Tablets are intriguing pieces of electronic wizardry, but even the most ardent iPad fan would concede that they have their limitations.

This month, the PC Advisor Test Centre has been crammed to the rafters with both tablets and laptops, giving us plenty of opportunity to assess their relative merits. Our conclusion: the best tablets are incredibly desirable, but they are no substitute for the processing power and full computing might of a laptop.

Here's why we'll be lusting after the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Motorola Xoom and the iPad 2 (and 3 and 4), but we won't be giving up our trusty portable PCs any time soon.

1: Laptops are more robust

You can cosset your tablet in a protective case, but there's no escaping the fact that the screen is vulnerable in a way that a laptop with its lid down isn't.

2: Tablets are more appealing to opportunist thieves

Actually, this one may not be completely true. A MacBook or a big-brand laptop is likely to have just as much appeal as a tablet, but the compact dimensions of tablets, plus their super-size price tags, mean they are a more obvious target than a common-or-garden laptop.

3: Laptops offer a wider range of games

Laptop graphics processors are able to run almost any game you wish, whether you're running it from a DVD or online. Tablets let you download and play a limited selection of casual games, in single-player or pass-and-play modes, but not online. Soldier of Fortune on Android doesn't exist.

4: It's easier to see what someone's doing on a tablet

Privacy is an issue on a tablet. If you don't like fellow commuters reading the paper over your shoulder, you won't be happy when they sneak a glance at the headlines you're reading on your iPad or what you post as your Facebook status. At least with a laptop you can hide behind the screen.

5: Laptops have considerably more storage space

We've been using our iPad 2 for less than six weeks and we've already filled two-thirds of its 16GB hard-disk capacity. Apple won't even let us supplement this paltry amount by using an SD Card for extra storage. Pah!

Laptop Advisor

6: Laptops have more connections

Some tablets support HDMI, and Bluetooth and wireless 802.11b/g/n are pretty standard, but you get precious little else in the way of connectivity. Even USB 2.0 ports aren't a given on some tablet PCs, while laptops usually sport several such slots (and some offer the far faster USB 3.0 standard). Also common on laptops are eSATA for adding solid-state drives, DVI or VGA for external displays, and FireWire and Thunderbolt (on Macs).

7: Creative options

Tablets are ideal for viewing and consuming media, but they don't lend themselves to doing much else. On a laptop you can tweak and crop your shots, add an audio soundtrack or splice together scenes taken on a camcorder. There are a couple of iPad 2 apps for this, but for now it's almost exclusively a laptop strength.

8: Laptops have faster processors

Our expectations of tablets are relatively low. A laptop can perform any task you'd demand of a tablet, and can do it standing up. Laptop processors are many times more powerful than those on tablets, so they won't baulk at resizing and rotating photos, letting you check your email, instant message a friend and listen to your favourite iTunes tracks all at once. On a tablet, you can really only do one or two of these at once.

9: Most laptops can be upgraded

If you find your laptop slowing down, filling up or generally dating, you can do something about it. The RAM, hard drive and battery can usually be upgraded. A tablet doesn't give you these options.

10: Laptops are cheaper

Cost is another big consideration. Tablets are a premium-priced product and you pay a lot for both their compact form and their connectedness. The entry-level iPad is one of the better-priced tablets at £399, but that's for a Wi-Fi-only version.

Tablets are intriguing pieces of electronic wizardry, but even the most ardent iPad fan would concede that they have their limitations.

11: Contract constraints

Tot up the cost of a contract-bought tablet and you'll find it works out about £720 over the two-year subscription period. If you want a small portable computer, a netbook plus a pay-as-you-go 3G dongle offers better value. Tablets don't generally support this option. Laptops with 3G also cost a pretty penny, but you tend to buy them upfront and pay for the data as and when needed.

