An iPad IS a Laptop Replacement…for Most People

iPad Pro 2021 next to MacBook Pro 15” (2018). Both devices have similar matte anti-glare screen protectors.

I am really (really) tired of seeing every review of the “latest and greatest” iPad stating that it is almost a laptop replacement, or a computer replacement (or some other nonsensical variation thereof). The real essence of the question is “If I have an iPad, do I need a computer?” The answer is simple, but it is not the same answer for everyone. It really depends on what you do and what you need.

For most people the answer may be yes. I am not most people, but I am quite surprised at what I don’t need a computer for. I am going to look at various things that people (myself included) do, and compare computer’s versus laptop, and then I will choose which is better (based upon my usage).

For the record, I am a longtime Mac User (since 2001), but use windows machines and Linux as well. Most of my recent iPad experience is with a 12.9” iPad Pro, and capture experience is with a 15” MacBook Pro (2018).

Ease of Use:

This is largely my opinion, but I have trained many people on many devices, and people just learn quicker on the iPad. It is more intuitive, especially if you also have an iPhone.
There are some things that power users find limiting, but “searchlight” is so much easier on the iPad. I have also found that many non-tech savvy people (especially those over 80), find the iPad much easier.

Winner: iPad

Viewing Media

So, I am starting on the easiest one. For watching movies, listening to music, reading books, viewing websites and almost any other act of consuming content, the iPad is much easer to use. Even the sound quality without headphones is noticeably better.

Winner: iPad.

Word Processing:

Sorry Word nerds, but between Apple’s Pages and Microsoft Word, I am giving the edge to the iPad due to it’s portability and simplicity for most people. There are more than enough excellent keyboards, keyboards with track pads and mice for you to choose from. Plus, from the people I spoke with, it is EASIER and less cluttered on an iPad. Yes, the computer version has many more features, but do you really use them?

Winner: iPad

Spreadsheet:

This one is tough. Excel, Numbers and Sheets are fine, and good for quick work, but it may be just the way my mind works, and the other tech users I spoke with, but it is much easier to use spreadsheets on the computer. There are so many times you can be looking at multiple sheets, or referencing external data…. But I also recognize the typical user doesn’t do this. If you are managing your household budget, it is easier to use an iPad… but if you are managing your household budget, there are many, many apps that do this so much better than a spreadsheet.

Winner: Computer

Presentations

There are several excellent presentation tools, but I think it is much more convenient to do it on an iPad. Whether you are using KeyNote (a very under appreciated application), PowerPoint, Slides…the portability, and ease of use is so much better on the iPad. There are plenty of existing templates, and the smaller batches of transitions and animation tools are a Godsend if you have ever sat through a jittery presentation where every element is animated (and animated differently). I don’t like it when EVERY bullet item is animated, and I hate it more when they vary (left to right, right to left, top to bottom, fade in…).

Winner: iPad.

FlowCharting/Mind Mapping and other Similar Graphing

This one is also difficult. I have used Draw.io and Lucid Chart (related products, I believe). I am also very comfortable with Visio (PC) and OmniGraffle (Mac). I have always found that the iPad was great for meetings (Mind Mapping during a meeting is so easy) or quick ideas, but doing the final layout (including alignment, color coding, managing lines…) was easier on computer.

Winner: Toss-up.

Note Taking

Whether you are typing or writing, note taking is an important part of a meeting. I have found typing to be a barrier however. It is something between you and your team. Writing you can do almost effortlessly without looking away for your team. Now there are computers that do this, but not easily as the iPad with a good stylus.

I use Notes Plus (with hand writing recognition), but there is EverNote and Notability.

Winner: iPad

Virtual Meetings

From camera quality, audio quality and ease of connection for headphones, this is an easy win for the iPad (or a phone). Some laptop computers’s are awful, are just mediocre. You and easily move the iPad to an area where your poorly dressed partner or annoying dogs or children (only annoying some of the time, naturally) cannot video bomb you.

There is one caveat with this. Screen sharing in some applications can be limited, BUT for the most part I have been able to work around this.

