Pros & Cons Of A Windows 8 Tablet Vs. A Touchscreen Laptop

Skye Hudson 06-10-2014

Windows 8, with its fancy new modern interface A Brief Guide To The Secrets Of The Windows 8 User Interface For most users, Windows 8 will come as something of a surprise when it is released, thanks to the unusual implementation of the Metro UI. If you’re not inclined to make use of whatever methods... Read More , is obviously intended to be used with a touchscreen — but there are so many options out there for Windows 8 devices! In addition to traditional laptops, the market has been flooded with tablets and 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrids.


Which option is right for you? It depends on what exactly you’re looking for.

Why A Touchscreen?


It is possible to still find some non-touchscreen devices out there, but the industry is largely moving towards touchscreens-only for Windows 8 devices — and for good reason. Windows 8 is a million times easier to use with a touchscreen Every Windows 8 Shortcut - Gestures, Desktop, Command Line Windows 8 is all about shortcuts. People with touch-enabled PCs use touch gestures, users without touch devices must learn the mouse shortcuts, power users use keyboard shortcuts on the desktop and novel command-line shortcuts, and... Read More .

It’s a change that most people don’t think they need, but once you get used to reaching out and swiping on the screen Everything You Need To Know About Windows 8 Swipe Gestures On A Laptop With the introduction of Windows 8, a lot of brand-new touch-friendly features have been added to make the operating system enjoyable to use on touch-enabled devices. However, for typical laptops which only have touchpads for... Read More to switch between apps, it becomes much easier, quicker, and intuitive than navigating your mouse into the corner for the same action. It also makes it easier to scroll through long articles with your laptop on your lap, pinch-to-zoom becomes a breeze, and some devices come with pens for an incredible handwriting experience.

Really, you should have a touchscreen device if you’re running Windows 8. (You can even add touch to a non-touch device 5 Ways to Add Touch to a Windows 8 Computer Windows 8's Start screen and "Modern" apps can feel awkward to use on a non-touch PC, but they really start to make sense when paired with a touch PC. If you're not ready to go... Read More !) But for the mobile crowd, which makes more sense, a touchscreen laptop or a tablet?


Pros Of Laptops


Less To Adapt To

Ah, the classic laptop. For those afraid of the change that Windows 8 has brought, sticking with a touchscreen laptop is probably your best bet. If you never find yourself enjoying the touchscreen, no problem! You don’t have to use it, and your laptop still works just as a normal laptop.

Windows 8 can sometimes be annoying to use without a touchscreen, but Windows 8.1 eased the pain Windows 8.1 Update Is Here! What It Is & How To Get It Now Curious about the latest Windows 8.1 Update or not sure what this is about? KB2919355 is a cumulative update that comes with useful features. It can also be removed in case it causes issues. Read More a bit, and the soon-to-be Windows 9 is supposed to take even more steps What Can You Expect From Windows 9? Threshold Rumors Summarized In a few weeks, Microsoft will release its first official preview of Windows 9, code-named Threshold. Let's see whether this new Windows incarnation could meet your needs. Read More to appease non-touchscreen users. You can even disable the touchscreen keyboard How To Best Use Or Disable The Windows 8 Touch Keyboard Typing on a touchscreen is much easier if you know all the tricks! If you frequently type on your Windows 8 tablet, consider upgrading to Windows 8.1! It comes with many improved features as this... Read More and rely entirely on your laptop’s keyboard.

Great Keyboard

Plus, with a laptop, you’re always guaranteed to have a traditional keyboard experience. No thin keyboard cases that offer a poorer typing experience, and no detachable keyboards that you might end up leaving in a different place from your computer.


With a regular laptop, you can always get work done with a traditional keyboard.


All Those Ports

As laptops have shrunken in size, ports have become rarer and rarer, but tablets eschew even more. Whereas tablets can get down to as little as just a headphone jack and a charging port, most laptops include multiple USB ports, an HDMI port, an SD card slot, and an ethernet port.

More Power, Storage, And Screen

Laptops just have more: more storage space, more RAM, more processing power, and more screen space. This can vary, as some devices have laptop-level specs in a portable package, but for the most part, tablets run on slower processors like the Intel Atom, have 2GB of RAM or less, and have SSDs of 64GB or less. Laptops also have screens ranging from 11″ to 17″, but tablets are generally limited to the 8″ to 11″ range, though you may be able to find some unwieldy 12″ or 13″ beasts.


On the other hand, laptops often have 500GB or more of storage (though they are slower HDDs), faster Intel Core processors, and generally 4GB or more of RAM. With a laptop, you’re likely going to have a zippier device with more room for all your files. And with all the extra screen space, you’re going to have an easier time multitasking.

