Laptop vs Tablet – First Impressions

This week I attended the Life & Literature conference at the Field Museum in Chicago.  The conference was sponsored by the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The target audience for this conference was scientists and librarians.  I am a software developer, but am also the lead developer for BHL.  As such, the attendees of the conference were my target users, so it made sense for me to attend and observe.

While attending the conference, I had two technology needs.  First was a way to follow the #LifeLit Twitter hashtag, and second, I needed a way to take a few notes.

To accomplish those goals, I chose to use my Nook Color instead of my laptop.  If you’re not familiar with the Nook Color, it can be considered a “tablet lite”.  While primarily an ebook reader, it runs a variant of the Android operating system and is capable of running apps and playing audio and video. 

I have been skeptical that a tablet can truly be a laptop replacement, particularly for creating content.  Just the same, this conference gave me a perfect opportunity to give it a try.  So, with my Nook Color, I used the Seesmic app to follow Twitter and the EverNote app to take notes.

Here I list the advantages and disadvantages of using a tablet computer.  I say “tablet”, because even though my experience is with a Nook Color, I believe that these apply to all popular tablets (iPad, Nook Color, and the soon-to-come Kindle Fire).

Tablet Advantages

  • Instant on – This provided a much better experience than waiting a few minutes for the laptop to boot.
  • Battery Life – I charged the Nook Color between day one and day two, but I didn’t have to.  The laptop wouldn’t have made it through a single day.
  • Form factor – A light 7-inch tablet is much more convenient to handle than a 5.5 pound 14-inch laptop.
    Tablet Disadvantages
  • Lack of Multi-tasking – I found it inconvenient to have to exit the Seesmic app whenever I wanted to take a note, and then exit the EverNote app to go back to Seesmic so I could continue following the Twitter feed.
  • On-screen Keyboard – I quickly became pretty good at typing with my thumbs on the on-screen keyboard, but I feel that if I had needed to take a lot of notes, then the laptop would have been a necessity.  It’s possible that a larger tablet (like the iPad) might help with this problem, but I’m not sure.
    In conclusion, I can say that the tablet worked well.  I’m not convinced that it will be appropriate in all situations, but as a tablet skeptic, I can now admit that there are occasions where a tablet is useful for both consuming (in this case, the Twitter feed) and creating (my notes) content.
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One Response to Laptop vs Tablet – First Impressions

  1. Joseph Hall says:

    I have a tablet, netbook and ultra laptop and they all have their uses – I have to say though I find using my Tablet for typing a bit too hard and time consuming!

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