Can an iPad Replace Your Desktop / Laptop Computer?

What’s troubling is that Apple has been slow to upgrade their Mac hardware. It’s not clear if the MacBook Air will ever see a new hardware release. The Mac Pro desktop hasn’t been updated in more than four years. The Mac Mini, a great entry-level Mac, hasn’t seen a significant update since 2012. (Many consider the 2014 Mac Mini to be a disappointment. Diehard Mac Mini fans are still impatiently waiting for a true upgrade.) Even the trusty iMac hasn’t seen an update for over a year.

Software — Part of the reason to even consider using an iPad for productivity is the lack of Mac hardware updates. Yet, hardware is not the only consideration. The Mac simply has better software for creating content.

Once “The pollination” video was exported, it was in the wrong size and the wrong format. While ultra-high definition is the latest craze, it is brutal on web hosting. The video needed to be transcoded to something more web friendly – MP4 at 720p. Does iOS have a transcoder as good as Handbreak or Adobe Media Encoder? It’s not just the lack of one application that hinders the iPad. Does it have Xcode for creating Apps? Does it have Hype for creating interactive web content? Does it have iBooks Author for creating beautiful electronic publications?

I don’t know. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Popular Mac apps usually have a Linux or Windows equivalent. But for the iPad, an iOS equivalent of Mac apps tend to be lacking. The iTunes App Store is loaded with apps, but that just makes it increasingly difficult to find the best productivity apps. If you want an app on iOS, Apple’s walled garden is pretty much the only way to go. With a Mac, you can order apps direct from the developer. With Open Source Software, many powerful desktop / laptop apps are available to download for free. That type of community is the antithesis of the highly commercialized app stores.

There are some serious downsides in trying to make an iPad your primary computer. However, there are some serious advantages too.

  • Expense – While a high-end iPad is quite expensive, a base model is more affordable. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the iPad Air 2 went on-sale. This incredibly powerful computer was a Black Friday / holiday shopping season champion. At certain stores, the iPad Air 2 dropped from the regular price of $399 to $275. That’s more than a 30% discount.
  • Web Browsing – Productivity is a relative term. Much of modern computing is centered around the Internet. The iPad excels at this task. Even though content consumption can mean goofing off, it can also mean reading and learning. The iPad is great for reading ebooks and websites. That’s a lot of powerful information in your hands.
  • Games – If you’re a gamer, the Mac struggles in this area. Meanwhile, iOS has a seemingly endless amount of games to play. They’re cheap too. Many are free or as little as 99¢. While iOS games are usually casual games, an iPad can really push a lot of pixels. Graphically intense games, such as Asphalt 8: Airborne, are possible on the iPad.
  • Portability – Laptops are light, but an iPad is even lighter. Even the lightest Mac laptop, the Macbook, is about double the weight of an iPad Air 2 or  9.7″ iPad Pro.

Betteridge’s law of headlines doesn’t hold true here, as the answer to the main question is neither yes or no. The correct answer is – it depends. Are you looking to save money, play some causal games, browse the Internet and do some general computing tasks? The iPad can get the job done. From young kids to mature adults, computing is more like an appliance. Complexity gives way to simplicity. An iPad is generally an intuitive an easy to use device. If you’re new to computing, an iPad can be a much better choice. You don’t have to unlearn years of legacy computing. You can experience technology for the first time.

If you make your living through computing, you probably have lots of gadgets already. Adding an iPad to the mix is just another expense of the job. Just like a carpenter has more than one hammer, a tech professional probably needs more than one computing device. An iPad isn’t a desktop / laptop replacement for me, but the iPad is much more powerful than I imagined it could be.