12: Laptops have unlimited apps

Apple has thousands of apps, but so does Windows. Also, as we outline below, an app does only one thing, whereas an operating system offers endless flexibility and hundreds of native features, all of which are available now, rather than via an à la carte online menu.

13: Business tools

Laptops have long been the business user's item of choice. They haven't always been especially portable, but they're up to running Windows or any other desktop operating system you wish, and they can run the programs such as Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint with which you're wearily familiar. Tablets often can't even fully support these staples of the workplace. Those that can do so via 'compatible' third-party programs are able to handle only some of the advanced features of the programs you're accustomed to working in.

14: A laptop alone

Buy a tablet by all means. They are great fun to use and ideal for surfing the web and staying in touch with friends on the go. Just don't expect it to be your only portable device. A laptop, on the other hand, is all the portable PC you need.

15: Platform confusion

Should you choose Apple, Google Android, BlackBerry or the yet-to-launch HP WebOS? Each ties you into the various applications available for that specific platform. With a laptop, the vast majority of people are either Windows or Mac users.

Tablet Advisor

16: Flash in the pan?

Netbooks were once incredibly popular, but they seem to be going out of fashion. Tablets could follow that trend. Laptops will always be popular because they're far more useful.

17: Touchscreens have limitations

Touchscreens have the advantage of direct control, but they also add to the cost of the device (so you probably lose out on storage or processing power), and drain the battery faster.

18: Family members are less likely to demand access to a laptop

Family members have an unerring ability to make unreasonable demands of your time and your tech just when you least want to give them up. With a laptop, there's often another PC you can direct them to instead; a tablet is still a novelty item and your kids are less likely to be fobbed off with a boring old desktop PC instead.

19: Tablets are for casual gaming only

However severe your addiction to Angry Birds, it's unlikely to be sated by a lengthy session on your tablet. There's only so much screen-stabbing and swiping you can do before finger fatigue kicks in. Equally, you can enjoy some excellent, literally gripping, racing gameplay when grasping your tablet in two hands, but it gets very tiring very soon. Playing games on a full-size laptop is far more satisfactory.

20: Office on the move

Tablets are distractions to your day rather than helping you work smarter. Except on an HP Touchpad or BlackBerry PlayBook, your productivity options are sorely limited. You'll be able to view documents and make minor tweaks to existing ones, but true on-the-road productivity will elude you.

Tablets are intriguing pieces of electronic wizardry, but even the most ardent iPad fan would concede that they have their limitations.

21: Weight loss

A tablet is smaller and lighter than a laptop - at least some of them are. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer and the Acer Iconia W500 come with docking keyboards, adding hugely to their bulk (although you're unlikely to take the keyboard on the road with you). But even a standard 10.1in-screen tablet such as the Motorola Xoom requires a largish bag and, at more than 700g, isn't that much lighter than a netbook or an ultraportable laptop.

22: Speed stakes

Laptops and tablets are both agile devices, but in a straight speed test, we wouldn't back a tablet against a well-specced portable.

23: Optical drive

Tablets don't have them, so you can't grab a music CD or a DVD off the shelf and play whatever you like, when you like. Instead, you have to import content via an SD or microSD card or download it.

24: Laptop screens are better

With a laptop, you don't need to squint. The resolution is usually good enough for watching video; on a tablet, it usually isn't.

25: Screen sheen

Both laptops and tablets suffer this issue. Super-shiny screens look impressive in marketing materials and in-store, but they don't make for great viewing. Laptop screens can be angled more easily, instantly improving their viewability.

Laptop Advisor

26: Angle issues

Tablets are meant for personal viewing, despite their expansive widescreen displays. You can get three people watching iPlayer on a laptop screen, and you'll all be able to see what's happening. Even once you've found a way to prop up your tablet for comfortable viewing, you'll find the action fades if you aren't viewing it straight on.

27: Speakers and headphones

Laptops often have built-in surround sound and some seriously meaty audio output. We can't really say the same of a tablet. Many have mono speakers and even those with stereo output are anything but loud. You can plug in a pair of portable speakers, but you'd soon run down the battery on the tablet.

