How the iPad 2 replaced the laptop in my life

I’ve been a laptop guy for, well, as long as I can remember. I think probably everyone reading this is. The thought of not having a laptop is likely something that seems almost impossible to most of you, I’m guessing. And I was the same way a month ago.

It’s important to note that my experience won’t be the same for those of you that are programmers or designers where you need complex software to do your job. But for anyone else I think what I’m about to describe could be a solution – if you’re looking for one. I wasn’t, it just kind of found me.

I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with the iPad in the past. Truth be told, after a few months in to the original iPad, I wasn’t a huge fan. Then I liked it again. Then I put it down again. I even state in this post in October of 2010 that the iPad absolutely IS NOT a replacement for a laptop. I really couldn’t figure out how it was going to fit into my life.

As the iPad 2 came with more features and functionality, and as apps continued to get better and better, I began to get more interested in how a tablet might be relevant in my life. And I have many friends who LOVE their iPad’s, using them all the time, so I was pretty intrigued. I decided to push the limits and see exactly what was possible today with the iPad.

I decided to force myself to only use the iPad 2 for a week. No laptop, no desktop, just the iPad. With a bluetooth keyboard. That was a critical component to add to the mix. Without a keyboard, the iPad is a really nice device but not very usable in a business/work setting other than the occasional note-taking.

For iPad 2 bluetooth keyboards, I tried them all, and landed on the Zagg ZAGGFOLIO but I didn’t like the case, so I just pulled the keyboard right out of it (see pic below). Now I travel with the iPad (caseless) and the bluetooth keyboard that I plucked from the ZAGGFOLIO. And I love that. The keyboard is small and easily fits in my bag, and serves as a stand when I want to watch something on the iPad without holding the device in my hand. And its a great feeling keyboard, too.

What I learned through the process was that the iPad 2, with a bluetooth keyboard, is a very versatile and effective device (again, in my life, may be different for yours). I realized that I have different use cases for when I want a computer and when I break those down, an iPad 2 and a desktop serve all of my purposes.

My iPad setup

Here’s a breakdown of the times/settings I need a computer, and what device(s) I am going to be using:

At home, chilling — iPad

When I’m at home, mostly I want to sit back and read or watch content.  Occasionally I will reply to a quick email or  send a tweet, but I don’t need to write long-form content all that much.  So the iPad works just great for that.

At home, working — iPad with bluetooth keyboard 75%, desktop 25%

I need a keyboard.  Since we have an iMac at home, I can easily use that to work.  However, having now used a keyboard with an iPad for a few weeks, I find this to be very easy, especially when working on email or documents.  Since blogging on the iPad still isn’t brilliant, I often prefer to use the desktop for that when its available. Btw, more on my blogging process here, as there are times I use the iPad and times it just won’t work 100% for WordPress.

At work, at my desk — desktop

When I’m at my desk I’m going to be using a desktop, likely a Mac Mini. No real reason to lug a laptop around, back and forth from home, when I already have a desktop at the house and I have an iPad for in-between. I don’t think I’ve had a desktop for ten years at the office, always a laptop, so this will be a bit of an experiment. And thankfully with tools like iCloud and Dropbox, I can pretty much access any of my files no matter where I am.

At work, in meetings — iPad with bluetooth keyboard

When I’m in a meeting, I can easily take notes on the iPad and review documents.  I find it too cumbersome to bring a laptop from meeting to meeting, but the main benefit is the battery life of the iPad.  I can use it all day and not have to worry about lugging around a power cord for a laptop.

Traveling — iPad with bluetooth keyboard

When I travel its usually for a client meeting or pitch, to meet with folks in our other offices, or to attend a conference.  On a plane its very easy to crank through email on an iPad with a keyboard. Then when I want to sit back and read, I just put the keyboard away and hold the iPad in my hands. It’s great to be able to have that ability, to dock and undock depending on my needs.

So for the foreseeable future, I’ll be using my iPad 2 with a bluetooth keyboard as a laptop replacement. Granted, everyone who knows me will attest to the fact that my preferences change like the wind, but for now I’m digging my laptop-less life.


  1. Josh Martin on January 9, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Do you find that it takes more time to multi-task between programs/apps on the iPad than it does when working from a laptop? I’d love to just work from the iPad alone, but I feel I can work quicker from a laptop.

  2. Jeff Hilimire on January 9, 2012 at 9:43 am

    You can definetly work a little faster on a laptop, there’s no question. But the recent iOS updates made app switching much easier with multi-touch gestures, so I find it to be pretty close to a laptop.

    It’s really hard to imagine how it can replace a laptop without trying it with a Bluetooth keyboard for a few days. Changed my whole perspective.

  3. Joe Koufman on January 11, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Seems like you are forcing what you could easily accomplish with a Macbook Air.  It can do all of the things you mentioned above.

  4. Jeff Hilimire on January 11, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Actually, the Macbook Air is bigger, heavier, doesn’t have 1/3 of the battery life and doesn’t have 3G connection. So…its kinda different.

    JK, don’t hate on the iPad bro, one day there will be an Android tablet that compares a little and you can have inner piece. Until then, just embrace it as by and away the best tablet. It won’t hurt you.

  5. Joe Koufman on January 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

  6. The iPad vs. the laptop – a case study on January 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm

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  7. Vlad Gorenshteyn on January 12, 2012 at 9:03 am

    This past Hanukkah and birthday, I pooled all my “gelt” and took the iPad plunge. I’ll have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the experience and found that I rarely have to use my laptop unless I need hardcore MS Office, Photoshop, (Sony) Vegas, or Traktor capabilities. I find myself toting my iPad around everywhere I go in the slick CA leather case I bought that’s the perfect companion. I’ve also been pleasantly suprised at how fast I can type on the on-screen keyboard, though the only thing that would make the experience better is haptic feedback. I also have not found an effective and instant way to iOS native way to share my yellow pad notes between the iPad and my PC. Lastly, I’d love to be able to use my iPad as a second screen when it’s just sitting idle on my desk. The only two developers that sell this app for macs don’t have any plans to develop this. The battery life is amazing though it is frustrating not to be able to charge via usb. Very solid product. No time-eating issues (you know what I’m talking about HTC!) here. Can’t wait to see the innovation on the upcoming iPad 3. I would love some sort of a Corning Gorilla glass solution (after a day’s worth the screen is foggy with my prints) on the next gen and some of my personal snags to be resolved. 

    –my two cents

  8. Vlad Gorenshteyn on January 12, 2012 at 9:08 am

    click on bro below…

  9. MikeSchinkel on January 17, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Sounds like you are not a software developer. :-)

  10. Jeff Hilimire on January 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Yep, not a software developer nor am I a designer, and there’s no way an iPad could replace the laptop for either of those requirements. Totally agree.

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  12. Ryan on March 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I just got a bluetooth keyboard myself and it certainly makes a difference when considering to use the iPad for business purposes. Another bonus when traveling for business by air: you don’t have to remove your iPad from your carry-on bag at the security checkpoint like you do your laptop!

  13. Jeff Hilimire on March 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    You’re right, traveling with the iPad only (sans laptop) does help you cruise through security at the airport. And it wasn’t until the bluetooth keyboard that I really started to use it full time when traveling.

    I’m excited to see what comes next – good thing I don’t have to wait longer than tomorrow as the big announcement is coming.  

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