Laptop Versus Tablet: What to Consider Discover which mobile solution will work best for your nonprofit Ginny Mies - December 02, 2014 Mobile devices are handy for working in the field and on the go. But should you choose a tablet or a laptop — or a hybrid of the two? We cover the pros and cons of all the options. Your nonprofit, charity, or public library has put aside some money for mobile hardware. First off, congratulations! Mobile hardware makes it easier for your staff and volunteers to work anywhere and anytime your organization might need them. But now here's the hard part: Do you pick tablet or laptop? Or how about a combination of the two?Before you start shopping, take a moment to consider how your organization will be using this technology. Will your staff members use it to do work out in the field? Do they need it for conferences or events? Or perhaps you'd like hardware that your staff can use both at the office and at home? Additionally, if you work at a public library or a nonprofit that provides technology tools to the community, think about how your patrons or constituents might use these devices.Processing PowerOne of the biggest disadvantages of choosing a tablet over a laptop is less processing power. Laptops generally have better performance and multitasking capabilities. If your staff members need to run performance-heavy programs like video editing suites or databases, they'll probably be better off with a laptop.Apps or Software?This brings us to the next consideration: what programs does your organization require? If your organization relies on Microsoft Office, we've got good news for you: there's a mobile version of the productivity suite for Windows tablets, Android tablets, and iPads. If you're interested in purchasing tablets, do an assessment of what software your staff uses on a regular basis and check to make sure there's a mobile version available.How Mobile Does Your Solution Need to Be?On the flip side, less processing power generally translates to longer battery life, because mobile processors tend to be more battery efficient. This means with a tablet, you can usually do your work for longer without needing to charge. If you're out collecting data from clients or documenting the number of native plants in a park, the last thing you want to do is stop and find an outlet.You're also probably not going to want to lug around a heavy piece of hardware while doing this work. Tablets are easier to carry around and generally lighter than laptops. And even the lightest of laptops, such as a MacBook Air, can be awkward to balance when you're on the move.Connectivity: Is Wi-Fi Enough?Another point to consider is how connected your staff members need to be while using their mobile devices. Will they be using them where Wi-Fi is readily available? Some tablet models come with both Wi-Fi and 4G network connectivity (like a smartphone). Like a smartphone, you'd have to sign up for a data plan for your tablet.One option for Wi-Fi-only hardware is to invest in a few mobile 4G devices.The Almighty KeyboardDo you struggle typing on a tablet's virtual keyboard? Does the thought of filling out, say, an Excel spreadsheet on a tablet give you nightmares? Thankfully, you're not alone: almost every tablet on the market has a keyboard accessory. Not all keyboard accessories are created equal, however. Some are built like laptop or desktop keyboards with the clicky, tactile keys, whereas others have pressure-sensitive keys. We recommend trying a pressure-sensitive keyboard before purchasing one because it takes some getting used to.A few hardware companies have started making tablet/laptop hybrid devices. These "all-in-one" devices can transform from laptop to tablet by way of a rotating hinge. The Dell Inspiron 11, for example, goes from laptop to tablet by flipping backwards so that the keyboard neatly tucks under the display. The popular Lenovo Yoga series of laptops also has a rotating hinge that lets you switch from laptop to tablet.Security AlertWe know you're concerned about your organization's security online, and you might be wondering: does a laptop offer better security than a tablet? Most of the major online security vendors offer mobile versions of their products. For example, Norton Mobile Security is available for both Android tablets and iPads. Windows tablets come with Microsoft's free security software, Windows Defender. There are also tools that can help you protect your privacy across devices, from laptops to smartphones.There's also the age-old rule: a piece of hardware's security is only as strong as the user behind it. In other words, keep all the software on your organization's hardware up-to-date, and teach your staff and constituents about online safety. For more on online security, check out our Safer Online for Nonprofits Guide.The Price Is Right, Right?With the exception of newer iPad models, tablets tend to run cheaper than laptops. Depending on your organization's technology needs and budget, you might consider buying more tablets and fewer laptops.TechSoup offers discounted laptops and tablets through its Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI) program. Eligible nonprofits, charities, and libraries can request tablets and laptops from a variety of manufacturers, such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Apple. Visit the RCI page for more details.Do Your HomeworkIf you've made it this far in this article, you've clearly got a head start on doing your tablet and laptop research. The best way to narrow down your choices in laptop, tablet, and hybrid models is by reading reviews or ranked lists of the latest models of tablets and laptops out there. PCWorld, PCMag, CNET, and Laptop Magazine all do extensive reviews of mobile hardware, which can include performance benchmarks and usability tests. Also, make sure to check out our Quick Guide to Buying a Tablet, which goes over which specifications to look for when shopping. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.