Not too long ago it was socially acceptable to walk into a classroom with just a pen and paper. Nowadays it’s rare to see a classroom that isn’t filled with laptops and tablets. Students are flooded with options: tablet, ultrabook, netbook, notebook — and it’s not an easy choice to make. The easily portable ultrabook and tablet are probably the choices to which most students will gravitate. Let’s take a look at what’s best.

Ultrabook or Tablet? What’s Best For College

To help you decide which is best for you, answer the following questions:

1. Are you studying the sciences or something technical?

2. Do you transfer data with USB’s or an external hard drive often?

3. What tasks will you use your device for in college?

Science vs. Humanities Students

If you’re studying the sciences or technology, your choice is obvious: the ultrabook. The reason is just as simple. In your course of study, you are going to need complex software for data and calculations. Tablets just don’t have that level of sophistication software-wise.

For humanities students, the choice is not so clear. Since you’ll probably be writing a lot, you’ll want to be able to type with ease. Software-wise both tablets and ultrabooks can handle what you need. If you’re keen on getting a tablet, you’ll just want a really great keyboard dock to go with it. The battery life plays a big role for these students. Tablets tend to have good battery and will last you one full day at college before you need to charge. Ultrabooks can be there, but they just can not keep up – not yet.

On an ultrabook, the larger screen make sit easier to mulitask, though some Android tablets are quite good at this already. But ultrabooks make it easier to run multiple programs simultaneously, move windows and copy content to and fro. This is, in practice, on any tablet fairly easy as well, so it’s a matter of taste. One may prefer the touch controls, while the other swears by the keyboard and trackpad. You just need to know which one you are.

USB vs. Cloud

Many professors have adopted Dropbox, university based online sharing systems and so on to provide their students with course documents and information. Many electronic minded people enjoy living in a virtual data cloud, but there are scores of humanities students who prefer email or the USB data transfers so they can print it out and make it tangible. These people will probably like an ultrabook and a printer nearby. If you’re a cloud person, a tablet might work for you.

If you often have to rely on USB sticks, ultrabooks are, in my opinion, the best option. Sure there are some Android tablets, which are equipped with full USB ports and even ones that can read files from external hard drives and store it. But it’s just not as simple. Moreover, here, the software is the limiting factor yet again.

Task Master

Now here’s the real question: What will you be using your device for? If you just want a device that you can bring with you to class to read, take notes, light sketches and view documents, a tablet could be perfect for you. If you want to use Microsoft Office of Word, tablets are just not competitive. Footnotes, formatting and sourcing are all much easier on an ultrabook. But as far as functioning as a EReader goes, tablets win hands down.


If your only device needs to be highly mobile and also serve as your main computer, an Ultrabook is a must. The starting price is indeed higher than that of the tablet, but if you have a Ultrabook, you have more options. If you are looking for something portable as a supplement to another computer and you can live with compromises in mobile use, I recommend a tablet. Tablets are simply excellent for reading and as an electronic document solution. The battery life, extreme light weight and price are definitely attractive too students.

The dream combination is, of course, the simultaneous use of tablet and ultrabook. Those kinds of devices are more expensive and really not aimed at the student market. They are also not yet perfected and still a bit bulky.

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