Tablet computers weren't always the talk of the town, but ever since the iPad was launched, the market has been revitalised. Tablets (or at least Apple's product) are hot-sellers, accounting for an ever-increasing percentage of the computing sector.
Needless to say, there's been a fair bit of hype surrounding the devices, but do you really need one?
Why you'd want a tablet
Portability is one of the biggest advantages over laptop computers, with a quick boot-up time and a slim design. The form factor means you don't have to think twice before using it in most situations, whether you're in bed or waiting on your flight.
Tablets are also easier to use than laptop computers, with a simple touch interface making for an intuitive experience. Laptops on the other hand, are complex, with people needing to make use of a touchpad/mouse as well as keyboard shortcuts. Don't believe me? Have your grandparents use a tablet and laptop and see the difference.
Certain activities, such as video and web-browsing, also stand out on tablets, with large, vivid screens giving you a pleasurable experience no matter where you are. Video, in particular, can look fantastic on these devices, making full use of the real estate provided by the screen.
But arguably one of the best uses for a tablet is for e-book reading, making for a convenient way to enjoy your favourite works. This rings true for 7-inch tablets, such as the BlackBerry PlayBook and Kindle Fire, with the tablet being light enough to use over extended periods.
Another reason why you'd want a tablet is for the myriad applications available for them – at least on the iPad and Android slates. From social media and editing tools to games and travel, there are a variety of tailor-made apps for every occasion.
Tablets also have a great battery life, owing to their power-sipping ARM processors, measuring over eight hours for the most part. On the other hand, most laptops have a battery life of less than seven hours.
Why you shouldn't get a tablet
Most tablets run operating systems derived from smartphones, with the bigger screen being the main advantage. Consequentially, the same disadvantages come into play.
Tablet computers tend to lack the variety of ports you'd find on a desktop or laptop, such as USB ports, Ethernet jacks and more. While there are exceptions, like the USB-equipped Toshiba Thrive, you'll need to resort to complicated workarounds (docks, adapters, etc).
Laptop computers are also more suitable for typing, thanks to the physical keyboard. Sure, you can get your own keyboard peripheral, but you'll need to splash out for the privilege.
Computers are also more suitable for complex tasks, such as video-editing and multitasking, something that many tablets still struggle to get to grips with.
While some laptop components (RAM, hard drive), can be upgraded, the same can't be said for tablet hardware. So you're pretty much stuck with the same amount of storage space and specifications.
The price of tablet computers also leaves a lot to be desired, with AAA-quality tablets setting users back at least R4000 (the 16GB WiFi-only iPad 2 costs R4500). Entry-level laptops can be found for the same price at most retailers, while netbooks can be had for an estimated R3000.
So, should I get a tablet?
A tablet computer is a recommended purchase if you'd like to consume media, read ebooks, check email, browse the web, play casual games and complete simple tasks wherever you are.
A tablet is also worth a look if you either don't have a laptop or your current laptop is outdated.
However, a tablet isn't for you if you plan on completing tasks such as multimedia editing, programming and long bouts of word processing. While there are plenty of games available, don't expect your tablet's visuals to compare to the latest PC titles just yet.
A tablet is also a no-go if you're expecting computer-like features, such as the ability to read discs and plug in USB devices (although a few Android tablets have USB ports).
Ultimately, a laptop is more powerful and versatile, but the tablet's portability and applications make it stand out.