Cons Of Laptops


Attached Keyboard

This may sound like an advantage — you’ll never lose your keyboard — but it can also be a hindrance. If you get a hybrid laptop like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro that can swivel around into a “tablet mode”, then having a keyboard attached can make for an awkward experience.

And really, you’re not using that keyboard all the time. Sometimes it’s just extra weight, which brings me to the next point…



That Weight

With all that laptops are able to cram in, it’s obvious that they’re going to weigh more. Laptops are generally going to be thicker, heavier, and larger than tablets. Large laptops can reach over 5lbs, but small tablets can be less than 1lb.

Depending on how portable you want your system to be, this can be a major downside.


Noisy Fans

Laptops are notorious for their loud and obnoxious fans. This problem is slowly being eradicated by Intel processors that sip less power and don’t need to be fan-cooled, but as of right now, most powerful processors still require fans to cool them.

This contrasts with tablets that have sleek, fanless designs that run silently and stay cool. If you’ve ever been annoyed by the heat or noise generated by your laptop, a tablet might be a good alternative.

Pros Of Tablets


Windows 8 Is Made For Touch

Though the newest operating system from Microsoft really irked desktop users, it was a dream come true for tablet users. The modern interface is a breeze to use on a tablet, though you may find yourself a little lost in the desktop mode.

In general, Microsoft seems to be catering towards tablet users — and the interface works in your favor. Plus, it’s quick and easy to resolve any issues with your touchscreen Tablet Touchscreen Not Working? 5 Tips to Fix Touch Problems Tapping, swiping or zoom-pinching, there's often a moment when the touchscreen display on your tablet refuses to respond. How do you overcome this, and achieve tablet-tapping Zen? Read More .

Lightweight Portability

Tablets are super easy to pick up and take anywhere. They’re generally much lighter and smaller than laptops, making them ideal for students or travellers who don’t want to weigh down their backpacks.

If you’re considering a tablet, though, and you plan to add a case or keyboard attachment, be sure to figure in how much the accessory weighs as well.


Detachable keyboards

A lot of Windows 8 tablets come with a keyboard dock for something that resembles a traditional laptop experience. These vary from very laptop-esque Asus Transformer Book T100 to the slim keyboard case on the Surface Pro 3.

The ability to remove these keyboards is a nice option, allowing you to work in laptop mode sometimes, but just carry around the tablet at others.

Always On

Windows 8 tablets, just like Android tablets and the iPad, don’t need to be turned off regularly like laptops or desktops. Sure, you should still restart them every once in a while for updates and such, but Intel’s newest line of Atom processors allows tablets to sip battery when in standby, and wake up instantly.

Chromebook users like to brag about how quickly Chromebooks boot up Looking For A New Laptop? Get A Chromebook Instead! Read More , but Windows 8 tablets running Atom processors boot quickly and resume from standby instantly, making them just as ready to go as any other tablet.


Battery Life

Another advantage to those power-sipping processors is increased battery life. Whereas laptops generally get around 5 hours, with the best laptops reaching into the 8 hour range, tablets regularly get 8-11 hours of battery life.

Yes, you’re sacrificing some processing power for this, but for many people, battery life takes precedent.



Stylus Input

Not all touchscreen-enabled tablets come with pressure sensitive styluses, but the ones that do are pretty amazing. Both the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and the Asus VivoTab Note 8 have incredible styluses, and the tablet form factor is ideal for drawing or taking notes.

A touchscreen laptop, while usable with fingers, just wouldn’t make sense with a stylus.

Cons Of Tablets


Lack Of Ports

Something has to be cut to make a small, thin device, and the first to go is often the ports. You’ll be lucky to find one USB port on your tablet, and you’ll almost never find HDMI or ethernet.

This is fine for a lot of people who never use these ports anyway, but if you rely on several USB accessories, an HDMI hookup to your TV, and a full-size SD card slot, they’re probably not for you.

Keyboard Awkwardness

While many tablets come paired with a specific keyboard, some either don’t or are just too small for it to make sense. 8-inch tablets like the Toshiba Encore 2 don’t lend themselves well to use with a keyboard.

Sure, you can get a Bluetooth keyboard Need An Affordable Keyboard For Your Tablet? Here Are Some Good Options If you're getting a fair bit of use out of your tablet and looking for a keyboard to go with it, you may have no idea where to start. There are plenty of options out... Read More or use one of the quality touch keyboards Need An Affordable Keyboard For Your Tablet? Here Are Some Good Options If you're getting a fair bit of use out of your tablet and looking for a keyboard to go with it, you may have no idea where to start. There are plenty of options out... Read More , but it’s not the same experience as on a laptop.

