Making the choice between an iPad and a netbook is really more difficult than it would first appear and it really depends on exactly how you need to use the device. First, you should think of the iPad as simply a large version of the iTouch and think of the Netbook as simply a smaller version of a laptop with less power and no DVD/CD drive. You mentioned that you were interested in receiving emails and surfing the web while traveling or away on vacation. Well, in the most basic form, this can be accomplished on just about any device that you can purchase these days including most cell phones. However, there are several factors that can dictate as to whether or not a device such as an iPad, Netbook or even a smartphone is sufficient or pretty much worthless. The exact type of emails that you receive as well as the kind of responses that you need to write can often make using a small device or even a larger touch device like the iPad somewhat of a pain in the neck to use. If most of your incoming emails are brief and only require simple responses such as a YES or NO than just about any device will do just fine. But if you are receiving emails with 25 page attachments that need to be reviewed and your responses are written in paragraphs or even pages of text, than these devices can be close to useless. So, the questions you want to ask yourself are:
1. Do I ever need to print from this device? Since there are no USB ports and no print drivers that I know of (at least at the moment), you may not be able to connect your iPad up to a printer.
2. How much storage do I really need? The basic iPad comes with 16GB of storage and you can get up to 64GB, for a price. Most Netbooks come with a minimum 160GB hard drive. For those of you who use your laptop or netbook as a storage device to off-load photos from your camera while traveling, keep in mind the limited storage on the iPad as well as NO USB port.
3. Do I need a Built-in Camera? The iPad does not come with a camera and no USB port to add one so dont plan to use Skype or any other video chat to call back home to see the kids.
4. Do I need a USB port? The iPad does not have any USB ports so you will not be able to plug in any of your normal accessories such as a printer, Flash drive or other devices.
5. Do any of the Websites that I frequent require Adobe Flash? For some reason Apple has chosen to not include Adobe Flash player with the iPad so many website that require Flash will not display properly.
6. Do I need any specific software applications? Make sure that you do not need any specific software application that may not run on the iPad or a netbook.
7. Will I be accessing my company VPN? If you access your company network, you need to check with your company IT department to make sure the device can be used with there system.
8. Do I need a real Keyboard? I dont know about you, but I need a real keyboard. You can probably tell by the length of my posts here on this site that I am not going to be typing my responses on a virtual keyboard. All netbooks have a regular keyboard. You can get an external keyboard for the iPad but that kind of defeats the purpose and is just one more thing to carry.
9. How much do I really want to spend? The basic iPad starts at $499 with only 16GB of storage. If you want more storage and maybe 3G coverage you can expect to pay up to $800. Add to that the add-on keyboard, Carrying case and Apple Care and you are over $1000. You can get a decent netbook with 160GB hard drive for under $300.
10. Do I need to remote into my home or office computer? If you use Windows Remote Desktop to access your home or office computer, you will not be able to do this on the iPad. Double check other remote access methods such as gotomypc or logmein to make sure they will work on the device that you choose.
11. Do I need a stylus or a mouse or is my finger ok? The iPad can only be used with your finger, this can be a problem if you need to perform any detailed work that would normally be performed with a Stylus or mouse. Also, keep in mind that the iPad may not work if you are wearing gloves.
12. Do I need to transfer data between devices? Since there is no USB port on the iPad, you will not be able to use your flash drive to transfer data to or from your iPad. You could still email stuff to yourself to be picked up on another computer. You can purchase a SD card reader for the iPad.
13. Do I need a CD or DVD drive? Neither the iPad nor the Netbook comes with a CD/DVD drive built-in. You can purchase a separate External USB DVD/CD drive for a Netbook if you want to pay a video or need to install a program. Since there is no USB drive on the iPad, you will be out of luck, at least for the time being.
14. Battery Life For me, battery life is a key feature. There is nothing worse that being on the road looking for a place to plug in your portable computer. Apple claims, I think 10 hours, as do some Netbooks. I know my ASUS netbook claims 9 hours but if I have Bluetooth as well as Wireless turned ON, the battery life is greatly reduced. Most netbooks have a battery that is user replaceable so that you can carry a spare with you for those really long trips. The iPads battery is not user replaceable.
Dont get me wrong, there is no question the iPad is a COOL device and I will probably purchase one just for the fun of it. I do find it interesting that everyone seems to think that just because Apple is coming out with the iPad that this is a totally new concept. I have been working with Motion Touch Tablet PCs for over 6 years now. Would I take an iPad with me when I travel? Probably, but for the moment I will not leave without my netbook and blackberry too. One other note, if you end up purchasing a Netbook, spend the extra $30 to upgrade the memory from 1GB to 2GB.
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