3rd generation iPad displaces aging laptop for family member who mostly just surfs and emails, how'd it go?

Posted by Paul Braren on Mar 31 2012 (updated on Jan 30 2013) in
  • Apple
  • iPad
  • Windows
  • Yes, the faithful, rugged 5-year-old Lenovo ThinkPad T61 and its 15.4" 1280x800 pixel screen has now been displaced by a shiny new 2048x1536 9.7" touch display and Apple Wireless keyboard combo, new Apple TV remote close by. Yes, it was worth the wait, and we're glad the laptop held out this long.

    The laptop weighed in at nearly $2000 back in 2007, this user's first PC. But in the end, it wound up being used as more of a media consumption device, mostly just web surfing and email reading, so with the benefit of hindsight, I can now readily admit it was simply overkill.

    The new $600 32GB 3rd Gen iPad, with shipping, taxes, and the many accessories and apps listed below, weighs in at around $1000. Pictured above in the touch typing and overnight recharging configuration, where admittedly the screen feels kind of small. But most of the time, it's handheld, as intended.

    Any regrets? None so far! Interesting observations? You betcha!

    • naturally, the two-week owner of this new iPad, when faced with using the laptop briefly one last time before going "cold turkey," taps on the laptop's screen to do stuff, which makes the laptop giggle just a little
    • instinctively the hand seeks out the "phantom" mouse to the right of the keyboard, for any user who tries out this "workstation"
      (this phenomenon isn't observed when the iPad is handheld, however)
      Waterfield iPad Travel Express:  case carries both the iPad and the keyboard to occasional meetings, where touch-typing may be helpful, along with Notability
      iPad Smart Cover:  used most days, mostly to prop it up at the right angle, and for some protection when leaving the home
      IM+ Pro:  works well to replace the laptop's Windows Live Messenger, since Microsoft still only has an iPhone version (that runs in low-resolution portrait-mode-only on an iPad, which means sideways in this particular landscape configuration)
      Facetime:  for some reason, placing the first "call" from an iPhone to the iPad makes it far easier for the iPad user to then place outbound Facetime calls (little camera icon shows up next to the proper Contacts)
      Skype:  video calls, voice only calls, and text messages all work to and from PCs just fine

    From my perspective, as "IT Support", yeah, it just works. And the training was mostly easier, once it was set up anyway. That initial setup took about 2-3 hours, pretty much like setting up a laptop from scratch, with about a dozen username/password combinations to key into a variety of freshly download apps. Then there's the usual somewhat-time-consuming attempts to get IMAP email folders to behave, and various user preferences to get just right. Sure would be handy if an Apple iCloud portal of sorts could allow an administrator like me to provision the device in advance, or at least import all the settings of the users existing iPhone 4, which would make the iPad configuration considerably faster.

    I did realize I'd have no way to remotely demonstrate stuff anymore going with iOS, unlike a laptop with LogMeIn, where I could easily remotely demonstrate how to do anything, for free. But this device is only a few miles away, and talking things over by phone (or Skype calls to the iPad) should be sufficient for most questions anyway.

    As far the old laptop, what's its fate?  Well, it's likely to become an efficient print and storage server actually. A connection to a local USB printer will allowing the iPad and iPhones to Fingerprint at any time. The screen will be left closed to save power, and its Windows 7 power profile tuned to maximum efficiency. An added PC Card to eSATA adapter will be used to connect to an affordable MediaSonic RAID5 enclosure for decent speed, and for site-to-site replication of our daily PC backups. A personal family cloud really, with full disaster recovery capabilities. Next step, get the two enclosures locally attached to my vZilla, then move on enclosure to this new location. Then choose the right rsync-like software, such as DeltaCopy, discussed in these recent replies I made to this comment.

    Read more about these storage sync plans that have been a long time in the making at:
    pretty much no idea whether it'll actually work or not quite yet, but isn't that the fun part?

    So, what did I think of the screen? Well, I'll give you a hint:  there's no preceptable jaggies or pixels, even when reading small fonts. None. Just like the iPhone 4.

    Moire patterns artifacts aside, perhaps this very-close-up picture is worth a thousand words, taken with an iPhone 4, showing nytimes.com on Safari on an iPad 2 (left) and iPad (3) (right):


    Wouldn't it be great if this "resolutionary" advance in display technology actually helps pressure the rest of this industry into offering consumers affordable touch screens for our more typical 24" or even 27" workstation monitors? Coupled with similar pressure from the upcoming Windows 8, the chances seem to be improving. See also the recently published Scaling to different screens by Steven Sinofsky, a wonderfully detailed article that drives home the point that Windows 8 Metro apps can handle retina (high DPI) displays too, along with a lot of insight and comments in the discussion.

    Haven't we been been stuck in the 1920x1080 rut long enough? I personally don't like seeing pixels, and care very much about things like focus and eyestrain. Like many of you, I spend a lot of time producing content, using a 24"  1920x1200 screen. And I want smoothly-scrolling text as I surf and edit.

    Isn't it odd that a tablet's browser can do a far better job with smoothly scrolling crisp text and graphics than even the typical "workstation caliber" >$1000 laptop or desktop, Mac or PC. Yet, the tablet uses far fewer watts.

    Pretty obvious where the real innovation is these days!


    Jan. 30 2013 Update:
    The Apple Leather Smart Cover magnet seems to loose it's ability to hold a solid triangular shape over time, making it become a weak kickstand. The slightest touch would tip the iPad over. So the Apple store kindly exchanged it, twice in the last 9 months, actually. But the Incase Origami Workstation seems to be a much more solid kickstand, when using the iPad in laptop-style-mode. The Smart Cover can be left attached to the iPad, while resting in the Origami. Easy to grab the iPad and go. There's an excellent overview article with video, queued up at just the right spot for you, over on The Verge.