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Laptop XOR iPad

I donít have an iPad.

Itís not that I donít think they are cool; I think they are wonderful. Itís just that I donít have space in my life for another device in a different form factor.


I find myself travelling more and more these, and when I travel, I need a laptop. I need a (proper) keyboard. I like the luxury of plugging in an external mouse. I need long battery life. I require a fair amount of hard drive space. I need development tools. I need presentation tools (not just for presenting, but for creating and editing on the road). I need Microsoft Office.

My laptop should be as light as possible, and as reliable (rugged) as possible. When I was younger, Iíd want the fastest, most feature equipped device made Ö not anymore; Iíve matured. I want a good value for money. I'm happy to sacrifice speed for lightness, and power for price. What do I have? I have a Lenovo ThinkPad x201. I love it.

It has no CD-ROM drive, but who needs one? I think anybody who buys a laptop these days with a CD-ROM needs their head examining. Come on, when was the last time you used the CD drive in your laptop?

I splurged and purchased laptop with an SSD drive (Solid State Ė no moving parts). What difference! If there is one piece of advice I can give anyone buying a laptop today, itís get an SSD. Seriously, do it. You will never regret it. Your laptop will boot in the blink of an eye, it will be whisper quiet. Itís (probably) going to be safer if you do happen to drop it. It will Ďfeelí turbo charged in everything you do. (Did I mention how fast it boots? You no longer have to groan internally when you realize you have reboot, or suffer depression at the thought of needing to power it up just to look up some random fact in a file you need in a hurry at the airport as you balance it half-open on your lap).

I love the access speed of my laptopís SSD drive so much that I think Iím going to treat my desktop machine to one for Xmas this year. Yes, prices are still high, but they are not outrageously high. You donít need a super huge capacity drive; just one big enough to slap on the OS, your commonly used applications, and a little working space. Other less accessed files can still live on the spinning media.


Everyone in business needs a smart phone. You need a device that not only functions as a phone/texting device, but something to quickly access email, calendar, and to pull up the web. If an email requires more than a sentence of terse words in reply, donít expect me to reply from my phone; thatís what my laptop is for (see above Ė I need a proper keyboard). I find myself reaching for my phone dozens of times a day (and hardly ever, paradoxically, to use it as a phone Ö I wonder how long weíll continue to call them phones?). My phone is primarily a web browser. If anyone cares, I use a Droid.

The only thing that annoys me? The lack of (free) tethering between my phone and my laptop. My laptop has a fantastic WiFi antenna, and if thereís a free WiFi spot anywhere around, you can be sure Iíll be able to connect to it. Sometimes, however, thereís just not a free spot to be found, so I pick up my phone. Itís great if I just need to look up something, but as soon as anything requiring typing is needed (like replying to email), my thumbs (and now my eyes), just arenít up to the job. I have an ďall you can eatĒ data plan with my cellular provider, and thatís great, but if I want to plug in my laptop (to simply see a bigger screen, or have a bigger keyboard), they want to charge me extra, and extort me for bandwidth used. I can stream random garbage all day to my phone, and pay the same fixed fee per month, yet if I want to plug in my laptop ... Grrr Ö (Iím too cheap to pay for a tethered plan).


So now we return to the iPad. Where would it fit in my life? Itís certainly not going to replace my laptop. I know itís a clichť, but my laptop is my content creation device. I need to travel with tools, and a keyboard.

Itís not going to replace my phone. It doesn't fit in my pocket or attach to my belt, and that's where I need a device I can whip out to look something up. When Iím travelling, I donít want to have to lug around another device. What value does it add?

This evening, I was on a flight back to Seattle from Las Vegas. Iíd only gone for a few hours, so was travelling light; just a smartphone on my belt, and my lightweight laptop in a nice padded bag. Sitting in front of me was someone who looked to have made the same trip for a similar duration. But he had brought his laptop and his iPad. What a prat! He was carrying an awkwardly large bag with multiple zippered pockets. First he got out has laptop, then he slip this precariously into the seat pocket to pull out his iPad to watch a bit of a movie Ö then the food came, so he slid them both into the seat pocket, then he did a little more work on his laptop, then swapped the devices again to consume a little more media Ö this juggling continued through the flight. I could not see what benefit the iPad was giving his consumption that his laptop could not have also delivered. He was not a road warrior, he just looked awkward Ö especially towards the end of the flight as he tried to pack them, and all the serpentine cables, back into his case. Man in seat 3F, you are a prat!

If you primarily consume content, get an iPad, they are fabulous. But if you also create content, get a laptop*; they do all the things your iPad can, and more. Carry just one device (and your smartphone). No smart person should travel with a laptop and an iPad.

Laptop XOR iPad

One or the other, but not both. Donít be a prat!

*And make sure it has an SSD drive.


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