Laptops remain a popular type of mobile personal computer, but tablet computers have always promised a slimmer alternative. If you have an Android tablet, can you replace your laptop with it? If you’re the right kind of user, yes!
Who This Is Not For
Before you read any further, you should know that if you have any specific software meant for desktop computers that you need to run on your laptop, then using an Android tablet as a replacement probably isn’t going to work for you.
The best candidates for a laptop-ectomy are those users who aren’t limited to specific software for their tasks. So, as long as you can find an Android app that does the same job as the application you were using on your laptop, then you’re off to a good start. If you can’t find one, though, workarounds exist.
Run a Remote Desktop App on Your Android Tablet
We just said that you can’t run applications meant for Windows, Linux, macOS, and other desktop operating systems on your Android tablet, but as long as you have access to a solid internet connection that might not be a problem.
Instead of lugging a laptop with you, you can use a remote desktop app on your Android tablet to access your home or work computer. If you don’t own a desktop computer, you can rent a virtual Windows, Linux, or macOS computer in the cloud and access it through your tablet. It’s not a perfect solution, since it is dependent on an internet connection.
However, if the apps you need something other than Android for don’t require constant attention from you to work (e.g. a datamining program or 3D renderer) then you can craft a workable solution this way.
Look for Desktop App Equivalents
To ensure that you have a successful transition to using a tablet as a laptop replacement, you need to take a close look at how you use your laptop. What are the most typical tasks, what applications do you use, what features of those apps do you use and how much computer horsepower do you actually need on a day-to-day basis.
Many desktop applications have great mobile counterparts. For example, if you use Microsoft Word, Excel, or Powerpoint, you’ll find mobile versions of these apps that do all the things most users need them to. The same goes for photo editing, video editing, and other common computer tasks.
RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Microsoft Office’s Desktop, Web, and Mobile Apps?
Embrace the Dongle Life
Most new Android tablets have a USB-C port and support for OTG (On-The-Go) USB connections. This means the tablet can act as a USB host and work with peripherals such as USB docks, keyboards, mice, and so on.
If you want to make your Android tablet a laptop replacement, you’ll likely want to connect these types of devices to it. Just do your homework before buying any given Android tablet. Support for OTG or providing enough power from the tablet’s USB ports to power something like a dock is not a given.
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Hook Up a Mouse and Keyboard
Android supports using a mouse and keyboard. You can connect them using Bluetooth, the same way you’d connect any Bluetooth peripheral. Just put your mouse or keyboard into pairing mode (according to their respective manuals) and look for them under the list of available devices in the Bluetooth menu in Android. To get to that list, simply swipe down the Android shade from the top of the screen, then press and hold the Bluetooth symbol. Available devices should appear in the subsequent list.
Some tablets have a proprietary keyboard connector, which you can use with a clip-on keyboard sold by the same company or one of its partners. In some cases, this keyboard effectively converts the tablet into something resembling a laptop’s form factor.
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Pick the Right Tablet Case
If your model of Android tablet does not have a proprietary keyboard detachable keyboard solution, your next best option is to buy a keyboard case or to find a generic detachable keyboard.
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There are cases that have an integrated keyboard and sometimes a touchpad. It may be preferable for you to look for a case that allows some sort of laptop-like angle adjustment, without the need to be propped up on a flat surface.
Learn Android Multitasking
The most important skill you need if you want to use your Android tablet as a laptop replacement is the ability to split your screen and master the art of Android multitasking. Android tablets from different brands will have their own custom launchers and multitasking features, although stock Android does have its own native split-screen function.
Since they are so variable, we can’t provide universal instructions here, but the information should be in your user manual or just a quick Google search away.
Use Desktop Mode (If Available)
Tablets with a “desktop mode” offer an alternative user interface that looks more like macOS or Windows and is easier to use with a mouse and keyboard. If you want a more laptop-like experience, this is a good feature to look for.
There have been rumors of a “desktop mode” in stock Android for a while now, with a beta form of the feature hidden in both the Android 10 and 11 developer mode. While you won’t yet find a native desktop mode in every Android tablet, many tablet makers have developed their own.
The most famous example is Samsung’s DeX application, which transforms a Samsung Android phone or tablet into something very much like a full-fledged desktop computer. Lenovo has something called “productivity mode”, which is a simple desktop model that does not feature window management.
If you currently own an Android tablet that doesn’t have a desktop mode solution, you can head to the Google Play store and choose one of the apps there that offer something similar. None of them are perfect, but they’re worth a try.
Consider a 2-in-1 PC
If you are really in love with the tablet form factor, does it have to be an Android (or iOS) device? There are many 2-in-1 computers on the market that run the same software as a laptop, but allow you to change between laptop and tablet mode with ease. They accomplish this by either converting or detaching the keyboard. Check out our explainer to learn more about these versatile computers.
RELATED: What Is a 2-in-1 PC?