Although I have an old laptop, I’d like to use my iPad as my main computer. I don’t really need to do much! I only check email, browse the Web, watch the occasional Netflix video, and use several apps that I know I can find for the iPad. Can I just give up the laptop and use the iPad as my only computer?
There is definitely something to be said for ditching the 3-pound (or more!) laptop and traveling light, carrying only the iPad. Ken has tried it, for short trips, and it generally works fine. When you what to make a tablet (either iPad, Android, or Windows) your only computer, however, you do need to take several items into account, and plan accordingly. We recently had a friend go this route, and she had some issues; we found this useful article to help with the transition, which we’ll summarize here: http://blog.laptopmag.com/ipad-as-pc-replacement.
First, no matter how good you are at typing on the tablet screen, you’ll need an external keyboard. It’s easy to find cases and folios for the iPad that include keyboards, but for other tablets, you’ll most likely need to use an external Bluetooth keyboard. (Note that pretty much any Bluetooth keyboard will work with any of the tablets, whether in a case, portfolio, or free-standing.) Here’s a link to a very good, inexpensive keyboard: http://us.ianker.com/product/98ANSLM78-WBTA.
Most likely, you’ll need some app that provides a means of performing word processing that’s more complex than simple text editing, since almost everyone needs to read and create documents at some point. On Apple devices, you can use the free iWork suite, which includes the excellent Pages program. There are a ton of word-processing apps available for every platform—on Windows, you can use Microsoft Office, which includes Word. Beyond the app, however, the real issue is getting documents onto and off of the tablet; and dealing with online backup and storage. Because tablets are so portable (read between the lines—they’re easily lost or stolen), you must have a reliable means of storing your documents away from the tablet, in some sort of online product. We recommend DropBox and Google Drive: Both work well with tablets as well as phones and desktop/laptop computers. They provide a simple way to ensure that all your documents are backed up, and available on any device. They each provide their own advantages, but both are great products. In any case, do not even consider using a tablet as your only computer without an online backup/storage service like this—sooner or later, you will regret the choice.
Printing documents provides another challenge for tablets—because the devices rarely (if ever) provide a printer port, you’ll need to find a way to print wirelessly. Apple devices provide AirPrint, a protocol for printing wirelessly to printers that support the protocol (and most new printers do). Even if your printer doesn’t support Airprint, there are ways to make any printer work with AirPrint, as long as you’re willing to leave a computer running (with software like AirPrint for Mac running). If you’re using a non-Apple device, Google provides its Cloud Print service, which allows you to print to any connected printer from your device (http://www.google.com/cloudprint/).
The previously mentioned article provides tips on finding apps for video and photo editing, but these seem like less likely candidates for “must-have” functionality, so we’ll leave these to your own research. You’ll find other issues in the article as well, and it’s well worth your time to check it out if you’re planning to ditch your heavy laptop and lighten up with just a tablet.