First of all, quick naming correction - anything open in Vim is a "buffer". The terminology here is similar to emacs, if you are familiar with that editor. Buffers simply refer to open files in the memory of the current Vim process. To see a list of you buffers, use
which shows you a list of the current buffers, numbered in the order that they were opened. However, buffers do not have anything to do with the visual representation of files in Vim. I think you may be thinking of splits or views.
As to the difference between splits or tabs - It really is your preference! Some people like to be able to see a lot of code at once (or have the screen real estate to do so), and so might prefer using splits. Other people, like yourself, are more used to tabs and so might prefer that instead.
These links contain helpful information about using splits and tabs:
for splits (they call them viewports in this doc): http://www.linux.com/archive/feed/54157
for tabs: same site (sorry, can't post more than one hyperlink)
I hope this answers your question! Please clarify, if it did not.