What The Tech? iPad Pro vs. a laptop

I'm often asked if an iPad can replace a laptop. Apple's been saying it can since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad 10 years ago. It's never lived up to that promise though because there's only so much Apple can do with a thin tablet. There are no USB inputs or SD card slots. The newest iPads only have one charging port not even an earphone jack and since it runs on the Apple operating system you cannot install important software programs such as Windows, video editors, or others you may need for work.

So many of us have wondered if the iPad could ever do enough so that we could stop lugging around a heavy laptop.

The new, and even 2018 iPad Pro's can do most of those things with a few accessories.

To replace a laptop with a tablet you'll need a keyboard. Apple has its own Magic Keyboards which are really nice but expensive. I started looking for another brand and found the Brydge Bluetooth keyboards. These aluminum keyboards double as a protective case for the iPad and while they're slim and don't weigh much over a pound, it gives the iPad a laptop feel. The new Brydge keyboards have a magnetic cover for the back of the iPad which was exposed in previous versions.

To fit an iPad into a Brydge keyboard you simply slip it into two foldable arms. I've found it's much easier to insert and remove the tablet from a Brydge keyboard than others I've tried. It has a backlit keypad and shortcut buttons to quickly return to the home screen and summon Siri. Brydge says the battery lasts up to 3 months on a single charge but that must be if it isn't being used. I've found I can get up to a week without a charge even with heavy usage. And I use this keyboard a lot.

The new iPadOS also allows you to use a Bluetooth computer mouse. Just like with a laptop you can open programs or apps, highlight text, swipe between apps, and move the cursor to a specific place on the screen to enter text using any word processing apps.

Now, the ports. This has been the biggest drawback of using an iPad for your everyday machine. Anker has released a USB-C hub that plugs into the iPad Pro's charging port and adds two USB inputs for hard drives or flash drives, two SD card slots, and an HDMI port. The HDMI port is perfect for plugging the iPad into a portable projector or TV to watch videos.

Using the hub allows you to import and export files to the iPad using Apple's Files app. I've quickly moved video files shot with my iPad onto an SD card and transferred the footage back to my desktop computer. It's also good for saving any photos before you delete them from the iPad.

Add an Apple pencil or a cheaper version, and creatives can draw on the iPad and create artwork or graphics. You can't do that on most laptop computers. For graphic artists, I don't think there's any comparison between an iPad and a laptop. Get the iPad.

Of course, iPad's can download any of the apps from Apple's app store. Now that Microsoft, Adobe, and other makers of the software have released cloud-based storage and apps, there isn't a big difference between using an app and the full version of Excel, Photoshop, or PowerPoint. Sure, some people may find they're limited by the app. I'm not creating many PowerPoint presentations so I'll defer to their expertise. Still, it's worth checking out the apps before ditching a laptop.

You're not going to save money by switching to an iPad Pro, or not much anyway. The 12.9 inch iPad starts at $999, the same price as MacBook Air but $300 less than the least expensive MacBook Pro. If you add the keyboard, a mouse, the hub, and a pencil, you'll be spending more on a top-notch iPad Pro.

But I prefer the iPad Pro. I can take it out of the keyboard case anytime I want to read and put it back in the case quickly to take notes or type out an email. I like having the apps at my disposal. I even like it for games over the ones on a laptop. Granted I'm not a big gamer playing Call of Duty, but it's good for most casual gamers.

I leave my laptop at home whenever I run down to a coffee shop for some quick work or on an airplane (I haven't traveled since the pandemic began). Can an iPad replace a laptop? You bet. In fact, with the extra gadgets, I think it's better.