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iPad vs. Laptop the Pros and Cons of Each

Updated on January 14, 2013

The media has been hyping the epic battle of the Apple iPad vs. the laptop computer for quite some time now. It seems like most of the so called “experts” boisterously predicting that the iPad will eventually crush the traditional laptop originate from one of two camps. They seem to either sprout from deep within the giant Apple marketing machine or from those who are already heavily in favor of anything that does not run on a Microsoft operating system.

For those of you who are keen enough to look beyond the headlines, you have probably noticed that selling laptop devices remains a key component of Apple’s core business model. This alone should tell you that neither device is likely to take the place of the other anytime soon. Instead your focus should be on identifying the key advantages and disadvantages of each and determining which one best suits your own personal needs.

The problem with most reviews and compare and contrast articles I’ve encountered is they seem to be one sided or written by an author who only owns one device or the other. While it is certainly easy enough to head down to your local store to spend a few moments with a demo, you can’t truly get a complete feel for a device until you own one and develop an intimate knowledge of its features and limitations.

Should You Buy an iPad or a Laptop?

Before you start making comparisons, you should identify what the intended use of your device will be. Using an iPad as an entertainment platform is something entirely different than using it for school. It also makes good sense to take a close look at what kind of activities you will use it for most often. Things to consider include web browsing, printing, listening to music, working with documents, working with images, reading, and the use of peripherals. If you are attempting to decide whether to buy an iPad or a laptop, here are a few observations you may want to take into consideration as you evaluate each one.

Since most of us are already familiar with what to expect from a laptop computer or portable PC, the iPad will be used as the basis for comparison.

The iPad - Key Advantages


Easy Access to an Extensive Library of Apps

Whether you like to play interactive games or make use of compact, helpful programs to manage almost everything you do in your daily life, the wide availability of fun and useful apps is unrivaled. Traditional software for laptop computers has been fairly expensive, consumed a hefty amount of system resources, and can be somewhat of a pain to install.

The app store has allowed for the development of affordable micro-programs to do everything from managing your finances to communicating with your social network. The consolidated app store makes it convenient to find new apps without having to browse through the websites of multiple software providers. In my experience, this can be a huge time saver and a great way to discover new and useful applications.

The Size

If comfort and portability are important to you, the slim and light weight iPad will be a welcome change. For those who travel a lot, you will find that you can breeze through airport security a lot faster with an iPad than you can with a laptop. After years of having to pull my laptop out of my luggage, place it in a separate bin, turn it on, turn it off, and then repack it at every airport security checkpoint; the iPad provided a refreshing and much appreciated change of pace.

It should be noted that laptops are getting smaller and there are some affordable light weight netbook versions that can compete in terms of size. The biggest disadvantage of the netbooks in my opinion is that the majority of them seem to be pretty bare bones, running on slower processors and with minimal memory.

The Battery Life

One area where the iPad wins handily is in the area of battery life. With my laptop, I’m lucky if I can get through 20-30 minutes of work before my power supply is nearly tapped out. The iPad on the other hand can easily go for up to 10 hours on a single charge. Even more incredible is the fact that it can accomplish this brilliant feat of efficiency with a charger that can easily fit in a purse or pocket.

The Touch Screen

It does take a little getting used to at first but touch screen navigation should come a lot more naturally than using a mouse. Changing the size or orientation of an image is as simple as making a quick motion with your finger and directing the device to make the proper adjustment. This feature really comes in handy when working in tight quarters or in an area without a flat surface suitable to using a traditional mouse. Another time-saving advantage is that you never have to wait for your tablet to boot up. Simply run your finger across the bottom of your screen and your device instantly comes out of sleep mode and is ready to perform.

The Disadvantages

If you are a heavy user of YouTube or other video content on the web, the lack of support for Adobe Flash can be annoying at times. This can seriously limit the amount of content you are able to view and prevent you from being able to watch certain video clips on some of the major news sites as well. If I had to identify the one thing about the iPad that bothers me the most, this would be it! The use of iPad friendly video formats is growing but until more content producers make this standard practice; your video watching experience will be hit and miss.

For those of you who have grown used to tabbed browsing while surfing the web, the standard Safari browser delivers a sub-par experience in that category. I’ve been somewhat frustrated when clicking a link that is set by default to open in a new browser window only to find that going “back” requires waiting for the previous page to be reloaded. There are some new apps that provide a better tabbed browsing experience starting to show up in the app store so this should be a challenge you can work around.

One thing you will quickly notice if you are used to transporting data on a jump drive or similar external storage device is that there is not a port on the iPad that will allow for this kind of plug and play file transfer capability. Sure you can first transfer the files to a PC and then to your tablet but not having a single step option can be viewed as a disadvantage. I like to swap files between devices and have a place to directly plug in a memory card from a digital camera so I would have to score the category of peripheral support in favor of the laptop.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, both devices offer some distinct advantages and disadvantages. The key to making a decision you will be happy with is to start by evaluating your own needs, likes, and dislikes. Identify the key features that best fit your lifestyle and technology needs. If it’s something small, portable and efficient that best matches up with what you are looking for, the iPad makes an excellent choice.

If you are more comfortable with a traditional keyboard and make extensive use of external storage devices and peripherals, you will probably want to stick with a laptop. There’s a pretty good chance that you may end find yourself somewhere in the middle and discover that both devices will ultimately play a role in meeting your technology needs. Remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with owning different devices and reaching for whichever one fits your next task or project. Here are a few suggested models and personal recommendations that provide a good combination of price and value.


