In this article:
- Yes, iPads can replace laptops in 2022
- iPads can do a lot of things that traditional computers do…
- … but iPads also still miss out on some essential features
- iPads can replace laptops but it’s up to your situation and needs
Laptops have been the go-to device for students and professionals alike for decades, they’re portable, convenient to work on, and it’s functional. But recently, the iPad and several tablets have been challenging the laptops and how we think about what a computer is, and we even keep asking the question “can iPads replace laptops?”.
The one we’re talking about today is the iPad which is currently and undoubtedly the most popular tablet in the market. Ever since the first iPad Pro came out in 2015, a lot of people are debating whether the iPad can replace people’s laptops, and going forward to today in 2022, we have a short answer: Yes, the iPad can replace laptops.
But some parts of it might make you keep a laptop around. We’ll discuss everything from why iPads can replace laptops, why it couldn’t, who’s it for, and how you can start your transition from laptop to iPad. Let’s start!
What Can iPads Do?
When it comes to determining whether an iPad can replace a laptop or a desktop-style computer, it all comes down to what it can do now.
Current iPad models (iPad 9, iPad Air 5, iPad mini 6, and current-gen iPad Pros) have mobile processors like the A13 and A15 which provide topnotch performance and even laptop-level benchmarks. Some iPads also have the M1 processor which is a full-blown CPU used on the latest Mac computers, it provides overwhelming performance that can even beat Intel’s top processors. So, in terms of raw hardware power, all current-gen iPads can replace laptops
Other than that, iPads (except for the iPad 9) have bright, high-res, and color-accurate screens that are perfect for professional photo and video editing. It doesn’t end there, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch has a Liquid Retina XDR display that has near 4K resolution, mini-LED backlighting for HDR content, and a 120Hz refresh rate which makes the screen much more responsive. When it comes to display quality, I think a lot of laptops and monitors can’t even compete with a Liquid Retina XDR display.
A lot of people were wishing for an iPad stylus for a very long time, maybe even since the iPad was created. And while people waited for so long for a stylus, at least Apple did it right when they did come out with the Apple Pencil.
What can I say? The Apple Pencil just works, it’s very responsive with little to no lag, and it has tilt and pressure sensitivity, and palm rejection features. On top of that, using the Apple Pencil with the iPad is an extremely portable setup, whereas professional drawing tablets need to be tethered to a computer to work. Some might prefer the more sensitive drawing tablet, but the Apple Pencil with the iPad already beats a lot of professional drawing setups.
On top of that, the iPad supports a lot of Apple Pencil alternatives for different use cases.
Keyboard and Trackpad Support
The iPad doesn’t come with a keyboard and trackpad, instead, you have to buy a keyboard & trackpad case like the Magic Keyboard or other alternatives, or make do with a keyboard and trackpad/mouse setup. These are optional, but when you do get a keyboard & trackpad setup, iPads become much closer to laptops with functionality and form factor.
As of now in iPadOS 15, most iPads are already equipped with desktop-class internet browsers, File management, and a ton of software that allows you to perform anything from basic to complicated tasks like document creation all the way to video/photo editing and even 3D modeling.
Not only that, but Apple also brings out software updates for iPadOS every year bringing in new features in the future.
Provide a Better Experience
Now, this might vary depending on how you use your iPad, but in some situations, iPads will provide a better and smoother working experience, we’ve already mentioned how an iPad + Pencil setup provides a better experience for people who draw, but the Pencil is also better for students who take notes while in class.
It’s also great for people who are new to computers and people who prefer a lighter and easier-to-use OS like the iPadOS over Mac or Windows which can get overwhelming and slow to use at times.
To sum it up, being a touch screen, being more portable, and having a more secure, reliable, and user-friendly system than most laptops, iPads are just more fun to use.
Things iPads Can’t Do
No matter how good the iPad has gotten now, it still has some things that it can’t do, here are some of those things. But, looking at the things to come with iPadOS 16, it seems that this list will shrink soon.
Multi-tasking on iPad is still a good experience despite being inferior to Windows’ or Mac’s windows based multitasking. Currently, on iPadOS 15, multi-tasking is done with Split View, Slide Over, and Picture in Picture, which is honestly not enough if you’re coming from a Mac or Windows computer.
Although there’s a coming solution to that with iPadOS 16 called Stage Manager, it’ll bring desktop-class multitasking to the iPad through windows based multitasking!
It doesn’t end there, since the iPad has a smaller screen and a different UI, Stage Manager will automatically manage and organize both open and minimized apps so that you’ll be able to focus on your work. Resizing the windows is also limited, but it’s easier to do, as there are pre-determined window sizes for each app.
Although there’s a caveat with the Stage Manager, while iPadOS 16 will come to many iPads, Stage Manager will only come on M1-equipped iPads.
