As tablets like the iPad Pro get more powerful I find myself being asked by customers if they really need a laptop computer anymore. The lines between laptops and tablets are getting blurred as tablets improve. However, despite improvements in recent years many tasks are still impossible or extremely painful to do on a tablet.
One big difference between the two is that with a tablet you can only do one thing at a time. You can only view one program on the screen at once while the other programs are waiting in the background. On a laptop you can have several programs open at once on your screen. This makes it easier to look at things simultaneously or copy data between files.
The second big difference is that a laptop is much more powerful in terms of its processing and graphics abilities. As a result, programs written for tablets have fewer features and are more limited in what they can do. Even basic functions like printing options are more limited on tablets. One of the downsides to the laptops having extra power is that it reduces battery life, so tablets are usually able to run for much longer on a charge than laptops.
The third major difference is that laptops are much more flexible in terms of what you can attach to them. With a laptop you can connect flash drives or extra monitors. With a tablet you are usually limited to just one external device at a time. There are also fewer choices in what devices you can attach to your tablet. Laptops have a lot more options as far as what they can connect with.
The last major difference is that laptops are generally easier to interact with. The screen is bigger and the keyboard/pointer is more solid. Doing a lot of typing on a flexible keyboard is no fun and looking at rows of numbers on a tiny screen can be painful. The tradeoff of course is that the tablet is much more portable and convenient for travel.
I believe that you still need a laptop or desktop if you are doing anything much more than surfing the web, reading email, watching movies, or light editing of documents. If you want the compact size of a tablet but still need the power of a laptop there are several good options. But in making the decision between a laptop and a tablet, it is smart to first understand what you want out of your device.