Is the iPad Worth Its Price for Replacing Your Laptop?

Can the iPad replace a laptop and save you money?

iPad

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

With each new generation of iPad, a more compelling case is made to replace your laptop. There are cheaper options available, including Android tablets that cost less than $100. Also, the Microsoft Surface line offers a hybrid version of a laptop and tablet, making the transition less striking and more intuitive. But there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Here's what you should know so you can decide whether or not an iPad is worth it.

What Are the Advantages of an iPad?

The iPad can perform most of the same tasks that a PC or Mac can perform, but its tablet design makes it more portable and, in some cases, easier to use. With stylus pens, detachable keyboards, and touch controls, tablets appeal to users who are on the go. Artists like the tactile interface. Travelers like the compact design. Students like the price. Gamers like the touchpad controls.

It's all about preference and the exchange between form and function. What do you want your computer to be able to do, and what are you willing to give up, if anything, for the convenience? If you're not willing to give up processing power, for example, a laptop or desktop computer will work best for you. If you want portability, choose a tablet.

What Are the Disadvantages of an iPad?

Most tablet computers, including iPad tablets, are inferior to laptops in terms of computing power, but that changes with each new product generation. With an iPad, you're also limited to the iOS ecosystem. That means any desktop program with an iOS version is going to be pared down from the original. So, if you're coming from Windows, Linux, or macOS, you may find the operating system too streamlined.

As Apple continues to make incremental advances to the iPad's processing power, software makers find the OS more and more adept for their system requirements. For example, Adobe announced in October 2019 (nearly ten years after the iPad first launched) that it will release a fully-equipped version of Photoshop for iPad, much to the delight of artists and designers.

Save Money With Apps on the iPad

In addition to being cheaper than most laptop and desktop computers, iPads indirectly save money through the app ecosystem. Mobile apps are more affordable than desktop programs. The iPad mobile apps aren't as full-featured, but that's beginning to change.

The iPad is still a ways away from being able to reliably handle intensive programs such as Final Cut or Assassin's Creed, but many people don't need that much computing power. A lot of people just want to watch Netflix and send emails, in which case an iPad has more than enough power.

Android Alternatives to the iPad

If your interest in an iPad is primarily to save money, consider getting an Android tablet, as these tablets are often cheaper. But what you save in costs you lose in performance. Most Android tablets don't have the same processing power as an iPad, and many Android apps were designed for smartphones, making for an awkward user experience on a tablet.

Also, because of the cheaper hardware, many Android tablets have shorter lifespans and may need to be replaced after a couple of years. An iPad can be expected to perform well for several years. That doesn't mean all Android tablets perform poorly, but the more advanced Android tablets are more expensive. So ask yourself if it might be a better investment to spend more on an iPad to ensure improved performance, better app availability, and a longer lifespan.

The gap between the two competing tablet systems is shrinking, however, so look into the specifics of the iPad versus an Android tablet.