Tablet or Laptop for Older People?

Over the last 20 years, the personal computing landscape has changed dramatically.

Where once computer-use was dependent on chunky desktop computers, today laptops dominate the way we work and play. The portability of laptops is the key to their success but as machines keep getting smaller, laptops are facing stiff competition from tablet computers like Apple’s iPad and Google’s Nexus.

The result is that many people – especially older consumers and retirees – are considering whether a tablet can act as their main computing device. But can using a small tablet really be as satisfying as a more traditional laptop or desktop machine?

The pros and cons of using a tablet

The ultimate advantage of using a tablet is its portability. Tablets are small and light: they can fit in your handbag with ease and won’t add much weight to its contents. At home, your tablet can move easily to suit any location, whether you’re surfing the web in bed or you’re looking up recipes in the kitchen. In contrast, laptops can be heavy and awkward to carry – especially if you’re using it for tasks that don’t necessarily require a keyboard.

A tablet, moreover, is a supremely multi-functional device. It doubles up as an e-reader, an over-sized iPod and a gaming device. Of course, you can also read books, listen to music and play games on a laptop – but on a tablet, the experience is more seamless and adaptable to your environment. You wouldn’t, for instance, listen to music on your laptop on the bus, but you could feasibly do so with an iPad or Android tablet.

However, there are some drawbacks. A tablet screen is generally smaller than that of a laptop, which may hamper your enjoyment of films and TV programmes. If you use your computing device to work, you may also encounter productivity concerns: an on-screen keyboard isn’t always as effective or quick to work as an external one, so typing may become frustrating. That said, some tablets come with a click-on external keyboard so this problem can be easily overcome.

Looking for help and tablet-laptop hybrids

Before making the decision to buy a tablet or a laptop, make sure that you consider exactly what you use it for. But if internet browsing and video-watching is the primary way you use a computing device, then a tablet may be the best solution for you.

Specialist sites like PC Advisor  and Digital Trends offer some wise advice for anyone who is undecided, and Amazon’s tablet vs. laptop guide also sheds some light.

However, in a few years, you may not need to choose between a tablet and laptop at all. Samsung’s recently announced tablet-laptop hybrid looks like a laptop but can be easily converted into a tablet so users can enjoy the benefits of both devices. If this model takes off, it could signal a radical overhaul in the way laptops and tablets are designed in future but its success is yet to be seen.


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Mother of three grown-up daughters I am the ultimate multi-tasker and am passionate about my role as Silversurfers Website Editor and Social Media Manager. Always on the lookout for all things that will interest and entertain our community. Fueling fun for the young at heart!

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20th Jan 2021
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19th Aug 2016
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I am 70 and have an iPad and an iPhone and wouldn't be without them so easy to carry around with you and i keep up to date with appointments, notes, music etc and i use the camera on my iPhone which is very useful. I wouldn't be without them. I also have a PC which i use occasionally especially for printing which i cant do from my Ipad,
23rd Jul 2014
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My mum recently bought a Breezie tablet and she absolutely loves it. It has all the same functionality as any other tablet but is much simpler to use for people who haven't had much exposure to the internet. Crucially, they have an online hub which I can go onto remotely and add apps for her, new contacts in her address book etc

She's able to Skype me for example without even knowing what Skype is, she just goes to her address book and clicks on me. There's been no going back for her since she got her Breezie!
13th Apr 2014
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Just turned 70 years old and my wife bought me a new iPad Air for by birthday. I have an original iPad which over the past 4 years has been great but the iPad Air is a great deal faster than my old one. I do a lot of writing so I bought a keyboard to go with my new iPad Air and it's just like using the keyboard on my PC. I still use my Desktop PC now and again but there is nothing like sitting in a comfy chair with my iPad. I use PAGES and QUICKOFFICE PRO for writing, they are both MS Word document orientated and work very well indeed. Flight Radar is good, you can see aircraft all over the world, check arrival times, type of aircraft, height, speed and almost everything including a cockpit view. I run a website for my writers group, if anyone writes stories or poems send them to me and I will install them our web site, I will also publish your name if you wish.
Check out my website at
Mike Rose
31st Mar 2014
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I agree with Maggie. I have also been showing people how to use computers for a number of years. Most of those users have gone from desk tops to laptops. A few weeks ago I put all my guitar sheet music onto my iPad. Now some of the guys at the Guitar Club are doing the same, it is great not having to tote two big heavy files around, plus the heavy music stand.
27th Mar 2014
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As a 70+ volunteer for AgeUk, giving one-to-one help to people of my age (and much older), to get them on-line and keep them connected, I have found in the past year or so that the preference has changed dramatically towards the tablet. In particular the iPad has been the choice of all my new "client" in the last six months. It seems to tick all boxes for the people I have met - internet, email, video access to family and friends, even office software if they need it at well under a tenth the cost of that for a PC and seemingly zillions of applications (educational or fun and everything in between) which are free or can be purchased for pence at the touch of a button. At the same time the device has two good quality cameras that are simple to forward facing for on-line talking and the other a conventional still or video camera. It becomes a portable book reader, music player, diary, alarm clock or Video/TV player when they wish and most importantly, when compared to a computer, is maintenance free and needs no virus checker. After 50+ years with computers, I was number one sceptic, but seeing the enjoyment and life enrichment people have experienced, I am a total convert.
27th Mar 2014
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Thanks for that useful feedback Maggie 🙂
29th Aug 2014
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Thanx Maggie, your comments were helpful.

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