A Few Weeks with the iPad as a Netbook Replacement

I have used a first generation iPad as my primary mobile computing device for a number of weeks now. More specifically, I have tried to see if this tablet can replace my two-year old netbook. My findings are mixed, as you shall see.

First up, the iPad with me runs iOS 4.3.3, which is the latest version available right now, though iOS 5 is on the way and looks to transform the device. This iPad has 64GB memory built in, which is smaller than the 160GB hard disk of my netbook.

The iPad is lighter and more portable than my Acer AspirePrime netbook. It also gives waaaaay better battery life, which is an immediate plus in my books. My Acer is out of battery max in 3 hours, while the iPad sees me through a full work day and is still not dead by 10pm.

The iPad is always on, always connected, polling my email, running Yahoo Messenger and running other services as well. The slim profile makes for extra portability and I am able to carry the iPad along to settings that a netbook would have been clumsy to take to.

Before this time, I used to swear by 7-inch tablets, but The 10.1-inch display of the iPad has made me a convert. Having a display that large makes a huge difference in typing out documents, browsing web pages, managing emails and other tasks. From now on, it’s 10.1″ (or thereabouts) all the way for me when it comes to tablets.

Typing on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard is excellent. Superb, really. The display and keys are large enough to type as I would on a proper PC keyboard. I just hammer away! it really feels good typing long documents on this tablet.

Web browsing is great, but avoid Flash-based sites. They just don’t load at all. Music playback quality is great (stunning actually), though I would have loved if the speaker was louder.

Where the iPad frustrates is with Apple’s gadzooks approach to everything.

Want to send an email attachment? You have to open the app for that file, select the file and send from there. Want to send multiple attachments in one mail? Be my guest.

Want to copy non-media files from PC to the tablet? Look for workarounds or forget it.

You can’t send or receive files by Bluetooth to/from other non-iOS devices.

The iPad does not support a range of video types, and iTunes won’t sync those at all. You have to convert first on PC to get iTunes to copy them over for playback on the iPad. I haven’t had to do that in years, so I just haven’t bothered. I’ve got the video end covered by my Nokia E7.

Open or Closed
The iPad is a mixture of great and terrible. It is a stunning device that limits you in many ways. While there are tons of apps to make up in part for some of those limitations, finding them in the AppStore did not prove easy.

For example, in searching for a Documents Editor, I had to use a wide range of search phrases, each turning out a different set of documents editors that are not thrown up at all when I use other search phrases. Crazy. Tedious. I spent hours finding certain apps. Hopefully, the search performance will be improved some more over time.

If Apple would open up iOS some more, nothing would hold a candle to the iPad, and it would wipe out the competition. But as it is, many people who don’t want to look for workarounds and hacks to maximise their tablets are forced to look elsewhere.

There will always be those who are satisfied with what it offers, as well as those who cannot live with its lockdowns. Its the way the world rolls.

Has the iPad been able to replace my netbook? Not entirely. Some tasks are still easier to carry out on my Acer than on the iPad. For, example, complex formatting of WordPress articles, and medium to advanced graphics editing.

Still, it has done a fairly good job of replacing my netbook for my most common tasks.

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  1. IAT June 18, 2011
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