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iPad vs Macbook for Students - Can an iPad replace your Laptop?

iPad vs Macbook for Students - Can an iPad replace your Laptop?

This is the age-old question of whether an iPad can feasibly replace your laptop? As usual, to save you time, I'm gonna start off with the conclusion, and ill be spending the rest of the article explores the reasons for that conclusion. So here we go. Yes, I now think that for most people, whether you're a student or not, your iPad can probably replace your laptop.

There's a lot of caveats to this.

It really depends on how much you care about efficiency.
What sort of work you're doing on your iPad and on your laptop? And so it's not really a decision to take lightly. And that's what I'm gonna be spending the rest of the article talking about.

iPad vs laptop

⦿ Efficiency

We can define efficiency as minimizing the amount of time between thought and action. So if I have the thought that I wonder whether Thomas Frank has uploaded a YouTube video recently. That would be the thought, and then the action would be going on YouTube.com, going on Thomas Frank's channel. Clicking on uploads, and seeing what are the latest videos. Or if the thought is, I need to email a physiology essay to my supervisor. Then the action will be opening up my email client, hitting compose, typing in the supervisor's email address.

Clicking attaches, finding the file, attaching it, typing something, and sending the message. And the reason I say all that is because, yes, an iPad can probably do anything you want it to, but it's just inherently gonna be less efficient than using your laptop to do the same thing. On Mac and on Windows, we've got these really powerful system-wide utilities, like Alfred or like the Windows logo key, that they let you search across the entire systems.

So if you wanna open a file, you can just search for it very easily. That sort of stuff is still quite difficult to do with an iPad. You still have to tap a few things, click a few things, that sort of stuff. And if you're doing any kind of work involving text selection and writing and things, yeah, you can do it on an iPad. And in fact, I now prefer to get the majority of my writing work done on an iPad.

But it is just still more efficient using the MacBook because you've to go the trackpad, you've got a mouse. You can move stuff around, you can drag and drop, you can copy and paste. And all of that just isn't quite the same experience with an iPad. It's just a little bit less efficient.

# So really, the first thing to consider if you're thinking of replacing your iPad with a laptop, is how much do you value this efficiency saving?

If you are like me, you know, I spend seven hours a day, if not more, in front of a computer. I'm doing a hundred different things. Not at the same time, but sort of overall, I have a very high action per minute. And the way I use a computer, I'm doing everything I can to maximize the efficiency of that. I'm using keyboard shortcuts for absolutely everything. I'm using apps like Alfred. I'm using automations and workflows and text expanders.

And all these fancy features that help me shave off seconds off of each interaction. And that means that I can't really replace my laptop with an iPad. Because it's just so inefficient. But if you're like my friend, molly, for example, she is a more normal computer user. In that, she has a laptop which she's had for several years. She mostly spends most of her time on her phone rather than on her computer.

The only thing she really does on her computer is writing essays, do research for projects, and maybe watch Netflix. I think Molly's use case is far more the standard use case for students. So in that sense, it is very reasonable to replace a laptop with an iPad, because those extra few seconds of efficiency really don't make any difference at all in the grand scheme of things.

⦿ The Complexity of the actions

I think we should consider the complexity of the actions that we wanna perform on our iPad or on our laptop. So again, back to my housemate Molly's examples. What's the stuff that she does on her laptop? She watches Netflix, she browses YouTube, she browses the internet, she writes assignments for University, and she makes the occasional PowerPoint presentation if she has to give a talk. That sort of use of a laptop, which again, is similar to what most students seem to do is very much on the casual end of the spectrum.

And I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all. You know, we all have different hobbies. And my hobby is spending a shit ton of time in front of the computer. Her hobby is wheelchair racing, and writing a food blog, and doing all sorts of other things with her life, other than spending time on a computer. So for her, it's more casual complexity. And therefore, she can very feasibly replace her laptop with an iPad.

And that's something been actively encouraging her to do. Then, if we take my use case: I'm a massive nerd, and so I like to think that I use a laptop for complex things, like video editing, graphic design, web development, coding of some sort. Server management for my various businesses. Audio editing for my podcast. Music production if I fancy plugging microphones into my audio interface and recording a song.

All of that sort of stuff is fairly complex. And yes, you can do all of those things on an iPad. But it just requires a lot more sort of hackery. A lot more sort of fighting against the system. So yeah, if you're considering the iPad versus laptop thing, then really consider how complex are your use case feasibly.

If you're a student, and you're like most students and not sort of a massive nerd when it comes to computers, then you can completely replace your laptop with an iPad. The iPad is just a nicer experience overall.

⦿ The Delight of using an iPad

Now, I'm not gonna be replacing my laptop with an iPad completely, because of efficiency and complexity. But I actually do use the iPad for more hours in a day than I use my laptop. Like anything that's light: You know, browsing the web, writing something, planning out videos, making notes. All of that stuff, I do on my iPad. I only use my laptop now for heavy lifting-type things. This iPad, 11 inch iPad Pro. It's 11 inches by the way for everyone who's gonna ask. It's such a delight to use that.

I almost feel bad when I have to use my laptop now because this 15 inch MacBook Pro is a big, lumbering heavy beast. I don't like carrying this around. The only time I carry my MacBook around is if I'm going home for the weekend and I know I'm going to be plugging it into my brother's monitor and doing some video editing. Otherwise, let's say I'm going on holiday. I have no need for my laptop because I'm not going to be video editing on holiday.

I will just take my iPad. And the iPad is this trusty device that comes with me everywhere. You know, there's stains on the keyboard. That sounds weird. Some of the paint on the keys is broken off because I've just been using it so often. But this is the device that I use for the majority of the day. I take it to work, I take it to coffee shops with me. I do everything on an iPad apart from heavy lifting. Because it just sucks a delight to use.

 I would love to be able to replace my MacBook completely with my iPad, but I just know that because I value efficiency and productivity, it's just not really gonna be feasible.

So overall, this whole debate, really, between MacBook versus iPad, really comes down to how productive can you be with each devices? And how productive you need to be with each devices?

If you're a student, and you're just getting basic stuff done, then you can easily do that on an iPad. And to be honest, unless you're a major productivity nerd like me, you probably won't benefit much from the efficiency savings that come with having a laptop. A real laptop to do stuff on.

Instead, let's say you're a student and you're aiming for productivity, you wanna first get to a point where you understand and sort of, you got your own productivity system before you then start optimizing for speed. Sort of like if you're learning a musical instrument, like playing the piano.

You start off playing it slowly so that you learn the basics. And then over time, you can speed up and start doing things really quickly. If this idea of building your own productivity system sounds kinda cool.


If you're considering iPad versus laptop, then consider complexity, and consider efficiency, and consider delight. The iPad is so much more of a delight to use than a laptop. But the laptop is obviously, just inherently more suited to efficiency, and to complex computer-based tasks. So yeah, if you haven't got an iPad yet, and you're considering which one to get. 'Cause, you can get the cheap iPad, the iPad Air, the iPad Pro, and all the different configurations. if hope this was article helpful. let me know in the comment section your thoughts and also share this article with your friends.

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