Limited Power And Storage

Just as laptops can offer a lot of processing power, RAM, and storage space, tablets tend to be limited in these same aspects. If you’re shopping for a Windows 8 tablet, you’re liking going to end up with a decent experience, but not as buttery smooth as you’d get on a laptop.

Plus, storing lots of photos and videos is really a no-go with, at most, 64GB or 128GB of storage.

Blurring The Line Between Laptop & Tablet


While some devices fit cleanly into these two categories — the Acer Aspire V7 is clearly a laptop and the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 is clearly a tablet — other devices are harder to pin down into one category. That’s why this list of pros and cons is largely generalizations.

It’s entirely possible you can find a device that has aspects of both a tablet and a touchscreen laptop. Take for example the Asus Transformer Book T300k and the HP Spectre 13 x2. These are both tablets that have fanless designs with Intel Core i5 processors, 128GB SSDs, 4GB of RAM, 13-inch screens, 7 to 9 hours of battery life, and detachable laptop-style keyboards with multiple USB ports. Still, they’re a little thicker, heavier, and top-heavy than their 13-inch laptop-only counterparts, due to having to fit the whole computer into the screen portion instead of in the base.


The day is approaching rather quickly where the line between tablet and laptop will be even less clear.

Which Do You Prefer?

Laptops and tablets obviously have their advantages and disadvantages, but the great thing about Windows 8 is its versatility How To Test Windows 8 On A Tablet It’s no secret that Windows 8's new interface is a "touch-first experience" – Microsoft said it themselves. If you’re curious about upgrading to Windows 8, you can try Windows 8 on your PC – but... Read More and wide array of devices.

Which form factor do you think is best? What do you use for your main device? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit: Touchscreen Laptop via Shutterstock

Related topics: Touchscreen, Windows 8, Windows Tablet.

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  1. Zhong
    October 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    All I'm wondering is will the motherboard last equally the same for these two different devices? Since laptop is prone to heat, will the motherboard last shorter?

    • Jason
      October 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Generally capacitors go bad. It comes down to the build quality and heat transfer more than anything. Tablet vs. Laptop isn't really the question.

      In a perfect world, with two devices built exactly the same... The laptop, with it's fan, SHOULD be able to exhaust heat faster.

  2. WinDork
    October 7, 2014 at 2:38 am

    Justin, you have beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile!

    • Justin Dennis
      October 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Awwww, thanks :)

  3. Rajat
    October 7, 2014 at 2:36 am

    I love Surface Pro 3 like tablet with one external bluetooth keyboard, mouse and one external monitor at home. Waiting for Surface Pro 4 with intel core M processor and Windows 10.
    I would like one extra USB port in Surface Pro 4 too. I hope Microsoft can do this using Core M processor as it is smaller in size compared to i5 & need no fan.

    • Tina
      October 13, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Same here. I'm dying to buy a Surface Pro, but one USB port is not enough and I'd love a version with the Core M processor.

  4. fortalyst
    October 7, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Read this as an owner of a Surface Pro 3 + docking station & am satisfied to know that I have all the pros of each with very few of any of the cons :)

    • Rah
      September 5, 2016 at 8:11 am

      Uhm do you use it for work? Im doing my research coz i need to buy for my work. But Im thinking about how portable it is and how long the battery life would be. Ofourse large storage is a plus plus. Im also considering about the ports, because i need to use something (i forgot what it is called) where you put the cd's. PLease help. Thanks.

  5. firstclass
    October 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    i3 Surface Pro 3 at work and a Dell Venue 11 pro at home. I love them both. They replaced my laptop.

  6. likefunbutnot
    October 6, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    The Surface Pro is probably the best of both worlds. The keyboard isn't fantastic and it's a little bit heavier than a tablet would normally be, but it's incredibly capable in either role. $500 refurbished Surface Pros are really just about the best deal available for powerful, low-cost portable PCs.

    • Jason
      October 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      I really like the pro... But your comment nails the problem: Too heavy to be a tablet, and a lousy ($130) keyboard. It's a substandard tablet and desktop replacement. Battery life suffers. IMHO, for what a Surface Pro runs, you could get a decent tablet and a laptop.

      Or get a dock from pluggable and use your tablet as a desktop that way.

      MS has me really close to buying a Surface, and as a programmer, a better KB is a must. Until then, my Venue Pro 8 is a great little tablet that's super light and has a battery that lasts days.