As one new tablet PC announcement after another surfaces these days, you may be asking yourself, 'What does a tablet give me that I don't already get out of my computer or smartphone?'

At first, I didn't see why I would need a tablet. But after observing quite a few staff using them around the office, I relented and picked up an iPad last summer. Initially I had purchased the device to browse my massive library of digital comic books, but soon I found it useful for other, more practical tasks. I started taking the iPad to meetings and using it to do quick web searches, and it became my preferred way to read and respond to email.

With the Motorola Xoom and other Honeycomb-powered tablets in the works, and with HP announcing its WebOS-based TouchPad, consumers will have a much bigger pool of devices to choose from. Although a tablet may not totally replace your PC anytime soon, using one has its benefits. Here are my top five.


Next to ordinary computers, tablets by design are comparatively lightweight and relatively easy to carry around. Many of them may still be too heavy to hold in one hand, but they're great in your lap or on a surface. Reaching for a tablet to browse the web during TV adverts is much easier than getting up, going to your desk, and booting up your computer. Even laptops, which are supposed to be mobile devices, can take a while to start, and they often get uncomfortably hot after a short period of use.

As for using a smartphone, you do have easy access and instant-on, but it's nice to be able to view an entire web page as opposed to the mobile site or an oddly rendered version on a smartphone's much smaller screen. Plus, there's something about being able to hold a web page more naturally in your hand, as opposed to staring at it on a laptop screen or monitor. It makes you feel like the future is here.


I don't expect anyone to type out a proposal using a tablet's virtual keyboard. However, a tablet in the workplace can be quite helpful for handling basic tasks, like checking email or managing schedules. Here at work, I use a stand to hold my iPad up next to my monitor so that I can use it as a second screen. I leave the Mail app open, which lets me quickly see if I have new messages. For meetings you can jot down notes and download any relevant documents you may need to reference into the tablet. That way, you won't have to shuffle through a pile of papers searching for a specific chart or diagram.

Students may also find the iPad useful, particularly if you have to carry several books on a day-to-day basis. If those books are offered digitally, you may save some money (and possibly your back) just by packing them into a tablet that also can double as a laptop.

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