borrow features from both traditional laptops and tablets. And as with any hybrid device, the combination brings advantages and disadvantages.

Shoppers with no interest in tablet functionality are likely to buy a regular laptop, so there is little need to compare 2-in-1s to laptops. The laptop nearly always "wins" -- unless the 2-in-1's additional tablet features are truly desired.

Comparing 2-in-1 laptops to tablets is a more pertinent analysis. The tablet in a 2-in-1 is fully functional, creating a true option for consumers who think they might want additional laptop functionality along with their touch screen tablet. This article presents the relative pros and cons of 2-in-1s versus standalone slate-style tablets.

Comparing tablets and 2-in-1s

First, let's review what we're talking about:

  • Tablet: A tablet is a highly portable PC whose primary interface is a touch screen that occupies the full length/width of the device but whose speaker and microphone are not positioned for hand-held calling. For more, see What is a tablet?
  • 2-in-1 laptop: The 2-in-1 is a combination of laptop and a tablet. A "2-in-1 Attached" model keeps the keyboard and screen connected. A "2-in-1 Detachable" system allows the screen to be physically separated from the keyboard for use as a standalone tablet. For more, see What is a 2-in-1?

As shown in the following table, deciding whether a 2-in-1 or a regular tablet is the best choice for you or your company will mean balancing the added features you seek against the ones you might lose.


Advantages of 2-in-1

Compared to a standalone tablet, a 2-in-1 has these advantages:

  • Computing power: With full PC operating systems and faster processors, most 2-in-1s can handle more advanced computing tasks than tablets. So a 2-in-1 has more all-around flexibility to offset its heavier weight.
  • Ports and docking: 2-in-1s are more easily expandable than tablets, with many models offering multiple ports and slots for attaching disk drives, monitors, etc. 2-in-1s may be more durable, too (see "Durability" at right).
  • Office use: Business users of 2-in-1s may first focus on their value as keyboard-equipped laptop replacements, but soon find the tablet option ideal for note-taking, touch screen data entry, presentations, and so on.
  • Multitasking: The more traditional PC capabilities of a 2-in-1 allow you to keep multiple applications and program windows open at the same time and switch between them more easily than with a tablet.

Advantages of a Tablet

Compared to a 2-in-1, a standalone tablet has these advantages:

  • Weight: Stand-alone tablets will typically be lighter than 2-in-1s, so they're a good choice for long periods of steady use in tablet form. But be sure to look at the specifications. Some very thin and light 2-in-1s are available today.
  • Durability: This is a double-edged sword. A stand-alone tablet has fewer moving/external parts than a 2-in-1 (360° hinges, keyboards, etc.), but the touch screen in a 2-in-1 typically sits within a sturdier laptop-style frame.
  • Field use: Road warriors who initially choose a tablet for its easy portability are often happy to learn how many full office-style applications (spreadsheets, etc.) they can run, especially if equipped with a stylus for data entry.
  • Battery life: Unless the competing 2-in-1 has multiple batteries, a standalone tablet will generally last longer unplugged, as it is only powering the tablet and touch screen rather than an entire PC.

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