Friday, May 06, 2011

Should I get an iPad?

Used with permission, CC BY-SA 2.0, Henri Bergius

A reader has asked:

Thanks to a dropped laptop and a growing patch of dead pixels, I am in the market for a newish, inexpensive portable something. Could you provide some insight on the limitations and advantages of the iPad.

I respond:

The facts that I am Apple's fourth biggest fanboy (after David Pogue, Michael Hyatt, and Guy Kawasaki) and generally use my iPad almost as frequently as, say, daily hygiene products, actually bias this response less than you might think.

  • What do you need it for? If all you do is surf the web, watch movies/TV/YouTube, and check email, it's probably a fine little machine. The iPad has an amazing battery, fantastic clarity, instantaneous on, etc.

  • How badly do you need Flash? It's lacking in iOS devices, which is a problem for certain web pages that display video clips that way. You can get around this by paying a few bucks for CloudBrowse, but you'll still find yourself going through a few steps to copy-paste links back and forth between CloudBrowse and Safari.

  • Productivity! It's not a laptop computer. It's more like a PDA. If you're trying to get work done like document creation, editing, presentations, papers, organization, spreadsheets, printing, probably better to go with a netbook. You can DO those on an iPad (sorta), but you'll still want to finish things up on a more capable, full-featured desktop or laptop.

    If you're going to do them on an iPad, you'll probably want to look at investing a little under $20 in a snazzy little program called Documents To Go, and probably setting yourself up an account with Dropbox.

If you're really keen on Apple, like I am, and you can afford an iPad (3G or otherwise), I'd say splurge the little bit extra and go for the low-end MacBook Air. Otherwise, might want to watch TigerDirect or for the latest deal on a cheapo PC netbook. Not the most stable thing around, but it should do the trick.

If it were me in your shoes, with my pro-Apple bias, I'd probably rank those choices:

  1. Suck up the budget a bit and splurge for the MacBook Air for about $1K.

  2. Get the low-end WiFi-only iPad for ~$500.

  3. Pick up an Asus (or other) netbook for $350 or so and wish I'd gotten an iPad.

See these two posts:

  1. Why I Love/Hate My iPad (slightly outdated, but still informational).

  2. Using CloudBrowse to View Flash on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch