Dear Mike: Should I buy an iPad?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Since last week's launch of the iPad Air and the new mini, my email and SMS boxes have been filling with requests from friends and readers for advice. "Which iPad should I buy," is the big question and, frankly, for the first time I am sitting on the fence. I need to get my hands on both the mini and the new, lighter biggie. Today, though, came another type of question: "Should I buy an iPad to replace my eight-year-old laptop".

This dilemma is faced by thousands as the time comes to replace a device that has given good service over a number of years. The logical decision is to replace like with like. But for many, perhaps a majority, the iPad now provides a real alternative to a desktop or laptop.

So how to respond to John, an old friend, who wants a hand:

Hello Michael: Well if the wheel had just been invented I would still be cautious. But my laptop is now 8 years old and I have decided that what I need is an iPad. So you are the expert. I seem to need a 64 whatever machine full size. Should I wait for this new Air machine or just get what is available right now? I also want to be able to play Radio 3 and music downloads out loud in my sitting room and take it all away with me on travels. So do you know of a reliable dongle portable speaker? Do I need a portable and one for my sitting room?

What else do you suggest? I am not sure if I need a printer anymore as my essay and creative writing days are over. I now play classical guitar so music is more important.

The short answer is YES, but read on if you want the amplified version:

"Dear John," I replied,

"I think an iPad would be ideal for you. It isn’t a complete replacement for a laptop but for web browsing, reading, music, writing, it is all that many people need.

"You should definitely not buy the current models because the new range will arrive on Friday. There may be some delay in supplies although I understand all Apple Stores will have some iPads for sale on Friday. The new larger iPad (the traditional size) is called the iPad Air while the new iPad mini is identical in terms of performance, storage options and retina screen but has a 7.9in (diagonal) screen instead of the 9.7in of the larger pad.

"I suggest you go to the Apple Store before Friday and weigh up the pros and cons of larger versus smaller in terms of screen size alone. Remember, though, that the new larger iPad is lighter. thinner and has a smaller overall size than the current model. It is going to be much faster. The new small iPad is roughly the same dimensions as the current mini but gets a retina (high-resolution) screen and the same performance as the bigger model. So really the only difference is in the size of the screen. See what you are happiest with. I like the small screen because the device is easier to carry around (which I do all the time). On the other hand, I have computers at home and seldom watch videos on the iPad. As an all-round device and as a potential replacement for a laptop I think you will end up preferring the larger Air.

"I agree with your other friends that a 64GB thingummyjig would be about right. The only other choice is whether or not to go for wifi only or wifi plus 4G. I recommend you go for the 4G model. Even if you don’t immediately use the cellular network, the slot is always there if you do decide to take the plunge.

"You can get a very good month-as-you-go 4G SIM from EE for £15. This will give you fast internet anywhere you happen to be, so you are not reliant on wifi. Using this card is not viable abroad because of the cost but you can often buy a temporary local SIM when staying in a particular country for a week or more.

"Having bought the iPad you will need a case, which I would recommend. Apple has announced a new leather case which covers the back of the iPad and incorporates a smart cover which turns the device on and off as you open and close it. I would recommend one of these, though they might not be available immediately. They come in pretty colours.

"The other thing you might consider is a portable keyboard, such as those from Logitech. Avoid the version that acts as a cover and just go for the simple keyboard. It connects to the iPad by Bluetooth radio and works well. There are sizes for the mini iPad and the larger iPad Air. As for speakers, there are dozens of portable speakers and you can listen to a selection in the Apple Store. There's a decision to be made involving performance versus portability, but there are several very small units with impressive performance. As an audiophile you need a few demos.

"Back to the beginning and the comparison between an iPad and a computer. Firstly, you should definitely have an iPad whether or not you need a home computer. You will be amazed at the capability, ease of use (90-year-old grannies and toddlers can do it, so you might just manage). You can download the free Kindle app to synchronise all your existing Amazon books. You can then choose whether or not to read on the iPad or the Kindle.

"When you are used to the iPad (and have discovered any personal limitations for the sort of work you do) you could consider a new laptop or desktop for use at home. The iPad is perfectly capable of entertaining you while travelling, so a desktop (iMac) could be the ideal choice for home. Definitely stick with Mac/iPad combinations because all your data synchronises.

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