External Display Support
I know some of you already know that the iPad can output its display to a display using a Lighting or USB-C adapter for a long time now, but you cannot use that display as a second display, it’ll only mirror what your iPad is showing. And all iPads, especially the ones with the full-screen display, can’t even adapt to the external display’s aspect ratio, with it displaying black bars as a result.
With the upcoming iPadOS 16, iPads will be able to fully utilize external displays with up to 6K resolutions, and it’ll also adapt to a lot of aspect ratios. But, like the Stage Manager, it’ll only work on M1-equipped iPads.
Running Multiple Operating Systems
This is an obvious one, but yes, the iPad cannot run any other operating system other than iPadOS, whereas traditional laptops including Macs can run Windows, Linux, and other specialized OS.
This is the biggest problem that Apple themselves cannot solve immediately, that is app support. Windows support pretty much any app in existence, while Macs can have workarounds to app limitations by using VMs or Wine (which enables .exe apps to run on Macs natively). iPads won’t have these workarounds, and app development for iPads can be pretty limited, and when developers did create an iPad version of their apps, they often cut its features or as we say, they water it down.
This however isn’t an inherently bad feature of the iPad, it’s just the limited reach of iPads that isn’t enough of a reason for developers to make apps for iPads.
Like laptops, iPads are hefty investments, so most of the time, when families are looking for a laptop or computer, it’s for everybody to use. Windows and Macs can support multiple users with their own customized desktops and settings.
Shared iPad is a feature available on iPads issued to businesses and schools and it’s a feature that’s activated by Apple themselves, you can’t get it on your personal iPad, and you need to be an organization to be able to get Shared iPads in the first place.
Third-Party App Stores
Windows have them, Macs have them, and its third-party app stores, this one I can sort of accept since iPadOS is closely related to iOS and these OS are tightly controlled by Apple to give the system the security it boasts.
This especially stings especially when you consider that there are missing apps on iPads like the Calculator app, I mean, it’s 2022, Apple, how stubborn do you need to be?!
I would say that one of the essential features of any computer is to reformat and edit drives, I used it to reprogram SD Cards to other formats so it would work with my old camera and even my old Wii (yes, I still play around with a Wii).
Having an iPad as a laptop replacement, sure, it works. But having it as your only computer makes you susceptible to moments like not being able to reformat your drives.
Can you have an iPad as a laptop replacement?
We established that yes, the iPad can be a laptop replacement. But the question we gotta ask now is can YOU have an iPad as a laptop replacement? And it all depends on how you currently define a laptop.
I remembered an Apple commercial for the iPad Pro, and it’s linked below so you can watch, but in the end, the person with the iPad just said “what’s a computer?”, this sparked some controversies and anger online with Apple implying that the kids of the future won’t even know what a computer is.
Apple even continued with this marketing for the iPad with taglines like “Your next computer, isn’t a computer”.
Now I might be poking the hornet’s nest here, but I think the commercials actually make sense because that’s what Apple and a lot of companies have been doing to us this whole time; they’re challenging what we think a computer is.
Think about it, 10 years ago we used to do everything on a computer, watching movies, browsing the internet, making documents, editing pictures and videos, and managing files. Now, we can do all those on our phones and tablets, thus challenging us with the question: If our phones and tablets today can do the things that only computers can do, then what is a computer? Is it laptops? Tablets? Phones? We don’t know, but the iPad is probably the closest one so far to replace the usual Windows and Mac computers.
So, to sum it all up, we go back to the question, can you have an iPad as a laptop replacement? I’ll sum it up by categorizing people into three groups.
I’ll call the first group the professionals who are the ones who use computers to run specialized apps. If you land here, then no, you can’t fully replace your laptop with an iPad yet. Take my situation as an example, I also work on cars and some apps are so exclusive, that they only run on computers running Windows XP, which is mildly infuriating!
I’d like to call the next group the consumers, and you’re here if you didn’t own a laptop of any kind beforehand, and if you’re someone who defines a computer as something to watch movies on, browse the internet, make documents, manage files, play games on, and even the occasional photo, and video edits.
If you fall in the consumer category, I think an iPad is more than capable enough with replacing your laptop or even being your first computer.
Lastly, you can be in the grey zone, most professionals are in this group, and it’s up to you whether you can or want to switch to an iPad now, these people include video and photo editors, animators, graphic designers, and generally people who use laptops professionally. This again will depend on whether your professional app is available on the iPad.
Whew! That was a lot to consider, isn’t it? Thank you for finishing the article! So, what do you think? Can you imagine giving up your laptop or desktop computer for an iPad? Are there things I didn’t cover? Share your thoughts below! If you are looking for an iPad, make sure to check our iPad Buying Guide!
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