The second day I had my iPad, my husband commandeered my MacBook Air to be his secondary work computer and absconded with it to his office. My computing power now consists of the new iPad, my iPhone 3GS and my 27″ i7 iMac. Ok, so I still have a wide range of computing options. But the key question I was out to answer this week was: can my iPad actually supplant my laptop? Can it function as a primary computing device?
I usually used my MBAir for the following tasks:
- Checking my email
- Surfing the Internet
- Keeping up with RSS feeds
- Working on documents
- Taking self-portraits with PhotoBooth
The natural test for the iPad is then of course, is the iPad capable of supporting the same tasks at the same level?
The answer for both checking my email and general web surfing is definitely yes. Checking email and even managing my multiple accounts is seamless. Replying to emails is not bad as I have found the virtual keyboard (particularly in landscape mode) easy to adjust to. I’ve adopted an interesting way of typing — sometimes the good ol’ touch-typing I learned back on a typewriter in eighth grade, and sometimes a quick primarily one handed approach where I hit most of the keys with my right hand and then dart in with my left hand only to hit key buttons. My two email gripes are: inability to accept/reject invites in Mail (but I can do it in the regular version of Gmail, which loads just fine, and which I think will be fixed in iPhone OS 4); and my love for the Rapportive social CRM plug-in which naturally does not work on the iPad. Grrr.
Surfing feels incredibly natural and looks beautiful. I love holding it in my hands and reaching out to tap the screen. I don’t watch much video on my MBAir, so the lack of Flash Video support doesn’t impact me much and YouTube videos look great in the native app.
As for Twitter, my favorite iPhone app is Tweetie, and my favorite web client is Hootsuite. None of them had native versions available for the iPad at launch (I’m really hoping that Tweetie’s acquisition by Twitter will help, not hinder, the continued development of excellent apps. Withholding judgment for now). I’ve got both Twitterrific and TweetDeck loaded up on my iPad and they are both acceptable but lacking in different features (e.g., ability to choose whether to see usernames or full names with tweets). I’m going to write up a separate post on the dream Twitter client for iPad, but for now suffice to say the iPad works just as well as my laptop for this despite nitpicks I have for the current apps.
Keeping up with RSS feeds is similarly easy on the iPad with NetNewsWire going on the iPad. It’s got a slick very useable interface (only nitpick is I wish I could see all the new entries for a specific category by clicking on the category name). So the iPad definitely gets this job done comfortably — although I do love Feedly, and miss it now on my iPad. I realize it’s in the same boat as Rapportive unless Feedly decides to do a standalone app.
Working on docs (such as my resume) is seamless using Pages despite the fact that I had to give up some of the formatting that came with it from the iMac. The only bummer here is that my folders do not sync between the iPad and the iMac — so I have to copy the files back and forth by hand and remember which is the latest version. I wasn’t actually syncing any folders (or using public folders) from my iMac to the MBAir anyway though, so there hasn’t been an sacrifice in functionality for me here (there might be for you).
Obviously the iPad falls short on anything even vaguely photo related. Where the MBAir could take pics as well as load photos from my camera via Eye-Fi, the iPad can do neither. Yes I can sync the iPad with my photos on my iMac but without a camera there are few ways at the moment to get photos into it on the go. I have installed Camera-A and Camera-B on my iPad and iPhone, which allows the iPhone to act as kind of a wireless camera for the iPad. It’s a good trick and although it’s slow and has some issues, gets the job done. Otherwise I’m eagerly awaiting my camera connection kit with the SD card reader and wishing desperately that Eye-Fi would come up with a way to send pics to an iPad.
Finally, blogging. I’m sad to say, that’s where the iPad is currently falling far short. It’s not because of any trouble typing on it (see above). Rather it’s because of the difficulty of the interface – some issues with the WordPress app for one thing (to be subject of a future post – but for example for some reason I can’t seem to copy and paste within the WordPress app right now) – and the challenge of jumping in and out of the blogging app to the browser to add links. Right now I’m starting posts like this one on my iPad, but when I’m getting ready to publish I finish on the iMac where I can easily add links, move content around and make other edits. I don’t however think that these are fatal problems — I believe that apps will be able to conquer these issues. But today, my iPad cannot stand alone as a blogging tool.
On the other hand, let’s not forget some of the things that my iPad clearly does much better than my MBAir. Video plays beautifully on it, much more smoothly and attractively on my laptop. That’s at least in part because my first-gen Air didn’t have much computing power, but it’s true. And I’m definitely playing more games and using it as a reading device in ways I never used my MBAir. I’ve even got Gary Vee’s Crush It! Vook loaded up. With the addition of a stylus, sketching (Adobe Ideas and Sketchbook Pro) is more natural and perhaps even more fun than it ever would be on a computer without a Wacom tablet. Oh yes, and vastly superior battery life.
So my overall assessment? The iPad is almost, but not quite, there for a laptop replacement for me. It does nearly everything I need, plus more. Unfortunately, by falling down on the blogging piece it essentially makes it necessary for me to use another computer as back up nearly every day. I am eagerly awaiting the roll out of the next level of apps. Until then, i have to say no. But I have faith. And lots of ideas.
(I will however be taking my iPad with me as my sole computing device on an upcoming short trip to Singapore. I’ll report back again after that.)
Related links: Steve Rubel Tablet-Only for a Week; TUAW’s Four Groups Who Will Make the iPad Huge (mobile professionals); TeenTechBlog iPad Review; Walt Mossberg’s iPad review; the Apple Blog Will the iPad Kill the Laptop Star?