College Advice Blog

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Feb 21, 2013

To Tablet or Not Tablet?



Ipad And Iphone


Tablets are closing the user-gap with laptops, and more college students than ever before are choosing to own one. The question is though, are they are right for you?
The answer depends upon whether you prefer portability over power or convenience over storage and whether you use your portable device to create or to consume.

A January 2012 survey of 1,200 college students by the Pearson Foundation found that 25 percent of students owned tablets, a number that had tripled from the year before. Also, 63 percent of the students said they believed tablets will effectively replace textbooks as we know them today within the next five years. And unlike a few years ago when students were limited to Apple’s iPad, there many more tablets to choose from, including Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Google’s Nexus and Microsoft’s Surface. 

With a tablet, you can type notes in class or use a stylus to accomplish that same task by actually “writing on the screen.” You can easily stop, surf the Internet to look up information and then instantly go back to note taking mode. 

You can also develop spreadsheets, write documents, edit photos and keep track of class times and appointments. A tablet eliminates the need for multiple notebooks on different subjects, and of course, the need to carry around textbooks, assuming that your instructor’s books are available in e-format. And that is just the school stuff.

Tablets can also be used for social media and video conference calling. Viewing movies on a tablet is also a treat because of the high-end screen resolution of many tablets. 

Tablets offer a distinct advantage over desktops and laptops, according to Marin Perez, a blogger at IntoMobile. Perez notes that tablets have tremendous battery life and the touch-screen interface creates a strong connection with the user.

“There is also something to be said about the much more mobile form factor that tablets represent – it’s easier to just throw one of these in your bag than it is to transport a laptop,” he said in his blog. Reasons to go the laptop route still exist, however.

Laptops possess more computing power and storage than tablets. Stripped to its essence, if you create more than you consume, you may be more of a laptop person. As examples, blogging involves content management systems that may not function on tablets, or if you have a need to perform detailed graphics art work a plug-in mouse may be the only way to go.

“Many tablet apps lack features that software for laptops and desktops routinely offer,” writes James A. Martin in The Toolkit. “Here’s just one example: The majority of Microsoft Word-compatible tablet apps lack Word’s Track Changes, a feature I often need for document collaboration.”

To narrow down whether to choose a laptop a tablet, Martin recommends making a list of everything you would use your portable device for, whether it’s your studies, work or pleasure. Rank the tasks on how often you perform them and how important they are. Be as detailed as possible, he says. For example, don’t merely list “check e-mail.” If you open and edit e-mail attachments, list that also.

As you compile your list, note which device – laptop or tablet – might be best suited to each task. “Once you’ve finished, you should have a clearer picture of which device you need,” blogs Martin.

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About the Author
Joshua John is the digital strategist for MBA@UNC, the University of North Carolina’s mba online, and MPA@UNC, the University of North Carolina’s mpa degree online. He also loves gadgets, movies, and all things links. Follow him on twitter @joshuavjohn.
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