The iPad vs. Laptop for School

For students who have been lugging a heavy laptop around campus from class to class, the possibility of replacing it with a smaller tablet is pretty attractive. Which device is better for school, a laptop or the iPad? The answer to that question often depends on who you ask. There are those who swear that the iPad is the perfect answer for college students while others are still reluctant to give up on their laptop computers. If you are trying to decide which one to buy, here are a few pros and cons of each one that you may want to consider.

If you use your laptop to takes notes and have grown accustomed to using a full size keyboard, this may be your biggest challenge in switching to a touch screen tablet. While it is true that you can attach a traditional keyboard to an iPad, by doing so you begin to give up some of the size advantage. With that being said, I have seen some people develop blazing typing speed on a touch screen as well. Just know going into it that there will be a learning curve. The one big note taking advantage that does fall in favor of the iPad is that it does not require a long boot up process. You can literally arrive for your class, swipe your finger across the screen to unlock the device and begin taking notes right away.

What about the screen size and resolution? The display technology Apple uses is second to none. Your device will give you a brilliant, crisp image with true color. In case you were wondering, the iPad uses a special oleophobic coating to resist fingerprints and keep the viewing area crystal clear. It is somewhat difficult to compare the size as so many popular laptops have screen sizes ranging anywhere from around 6 inches to as much as 17. If you are looking for something larger than the 9.7 inch iPad display, for now you may want to stick with a traditional laptop.

As far as size and portability are concerned, the iPad is the clear winner here. Since space is a commodity in most classroom settings, the thin and lightweight tablet will fit comfortably in your lap or even in the most cramped workspace.

One of the biggest complaints students have about using a laptop for school is that the battery life is very short and if there isn't an available power supply to plug into, the device can't make it through a long lecture without shutting down. The iPad provides a welcome relief in this department as well. Under normal working conditions, a single charge will keep the device powered up for anywhere between 8 and 11 hours. This is more than enough juice to get through even the toughest course schedule.

One last area that deserves some discussion is the support for peripheral devices. In most cases, a laptop will come with several available ports for USB storage devices, printers, a mouse, etc. If you end up leaning towards the iPad, you will find that the device only has a single port and does not support direct peripheral device attachments. One a positive note, this issue has been partially addressed with the release of add-on adapters that will allow you to plug in digital cameras, printers and other devices. It should be noted that these adapters do come at an extra charge and are not included in the base purchase price.

So what's the bottom line in the comparison between the iPad and laptop? While both the laptop and the iPad can be great for students, it really comes down to personal preference and which device best fits within your budget and style of work. Before you buy either one, take the time to read up on the specifications of the device you are considering. Since either device requires a decent sized financial investment, it's a good idea to spend a little time with a demonstration unit to get a feel for what it would be like to use it in class. One you learn about the pros and cons of each one, it should be fairly easy to identify which one will be the most compatible with your learning style.