iPad vs Laptop – In the Hand or In the Lap?


With the progression of technology we have been consistently provided with more options — more choices of personal preference. Many of these choices are swayed by functionality and aesthetics, but sometimes the choice between products is a matter of practicality. One such choice is the use of an iPad over a traditional laptop.

Owning an iPad now seems to be quite posh. It shows to others you have taken that next step in technology. Instead of going out, you can stay at home and have the theatre in the palm of your hand. iPads*, however, are not just for entertainment, just as your mobile isn’t only used for making calls. iPads were also created with productivity in mind. So, the choice between a laptop and an iPad involves the product’s use, size, and mobility. Here are some pros and cons that might help you decide which device is right for you.

Battery Life

One of the biggest deciding factors between devices is battery life. That applies to all devices, but it really shows its importance when comparing laptops and iPads. The newest iPad is claimed to have up to ten hours of web surfing and music listening time. These operations eat up a lot of battery. So, for those who do more word processing and use less web and graphics, the battery will serve even better. The average battery life for a laptop is between one and six hours. Getting to the six hour mark takes a bit of coercing, the usual life is approximately two hours. So for battery life: iPad, 1.

Portability and Size

Size and portability deciding factors are bit of a paradox. Consumers prefer large screen sizes to display more content, but they also like portability, which opposes screen size. There is a stark contrast between these two features. Laptops have a great screen size, but they also usually have the weight and thickness of a brick — not good for transporting. iPads are light and thin, so they are a joy to carry, but a pain for screen space. The only laptop that comes anywhere close to bringing these two qualities together is the MacBook Air*. The category of size is more of a personal choice. So for portability and size, it’s a tie: iPad, 1; Laptop, 1.

Response Time

We live in a society of speed, efficiency, and instant gratification. We expect all our devices to respond immediately and error free. Laptops are getting quicker in response time, but they are eclipsed by the lighting speed of an iPad. The iPad uses a solid state drive; most laptops don’t. This means the internal data is transferred quicker, and there are no moving parts to heat up and slow things down. When turning on a laptop, it has to boot, then login, then let the OS load all the startup items. This can take anywhere from two to ten minutes. The iPad’s response is instant when sleeping, and less than a minute with a fresh boot. The user interface is also faster on the iPad. Because it is controlled by touch it has to be immediately responsive. Use of a standard mouse or trackpad can be significantly delayed by an overworked CPU. So for response time: iPad, 1.


Apps are a huge advantage. The App Store allows for an almost infinite range of possibilities right at your fingertips. Apps tend to be free or inexpensive. On a laptop the purchase and install of programs can be quite a pain. Some require CD installation, troubleshooting, and install errors. Apple has a quality control system that only allows apps that work. The installation process is controlled seamlessly by the OS so the user doesn’t have to do anything. On top of that, all installations are uniform. Organization is easy and predictable. With the iPad, there is no guess work. So for apps: iPad, 1.

Web Browsing

Web Browsing is a pretty common activity these days. It is meant to be informal and intuitive. This kind of activity usually starts with casting away the keyboard and the mouse, and letting your fingers do the walking. Hands down, iPad has a better browsing experience. So for Web Browsing: iPad, 1.


Comparing files can be tricky, because they are not handled the same way. Laptops have files that programs run, while the iPad has files within programs. Direct access to raw files can be gained by jailbreaking or with cloud programs like Dropbox, but the iPad lacks the file versatility that a laptop has. Also, file storage is limited on an iPad. Laptops have a much larger amount of space and the option of getting more. iPads have a pre-set amount of space plus cloud storage. So for files: Laptop, 1.


One of the biggest and most recent topics is a personal assistant. As of yet, there hasn’t been an advance in assistants for laptops. They add a significant amount of convenience to a device. Siri, has revolutionized the user interface to include audio.  So for Assistant: iPad, 1.


There are many more issues that can affect the choice between these two. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. These categories gave a better overall score to the iPad, but the importance ranking of each category varies by person.

16 Responses to iPad vs Laptop – In the Hand or In the Lap?

  1. Pauline says:

    I type quite fast on a laptop and an ipad wouldn’t follow my pace, I think you can buy an external keypad but that quite defeats the purpose. I love how small ipads are but they wouldn’t do the typing job I need them for.

  2. Great article, MB. We don’t have any portable devices yet, so are always looking for comparison info like this. Thanks!

    • Thanks Laurie. As much as I’d like to take the credit I’d better come clean and say I hired a pro to write this post. I was discussing the issue with friends the other day and thought it would make a great post but I don’t really have enough knowledge about this kind of thing. Glad you found it helpful!

  3. Good post Adam. We broke down (well I did to be fair)and bought an iPad in February. They both have their pluses and minuses, but I will say that the battery life has been quite good so far.

  4. I like it MB. I don’t have anything except a laptop and a flip phone. I’m old school at a young age! 🙂

  5. I have a laptop and a tablet. I can’t do a lot of the stuff that I do on my tablet because it takes more time. I do a lot of blog commenting and other things on my tablet along with research and social media. I use both each and every day.

  6. How do you feel about hybrid laptops? Lenovo Yoga (11 & 13), HP Envy X2, Asus Transformer Book, Dell XPS 12 all combine various elements of tablets, and laptops into one package.

  7. I feel that the day of the laptop is over. Tablets are just that much easier to take with you to place and provide almost the exact same functionality.

  8. Yeah, if it’s heavy work, laptop still works better (and a PC still works best). If you are on the go, well, tablet comes in handy. Just a little difficult with the typing.

  9. Kirill says:

    I seriously would consider getting both. I have a laptop but sometimes in a trip you would need an iPad just to entertain yourself…

  10. Sanjeev Garg says:

    I seriosly think there’s no match between iPad and Laptop. For work savvy people Laptop is best and iPad doesn’t fully solve the Laptop’s purpose. 🙂

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