Can I Replace My Laptop with an iPad?

Replacing a laptop with an iPad can be a tricky subject as there are many things to consider when going down this route. The iPad is a very versatile tool and can be used to perform many similar functions that a laptop can but there are also functions that a laptop can do that an iPad can’t.

Most laptops, and computers for that matter, are used for six basic things: browsing the web, checking emails, writing papers, listening to music, watching movies and videos, and editing photos. Below are comparisons of these six areas to help better differentiate the difference between and iPad and laptop.


Browsing the Web

Browsing the web on an iPad and laptop are two completely different experiences. WIth the laptop you have the advantage of having a mouse to direct the cursor where you would like to go and with the iPad the mouse is your finger, you have to tap and touch the links that you want to open. Using the web on a laptop will also give you the ability to view the website full rich content while on the iPad it may be a light version or a mobile friendly site. Sometimes browsing a mobile site can be welcoming as it usually displays only the content you’re looking for instead of all of the adds and extras that you don’t need.

There is also a bonus with using the iPad, most sites have an App that will give you access to all of their features. Sites like Facebook, Amazon, Ebay, Twitter, Target, Google, Chase, Bank of America, etc. are all adopting mobile Apps that give the user a clean and simple interface that you wouldn’t see on a laptop. Bank Apps such as Chase and Bank of America will let you check and manage your balance right from the App, there’s even a feature that will let you deposit a check by taking a picture of it! Experiences like this are not going to be found on a laptop.

One downside with the iPad is going to be Flash. Flash enables some sites to deliver moving images and rich video content. The iPad does not have the ability to view these kinds of sites where a laptop will have the ability to install flash and view sites that use it. Most websites have found a workaround for this and can be viewed on the iPad but it is still something to consider. There also may be some sites that are not supported on the iPad or may just overall work easier on the laptop such as online schools and forums.


Writing Papers

Writing papers on an iPad or a laptop are going to provide very similar experiences and ease of use. With a laptop, depending on whether  it’s a PC of Mac, you can get software that will allow you to write papers. The universal application that most people will know is Microsoft Office and that is available for both PC and Mac laptops but is not currently available for the iPad. Having a laptop will allow you to use Office and gain from all of the benefits that will come with using the software. You’ll be able to type and print papers that you’re accustomed to and will have no problems sharing documents with a mass group of people. You also have the benefit of the keyboard being built into the device where you would have to buy an external keyboard for the iPad.

But that’s not to say that the iPad isn’t a great device to write papers on. The iPad has a wide range of Apps that will work in a very similar fashion as Office. The most popular one is going to be Pages, which is the iPad version of the popular Mac app. Pages is to Mac what Microsoft Word is to PC, it’s the document writer. WIth Pages you have the ability to edit Word documents right on the iPad and no one would be the wiser. You can even save Pages documents as Word documents so you can send them to your friends, family, or even college professors. The one thing that gets difficult with the iPad is printing documents. The iPad has the ability to print but it uses a service called AirPrint and you’ll need an AirPrint enabled printer to use it. Otherwise you’ll have to send the document to either Dropbox or email it to your self to print it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the iPad does not come with a keyboard. There is an onscreen keyboard that comes up when using Apps that allow typing but it can be difficult to use at times. Being that there aren’t physical keys it can be easier to make mistakes if you are not used to the iPad’s keyboard. There is an option to get an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard or a variety of Keyboard Cases for an iPad but it is just going to either add bulk or an extra item to carry.


Listening to Music

The iPad and any laptop are going to be great for listening to music on since they both can do the same things and use the same services it just comes down to connivence. Since the iPad is a smaller device it can make listening to music easier and more portable than on a laptop. The iPad also has the upper hand because it’s based off of the iPod, which is one of the most popular personal music devices of our time. The iPad can be used with all of the popular music services such as Rdio, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc. just as easily as a laptop. Laptops and iPads are going to have the same audio inputs so all of the headphones that you use for one will work with the other.

The advantage of listening to music on a laptop is going to be the built-in speakers. The iPad has a built-in speaker but it is quite and cannot compare to stereo speakers on a laptop. Also, depending on the storage capacity of your laptop, you can generally store more music on a laptop than an iPad. This means that if you purchase music through iTunes or another source that you can store it on your laptop without worry of running out of room. If you are using a streaming service such as Rdio or Spotify then storage isn’t going to be an issue, it’s going to be internet access. This is going to be the same whether  you have an iPad or laptop, as both can access Wi-Fi networks and will need that access to stream music.


Watching Movies & Videos

Much like listening to music it’s going to be exactly the same for Movies and Videos. If you purchase all of your movies through iTunes it will be very easy to put them on your iPad, you just have to sync the Movies in the same manner that you sync Music. Other than watching videos on YouTube, Netflix, or some other streaming service, purchasing movies through iTunes is going to be the only way the watch movies on the iPad.

With a laptop you have a clear advantage, most laptops have a DVD player built in. So you can bring along any DVD that you have purchased and pop it into the DVD player and watch it. You can also watch all of the digital movies that you have purchase on your laptop and stream Netflix and watch YouTube. The iPad is going to work best when traveling and you want to watch a movie on a long drive.


Checking Email

The iPad comes standard with a built-in Mail App that will allow you to quickly and easily access all of your email accounts. With most laptops, depending on if it’s a PC or Mac, may vary with built-in Mail clients. This is going to be just like browsing the web, they are both going to have their advantages and weaknesses.

With Mail on the iPad everything is going to be gesture drive, you have to use you fingers to do all of the typing and clicking. This is great if you’re out and about and want to quickly reply to an email but it can become cumbersome if it’s your main client. You have to get used to typing on a glass display with no physical buttons or you’re going to have to get an external keyboard. The Mail experience is still great on an iPad but you need to get used to the keyboard.

Mail on a laptop is going to depend on the software. Most Mail providers have web access so you can check your email on your web browser. This makes it feel like you’re browsing a web page. The experience can vary depending on what provider you are using for your email such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. With the Mail App on the iPad it is the same interface no matter what mail provider you are using.


Editing Photos

Editing photos is where the two devices really differentiate. With the iPad there are plenty of Apps in the App Store that you can download and use to edit photos with, and most of them are really easy to use. With a laptop there are Applications that you can purchase that will work worlds better than an iPad App, Photoshop is a prime example. Most laptops come with a built-in SD card reader and require no additional accessories to import photos from your digital camera. With an iPad you have to buy a camera accessory from Apple that will allow you to transfer images off of an SD card onto the iPad. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great Apps for editing on the iPad, they are often times easier to use that a desktop app, but they are not going to be anywhere near as powerful as a desktop app. If you’re wanting to quickly put a filter on an image then iPad Apps are going to be your best bet. There is also the fact that Photoshop will cost you an additional $600 where most iPad Photo Apps are around $5.


 Have You Made the Switch?

If you are looking to replace your laptop with an iPad you can see that for the most part that you are going to be just fine. If you are barely using a laptop or are only doing the basics then you are going to love switching to an iPad only, I would just recommend that you still have some sort of computer that can be used. If you depend on your laptop for work or use it quite frequently then and iPad would make a great companion device. In either case there are clear advantages to both.

Have you made the switch to an iPad only workflow or have your tried switching? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.