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A $200 Laptop Can Beat The $500 Tablet


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Everywhere I go these days, my friends slam laptops. They tell me my PC of choice is a dying breed and sing the praises of their new, "post-PC" Apple iPad.

Lenovo ThinkPad X30They carefully pull out their Apple device. I admire it, then ask: "So where do you insert the DVD, how do you bang out a long e-mail on a touch keyboard, and do you know what I paid for my little (Lenovo ThinkPad X30) laptop compared to what you paid for this iPad?"

I do understand the iPad is thin, light, and easy to travel with. I get the advantages of portable entertainment. But if you don't need the prestige of having the latest-and-greatest tech, I believe you can get all that and much more for much less than the cost of a new tablet. All you have to do is tote around another measly pound or two.

If you're willing to take a chance on used equipment, Craigslist fans have the opportunity to find slightly older laptops starting at about $200.

My Reasons

Here are the top reasons I think my used ThinkPad--which I paid about $200 for--crushes your iPad 2, which new, starts at $499 and can run more than $800, depending on the configuration. (Of course, a used iPad 1's price would be lower. Prices for formerly owned original iPads started at around $400 on Craigslist the day I checked.)

A Laptop's CD and DVD Player/Burner: If you're into permanently saving photos, music, or movies, or if you're serious about backing up your hard drive and programs, you probably need to burn the occasional disk. Those relatives in Indiana need a copy of the video of cousin Paul's drum recital or they'd love to look at a CD with the pictures from your night trip to Alcatraz. You can't cram everything onto Facebook.

A Laptop's Keyboard: Most iPad users readily admit it's difficult to type anything that is data intensive on the touch keyboard that appears on the screen. I'll go further: I detest typing on a touch keyboard. As my friend and PCWorld reviewer Jon Jacobi sarcastically puts it: "Overpriced pads: Touchscreens without keyboards. How innovative." Flimsy, add-on keyboards don't cut it. Give me a solid, built-in board like the one on my ThinkPad. It's one of the best laptop keyboards ever, and I still like the old-school Trackpoint eraserhead cursor control.

The Storage Available on a Laptop:If you want to download and store tons of decent-quality movies, TV shows, videos, music, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, etc., the iPad 2's 64GB of storage (the most available) falls short. Even the 250GB of storage on a decent laptop fills up faster than you think. (However, we do grant you that you can easily back up almost anything to external storage or to a cloud-based service.)

A Laptop's Ports: No USB port on an iPad? Sure there are pricey adapters, but what if you want to plug in a mouse, digital camera, and/or printer? So much for the iPad's smooth lines and ease of use. Being able to insert a USB device or a thumbdrive into my laptop is essential to me.

As for Apple's iPad, here are a few of my least favorite things:

Apple iPad 2

The iPad Doesn't Have Multitasking: So I can't listen to sports talk radio online, check to see if little Charlie has bitten anyone else's finger, and type my blog, all at the same time? This versatility is why we love mobile computers. This fact alone will always keep me using a laptop.

The IPad Is Confined by the Limits of iTunes: Jared Newman, a PCWorld blogger, summed it up: "Even if you never sync a single piece of media from a computer to an iPad, you still need iTunes on a PC or Mac to keep the tablet's software up to date. This needs to change," he wrote in the [email protected] blog. For a longer look at the iPad 2's limitations, check Jared Newman's list of 5 Disappointments with Apple iPad 2.

The iPad's Battery Isn't Replacable: I know the iPad has respectable battery life, but if you need to work on a long plane ride and in a café with no available power outlets, I feel you'll need excellent battery life and a back-up cell that installs easily. This just isn't possible on either model of iPad. Like all Apple mobile devices, the battery is sealed and nonreplaceable.

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