A business tablet might seem like a great investment. Tablets have bigger screens than smartphones, so they're much better for screen-intensive tasks like editing documents and managing your email inbox. Plus, they're more portable than laptop computers, so they're easier to carry on a business trip, or on your commute. But you'll have to make some sacrifices to be productive on a tablet. And with the rise of bigger smartphones and slimmer notebooks, I can think of fewer and fewer reasons to invest in one. If you're thinking of buying an iPad or an Android or Windows slate, here are five reasons to reconsider your purchase.
Tablets are great for content consumption, but they're not built for productivity. The tablet's biggest weakness as a work device has to be its lack of a physical keyboard. Sure, you can purchase a Bluetooth keyboard that will pair with almost any tablet, but few tablets were designed with typing in mind. You'll need to find a way to prop up your tablet during typing sessions, which means buying a kickstand-equipped case, or awkwardly leaning it against a stack of books.
In fact, typing on a tablet keyboard might even give you finger cramps. To save space, most keyboards designed for tablets are smaller than their full-size desktop counterparts, so keys are smaller and relatively shallow. Even the Touch Cover for Microsoft's 12-inch Surface Pro 3 tablet can't quite measure up. Ultimately, tablet keyboards just aren't very comfortable for extended typing sessions.
Tablets are getting faster and more efficient, but few tablets can match the processing power of even a midrange laptop computer. Dedicated multitaskers — as well as users who need to perform processor-intensive tasks, like heavy spreadsheet computation — might feel hamstrung by an underpowered tablet. Only a few tablets, such as the Surface Pro 3, can deliver performance on a par with that of fast PCs, but you'll pay significantly more for that device than you would for a comparable laptop or desktop machine.
What good is a portable device if it's too small for you to get any real work done on it? Most tablets have screens in the range of 7 to 10 inches, which doesn't leave you much space for multitasking or running complex software. Bigger tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro offer large 12-inch screens, but even that machine might feel cramped for anyone used to working on a desktop PC.
A 13-inch laptop, such as the MacBook Air, strikes a better balance between portability and productivity than most tablets. That makes it a better bet for anyone in the market for a portable work companion.
Both Android and iOS have huge app libraries. No matter what you need an app for, you're sure to find dozens of applications to meet your needs. But compared to desktop software, mobile apps offer limited functionality — and that's by design. These apps were created for small touch-screen devices, which don't offer the same level of control or processing power as the average laptop or desktop computer.
Besides, most mobile apps were designed for compact smartphone screens. Phone apps can be used on a tablet, but they don't take advantage of the extra screen space afforded on a tablet. That means you'll have to make due with stretched-out interfaces and options hidden away in several layers of menus.
Most business users are better off with a laptop that runs all the same software they use in the office. By toting a lightweight Windows or Mac laptop instead of a tablet, you won't have to change your workflow when you're on the go.
The biggest reason to skip buying a business tablet is that you don't need one anymore. Simply put, the best features of tablets are being co-opted by other gadgets. Consider the rise of the phablet, the class of smartphones with screens between 5.5 and 6.5 inches. Phones like the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the 6-inch Nokia Lumia 1520 aren't much smaller than tablets like Google's 7-inch Nexus 7. Compared to displays on small smartphones like the 4-inch iPhone 5s, phablet screens are huge, with more than enough space for productivity tasks. Phablets are a bit bulky, but that's a fair trade-off for extra versatility.
For real productivity, you'll need a physical keyboard anyway. The good news is that laptop computers are thinner and lighter than ever. A 13-inch Ultrabook like the HP Spectre 13 weighs barely more than 3 lbs., so it won't weigh you down on your commute. And if you really want a device you can use as a tablet, consider buying a hybrid machine like the Acer Transformer Book T100, an affordable Windows tablet that comes with a detachable keyboard; or the Dell XPS 12, a well-rounded Windows 8.1 laptop with a screen that folds 180 degrees so you can use it like a tablet.