Laptop or Tablet? Here’s Which You Should Bring To Campus In 2021

Tablet or Laptop? You’re about to return to college. You have some cash in your pocket and the urgent need to purchase a new device for next semester. You discover that there are many options and it is not just about the manufacturer or the price.

First, you don’t have to buy a traditional clamshell laptop anymore. There are many great 2-in-1s and tablets to choose from, as well a number of Windows-based options that work just as well. Add to that the many options available on different platforms like Android, Chrome OS, iPadOS and Android and it becomes difficult to decide which machine you should bring to campus.

Laptop or tablet?
Laptop or tablet?

Perhaps you are wondering if an iPad is enough to get by with just bringing it to college. This is a bold feat. But, it’s possible. These are our top recommendations, divided into sections that highlight the pros & cons of each device.


There are three types of devices that you should consider, as I mentioned in the introduction. There are two types of laptops: the traditional clamshell notebook and the tablet. The convertible 2-in-1 can be used to switch between them. The operating system you choose will depend on the form factor. Windows 10, Chrome OS, MacOS, and Android support all three. To get an idea of the best laptops for college, we recommend that you check out our list. If you are on a tight budget, you might also want to look at the best budget laptops.

The classic laptop in clamshell form has many advantages. The clamshell laptop is likely to have the biggest battery and most ports for connecting external devices (though some modern laptops lack this feature). It also has the best full-size keyboard in a standard layout. A college-bound laptop’s most essential task is taking notes in class. You will need a keyboard that can speed up your typing speed without making you tired. The Dell XPS 13 laptop and the Apple MacBook Air M1 are two great options. Both have great keyboards, battery life and limited connectivity. You might need some dongles to quickly swap data via USB flash drives, as the USB-C port selection is limited.

The tablet has its own advantages. It has a touch screen that is easy to use and supports a stylus. This stylus can be used for handwriting notes, annotations, drawing, and more. A tablet is great if you prefer to write notes rather than type. You can also include sketches in your notes. Modern tablets can be attached to a keyboard that allows you to use the tablet as a laptop. However, how well these configurations work in a lap may vary. Detachable keyboards have less key spacing and feel wobbly. Tablets, particularly Android tablets and iPads, have a great battery life, which can last for days even if you aren’t actively using them.

There are many options for tablets, including Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 or Surface Go 2, several Chrome OS tablets such as the Lenovo Chromebook Duet and the Apple iPad Pro, Air and a variety of Android tablets. Apple iPads used to be a poor choice for all-purpose computing devices due to their lack of touchpad and external mouse support. But that is changing with iPadOS and available attachments like the Magic Keyboard. The Apple Pencil is an amazing addition to the iPad Pro.

Convertible 2-in-1 displays can flip between tablet and clamshell modes. The 2-in-1 convertible laptop shares many of its advantages with clamshell laptops. It has a full-size keyboard and large battery. There are also plenty of ports. It’s more comfortable as a tablet than a real tablet, as you can’t hold the display alone. Pen support is available on recent 2-in-1 convertible 2-in-1s. These 2-in-1s have 16:10 or 3:2 aspect ratio displays, which provide paper-like dimensions that allow for handwriting. For great options, check out our list, which includes the HP Spectre x360 14 with a 3:2 display and small chassis.


Tablets are the most portable device, weighing in at less than two pounds and being very thin. This is true regardless of whether you are talking about the Windows 10 tablet Surface Pro 7 or the 12.9-inch iPad Pro Pro. Although they are less portable if you add the detachable keyboard, they are still lighter and thinner than conventional clamshell laptops or 2-in-1s.

Clamshell laptops can weigh in excess of 2 pounds and are slightly heavier than the keyboard/tablet combination. However, they can be very portable. The Dell XPS 13, weighing in at 2.8 pounds, is a small 13-inch laptop. The best laptops of today, such as Chrome OS machines and MacBook Air and Pro, are lightweight and compact.

Convertible 2-in-1s are the same. They have a width and depth that is approximately the same as their clamshell counterparts, but can sometimes be slightly thicker. Although the HP Spectre x360 13 2-in-1 is the smallest, it’s made of machined aluminum. It weighs in at 2.8 pounds and is almost as small as the XPS 13. This style is only available in Chrome OS and Windows 10. Apple has not yet tackled this type of laptop.


