Laptops give you the components of a desktop computer packed into a portable unit that you can take anywhere. Working on the move, away from the office or at a different desk is a lot more convenient when using a laptop than a desktop. However, in terms of size and weight, tablets offer even more portability than laptops. If you can live without a physical keyboard or have a Bluetooth keyboard paired and have all the apps you need to work, then a tablet device can be even more convenient than a laptop.


While desktops, laptops and tablets all have the same core components in terms of processor, memory and graphics capabilities, as you move further along the portability scale, these components become increasingly less powerful. Components inside a laptop case typically run more slowly than those in a full desktop machine, and there's no room to install extra graphics cards, sound cards or capture cards. Generally speaking, laptops are still significantly more powerful than tablets and almost up to the level of desktops in capabilities. If you need the most powerful computers possible -- for video editing, game development or larger screens, for example -- then desktops are probably the way to go, but high-end laptops are almost equally capable.


Where laptops have a distinct advantage over tablets is in their flexibility. In terms of external peripherals, from printers to external hard drives, anything that connects to a desktop computer can also connect to a laptop. There's also the keyboard and optional mouse input methods, making it much easier to type for extended periods on a laptop than it is on a tablet. Laptops are typically much faster than tablets, which run only basic operating systems.

Battery Life

Portability for laptops comes at a price -- you can't work forever without finding a power outlet at some point. Laptops can now boast similar battery performance to tablets, with Apple's 2013 MacBook Air offering a 12-hour battery life, significantly more than the 10 hours offered by the most recent iPad. Battery life can vary substantially depending on the specification and design of the laptop you're working with, but it's an essential point to consider when comparing laptops with desktops and tablets. An extended battery life is an advantage on a laptop, while a limited battery life is a definite disadvantage.