iPad vs laptop

The great conundrum: tablet, phablet or laptop?

It seems like at least once a week I get asked my opinion on purchasing a laptop, phone or tablet. In my personal & professional circles, the questions usually revolve around Apple products, but I’m a firm believer that each product should be evaluated in light of it’s intended use.  I have Apple, Microsoft & Google products and each one has certain things they are good at.
So, do you need to buy a laptop? Our lives are increasingly leveraging the cloud in some way, shape or form.  Most email services are hosted, much content is consumed from Netflix, Hulu & YouTube, and more and more files are saved in OneDrive or Dropbox.  Meanwhile, the proliferation of viruses or Ransomeware makes storing files locally on a hard-drive increasingly risky.  Even for photos, I unequivocally recommend that they be backed up to the cloud in some way shape or form – I hear stories all too frequently about losing photos that literally cannot be replaced, not to mention important files.  The “3-2-1” rule applies for backups of important data: keep 3 copies of your data in on 2 types of media, with at least 1 in the cloud.
For me personally, I’m increasingly using my iPad Pro for email, note-taking, and even files.   In my role, I’m constantly interacting with people or producing content (be it blogging or proposals).   I find that there are a couple of reasons for this.   The first is frankly reliability: my iPad will last for days on a battery, has built-in cellular for data access, and never crashes. If I need to check something or reply to someone, it’s only a matter of seconds before I can reliability get to what I need.   Secondly, is the singularity or duality of the apps. What I mean is, when I put the iPad in full screen mode (either landscape or portrait), it has my full attention.  On my computer, there is always some pop-up or alert or task bar to remind me that I have 30 windows open.  On the iPad, there’s only one, maybe 2.   I will frequently use the Mail app and the slide-over feature with Calendar.  Either way, the app has my full attention regardless of whether I’m emailing a client, colleague, or participating in a conference call.  I have my alert notifications set so that only alerts with a high enough priority can distract me.  For example, I use VIP notifications for key people so that I can see any emails they send right away.  Third: Almost everything that I do is in the cloud – Email with Office365, Evernote, Dropbox, or web-browsing.
For most people today in high school or college, I think it’s to the point where an iPad is more practical & valuable – better battery life and near-100% success rate of delivering on any tasks that are cloud-supported.   For entrepreneurs, an iPad will likely be more portable and easier to use for the majority of tasks than a laptop.
The exception in my mind is desk work – I’m a huge advocate for a dual monitor configuration in home-office or actual office, but usually a desktop computer will be cheaper and deliver better results than an iPad.  Alternatively, the cost to buy a powerful laptop that can run a dual monitor workload at home can be the same cost as an ipad +desktop.   If you’re in the Microsoft world and have the corporate IT to support it, a Microsoft Surface is extremely portable and has a nice docking station at home that just clips in to power a monitor/keyboard/mouse, etc. On a similar pattern, my MacBook with USB-C connectivity allows for ease of connecting as well.
That said, increasingly I’m recommending that people who are debating an iPad vs laptop, start out with an iPad Pro with keyboard.  If it doesn’t work or is limiting, then simply return it to the store within the 2-4 week time frame and buy the laptop.  At the very least, you’ll know what works for you, and at the best, you’ll save several hundred dollars.
Side note: I know more than 1 person who have spilled a drink on a laptop in a coffee shop, resulting in a very costly mistake.  Spilling a drink on an iPad Pro keyboard just means wiping off the water-resistant keys.  If your job takes you near coffee a lot, the water-proof keyboard will help a lot.
Buying trick: here’s a secret of buying Apple products, it’s hard to find, but on Apple.com there is a semi-hidden area where they sell refurbished items.  A refurbished item is a brand new product that was sold, a problem was identified, and then fixed, double-checked and is being sold with full warranty.  The product will be just as good as new, and will save you several hundred dollars. For example, a tablet might be $300 instead of $500 and a laptop might be $800 instead of $1100.   Well worth it, in my humble opinion!
– Brian Sallee on scaling startups & maximizing productivity