While an iPad’s purpose isn’t exactly to compete with traditional laptops or PCs, it is an implied option. iPads are strong enough to handle much of your daily needs, and even some more complex processes like video editing. But can they really replace a full-featured PC?
Many say it’s possible, while others believe a traditional computer simply can’t be matched by these mobile gadgets. And the truth is it’s easy to express our opinions on the matter, but here at TabTimes we are taking things to another level.
I am at a coffee shop writing this featured post from a 9.7-inch iPad Pro. This is the same iPad I have been exclusively using for the last 2 weeks. It is my work machine, my media hub and my main form of communication with the world (aside from my smartphone).
Needless to say this little experiment of mine has been interesting. I can’t deny I have pulled some hairs in frustration, but I have also enjoyed using this powerful machine. I can say I am ready to tell you if an iPad can be a viable computer replacement. Let’s get started.
Portability is unbeatable
One of the main reasons to even play with the idea of using an iPad as a laptop replacement is its portability. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro measures in at a mere 6.1 mm of thickness. It is 240 mm tall and 169.5 mm wide.
This makes it thinner and smaller than pretty much any laptop out there. Depending on your pants, it may even fit in a large pocket. Want something even smaller? There are the iPad Minis. And those who need something larger can also go for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which is still lighter and smaller than pretty much all PCs out there.
We haven’t even mentioned the weight – my iPad Pro weighs 437 grams (just under a pound). This means it is almost unnoticeable in any bag. There’s no beating the iPad here. It is the best option for a road warrior who wants to pack light… but it doesn’t mean there won’t be some downsides.
Multi-tasking is a nightmare
Let’s keep in mind this is a competition between a mobile OS and desktop software. There are obvious differences and I feel the greatest one is multi-tasking. There is simply no way iOS can compete with something like Mac OS X, Linux or Windows 10.
Traditional computers make it easy to use multiple programs, tabs and windows at a time. Just throw them around your desktop, switch through them and rearrange them across your screen (or screens) as you see fit.
Apple has baked in a certain level of multi-tasking power into its tablets, but it is mediocre at best (at least compared to its PC counterparts). You can split the screen and use two apps at once, or you could quickly check on other apps by swiping from right to left.
I mean, that’s a cool party trick and conversation starter, but having two apps open at once won’t exactly do much to increase your productivity. Especially when you have to juggle between browsers, messaging services, organizational apps, photo editors and more. By the way, not all apps are supported for multi-tasking, so you often have to switch between apps no matter what.
The lack of consistency simply adds more confusion to the general consumer. I spend much of my time simply looking to see which apps were compatible. Then I had to wonder which to use together. All while trying to get work done. In summary: it was not the seamless multi-window experience a regular computer touts. Not even close.
And even if you can get used to the interesting multi-tasking system iOS has in place, the machine itself is not great at handling it. It only has 2 GB of RAM and manages them well, but switch between more than a few apps and you will start seeing those load times increase. I had to remember to keep saving my progress, for example, as I would switch to other apps and tabs, only to come back to a newly refreshed page and plenty of lost work.
Typing and input
Of course, you can always go with the iPad Pro Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil for all your peripheral needs. Mixed with the included touchscreen, this should be a winning equation.
I happen to really love my own Bluetooth keyboard, though, and that is what I used this whole time. It is a Logitech K810. I believe it offers an overall better typing experience, with better key displacement and feedback, as well as a more traditional size and good spacing between keys.
Typing is not much of a problem once you have an actual Bluetooth keyboard to use. In fact, this keyboard is better than the one on my laptop, so in terms of typing I have been doing much better. It is in other types of input that I am having trouble getting used to.
iOS has no mouse support, which makes the experience a bit annoying. Imagine having to reach over your keyboard and to the screen in front of you every single time you want to open a new window, select text, scroll, hit a link or pretty much anything else.
Touch is a nice… touch, but it can be overdone. My arm was certainly getting tired after a full day of work, and I must stress that all these added steps did affect my productivity. This wouldn’t be an issue if you are always carrying the tablet around, though, as opposed to setting it up in a desk.
As I have been explaining to my co-workers, it is the little things that annoy you when you are using nothing but an iPad. Because a conglomeration of small problems make for a large one, right? Highlighting text takes multiple steps on an iPad, for example. Tap and hold, drag the selection lines and choose what to do with the text. It is nothing like simply drifting a cursor over text and hitting Ctrl+C. Oh, and you can forget about those keyboard shortcuts too!
iOS browser vs PC browser
This is where things get a bit more complex. It is safe to argue most of our work and leisure time lives within a browser when on a PC. It is our direct window to the internet.
I happen to use Chrome, but many of you might prefer Safari (or any other alternative). At the end of the day, the browser experience is a bit limited, at least for advanced users. You don’t really have access to extensions or add-ons, there is always a tiny delay and the experience is not as seamless as it should be.
