Tablets

Poll: Would you prefer a tablet or a netbook for light computing?

Tablets and netbooks have emerged as secondary computing devices. Of the two, which would you prefer to use? Take the poll.

The tablet versus netbook debate has been rekindled in recent weeks as new reports have emerged of iPad sales cannibalizing netbooks, as iPad competitors have been lining up in various shapes and sizes, and as the 11-inch MacBook Air has inspired some to rethink the potential of getting a netbook (look for cheaper PC copycats coming soon).

These two form factors have emerged as secondary computing devices for power users and primary devices for light users who want to do little more than email, web browsing, and occasionally working with a few documents.

Take the poll

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Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

49 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

If we are talking web browsing, then a tablet, but if we are talking word documents, excel, programming, etc. Then a netbook. I assume heavy computing is processes that have all cores glued to 100% for days on end, require the GPU's to be full out for days on end, requires the PSU to operate at max for days on end, and are running at least 250 separate processes.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... if you ask me, that's pretty extreme. 99% of todays computer users don't even come close to that kind of workload. For the average user, heavy computing might be creating a major text, spreadsheet or other document from scratch, while merely proofreading or updating one of the above might be considered light. Not even a netbook would be the best tool for even that kind of 'heavy', much less what you described. But a tablet could do almost everything the netbook or even a notebook can do as long as you work within the limitations of the device. However, a tablet goes outside of the limitations of those 'portable' computers by letting you work it as you're walking down the corridor--you don't have to set it down on something to use it. So while the definition of 'heavy' or 'light' computing might be somewhat malleable, the convenience of Mobile computing could just override the clamshells' power.

jsaubert
jsaubert

That entirely depends on the individuals definition of light computing. If you brand of "light computing" is more than 80% consumption of data (reading documents, surfing YouTube, checking out the news) and less than 20% data creation (making documents, updating a blog, editing photos) then a Tablet is perfect. I'm going to say that just about everyone's version of light computing falls under that class. But there is a small group of people that their "light computing" is more data creation heavy and I'd a advise them to stick with a netbook at the very least. ... of course then there's ME who's "light computing" calls for Photoshop and Acrobat Pro more often than not so I'm lugging around my 15 inch laptop most days. Grr. I'd love a tablet but I'd opt for the netbook.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

You're saying that you're going to be walking down the street trying to do extensive edits on photographs and documents so you can leave that bulky, heavy laptop behind. Sorry, but Photoshop and Acrobat Pro do not count as 'light' computing. Those things really do need the power of a desktop computer and even the notebook is only barely enough machine for the job--unless you're buying a high-end notebook. You're partially right about the content consumption, but as a photographer myself, I've found the iPad to be far more convenient for downloading and doing quick-and-dirty edits while saving the more extensive work for my desktop machine. In my case, the tablet has almost fully replace the laptop for my needs. But that's not enough. A tablet, using either the virtual keyboard or a bluetooth one, can be used for light to moderate writing--such as blogs and notes. It can be used for sales demonstrations in a one-on-one environment where a laptop is simply too big and clumsy to be effective. By eliminating that big keyboard, the customer only need watch the screen and not be distracted by the keys. Adding touch to the demonstration could even help personalize a demonstration to the customers' own needs without the need to mouse and type during the presentation. A tablet is only as much or as little as you think it can be. proof of this is the fact that hotels, hospitals, lawyers and many, many other professionals have already found many uses for them.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

My idea of "light computing" is emailing and blog posting. For that I need a real keyboard so a netbook all the way. Tablets right now are toys. Maybe after two or three generations it will be ready but not now.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I guess for that I'd want a light computer, like, say, a netbook. For light padding or light paddling or light tabbling I'd definitely go for a tablet. But I like having keys, my handwriting sucks.

Dave51
Dave51

Still use my Psion no Internet no viruses :.)

carlsf
carlsf

I would trust neither. My choice is a Laptop/notebook.

