Why an iPad is better than a laptop: 9 months later

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Nearly two years ago, I purchased the first iPad.

I still have it and haven’t moved to the iPad 2 for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that the original iPad hasn’t slowed me down at all.

Then, about nine months ago, I wrote up a few notes on why I felt an iPad is better than a laptop.

Since we’re nearing the release of the iPad 3, and since I’ve heavily leaned on my iPad while traveling (a lot) over the past week, I thought it’d be a good time to find out if the iPad is indeed still better than a laptop.

After two years of use (LOTS of use, just ask my wife), I still believe the iPad is better than a laptop. In fact, my belief is so much stronger that I think laptops are going away and our use of ‘computers’ will be based on our location.

Here’s how I came to that belief.

Looking back

In 2011, I picked up a pair of Mac Minis for the home office(s). I made the conscientious choice for the Minis instead of MacBook Pros or Airs because our lives were becoming more mobile and the more mobile we became, the less we wanted/needed to carry around a fully-functioning computer (ie, a laptop) and everything that goes with it (extra battery, charger, sync cables, etc.).

At the time, our ‘technology stack’ included:

  • 2 MacBook Pros (1 home, 1 work)
  • 1 Apple TV (included, for AirPlay)
  • 1 Kindle
  • 1 iPad
  • 2 (active) iPhones

When we were in the market for a new machine, I could have replaced the home MacBook Pro with a MacBook Air (sooo tempting) but instead, I picked up two Mac Minis. I did so after grouping our activities into two buckets:

  • Time intensive
  • Time insensitive

The time-intensive stuff included projects centered around graphic design, website building, and back-end management (advertising, traffic, etc.).

This stuff, I felt, was all best done while sitting at a desk, with a block of uninterrupted time, on a beefy computer. Ie, not the iPad.

The time-insensitive stuff was pretty much everything else. Writing, wireframing, chatting, drafting, tweeting, reading, posting, etc. All that stuff can be done in chunks, with relatively less focus on location, time, or/and computing power.

Having traveled a fair bit for work and play, I knew – as much as I had promised myself – I would not be able to get the time-intensive stuff done while on the road. Whether the trip was for work or play, I just wouldn’t have the time to devote to those time-intensive projects.


As this week draws to a close, I’ve had one long trip (San Diego), one medium trip (Philadelphia) and one little trip (the Bowery) over the past seven days.

On each trip (one was personal, two were business), I was not hampered one bit by not having a laptop with me. The iPad did everything I needed and because I didn’t have to worry about power, I was able to keep up with my reading and writing.

I was even able to take notes on the iPad, then post those notes the very next day.

Think about the last business trip you took.

After being in meetings all day or walking the conference hall floor or visiting with clients, how much time at the end of the day did you have to work on the big project?

I mean, actually, work on it?

For me, not much. In fact, I’d get so disappointed in my inability to ‘work on the road’, that I labeled some very successful trips as failures.

Not because I didn’t/couldn’t land clients or extend contracts, but because I wasn’t able to continue working on that big project.

It turns out, I was just wasting my time and punishing myself thinking I could get anything more done than what I should be focused on while traveling.

I thought that if I was ok with this rationale, why would I need two beefy computers? So, this was the hand I dealt myself.

Looking ahead

There have been times over the past nine months when I’ve kicked myself because I was having a hard time doing things on the iPad while traveling.

This wasn’t the iPad’s fault – this was just a learning curve for me. I had trained myself over the past years to do anything anywhere, even if it wasn’t the most productive use of my time.

There remain some gotchas. When looking at Google Analytics on the iPad, I’m not able to see the pretty graph (the data is still there and readable). Until things are rewritten in HTML5, there will be some bumps along the way (In my workflow. And yes, I’m sure there are apps for that.).

The point here is if you decide to move away from dragging a laptop with you on your next trip, you will struggle. But it’s all near-term stuff and you’ll learn very quickly after your first iPad-only trip.

Remember: It’s a new way of doing things. If you plan accordingly (that project will be ready next week as I’m traveling this week), I think you’ll find yourself more productive (at work and at home).

Going back to us, our updated ‘technology stack’ now includes:

  • 2 MacBook Pros (1 home, 1 work)
  • 2 Mac Minis
  • 1 Apple TV
  • 1 Kindle
  • 1 iPad
  • 2 (active) iPhones

Over the next year, we’ll be making some additional updates, including:

  • Phasing out one of the MacBook Pros (we’re still using it for CDs)
  • Replacing the Kindle with an iPad
  • Replacing the original iPad with a newer one

This underlines the idea that where we work or play is playing an increasing amount of importance on the type of device we use.

And further underlines the belief that laptops are going away.

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