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    • josters profile image

      Janik D 

      5 years ago from Dresden, Germany

      I really like the iPad but you can use it only if you have a computer in order to get it set and running, so there's that. And you are not yet able to do more complex things such as heavy movie editing or things like that. But the iPad is a great tool for every other daily technological task.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • iguidenetwork profile image


      6 years ago from Austin, TX

      I hope the iPad (or all tablets) won't crush those laptops as those tech experts predict, I would still love to type on the laptop, keep my files in it, etc.

      If you were to buy an iPad, you might as well buy USB keyboard. Or buy a hybrid laptop.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi memmenmdmd

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I think people should have a iPad that you can text and call on

    • sandarya profile image


      7 years ago from Bangalore, India

      Great Hub, i would say i wanna go for both lappy and iPad as i rather watch iPad as gaming console now a days...

      @martycraigs no they will not implement flash support in iPad not at least for few years

    • bangingbeauty profile image


      7 years ago

      Great post! I surf using the iPad but use my laptop to write :)

    • arunii profile image


      7 years ago from Delhi

      I love both gadgets but still laptop is my all time choice because of large screen !

    • Entourage_007 profile image


      8 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

      I love using my iPad, but there are just some things that the iPad cannot do - and a computer can. So I agree, they are not substitutes for one another. Rather, they are in different categories. One is a tablet that allows you to download apps, get news and lots of other things. But a laptop has a desktop for one, more storage space, and its actually a computer.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 

      8 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Voted UP and Interesting. Good overall review. And, I have an iPAD2, an iPhone4, and ........ a good old, large HD screen PC loaded with all of my OFFICE and other software. As a writer, I love the iPad for the flexibility to be anywhere, and and when inspiration hits me, sit down right there, and start typing. And, the camera function has given me some great shots (better than my iPhone) several times. Then I can take my iPad back home, and at my convenience, transfer these collections of thoughts, ideas, and pics to my PC to review and use at my leisure.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You are probably right in your comparison. I say that because I'm a laptop user. I never used the iPad before. But to be fair I did not understand why you are comparing the iPad to full size laptops in terms of price and features. I think current netbooks vs iPad should be the correct match since they are the same size.

      As for the price and features, well I admit iPad has a few cool features but I'd stick with computers for now until Apple and/or other ereader manufacturers actually improve on the features/performance/price/etc.... I'd recommend buying a netbook - cheaper and more to offer than iPad.

    • myi4u profile image


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great hub! I must admit that the lack of flash can be quite annoying at times. I read forums and articles regularly and apparently, there are quite a lot of people who carry both laptop and tablet together. I guess, iPad can't really replace laptop fully!

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      8 years ago

      Personally, I like laptop better. It can do more and easier to type.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      thanks useful hub!

    • Leighsue profile image


      8 years ago

      I don't think I would like to have just an ipad, but would like one in addition to my laptop.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I already have an iPad but I enjoyed reading this Hub. It has a lot of good information for people who are trying to decide if an iPad or laptop is better for their needs.

    • emilybee profile image


      8 years ago

      Very informational. Great Hub.

    • EssyRedfield profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      One of my friends is a complete Apple maniac and will buy anything with an Apple logo on. However, he ended up selling his iPad on ebay because he didn't use it. That says a lot coming from him.

    • ImChemist profile image


      8 years ago

      I want to buy ipad , what you think is the best one?

    • profile image

      Cornelius Booker 

      8 years ago

      This article was very informative and useful. I am actually contemplating purchasing an ipad to compliment my Gateway laptop. My intentions are to utilize my laptop at home and ipad on the road.

    • wsupaul88 profile image


      8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Awesome Hub, I really enjoyed it! And PS I love my IPad!

    • Alavux profile image


      8 years ago

      Great comparison. Too often I read about the iPad vs the Amazon Kindle but comparing it to a laptop is a much better idea in my opinion.

      I am still using a 5 year old Powerbook and except for the fact that the battery doesn't hold any charge, it is still going strong.

      Apple laptops all the way for me. I'm still not sure what the iPad would offer me that I don't get from my laptop and Kindle. Seems like a bit of a "Jack of all trades master of none" scenario.

      But as for the coolness factor, the iPad is the clear winner! It's the sort of thing that I'd buy if I won the lottery.

    • rich_hayles profile image


      8 years ago

      Flash won't appear on the iPad unless it is some how cracked. The relationship between Apple and Adobe is gone and Google have now stolen the march over them.

      I will stick with my laptop thank you very much!

    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 

      8 years ago

      I'll stick with my laptop for now. Small is great, but at my age, it can become a problem.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I totally agree with your conclusion."both devices will ultimately play a role in meeting your technology needs"

      IPADS and laptops are two line of instruments designed to server different needs. I used both and I do not think of them as substitutes.

      Good Article.

    • profile image

      Jake Brickman 

      8 years ago

      Looks link the iPad Two might be announced by the end of this month (Jan). Based on mockups that have surfaced, it's likely to have a chat camera pair, better speaker, with a slightly thinner, more flat case design.

      Apparently Steve Jobs had a falling out with Adobe, which may account for the absence of Flash support, though there are legitimate problems with the flash player's power consumption. There is an emerging web player standard that Apple supports.

    • martycraigs profile image


      8 years ago

      I would say, get both a laptop and an iPad. iPad's are great for travel because it's far less cumbersome to carry around.

      Question: isn't Apple going to improve the iPad with Adobe Flash? I thought they were, but I'm not 100% sure.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Thanks for the valuable tips on how to make the choice between an iPad or Laptop. Very helpful for those of us who don't have a lot of technical knowledge!


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