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

For my computer needs, I need something that can really have some computing power and a keyboard, so when I am traveling, I use a netbook that I tunnel into a desktop PC (an assumption is that we are talking about using either for work). When I tunnel into the PC, I don't have to deal with popups that have check boxes off the tiny netbook screen, and I don't have to deal with limited (or purchasing multiple) software programs. I like the idea of giving people who "need" a tablet a legal pad (said in previous comments). They do come in many sizes and colors.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

The legal pad--or rather the clipboard in general--has a convenience factor that simply cannot be matched by a clamshell-form-factor device; however, a sheet of paper on that clipboard does not carry that convenience into a digital format; you're forced to transpose the written word, sketch, whatever..., into a computer at some point under most enterprise conditions. Even if you're just a geek who plays tabletop RPGs, your character sheet on a clipboard probably has so many erasures on it by now that it's gone threadbare in certain places. A digital tablet gives you the clipboard functionality without having to shuffle and flip through papers and risk having a stray breeze blow them away. Sure, the paper might be cheaper in the short run, but as one group of TV stations has worked out, they're saving $40,000/year in paper and printing costs even after paying the up-front price of a number of iPads. Secondly, the iPad at least, if not the others, has the ability to VPN to your home or work computer (depending on your company's specific security policies.) You complain about that too-small screen on the netbook when really a tablet can give you the same functionality and could be easier to use. I don't deny that some people have a need for a standard keyboard if they're writing blogs or have another absolute need for extensive typing. Again considering the screen size of most netbooks, is it really big enough to see what you're typing? While a bluetooth keyboard would be a second item to carry in your bag, the fact that you can have a full-sized keyboard rather than one of those cramped 2/3rds-sized netbook keyboards, is much easier to use and can be brought out as needed. My point for you is the simple fact that what you're using may have once met your needs, but is now more--and less-than you need. You're used to it, but a tablet form factor might serve you better. You won't know until you try.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

It's only recently that they've come in digital flavors. Just because you have a preconceived idea of what a digital tablet is, doesn't make that preconception correct. Think about everything you've done on a legal pad clamped onto a clipboard. Why can't a tablet computer do the same thing? Why can't a tablet computer be the supplement to desktop computers the way the clipboard supplements the file cabinet? Think about it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

it's because a legal pad costs a LOT less than a tablet (or a netbook). Actually, I carry a couple of index cards, but it's the same principle. You've posed an interesting analogy, but any user running it past me to justify the purchase of either device will get handed a legal pad.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... but in my opinion, this is where the tablet and/or netbook were aimed from the outset; convenient, mobile and usable anywhere. The netbook's form factor limits its mobility when you try to use it while walking in the way you use a clipboard, but the older tablets' price, desktop OS and poor touch sensitivity limited its functionality for everyday use. Even the iPad isn't perfect for my needs, but compared to all the other mobility devices currently available, it's the best available. I expect the few missing pieces will appear sooner rather than later.

coolmark82
coolmark82

You see, back when they had the beta tapes and VHS, people went for the VHS because it has longer play time. The fight between netbooks and tablets is probably never going to end, because on one hand people want something to use to type up stuff, and that's where the netbook comes in. An iPad can be useful, in fact it is, but it doesn't sport a real keyboard, and because of that, people can make mistakes on the screen trying to type the real thing. While the iPad, on the other hand is completely mobile, and is integrated all into one machine. If Apple were to add a slide-up keyboard into the iPad, I could see the iPad a true replacement, eclipsing the netbook in it's final years. Also, I would suggest putting a real world OS on it like Mac OS X 10.7. I doubt Apple will put in OS X 10.7 in there, becuase of the processor speed. But if they ever do, then the next time they come out with this newer iPad, I am buying it. My Titanium Polycarbonate PowerBook G4 15" 867Mhz suits me fine with Mac OS X leopard. You know what I find so strange? Apple says that to sync an Apple iPad, you need a machine that runs Mac OS X 10.5.8. I have a Pwerbook G4 that has a slower processor than the Apple A4 by 133Mhz, but I want to see, which one is faster? A 1Ghz PowerPC G4 or a 1Ghz Apple A4? Let the competition begin...

ChrisHyche@AlabamaOne.Org
ChrisHyche@AlabamaOne.Org

Basically I want hardware buttons. After all of these years the arrow key on a PC keyboard is still my preferred navigation option. I use the mouse but on some things it is more trouble that it is worth. I think the biggest short coming on my TouchPro2 is the lack of navigation keys. I do like the idea of touch screens but I don't want it to be my primary interface. Use it like a mouse to select or drag things but give me a real (even if small) keyboard. I don't know maybe it's the old Commodore or DOS era PCs that I grew up with. A convertible tablet/netbook would be idea so I would have my keyboard when I need it but also have a touch screen. Oh and a stylus. I don't like fingers on my screen and all of this swipe interfaces everyone seems to be going to is driving me nuts.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I'd take a tablet - but not an iPad. The iPad is useless in doing serious work.

