Netbook or Tablet?

What is best – a Netbook or a Tablet?

android tabletThe sea-change in the way we use computers has left some of us confused as to which one makes the best purchase decision. The tablet is certainly tempting, with its cool touch screen, very light weight and uber portability; however, there are a number of downsides as well – a tablet can get smudged easily, is quite fragile and can be a pain to type on.

Netbooks, on the other hand may not be quite so “hip” but are more traditional in terms of their design and functionality. They are generally more robust than the tablet too, and with almost full sized keyboards they are usually easy to type on quickly. But which makes the best buy – netbook or tablet?

The Tablet – our favourite bits

Obviously, the tablet pc looks fantastic and has revolutionised the marketplace the way smart phones revolutionised the mobile market, but there is a lot more to commend the tablet than looks. The main tablet operating systems are Apple’s OS – which is clearly exclusive to the Apple platform, in this instance the iPad – and the system adopted by the majority of other tablet devices, Google’s Android OS. A number of tablet pcs are now also running Windows 7.

While the iPad tablet is innovative and was ground-breaking in terms of the touch screen, the availability of apps and ease of internet access, anyone except an Apple evangelist would regret the lack of support for Flash movies and the fact that interaction with anything but another Apple device is difficult. Google’s Android is very good, and has a beautiful browser, very fast performance and a few quirky features most people like. Significantly, it also plays Flash and enables seamless connection with practically anything else. Windows 7 is something of a newcomer to the tablet market, but the platform has had great reviews on mainstream PCs.

Netbook features – the pick of the bunch

HP 210 netbookNetbooks are in effect mini laptops, and as such have a hard case one half of which houses the keyboard and trackpad (and all the working parts) while the other contains the screen. While most netbooks fall roughly into the 10″ – 11″ size bracket, the screen is going to be small (but not as small as most tablets which average 7″) but they are certainly usable, and depending on what you are doing they can be perfectly acceptable.

Even the classic situation of using a spreadsheet on a netbook can be worked around with the latest versions of Office, and if all your work is online the problem doesn’t exist. Many netbook displays are excellent, and you have the comfort of knowing that when you close the lid the screen is protected to some degree.  If you miss an optical drive, there are docking stations available now that incorporate a DVD-R drive, and you can always add functionality to a netbook by adding external drives and devices like mice.

Software or Apps?

There is a fine distinction between apps and software. Despite the fact that the two perform similar functions, the latter requires  a bit more user experience than the former. You must install software on your netbook and take time to learn how to use it, whereas with an app you simply click on a few widgets and things begin to happen. Although it is software that ultimately powers both netbooks and slates – whether you call it an “app” or not – much of the older programs have been relegated to the workplace leaving the tablet as the device of choice for leisure computing.

Speed

Ten years ago, the laptop was the epitome of speed and convenience; nowadays it is the tablet. With a laptop you have to find a secure hot spot when you are on the move, log in then do your work or online business. With a slate, you can pay bills, transfer money, check emails and still listen to iTunes while you are at it – and from any location. The tablet computer combines all the  functionality of the notebook and brings it within instant reach.

Personalisation

A touch screen tablet or Smartphone is much easier to personalise than anything else, storing business and personal data in a hand-held device, and making it possible to work from any location with or without your PC.

In the end, it is all about preference – and there is, of course, a hefty price differential to also consider – how you will use a device, be it netbook or tablet should be the guiding motive for your purchase rather than fashion, but try telling that to a teenager!

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