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Testing Apple's iPad On The Road

I recently took a business trip to San Francisco. I took the Apple iPad with me and put it through its paces as a potential laptop replacement. How did it fare?
I recently took a business trip to San Francisco. I took the Apple iPad with me and put it through its paces as a potential laptop replacement. How did it fare?I flew from Newark to San Francisco on Sunday evening. With nearly six hours of plane time to kill, I loaded up the iPad with movies ahead of time, including an HD version of Sherlock Holmes.

The iPad slips perfectly into the pouch of the airplane seat in front of you, so you have a place to store it when you're not using it (like during take-off). I typically watch movies on my phone during flights, so using the iPad was a bit of a change up. Since I don't use the Apple-made iPad case, I had to hold the iPad. It gets a little old after a few hours. The iPad's 1.5-pound weight may not sound like a whole lot, but I found my hands to be fatigued after holding it at a viewable angle. (Glare can be an annoyance).

Laptop users may think that it is easier to just put their laptop on the tray table and rest easy, but there's a catch. When the person next to you needs to get up to use the restroom, it is far less of a hassle to get out of the way when holding the iPad.

HD movies look fantastic on the iPad. It's great that the iPad's display is HD-capable. It makes movies much more enjoyable. For in-flight entertainment, the iPad scores high overall marks. I typically don't work when on a plane, and since Continental doesn't yet offer in-flight Wi-Fi, I didn't get a chance to see how its Internet capabilities performed.

Later, after I landed in San Francisco, I fired up the iPad in my hotel. I was able to access the hotel Wi-Fi with no problems. The Internet was speedy and I had no hiccups with it. The iPad was great for catching up on my email and my RSS feeds. I was happy to leave my laptop in my bag.

Monday morning, I started the day with the iPad. Again, as an email and feed-monitoring machine, it worked just fine. I was able to avoid turning on my laptop.

I then traveled to the Microsoft Kin launch event with both my iPad and laptop. I started off using the iPad when taking notes during the presentation. I was even able to publish a liveblog from the iPad quite easily. I did find that -- without any sort of stand -- typing with the iPad on your lap can become tiresome. Not for your hands, but for your neck. You have to crane over to see the iPad's display. A stand or case that propped the iPad up would have helped to alleviate any neck strain. The iPad worked fine over the Microsoft-supplied Wi-Fi at the event. I never needed to break out my Verizon MiFi for Internet access.

After the event's speaking portion was over, I stowed the iPad and spent time gathering hands-on information about the Kin One and Kin Two. It was here that I needed to upgrade to my laptop. Part of the "hands-on" experience is gathering pictures and video. Since the iPad has no USB ports, nor any ability to edit picture or video files, I had to resort to the full power of my laptop.

Using my laptop, I synced, edited, and posted the images and video I captured during the event. I also did a lot of the writing from my laptop, as I am simply faster on it. The iPad did not allow me to process any of the media, but it could have sufficed for my text entry requirements.

Later, after the event was over, I used the iPad again for email and monitoring feeds. I didn't use my laptop for the rest of the trip. I only needed it to process the pictures and video. I performed nearly every other task with just the iPad.

On my return trip, I used the iPad at the San Francisco airport to keep in sync with my email and feeds and again to watch movies on the plane ride back to Newark.

Battery life? I left Newark with a 100% charge. By the time I returned to Newark 48 hours later, the iPad still had 22% of its battery life left. I didn't charge it at all in San Francisco.

Final verdict? The iPad is not a full laptop replacement, but it comes close. For shorter business trips that require only light email and simple document creation (Pages, Keynote, Numbers, etc.), the iPad could suffice. Most business users, however, will still require a full laptop for heavier computing tasks.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Carlo Massimo, Contributing Writer
Salvatore Salamone, Managing Editor, Network Computing