matthewsheeran
matthewsheeran

Jason, that's a false question as I would prefer a Tablet-Notebook PC 13" or less with Notebook performance e.g.: My current future Tablet-Netbook-Notebook: 11.6" Gigabyte BookTop T1125 with i3/i5 and ok clocking that you can plug into an included docking station and use with a larger monitor (as you'll need to: even my 13" Dell M1330 doesn't do my neck wonders on the desktop!) http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/04/gigabytes-booktop-t1125-convertible-tablet-also-converts-into-a/ A true Atom Tablet-Netbook: 10" Dell Inspiron Duo (flip) http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/04/dell-inspiron-duo-flips-its-lid-on-official-video/ Very poor journalism Jason ;-) how do I vote for my choice!?

eftpotrm
eftpotrm

Tablets seem to work fine for consumption but not for creation, whereas I can and do create on my netbook very regularly - taking notes in meetings, even software development in Visual Studio. Truthfully, my netbook is a sucessor to my dearly missed Psion 5. I'm not quite sure why I should pay _more_ than a laptop costs for a smaller machine with less storage, less software and which is almost exclusively read-only. It may well be easier to carry round for reading newspapers and so on, but there's no way I'm going to get value for money on an iPad doing just that. Get them down to ?100 and they might start making sense but at the moment - no, they're far too expensive to make a realistic win against a laptop, netbook or smartphone. The use case just isn't big enough for the cost.

Transatlantic
Transatlantic

Having had to support the 10 or so iPads we currently have in use at my work, Netbooks are definitely better from that perspective, at least I have the ability to resolve any issues they run into. iPad support is amongst the worst I have ever encountered, either by phone or in person at the "genius" bar.

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin

Excellent ideology. I totally agree with you, and add to this that a tablet to a professional working engineer is good for very very light usage only, it is an expensive luxury with limitations.For a pro the netbook or better still Laptop takes some beating as a workhorse. But I have to agree the pad is a popular gimmick with some functionality.

mark
mark

Most of my computing tasks, even the light ones, involve a significant amount of typing. A device without a keyboard just doesn't fill that need. A netbook does; so would a small, light notebook, and I think that over time the "netbook" label will disappear and they will be subsumed into the continuum of laptop options.

richcobrien
richcobrien

If your moving (ie walking, in the car) a Tablet has advantages. If you have a table or at rest the Netbook is better.

dasdaniel2
dasdaniel2

Neither, for me they both are too small, I prefer Notebokk PC's

pjboyles
pjboyles

So, what does "tablet" mean in the context of this poll? Why is the option of Neither or Other not included for a full picture. Note: I made an assumption that you are referring to the Apple iPad as Tablet. I did not vote because neither option is what I would choose.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Just because the iPad is the only currently viable tablet platform (not counting the older Windows-based tablets) doesn't mean it's the only one you have to consider. There will be other tablets using Blackberry, Android, Chrome and/or WP7. Now, with that change in mind, which would you choose?

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

Why does everyone assume iPad? Jason is asking (I would think in light of the iPad's success and with the looming market of Android Tablets fixing to flood through the gates) which format is preferred. This is flavor independent so that all the fanbois don't jump on their bandwagon and start everything rolling downhill.

dpr
dpr

How can you answer this question if you have never actually sat down and tried a tablet to see whether the media write anything sensible about them at all as opposed to what they can do, which is pretty much everything with a few additional Apps charged at the cost of peanuts!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You're not obligated to respond to every poll. If you have no experience with either or both devices (like me), skip it.

dpr
dpr

It was a rhetorical question. My point was just that. You shouldn't comment unless you have the experience, but many people choose to judge the iPad and say what it can' t do without ever having laid a fiinger on one, or investigated the available apps. I am not one of those people.

SwissJon
SwissJon

I chose a tablet in the poll, but it was swings and roundabouts. I use my laptop for far more than email and websurfing. I WON'T be investing in an iPad, I'm extremely disillusioned with Apple products and can't wait until my contract expires and I can get rid of my 3GS in exchange for an Android device, more than likely I won't be investing in a tablet at all.. Why get something that my phone can already do in a smaller package? So why choose Tablet over Netbook? Well simply because I don't feel that a netbook has enough guts to use a fully fledged O/S.. I like the simplicity of a tablet, and if I was doing a lot of travelling and only needed it for light usage.. But not an iPad.. Never an iPad, not until that big head in charge stops trying to control everything I do on MY machine and allows me to use it the way I like. Until then, I'm an Android.

