PC vs. Laptop vs. Tablet/iPad

Tablet computing has been the fastest growing trend in computing since the introduction of the Apple iPad and all of the different tablets other manufacturers have introduced to compete with it.

I will give you a brief overview of how tablets differ from traditional systems, then give more in-depth information on the different types of tablet available.

Please note; where I talk about high-performance parts below, you should take into consideration that most computer users have no need for high performance parts.  A high performance system will not be any faster than a good quality mid-range computer unless you are performing high performance tasks (such as high end games, video editing and architectural design)


  • Longer lifespan than tablets
  • Business software is more likely to be available for PC than tablets
  • Can print to almost any printer (most printers provide downloads for new versions of Windows)
Tower PC
  • 3 - 5 year lifespan
  • Almost any part can be upgraded
  • Repairs are generally cheaper, easier & faster than laptops & tablets because most parts have been standardized (every type of part can be produced by many different manufacturers & used in any tower PC)
  • High-performance parts are widely available
  • Usually has a full size screen, keyboard & mouse.  This makes it easier to use for long periods of time.
  • Takes up a lot of room & usually has many cables.
All in One PC (PC components are built into the screen)
  • 3 - 5 year lifespan
  • Limited upgrade options (memory & storage)
  • Availability of replacement parts varies by model
  • High performance models are available, but are not common
  • Usually has a full size screen, keyboard and mouse
  • Takes up a lot less room than a PC & usually only has 1 cable (the power cable)
  • 2 - 4 year lifespan
  • Limited upgrade options (memory & storage)
  • Most replacement parts are unique to one model of laptop, making them more expensive & less likely to be in stock
  • High performance models are rare due to power & cooling requirements for high performance parts.  Laptop parts are often given similar names to high performance desktop parts (such as i7) but are not comparable in performance
  • Usually more comfortable to use than a tablet with a keyboard cover, but not as comfortable to use as a tower or all in one PC
  • Takes up a lot less room than a PC, slightly more than a tablet.
  • Laptops are still useful when the battery is worn out

Tablet PC

Tablet PCs are completely different from traditional PCs - PCs were designed with the idea of storing your data "on the hard drive", whereas tablets were designed with the idea of storing your data "in the cloud".  "Cloud Services" means your data (email, photos, documents etc.) are all kept on big servers that you access over the internet.  Cloud services make your data available on almost any device with an internet connection.

There are 4 different types of tablet - Apple IOS (iPad,) Google Android, Microsoft Windows RT and Microsoft Windows 8

The most important questions to ask are:
Can I figure out everything on my own, or will I ask someone for help on occasion?  What system do they use?
If your support person only uses Apple products, then an iPad will likely be best for you.
If your support person is a technical professional who prefers Android, then an Android tablet will likely be best for you.

Apple IOS (iPad)

Apple iPad and iPhone are the best known brands of tablet and phone, and Apple IOS is the second most popular phone/tablet operating system.

  • Only Apple iPads and iPhones are sold with Apple IOS
  • All models are high quality
  • Generally supported for 2 - 3 years
  • More printers support IOS than Android
  • Printing to airprint compatible printers from print-enabled apps requires no setup
  • Works perfectly with the iTunes store (for music and books) and iTunes PC application.
Google Android

Google Android is the most popular phone/tablet operating system & is used on many different brands of phones & tablets. 

You will find an Android tablet to suit any budget, however, you will likely be disappointed if you purchase a cheap tablet.  Google Nexus and Samsung Galaxy tablets are widely considered to be just as good as (if not better than) Apple iPads.

  • Many different brands of phone/tablet are sold with Google Android
  • The quality of Android tablets varies considerably depending on what brand you choose and how much money you spend
  • Flagship devices are generally supported for 2 - 3 years, while cheaper devices often receive little or no support
  • Printers often require you to download the manufacturer's (Brother, Canon etc.) app from the Google App store.  Most wireless printers either provide an app or are compatible with Cloud Print
  • Cloud Print (Google's version of Air Print) requires you to register the printer online, and can sometimes be difficult to set up.
  • Android requires 3rd party apps to be downloaded for connecting to iTunes on your PC, and is not able to connect to the iTunes store.  The Google Play store is used instead.
Microsoft Windows RT

Windows RT is currently the least common & least popular operating system, with the least amount of applications available for it.

Windows RT is designed to run the same "Metro" apps as are available on Windows 8 through the Microsoft store.  There is currently very little support from application developers, but that may change in the future.

  • Windows RT can be used on tablets from many different suppliers, but these tablets are very rare in New Zealand.
  • Quality varies by manufacturer.  Microsoft's own Surface tablet is high quality.
  • Support lifecycle of Windows RT devices is unknown
  • Printing to compatible printers requires some basic configuration.  See http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/compatibility/CompatCenter/Home for compatibility information.
  • iTunes is not supported on Windows RT
Microsoft Windows 8

Windows 8 tablets are starting to become more common.  These tablets are able to do almost anything a laptop can do because they run the same software as a laptop does.

Good quality Windows 8 tablets tend to be more expensive than other tablets because they need more memory & processing power to run all the applications normal tablets are not capable of running.

  • Windows 8 tablets are available from many different manufacturers
  • Quality varies by manufacturer.  Microsoft's own Surface Pro is high quality.
  • Most printers are supported via a download from the printer manufacturer (or sometimes Windows Update - consult the manufacturer's website if you are unsure)
  • iTunes can be installed on Windows 8, and your music collection will be synchronised across devices if it was purchased from iTunes, or you have subscribed to iTunes Match.