Winner: iPad

Email

The default email program (creatively called “Mail”) is fine and I use it. There are better apps like Spark. The user experience and email management is okay. For quick access to email, you will probably use your phone; but for managing large swaths of mail, the iPad and Computer behave similarly.

Winner: Toss-Up

File Management and Multi-Tasking

This one is not even close. At all. Yes, the Files App is decent (barely), but if you need to do any sort of mass file movement, processing (converting images, resizing, renaming, archiving…) or even a smart filter to search for all files, you have to use a computer. Now, Apple has argued (rather poorly) that if you use the iPad as intended, you don’t need to do this. They would be wrong.

Multi-Tasking is okay on the iPad. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it. I can certainly research on the web while participating in a meeting (although taking notes whilst writing would mean everyone looking up my nose in a video conference…). However, whether you use Windows, Linux or Mac OS, they are just significantly better.

However, since I have been using the iPad, I became aware of how little I actually multi-Task, as opposed to keeping a lot of applications open.

Winner: Computer

Photo Manipulation/Bitmap Graphics

Sure, everyone will say Photoshop is the be all and end all for photo manipulation, but it really isn’t. I am a professional photographer, and I have found Affinity Photo to be as good. With such good features and HDR merge, stack management and unlimited layers, it saves on the wallet. I am not a big fan of the “subscription and never owning model.”

I included (with much hesitation) pixel art here; it is not the same thing, but it uses some of the same approaches and tools, and the result is the same. Affinity Photo is fine, but Procreate is just a dream. There is no shortage of good tools for drawing, and there is an obvious winner. Paper is also a fun and easy tool, but lacks some critical features like layers and filters.

Although the Apple Pencil is wondrous, it is expensive. There are many, many less expensive options that support tilt sensing and palm rejection (this is critical!), but lack pressure sensitivity. You can pick them up for as little as $25.

Winner: iPad

Vector Graphics

I cut my teeth (ouch) on Illustrator on a PC years ago, but I made the adjust to an iPad easily. Unless you need some special high end feature (like gradient mapping or complex layer interactions, the iPad is the tool of choice. I use Affinity Draw, but Concepts (I hear) is good, but I have found it difficult to use. For quick and easy, Touch Draw 2 is very powerful. That being said, it seems, from my experience, that I often need to export my work to the computer to do some finishing (more so than with photos or bitmap art). The tools on the iPad or excellent and will meet most needs, but sometimes I need more.

Winner: Toss-up (barely)

VPN/Security

It is MUCH easier to install and use VPN’s on an iPad than a PC or MacBook. Although the letters devices have gotten easier, the iPad apps are superior. Regarding the overall security, I am going to give the slight edge to the iPad. This is primarily due to the portability (easier to take with you instead of leaving it out), lack of ports, and closed Apple Infrastructure.

Winner: iPad

Other “High” End not commonly used Applications

I am listing all the other areas, not commonly needed by typical user, but I use in my experience. This is why I used both tools. The iPad does some of these (and does them well), but most users would be frustrated with the iPad’s limitations. PC/Computer wins at all below (but there are some special circumstances).

  • Data Base and Database Management (Navicat for iPad is okay, and there are some passable tools, but nothing really useful for professional DBA.)
  • Project Management (unless you’re entire toolset is web based, you will find this limiting)
  • Network Administration-There are some very good tools (Net Analyzer among others), the inability for iPad OS to get Mac addresses can be limiting
  • Web Site Creation (unless you are using a fully web based content management system like WordPress)
  • Coding (in any language)
  • Photo Management (I hope this changes soon)
  • Video Editing (LumaFusion is powerful, and iMovie is easy, but they are limiting. These will meet the needs of many people, others will find them frustrating. Premier and Final Cut are significantly better).
  • Audio (for most people tools like Ferrite are fine, but it is nowhere near a professional tool…however, I use it a lot).
  • Music Creation
  • 3D Graphics (there are some decent modeling programs on the iPad, but they are expensive). Shapr can be free, but it is geared more to engineering (that was a bad pun). I will always love Blender on a computer.

In conclusion, you should have an idea why you are buying a device. What do you want to do? What are your interests. The iPad does open some amazing paths, but it also closes some others. You will be happy if you take the time to choose the right tool.

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