Can an iPad Replace Your Desktop / Laptop Computer?

iPad vs Laptop2016 was a fairly choppy year for Apple. Three different computing platforms were fighting for attention – iPhone, iPad and Mac. Each device has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Many Mac fans were holding out for the new MacBook Pro, but its launch was mired in controversy. Battery life issues, added expense, limited ports and upgrade limits ruined what should have been an exciting moment in the history of the Mac. Is the party over? Are the heydays of macOS history? Are tablets the future of computing? Let’s take a look.

The inspiration for this article hit while working on a review for AeroGarden’s “Be the Bee”. This adorable little gadget helps make flowering fruits bloom. By gently shaking the plant, pollen sprinkles out from the flowers. I wanted to capture the snowlike pollination effect in a video. The best camera is the one you have with you. So, the raw video footage was recorded with an iPad. Since the video is already on the device, why not edit it there too?

The next thing I know, I’m using professional grade video editing effects on my iPad with iMovie. Cinematic background music, Ken Burns photographic effects and storyboard based editing were all within my fingertips. I was laughing hysterically and having a good time. I was impressed by the simplicity and the power. I was creating work that was beyond my exceptions. Isn’t that the point of computing? These powerful tools allow us to work faster and better than before.

I sent that video to my friends and family. I probably watched the video dozens of times. I even sent it to AeroGrow, the company that makes the “Be the Bee”. The response was great.

I can confidently say your video was the best feature film we have ever seen about the pollinator.

Was this it? Was this the moment that my iPad graduated from a content consumption device to content creation? If you’re familiar with Betteridge’s law of headlines, then you probably guessed the answer. No, it didn’t work for me.

Sure, my iPad has been seeing a lot more use than my Mac. But when I sat down to write this article, I chose my trusty Mac Mini. But why? What went wrong?

Hardware Specs – Surprisingly, an iPad Air 2 is faster than an Early 2009 Mac Mini. Geekbench Multi-Core scores are 3974 vs 2187 respectively. Even my iPhone SE beats them both with a score of 4023. While iOS and macOS might not be directly comparable, it’s fairly certain that the iPad is not a slouch. The iPad is fast. Speed is not the problem – storage is!

After creating the one-minute video, I started to hit the storage limit of the device. Obviously, the 16GB model is woefully lacking in storage. But even maxing out an iPad Pro with 256GB of storage, a 4K video would make short work of that extra space. My iPad never felt slow. That’s not the problem in making the Pro more professional. It’s the lack of upgradability and accessibility of storage options. Desktops and laptops simply have more storage and better storage options.

Typing – The bigger iPad Pro (at 12.9″) has a fairly large screen. However, when that screen is covered up by an on-screen keyboard, you start to lose space. It’s also clunky trying to type on a giant piece of glass. Apple attempts to remedy this with the Apple Pencil ($99) and the Smart Keyboard ($199). These are accessories that can add expense to an already expensive device. A maxed out iPad Pro is $999. At these numbers, a simple 13″ MacBook Air starts to make more sense.