The chief distinction between table and fields is that table returns results to the search head whereas 'fields' does not.
Early use of 'fields' can improve performance in events with many fields by reducing the number of fields the query has to process.
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You should never use table in the middle of any search; always use fields if anything and save table for the very end (or debugging, because it forces your search to switch to the stats tab). If you are immediately pumping the data into stats then there is no reason to do fields because it is an extra pass through all events to add no value (because stats is going to drop all of those fields as part of its work anyway).