April 1, 2012

Do you like this?

Apple’s latest tablet, the iPad, is the new “it” tech device. But is it miles ahead of the competition? And is it really a “laptop killer”?

While Apple has dominated the market with many consumer electronics, companies like Samsung have been scrambling to catch up. I recently traded in my Windows-based laptop for an iPad 2, hoping the lighter, more versatile tablet, could fill the gap - or at least make my commute more fun.

The iPad has many features that are simple and easy to use. I absolutely love that fact about Apple products. Growing up in the era of DOS and Windows, the transition to Apple is an absolute pleasure. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, an illustrative anecdote is relayed about the iPad: a young boy from a remote village who has never seen any modern piece of technology, picks up the iPad and without any instruction can play games within minutes. The iPad just makes sense.

The iPad also boasts 10 full hours of battery life. It’s like getting in a new car with unlimited gas and going for a joy ride. This make it easy to lose countless hours on a Saturday - reading, gaming, studying...all without a hint as to where the nearest power source may be.

If you already have an iPhone, your device (and iPad) will be in sync wirelessly. Thanks to iCloud, I have pictures and movies on both devices at all times. I can communicate by text, Facetime, and Skype by using the tablet. Add the fact that iPad mimics electronic book readers by offering a better reading experience than the Kindle or Nook, and the case has (seemingly) been made.

In terms of traditional computer functioning, though - word processing, spreadsheet use, and multitasking between the internet and traditional apps - and the iPad may not completely cover all of your bases. While at work it has simplified many of my daily note-taking and writing tasks, as well as utilizing an on-screen keyboarding and finger-signing feature - the office apps are essentially a scaled down version of what they would be on a regular computer. I’ve found myself sending documents from my iPad back to my computer so that I can use more complicated features to edit.

And there’s no getting around the fact that multitasking isn’t a strength of the iPad. When you view web pages, they do not load unless you’re viewing that same page - meaning no checking on those other open tabs. Therefore, this also means if you’re watching video (or whatever else) online, you’re not able to access another page without said video being interrupted.

Simply stated, that single-mindedness is a buzz kill.

Memory-wise, I don’t feel that the iPad’s 16-64GB is enough. A rental movie download alone takes 1-2GB of space. Most tablets do not come with much, preventing them from becoming a true everyday computer, though their memories are expandable (Apple’s is not). iCloud has become that extra space for Apple users and is accessible anywhere - but after 5GB, you’re going to pay for it.

So, yes, the iPad has some flaws. But is it better than the other tablets currently on the market? Now that Samsung, Coby, and other generic models have come to light with operating system from Windows and Android, it has taken some of the market back from Apple. When it comes to generic tablets, it almost doesn’t matter what brand you have: All use Windows Tablet edition or the Android operating system, are half the cost, and do the same job (almost) while running programs that Apple does not.

And while I’ve always preferred the open source code school of thought because of the flexibility of interchanging programs/pieces as well as upgrading systems, one must not forget the downside; while anyone can write or distribute it, the door is left open for viruses and hackers to take your information.

The new Galaxy by Samsung has some of the same features as the iPad (lawsuits pending), with roughly the same look and feel (though pixels not looking as sharp). The generic tablets also don’t come with the two cameras that the iPad does, limiting videoconferencing capability. The battery life may not have the same capacity, but the difference is not a deal-breaker.

If you are in the market for a tablet, visit CNET for helpful spec comparisons. Just remember that you will want to consider hard drive space, how you plan on transferring information to and from your tablet (whether it is through iCloud or a flash drive), and if you’re going to need Java and Flash. Programs are only getting bigger; music and media demands are endless. All of these will eat up your hard drive space for lunch.

So, don’t be scared to buy something cheaper - just realize that Apple made it first, sleeker, and more intuitively. But the generic models can definitely do the job while bypassing the annoying drawbacks of Apple’s proprietary squabbles.

Bottom line: Some days I miss my old laptop, but most days I’m happy to have a piece of the digital revolution in my hands, even if it cannot do everything.


April 1, 2012

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