Should I buy an iPad to replace my computer?

the new iPad

There is very little that’s interesting to say about the new iPad. I’d sum it up this way: the iPad’s always been wonderful, and the new model improves the screen, one of the few things that was left to improve about previous models. (Still to go: the weight.)

Should you buy one? If you’re like most of us, and you use your computer mostly for browsing the web, absolutely. The iPad is a pleasure, and it goes places where we read (couch, bed, standing in the kitchen, bathtub) more gracefully than a laptop ever can.

Someone asked me today whether to buy an iPad to replace a dying laptop, and that’s a tougher question. There are still things that are infuriatingly difficult to do on an iPad. Try downloading a Microsoft Word document from the web, editing it, and emailing it to someone. It can be done, but if you’re the sort of person to consider having an iPad as your only computer, you’re probably not one to fiddle and work at figuring out things like this.

(For the record, here’s how: Download the file with a web browser that allows downloads, such as Atomic Web. Use Atomic Web’s file manager to transfer the file to Dropbox. Use a Dropbox and Office-compatible editor such as Documents to Go to edit your document. Finally, use an app such as GoodReader, which has the ability to attach files to outgoing messages, to send your email.)

But for 90% of what we use computers for, the iPad is just all-around better. And the cincher is the battery life, which aside from plugging it in at night you never have to think about. I ordered my iPad 1 the day it was announced, replaced it as soon as the iPad 2 was announced, and Ordered my new iPad Wednesday. (I’ve bought the $499 model each time, and managed to sell it on ebay for around $400 right before the new model’s announced. A few weeks without an iPad makes me appreciate the new one when it comes.)

4 thoughts on “Should I buy an iPad to replace my computer?

  1. A couple of things to add.

    I use Quickoffice instead. You can read from and save to both Dropbox and Google Docs. You can email a doc directly from within Quickoffice. The app is quite nice, and compatibility with MS Office 2007/2010 is confirmed in my experience.

    One factor you don’t mention is typing on the iPad. The glass screen is not a viable alternative for typing of any length except looking up terms on Google and filling out occasional online forms. (There are some shortcut apps which work in many, though not all, apps and allow you to create your own abbreviations. Apps like TextExpander.)

    In order to type productively you need to get an external keyboard, preferably Bluetooth like Apple’s or the old Stowaways, or connected via the USB dongle. Some people go to the length of investing in these laptop-like cases with a BT keyboard. I just can’t see the purpose of these.

    There’s an interesting Kickstarter project I invested in which is an adjunct to the glass screen keyboard, the Touchfire:…

    It hasn’t shipped yet so I can’t give an opinion on it. One thing it’s not compatible with: multi-lingual keyboards; it’s only going to work with English keyboards and any other language that is laid out exactly like English.

    In sum, the iPad is there but not there. Sorta, maybe, not quite. It is workable, though.

  2. Agree on the keyboard. Typing is the Apple handheld’s Achilles heal. But start adding stuff and pretty soon you might as well get a Mac Air.

    I see the iPad as a device for Web surfing and for displaying images, which it does brilliantly. In order to replace a PC it would need a better keyboard and a built-in way to use docs and spreadsheets. A matter of time I’m sure.

    The ghetto/travel substitute is an iPod and a strong set of reading glasses.

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