28: Video chat

There's a reason why the camera on a laptop sits at the top edge of the screen: it's in just the right place to train its sights on you and allow you to conduct a video chat with whomever you please. Unless you have a stand for your trusty tablet, you'll need to prop it up to get the right camera angle.

29: You need a full keyboard

Typing out an email is okay on a tablet PC, but lengthier missives are a chore. The software keyboard on a tablet simply doesn't cut it for tapping out any more than a paragraph or two at a time (although we're sure some contrary types will claim otherwise). Laptop keyboards aren't always that great either, but a physical keyboard is always easier and faster to type on with any degree od accyraxy/

30: Charging peripherals

Travel with a laptop and you need only the USB cables for your phone. Not so with a tablet (although a smart gadget fan might invest in a universal adaptor or a dual-device mains charger and keep both charged up).

Tablets are intriguing pieces of electronic wizardry, but even the most ardent iPad fan would concede that they have their limitations.

31: Flexibility

Tablets are great for viewing and browsing, but you need to go online and get yet another app the moment you find there's no way of performing a particular task or sharing your content in the way you wish.

32: Full web browsing

You aren't necessarily restricted to a clunky mobile version of the web, as you are on many smartphones, but the full media-rich content of the internet is unavailable to you on most tablets. Many Android tablets are set up by default to access the mobile version of the websites you visit, so you get only a cut-down version of the web.

33: Flash video issues

Apple famously won't allow support for Flash content on its iPad, restricting your ability to enjoy 70 percent of the embedded video content on the web. Other tablets make a point of stating their support for Adobe Flash content, but few are capable of playing it smoothly enough to make it a deciding feature. You don't have this issue on a laptop.

34: Flash git factor

Closely linked to the family members bugging you for access issue is the fact that there's a certain showoffishness associated with tablet ownership - at least in public. Consult PC Advisor's respected forums to see what we mean. Some of our regular contributors wouldn't be seen in the presence of an iPad - an issue that simply doesn't crop up if you fire up your laptop on the train these days.

35: Quality control

There are some lovely-looking tablets around, but not all work as well as they should. You're more likely to end up with a poorly performing, crash-prone tablet than you are a dodgy laptop – yes, even one running Windows Vista.

Tablet Advisor

36: Early adopter blues

Android Honeycomb is a much better platform for tablet computing than previous versions, but it's still only version 1.0 of Google's tablet operating system efforts. Laptops run on software that's been tried, tested and refined over a number of years.

37: Web dependency

It's a criticism we're levelling at Chromebooks too, but tablets are very much about being online and connected. You can read an e-book or listen to music on a tablet when it's not connected, but you can't do anything productive other than hone your Angry Birds expertise.

38: Interoperability

Want a keyboard for your laptop - take your pick. Want one for your tablet? Choose either one of two. Very few tablet-friendly peripherals exist, and the limited number of ports alluded to earlier doesn't help.

39: Horses for courses

You can get a laptop that fits almost any budget, but there's no such thing as a 'tailor-made' tablet. You can't retrofit 3G or add more storage when you can afford to fork out more. Nor can you chop and change between Android and Chrome as you can with a laptop and Windows and Ubuntu Linux, for example.

40: Android anticipation

Perhaps because it's a new and evolving platform, minor upgrades are being talked of and talked up all the time. This means you're unlikely to be satisfied with the Android version you get and, as with smartphone versions of the platform, it's pot luck when and if you can get the upgrade that promises to fix the issues techies are decrying.

Which do you prefer?

Have we convinced you? Whichever side of the tablets v laptops debate you're on, we've got plenty of reviews and buying advice to help you out. We've got an ultraportable laptops group test, and a round-up of the latest-and-greatest tablet computers. And don't forget our dedicated Tablet Advisor and Laptop Advisor zones.