iPads are great educational devices that combine versatility with portability. However, it should be remembered that in some conditions they cannot replace a computer.
Apple computers have never been more affordable and now, after Apple’s campaigns, they are more available to students. Because of this, many of you are probably considering purchasing an alternative solution, including the iPad as the closest device to a MacBook and yet just as useful for learning. Before you spend a few thousand on an Apple tablet, let’s take a look at some significant trade-offs to consider when going #iPadOnly.
External memory connection
During studies, it is often necessary to transfer the work to a flash drive for printing in the university library. You may need to connect the equipment to a projector to show the presentation in class. So remember that iPads only have one input. In the case of iPad Pro and Air, the case is quite simple. The USB-C connector is a common standard, and external drives support this technology. There are also plenty of HUBs and adapters (including Apple’s USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter) that let you connect your iPad to a monitor or projector.
The problem occurs with the basic iPad 9th generation or lower (with the physical Touch ID button at the bottom of the screen). These devices have Lightning connectors designed only for Apple devices. Flash drives compatible with this input are online like medicine (one of the latest strongholds is SanDisk), and they’re usually more expensive accessories than their traditional USB counterparts. So, if you know your destination will require frequent use of external storage, you might want to consider an iPad with USB-C.
Mobile version of office software
The preparation of text documents and tables, as well as the creation of multimedia presentations, is an integral element of student life. This requires an office suite that fits on each iPad. However, I know from my experience that not everyone can get used to the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynotes), preferring Microsoft’s alternative. Office is actually available on iPads, but only in a mobile version. What does it mean? And the fact that the functionality of the programs is limited compared to the computer versions. For example, you will not be able to remove hyphens (done in “large” Word with the Ctrl + Shift + Space shortcut) in a Word document, which is a requirement for proper research paper formatting.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do projects on the iPad. The opposite. If your tasks will be limited to simple documents and notes, as well as simple sheets, then the Apple tablet will handle it without any problems.
Mouse and keyboard connection
As mentioned earlier, iPads only have one connector. So if you want to use it as a computer every day, you’ll probably need extra accessories like a mouse and keyboard. If you already have wired devices, like from an old computer, and want to use them with your iPad, I’d like to point out that it’s possible, but it’s a bit of a pain. You should equip yourself with a multi-port HUB with USB-A connectors and try not to drown in cables.
A much more convenient option is to buy a wireless keyboard and mouse. Thanks to iPadOS, connecting Bluetooth devices is very simple, but there is one important aspect to keep in mind. When using the mouse, we are not dealing with a physical cursor. It simulates a finger touch in the form of a pointer, so it is not possible to press the right mouse button, for example, to expand the control options of a given file, as on a computer.
An alternative solution is to buy a case with a keyboard and trackpad. However, it should be remembered that the original Apple Magic Keyboard with trackpad is only for iPad Pro and Air. If you decide to buy an iPad 9th generation or lower, you will have to use third-party accessories, such as the brilliant Logitech Combo Touch keyboard.
iPadOS is not the same as macOS
At first glance, the iPad and MacBook systems look the same, but there is no need to be mistaken. The Apple tablet is much closer to the iPhone than the Mac, and these differences are visible mainly in the compatible software. Before buying, it is worth researching whether the software required by the universities will be available in the App Store. If so, as with Microsoft Office, you should verify that the mobile version is fully functional.
Let me use the example of the cases I know of students of technical universities who often work with AutoCAD. It actually has an iPad version, but its limitations can hinder more advanced projects. In such situations, you should treat the iPad only as a portable alternative, not as a full replacement for your computer.
If you’re a fan of multitasking and screen sharing, you’d better seriously consider buying an iPad. The Apple tablet, thanks to the iPadOS system, allows you to split the screen into two parts and transfer the minimized version of the application to the additional screen, for example, a message in the form of a narrow beam.
In theory it sounds fantastic, but the small and touchscreen doesn’t work as well as in Apple’s ads, and instead of multitasking, we get a lot of chaos, which can hardly be called comfortable work. This only makes sense with the largest iPad Pro 12.9, but you can buy a pretty good PC for the price.
Which student will like the iPad?
Back in college, my computer gave up the ghost right before the end of the semester. The laptop bounced between sites for weeks and I only had an iPad on hand. So I experimented with #iPadOnly in a variety of ways, from simple notes to completing my B.A. It can be? Yes, but the difficulties must be taken into account. I can recommend the choice of iPad as a computer replacement to all those who will mainly be engaged in office work.
Not everyone needs programming equipment, advanced graphics, or technical software. So, if your studies are mainly based on written assignments, or it needs to serve as an electronic notebook, then go ahead, it will be enough in a keyboard set. However, if you need a full workstation for specialized requirements, buying a laptop is a better option.
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