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40 reasons why laptops beat tablets

Tablets are intriguing pieces of electronic wizardry, but they have their limitations

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.

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