Can an iPad Replace My Laptop or Desktop Computer?

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro


Did you know the iPad Pro is more powerful than the entry-level laptops lining the shelves at Best Buy? The iPad earns that "Pro" name with a processor that is on par with a mid-level PC. This is in addition to a screen resolution that exceeds many of those same laptops and the graphics power of an XBOX 360. And when you combine this with an operating system that supports slide-over and split-screen multitasking and a virtual touchpad, it's about time to reevaluate the iPad as a laptop killer.

The iPad is becoming increasingly powerful with each new generation. The iPad Pro actually bridged the gap into laptop land, scorching past entry-level laptops into that mid-range of a laptop in terms of pure performance. When you combine this with a lightweight operating system that contains some heavyweight features like the newly-added slide-over and split-screen multitasking and great productivity apps, the line between laptop and iPad is definitely blurred.

The iPad Can Replace Your Laptop If...

The most common tasks people perform on their laptop or desktop PC are the very same tasks in which the iPad excels: surfing the web, checking email, finding out what friends and family are up to on Facebook, playing games, balancing the checkbook, writing a letter or a paper for school, etc. Productivity has also become increasingly easy on the iPad. The virtual touchpad makes manipulating text easier, the iPad supports Microsoft Office and includes a free version of Apple's iWork, and if you need to do a lot of typing you can simply connect a Bluetooth keyboard.

And perhaps just as importantly, the iPad can do some tasks even better than a laptop. The iPad has a back-facing camera, so you can film your own home movie. And with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro's 12 MP camera, the movie will look fantastic. You can also edit the video right on your iPad. Need to get online while on the go? You don't need to look for a coffee shop with Wi-Fi. If you buy the 4G LTE version of the iPad, you can connect anywhere you could connect with your smartphone.

The iPad has increasingly become a portable gaming machine. It won't compete with a high-end PC, a PlayStation 4 or an XBOX ONE in terms of hardcore gaming, but it's more than enough for most of us. The graphics have become on par with the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3, and with its touch controls and motion sensors, the iPad can deliver unique ways to play some very good games.

The iPad Can't Replace Your Laptop If...

The number one reason why you wouldn't be able to replace your iPad with a laptop is if you are tied to a proprietary piece of software that simply can't be found on the iPad. This is often the case for those who use their laptop for work. While businesses are increasingly leaning towards cloud-based solutions, which is a fancy way of saying they are building software on the web, many of them still use software that requires Microsoft Windows.

And proprietary software isn't found just in the workplace. Any application you run on your Windows PC or Mac would need a replacement for your iPad. This is easy when it comes to email and web browsing, but can be more difficult for other types of software. The iPad has become increasingly able to do photo and video editing, and you certainly won't miss iMovie on your Mac when you have a very capable iMovie on the iPad. But if you need professional video editing software like Final Cut Pro, you might find the iPad isn't quite there yet. The iPad Pro may have the power to do it, but Apple still needs to make a version for their newest heavyweight tablet.

Another issue with the iPad is storage space. While the internal storage of an iPad can range up to 256 GB with the latest models, this still doesn't compete with the storage offered by many laptops. The offset of this is that the iPad doesn't require as much storage. For example, simply running Windows 10 will cost you around 16 GB of space. The iPad's iOS operating system takes up less than 2 GB of space. The same is true for software, with Microsoft Office taking around 3 GB of space to install on a PC and less than half that on an iPad.

But here is the issue with storage space: movies, music, photos, and video. This is where you can eat through a lot of storage. The best solution for the iPad is to use cloud storage such as Dropbox, which also provides a great backup for this data in case anything happens to your iPad, but it may cost a monthly subscription fee to get enough storage to support your photo collection.

Hardcore gaming is another area where the iPad won't be able to compete with a PC. For Xbox and PlayStation gamers, this might not be a big issue, but if your idea of fun involves cutting back the demonic hordes in World of Warcraft, farming for the best loot in Star Wars: The Old Republic, throwing some beat-down in League of Legends or taking out Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2, you simply won't find the same experience on the iPad. There are some really good games for the iPad, but nothing that will rival a game like Skyrim.

Figuring out If You Can Replace Your Laptop With an iPad

If you are still unsure whether or not the iPad can replace your laptop, you may actually be ready to take the plunge. Spend a week or two writing out a note of every piece of software you open on your laptop. This sounds like a tedious task, but you can skip the basics like your web browser or your email. Those two alone may take up much of what you use on your laptop.

If you don't already have iTunes on your laptop, download it from Apple. You can go to the "iTunes Store" and change the category (which defaults to "Music") to the App Store. This will let you search to see if there is a corresponding app for the software you use on your laptop.

And don't forget, you can also keep your laptop. So if there is a piece of software you use once a month or once every other month, you can always plug your laptop in on those rare occasions.