JLawrence001
JLawrence001

I have a netbook, and a tablet - but as a writer you just can't beat a netbook. As an entertainment consumer, tablet with a mobile based operating system wins hands down. Horses for courses, and all that.

codepoke
codepoke

But if I'm consuming, the tablet is a lot nicer. Hence, I purchased a wireless keyboard for my iPad and have the best of both worlds. I do Gregg Shorthand, but no one's interested in writing OCR for Gregg. (It would be so easy. Really, people. If you can write a Captcha reader, you can read Gregg! Write me. I can give you everything else you need!) If I could Gregg on the iPad, I'd stow my keyboard for most composition. In the real world, though, it's all about the keyboard.

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

Anytime I have a lot of typing, I enable my bluetooth and slide over the wireless keyboard. Otherwise, it stays at the house. I've found I like typing on long trips while my wife drives.

erruve
erruve

I voted tablet but I'd like a dry run before committing. My light computing requires a lot of typing. I'm not convinced this would work well.

DadsPad
DadsPad

Netbooks are too small for my use, tablets are to open to damage unless in a case. Laptops close up and less damage to screen. Of couse, some laptops have screen that converts to tablet, why not offer that as an option in the vote? Tired of all the hype about tablets.

jhowell
jhowell

All netbook screens are way too small for even the "light" computing tasks (whatever that means), particularly as I get older and need larger fonts. I use most of the 17.3" real estate on my laptop screen when planning my weekend fantasy football lineup, for instance. And I HATE virtual keyboards and touch screens, so no tablet in my future!

AttackComputerWhiz
AttackComputerWhiz

I use a netbook and a cheap Android tablet for quick access, but my "next big thing" is going to be a hybrid tablet-convertable notebook. In fact, I already have it picked out. Netbooks and tablets like the iPad are limited in RAM/HD size and the iPad doesn't have a proper Office suite that does what I need.

erruve
erruve

no doubt! but since that's my main non-office computer, which i also use for light computing, i assumed we were talking about some other use???? not sure what though. LOL

hartiq
hartiq

... a tablet or slate with a rotating finger-loop. Smooth design is all very well if all you do is browse FaceTweet and prop it up on your thighs as you lie back in bed, but RSI is no joke, and not one tablet, slate nor netbook has anything even remotely resembling a comfortable gripping handle. Something like a shoulder-resting arm that fitted into the back finger-loop, to support the slate-thing while allowing us to type with both hands would also be a brlliant innovation. Humans really need three hands, but, absent radical gene-slicing technology, a simple triplet of indentations on one or more sides of these things might be helpful. I am convinced the designers of these things *never* try to use them for real work. :> H

V.H. Scarpacci
V.H. Scarpacci

What size tablet? What size netbook? What capabilities does each have? Unless this is a known, not a guess there is no way to intelligently make a decision like this.

bvonr
bvonr

I love the tablet part of my Convertible but I do like to type with a real keyboard rather than a virtual one. I love the pen and using the touch when in tablet mode. Reading an ebook is ok as long as I can rest it on my knee as it is a bit too heavy for holding. The 13in screen is a good size and I get 6-8 hours on my battery

Jaytmoon
Jaytmoon

Actually neither are that appealing to me after using both at one time or another it seems that the ubiqitous Notebook (laptop) is relly my choice dujour for "Real" usability.

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

After using several netbooks and tablets, I will choose tablet for everything possible. I don't even charge my netbooks anymore. In fact, the last time I carried my netbook anywhere it was so I could easily charge my iPod and phone while travelling. Long periods of reading is not favorable on a netbook. I will give up some minor functionality for a better reading device. I now read more than I have since my college days and don't get the shoulder/neck strain that reading at a computer or with a netbook or notebook give. True, my left arm is groing stronger so it's nice to have something that compensates for my predominant right hand. All in all the tablet format has been a life changing experience for me.

coolmark82
coolmark82

They should make an iPad with a slide-out keyboard, and other tablets like that, because netbooks are obsolete. I have an iPhone 3Gs, and it suits my needs, but has some features that seem kind of ridiculous for an iPhone. For example, try editing a movie using iMovie on an iPhone?!?

sistemascymsa
sistemascymsa

I used a tablet for a good while and loved it! For starters I got to the point to freed up from keyboard and navipad. I used ONLY my screen 90% of the time. The stylus replacing the pad has to be the "new thing". As we get used to more and more screen usage, touch, and finger gestures it becomes almost second nature to use a tablet. Benefits? having a "real" pen to use on my screen has given me the ability to personalize my work and really give my absolute idea on any document. What an excelent idea, making a "notebook" hybrid! finally a true paper notebook converted to electronic documents. Are paper days numbered? Hardly... but close. Rey

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