These clamshell laptops are likely to be the best for college. They have the fastest CPUs and many even include discrete GPUs. This is ideal for those who have a major that involves Adobe applications. However, Windows 10 and MacOS require more resources, and will use those faster CPUs and GPUs to run more apps than Chrome OS, which is lighter and doesn’t need these types of resource-intensive apps. Chromebooks may have slower CPUs or only integrated GPUs, but they will often feel faster because Chrome OS doesn’t place the same burden.

Convertible 2-in-1s can be used to replace college-bound laptops. They have the same selection of CPUs or GPUs as college-bound laptops. Their relative performance is also comparable. Convertible 2-in-1s are faster than clamshell laptops. However, they tend to be the most suitable for college because they can keep up with the thin and light category. Windows 10 tablets use slower CPUs, which generate less heat and prolong the battery’s life. They are less efficient than clamshells or convertible 2-in-1s.

Android tablet performance is variable. There’s no one right way to do it. Apple’s iPads are fast, especially the new iPad Pro models. This is due to their light operating system and speedy CPUs, including Apple’s Silicon M1 processor. They will provide similar performance to convertible 2-in-1s and clamshells, but sometimes even faster. We’ll discuss more about the caveat that iPads can’t run full versions of many applications like Adobe Suites and Microsoft Office. This makes it impossible to compare apples-to-apples performance. iPad software is simpler and uses fewer resources. This makes iPad apps faster but less feature-rich.


Compatibility is important as well. It is important to ensure that the device you choose can run all of your applications and allow you to access your school’s student portal. You will also need to have access to school resources such as printers, and other accessories like scanners. It is important to assess your needs before making a decision. You might not need unusual software or peripherals depending on your major but you don’t want to make it difficult for you to get your work done.

Windows 10 is the most compatible platform. Windows 10 is the most compatible platform. It can run all applications and connect to any device at college. This level of compatibility is a comfort. This allows you to show up to work on the first day without worrying about whether or not you can connect to the campus’ network, access its student portal, print documents, or connect to any peripherals. Although Windows 10 does not support mobile apps, it is unlikely that you will encounter such a requirement.

MacOS is next in compatibility. You should be able use all required apps and devices, even if you run into a few snags. Apple laptops are popular in colleges for their compatibility.

Chrome OS is very popular among educational institutions. This includes secondary and K-12 schools. Your school may offer great support for Chromebooks. You can send documents to shared printers just as easily with Chrome OS or Windows 10. Chrome OS runs both web and Android apps. This means that you will not get all the apps supported by Chrome OS. Chromebooks work well for general web access and homework, but you will need to ensure that all applications are available on Chromebooks. You’ll also need to ensure that Chrome OS supports shared printers. Because of the same limitations, we can also include Android tablets here.

You also have limited options for the iPad. You won’t be able to find full versions of Adobe Suite or Microsoft Office on the iPad. If you wish to print documents on college equipment, you will need printers that can support Apple’s AirPrint protocol or vendor-specific apps. This is the crucial step, and it applies to both Chrome OS and Android.

Which is better, a tablet or a laptop?

A Windows 10 laptop, MacBook or Windows 10 convertible 2-in-1 is the best investment. A clamshell or convertible 2-in-1 is best if you are only going to be taking notes. There’s also the matter of doing your research. A Windows 10 or MacOS computer will give you access to all the applications you need, while a Chrome OS or iPadOS device will limit you to what you can do. Although portability used to be a distinguishing factor, modern clamshells or convertible 2-in-1s can be carried around with ease.

One caveat: You can’t choose Chrome OS if you attend college that has chosen Chrome OS. If you prefer to write handwritten notes, a tablet or convertible 2-in-1 with a pen is necessary. These are unlikely to be the case for most students.

If you have the money, you could also buy an iPad or Android tablet. You can get the best of both the worlds: a portable device that you can carry from class to class, and a fully-featured computer to ensure compatibility. An entry-level iPad and a budget laptop are not significantly more expensive than the premium versions.

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