At 9.7 inches of screen real estate, this iPad Pro finds itself in an odd position. It is not large enough to cover all the space a laptop can, but it is also not small enough to make mobile sites comfortably view-able.
This results in a constant cluster of confusing layouts and things not looking right. Let’s show you WordPress, for example:
See how the titles look? Now let’s compare it to a laptop screen:
And that is only one example. You can find odd-looking elements all over the web when using an iPad. Not to mention the certain buttons that don’t work, as well as other abnormalities.
Editing images and video
As I have shown you in the past, the iPad Pro now has the power to handle video editing. Hell, it can even take care of 4K rendering, but you will need advanced software to do so. And even the most advanced video/photo editing apps for iOS don’t really come close to the feature-full programs you can find for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
I happen to love Pinnacle Studio Pro and have put together a full review of it. In summary, the app is smooth, powerful and can take care of semi-professional video editing.
- Pinnacle Studio Pro review – is it really the best video editing app for the iPad?
- Best video editing apps for the iPad
Now, what about photo editing? As Head of Imaging and Photography, I spend much of my time working with still photos. I can’t deny the past week has been a nightmare, but not exactly due to the iPad’s lack of power. It’s just that the platform is not ready for professional-grade photo processing.
I used Adobe Lightroom for mobile. There are alternatives, but this happens to be my favorite and syncs perfectly with my Creative Cloud account.
Think of Lightroom for mobile as an advanced version of Snapseed. The touch interface is easy to operate and you will feel right at home in just minutes. You get the ability to fully edit and organize image, just like you would on a PC. Some features are missing here and there, but that is to be expected.
Overall, editing on an iPad is manageable, but there is one HUGE caveat to keep in mind – storage.
The storage factor
This is one area you will struggle with, even if you are not a storage hog. It was especially an issue for me, as my personal iPad only has 32 GB of internal storage. You can opt for 128 GB or 256 GB of internal storage, though. That is arguably enough to satisfy your needs, depending on how demanding you are.
But even if you can live with these flash drives amounts, dealing with storage on an iPad is a hassle. You can’t really use USB flash drives like you normally would. Everything requires a dongle or converter. You could go with cloud solutions, but that proves to be annoying when you start transferring videos and RAW photos, which take forever unless you have blazing fast internet speeds.
Thankfully I had a solution that proved to be very helpful when transferring larger files. It is called the Blade4000 – a 4,000 mAh portable battery that also doubles as a microSD card reader. It charges your iPad and transfers files via the Lightning port, which proves to be fast and convenient.
But those without a direct solution will be struggling to manage storage and files. And you will have to start looking for external storage solutions if you require more than 256 GB of internal storage. We know many of you do.
I know I filled up my 32 GB iPad Pro easily. I couldn’t even fully edit one long HD video; the clips were just too large. At one point I had to edit them separately and then stitch the rendered videos together after the fact.
Software availability is key
It is true that much of the software we once couldn’t leave behind has been replaced with mobile solutions. And then we also have many of these programs being ported to iOS, but those who require more specific software might have a problem adapting to the mobile ecosystem.
Some companies create their own solutions for internal managing, for example. And even though they should, many developers are still not making mobile alternatives. Look into any software you deem crucial and see if there is an iOS alternative or counterpart. This may be an issue for some of you.
I live mostly on Chrome, the cloud and a few apps. These are all readily available from an iPad (even if half-baked), so this wasn’t my main concern, personally. Regardless, iOS is probably your best bet if you must go with a mobile OS. It is extremely popular and chances are it has all the apps you need.
So… can an iPad replace a PC?
We suppose I must give you a definitive answer, right? The short response is: no, an iPad can’t truly replace a PC… yet. Things are more complex than a yes or no answer, though. Casual users who only need a device for browsing, social networking, email, media consumption and the like can get away with using an iPad and living without a traditional computer.
For fun and very light working it will be a great solution. And yes – an iPad CAN do pretty much everything a traditional computer does… but it doesn’t always do it well. Those who want to take care of more serious work will find way too many forks in the road. iOS can make your life simpler in some ways, but it can create many slow-downs and inconveniences once you start requiring too much out of it. Enough to make you significantly less productive.
- iPad Pro review – now with 256GB storage and iOS 10
- Best Apple iPad deals
- iPad Mini 5: Everything you need to know
- Dell XPS 13 review
- iPad Mini 4 review
My experience can be a bit different than yours, though. I pretty much spend all day working from a computer. Have any of you tried living only with an iPad (or any other tablet)? Share your own experiences and tell us how you feel about the subject and if an iPad isn’t for you, maybe one of these Windows tablets is right for you?