Low Cost Windows Laptops vs. Tablets

Which Offers The Better Mobile Computing Experience?

Girl engaging with tablet computer

 Lilly Roadstones/Getty Images

Many years ago, the netbook was the king of low-cost mobile computing. With the rise of tablets and the increasing costs of netbooks, most consumers elected to use tablets. Now a new class of low-cost laptops running full versions of Windows are available for roughly $200. This makes the decision of which would be better a bit more difficult. This article looks at the two different platforms and how they compare in terms of usage to help consumers decide which of the two might be better suited for their needs.


The new low cost computing platform is tablets these days. It is easy to find a tablet for under $100 making them half the cost of even the least expensive Windows laptop. Even Intel's latest Compute Stick, which is not really a mobile device, is three times the cost of the Amazon Fire tablet. So, if you are on a really tight budget the tablet is still king of low cost computing when compared to even the least expensive Windows laptops.


Once again, tablets tend to offer a smaller overall size than the low cost Windows laptops. Much of this has to do with the fact that the tablets tend to use 8-inch or smaller screens compared to the 11-inch screen size you find in the low cost Windows laptops. This smaller screen means that they also don't require as much power for their displays letting them reduce the size of batteries as well. The result, a device that is thinner, smaller and ultimately lighter. The average tablet weight is around one pound or less while most laptops still weigh in at two pounds or more.


This category is much more difficult to classify as devices can vary greatly in performance and most tablets are running different software than a laptop running Windows. For the most part in terms of raw performance, the Windows laptops tend to have better processors and capabilities. The problem is that depending on what you do, a tablet with less might still perform better because the software is more streamlined than the laptop. As a result, this is really a toss up over which is better. This one really requires a side by side comparison of the two devices in question.

Battery Life

With their extremely efficient processors, smaller screens and generally larger batteries, tablets tend to give more running time than most Windows laptops. The difference between the two keeps getting smaller as time goes on. In fact, many of the new tablets with their smaller size have a shorter running time than the larger tablets from a few years ago. In contrast, efficiency keeps improving on laptops moving their running times up. Still, you can generally expect more than six hours of video watching with a tablet compared to less than that for a Windows laptop. Just remember, all devices tend to claim longer battery life than they really get.


Years ago, it was easy to say that a Windows-based laptop enjoyed a greater overall selection of application choices compared to a tablet. But things have changed a lot over the years. For instance, most tablets offer a greater range of entertainment options in terms of games than a Windows laptop. In addition, productivity software options have improved for tablets making them much closer to the Windows software than in the past. The decision here really depends on what you intend to do with the device. If you are looking to use it mostly for the browser the web, reading mail and playing games, a tablet has a clear advantage these days. If you need to run Windows specific programs or use productivity software, the Windows laptops still have a bit of an advantage. Of course, there are also Windows-based tablets as well which sort of straddle both of the categories if you need that flexibility.


Tablets may have a lot of accessories for them but most of them don't add additional capabilities. Bluetooth keyboards can make a tablet much easier to use for apps that require a lot of typing. You can probably add some extra storage if it has a miniSD card slot but you can't do much else beyond this. On the other hand, the Windows laptops at least have features like USB 3.0 that let you add better keyboards, mice, storage and even displays to the laptop to make them more functional.


This is a category where each of the devices has its own advantages and disadvantages over the other. After all, the tablets are all touchscreen devices. This makes them extremely easy to use with a single hand and to quickly navigate through pages and applications with simple gestures. On the other hand, the touchscreen and the keyboard of a laptop make them much less difficult for entering a lot of text. So you if are writing a lot of documents, fiddling with spreadsheets or just trying to communicate effectively with email, the laptop with the keyboard is probably the better overall choice.

Which is Right For You?

Each person is going to need something a bit different out of their computing. Hopefully, this comparison of different aspects between the tablets and low-cost Windows laptops have helped narrow down your decision. For us, the Windows netbooks are still a bit too restricted compared to a traditional laptop. So, a tablet fills our needs better than a $200 laptop. This is not true for a number of my colleagues that prefer access to a keyboard to do their writing such that they would opt for the laptop over the tablet.