Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

August 22, 2012 • Editorials

iPad for College Instead of Laptop? Bad Advice

You know what they say about free advice… you get what you pay for. And, if you read the site regularly, you know hoe much both Judie and I love and rely upon our iPads. And you likely also know that Mike considers the iPad his “80% computer” while Carly goes as high as it being her 90% computer. That being the case you might be surprised that I find Cult of Macs post entitles Why You Should Buy An iPad Instead Of A MacBook For College [Back To School] to be lousy advice and simply wrong.

The author’s points are thoughtful if not compelling. And each of his reasons FOR getting an iPad over a Mac are, in fact, correct. The iPad is lighter than a Mac. It is less expensive. It has longer battery life. There are models that include ubiquitous connectivity. And the apps have become increasingly powerful. Yes, it is easier than ever to make the argument that a college student should opt for an iPad over a Mac. And in fairness, the author did point out that science majors, among others, will still want to opt for a full computer. And he does make the point that anyone opting for an iPad should also get Apple’s Bluetooth wireless keyboard. In short, his POINTS are spot on. It is, however, his conclusion that is simply wrong.

You see, while the iPad is more powerful than ever, gets great battery life, can always be connected to the internet and is lighter than even the smallest Mac, it is still… and iPad. And while it might be a student’s 80% or even 90% computer there is still that nagging 10-20% it is NOT a computer in the traditional sense of the word. And while 10-20% may seem like a small number, in reality it is a fairly significant issue. That number was more like 20-40% a year ago but, thanks to apps breaking into a new realm of power and functionality in recent months it is smaller than ever. AND, I suspect it will drop further by next year. But there is still a gap and, with time being an issue for many of us, students and professionals alike, any gap is too large a gap.

I’m down in Washington for a day of meetings. I came down last night and while I almost brought my MacBook Pro, in the end I decided to just come down with my iPad, a Bluetooth keyboard and my Sena Florence Portfolio for taking notes. I’m finding I can do almost everything I need to do thus far today but some tasks are a bit slower on the iPad than they would have been if I were on a Mac. That’s okay for now but I’m not in a time crunch AND, for example, when I send this post up at 90% ready, Judie, Mike or Carly can finish it for me. And that’s the point- if I were on a Mac this post would be ready to go and I wouldn’t be relying on them. (Except for fixing my lousy grammar and inability to properly use commas of course.) The iPad still suffers some limitations when compared to a Mac. And this holds true for the smallest and least powerful MacBook air. And that is the point. You can get an 11″ MacBook air refurb for under $850 most of the time. It doesn’t have boundless storage  and it gets disappointing battery life. And no, you won’t be able to do much of the gaming you would on a MacBook pro or an iPad. But the 11″ MacBook air runs a full version of OS X and, as a result, can handle pretty much every productivity application a student, or anyone else for that matter, might want to run.

The bottom line is this. The iPad is awesome. And in the near future it may well be enough computer for anyone but the most technical of science students. For now however, it will still hamstring a student enough that to suggest a student should forgo a laptop and opt for an iPad instead is just… wrong.



One Response to " iPad for College Instead of Laptop? Bad Advice "

  1. thenikjones says:

    Hurrah, I totally agree with you. I love my iPad but that thought of having one without a ‘proper’ computer – be it WIndows or Mac – is laughable.

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