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Tablet versus laptop part two: Apple iPad Mini

Tablet versus laptop part two: Apple iPad Mini
In the second of his three-part blog series, Nathen asks if Apple's iPad Mini can replace a laptop

First of all, allow me to bring you up to speed if you missed part one. Over three weeks I'm attempting to see if it's possible to replace a normal laptop computer with a tablet and enjoy the same levels of effectiveness and functionality.

Last time, I spent a week with a Dell XPS 10 tablet. This was a 10" Windows RT Tablet, with an optional keyboard dock. For the sake of this test, the keyboard dock was rarely used as I didn't have the same equipment for the other tablets on test.  This week it's the turn of the formidable iPad Mini. This needs no introduction. Everyone knows what an iPad is, what it does and how it works. This is just a little bit smaller.

First impressions; it certainly feels more like a premium device than the Dell. It's thin and lightweight. Unlike the Dell, there's only one port and that's the proprietary Lightning connector. This is both a blessing and a curse if I'm completely honest for reasons that we'll discover as we go on.

Previous to owning this iPad, the only other Apple product I've owned was a third generation iPod, and that wasn't replaced when it died.  I've avoided the Apple ecosystem for a good many years but in April I was pulled back in when Andrew gave us all the iPad Minis to celebrate the great year we'd had in 2012.

Since then, I've been using the iPad as a games console, internet device and media streamer, and it's taken to those tasks quite happily. Armed with Teamviewer, iWork suite and Pocketcloud RDP I attempted to perform my weeks work on the tablet.

If I'm honest, it's been one of my least productive weeks.

Some of the problems I experienced may well be due to the smaller screen size than its rivals, but it hasn't functioned as well in the workplace as I had hoped.

Let's start with the plus points.

  • It's light and easily fits in my pocket. This enabled me to take it to site and use it for making notes, and creating lists of jobs I needed to achieve whilst I was there.
  • Its fluid and the apps that I was using were well designed, if lacking in some features
  • The lightning connector is a fantastic idea, and I wish all my devices would use it.
  • The Game Centre makes multiplayer gaming easy compared to Google's alternative.
  • iWork's integration with iCloud makes working on documents easy, but not as easy as Microsoft's SkyDrive.
  • Battery life is pretty good, if you disable the location tracking.

iPadRDP

Now onto the bad points.

  • My biggest gripe.  When I first got the tablet I was singing the praises of the lightning connector and how easy it was to use.  However, when I misplaced my charger I was cursing it.  I was in a sea of MicroUSB cables but none of them could be used without an expensive adapter.
  • A replacement power supply from Apple would cost £30!  Because I hadn't previously bought into the Apple Ecosystem, I didn't have a spare cable or charger, but because the rest of the company have iPads too, I was able to charge my iPad up.
  • The on screen keyboard wasn't as easy to use as the Windows tablet, but truth be told, this may just be because the iPad is ~7" and the Dell was 10".
  • I didn't like Apple's implementation of scaling when using apps that only work on the iPhone. Quite why it can't overlay the iPad's keyboard and not force you onto an even smaller iPhone keyboard I don't know.
  • Despite what Google say, Google Now is a battery killer.  I could go two days disabling the Google Now location tracking service, and less than one day with it turned on.

The experience

I found it awkward using Teamviewer on the iPad, and on nearly every occasion found myself reaching for my Laptop.  Same goes for the PocketCloud app.

Trying to use the tablet for remote desktop work was difficult for everything but the most basic tasks.The small screen made typing difficult due to the screen coverage, however I doubt the full size iPad wouldn't suffer from this, so I can't really penalise for it.  In a work environment, a keyboard attachment may make the experience better, but the clip one ones are expensive and the bluetooth ones are bulky.

Certain websites wouldn't load correctly in Safari, forcing me to use Chrome which then won't open links in emails. 

It has Exchange capability out of the box which is a big plus over the Dell (but Windows 8.1 rectifies this)

Not having MicroUSB was a massive pain, and I believe Apple should include an adapter in the box.Or not charge £15 for a cable.

However, if someone was to shout "GOLF!!" in the office, the iPad is the go-to device. For me though, it's great as a personal device - just not great as a corporate device.

iPadGolf

Ding Ding! The bell has rung, this round is over. So far, the Windows RT tablet is through to the next round, and the iPad is on the ropes.

Next up, the Android tablet.

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