For a while, it seemed like everyone was getting a tablet. Then, interest sharply declined, and new models started borrowing more and more features from the laptops some had promised they'd replace.
Saying that tablets are over would be a bit dramatic, but I’d say we’re entering a new era. The hype settled down, and we’re starting to be wiser about the tablets we buy.
First of all, let’s acknowledge the impact tablets had on other devices since their introduction. We’ve seen a lot of tablet features get adopted by other computers. A lot of laptops and All-in-Ones have touch screens and glass-covered displays. There are even quite a few laptops capable of folding over or split to act as tablets.
As a result, when pure tablets are not powerful or fully-featured enough to get the job done, alternatives are not hard to find.
Hybrid devices involve some compromises; a touch screen usually reduces battery life, increase price, thickness, and weight. It can still be a useful feature, especially if you plan not to be sitting in front of the device so much, but rather be standing nearby.
What Tablets still Handle Well
There are three areas where tablets are especially attractive: media consumption, light, mobile productivity, and gaming.
When it comes to watching movies, listening to music, reading eBooks or websites, tablets are pretty optimal. Their small weight and large screens make them a natural fit. Those activities involve few interactions from the user; so a keyboard would only weight you down.
Light, Mobile Productivity
When all you need is to follow meeting minutes or take short notes, a tablet is an excellent companion. Their ease of transportation and long battery life make them pretty well suited to the task. I even find tablets pretty useful to review and edit a text you’ve written beforehand or for sketching. A few premium tablets, coupled with a pressure-sensitive stylus, are even starting to be compelling options for digital artists.
If you need to do more typing, the lack of a keyboard becomes a hassle. It's now easy to accessorize your tablet to solve that, and if battery life is crucial for you, it's not a bad option. I do have reservations, though.
Gaming quickly became a prominent activity on tablets, and that's still going strong. For gaming on the go, tablets are a great option, in many ways succeeding to the gaming handhelds like the Gameboy. Nintendo even designed their latest consoles, the Switch and Switch Lite, to take advantage of that trend.
Other Uses for a Tablet
Of course, it’s possible to integrate a tablet into your workflow in lots of different ways. The scenarios above are only the most straightforward in my experience.
If you're still unsure, the following could help identify how you would benefit from a tablet:
- You already have a computer at your desk, but want a little something to take with you for the rest of your day without paying for mobile phone service.
- You frequently run out of batteries on your phone. Maybe a small tablet would let you do the battery-draining stuff (like playing games on the bus) and help your phone battery last the day.
Those are only a few ideas; think of your typical day and how a tablet would mesh with what you already do.
Downsides and Further Considerations
With that said, it’s usually healthy to have low expectations of a tablet since their features tend to be limited. They make great complements for another, full-featured computer. Depending on what you do with your gadgets, a tablet could even be your main computer. I wouldn't advise getting a tablet as one's sole computer, however.
A few tablets could indeed replace your laptop, but those often come attached to a very hefty price tag. There are also a lot of hidden fees you might run into as it's easy to overlook the price of accessories like a keyboard cover or USB-C dongle.
Tablets are also more accident-prone and harder to maintain than their bigger brethren, so their useful life tends to be shorter. If you can’t go on through your typical day without your tablet, having an alternative to fall back on is a must!
It turned out that tablets weren't the solution to all our computing needs as some touted.
Like anything else, tablets have their use in the right context even though their strengths and capabilities overlap with laptops and smartphones. By combining the perks of a few devices to suit all your needs in different situations, you're much more likely to have a positive experience.
With that in mind, tablets are still great team players.