Why you don’t need an iPad

If you’re not one of the 55 million people who already bought an iPad or iPad 2, you might be thinking of finally giving in and picking up Apple’s sliver of tech wizardry. All the cool kids have them, everyone goes on and on about how great they are, and it sure would be good not to have to boot up the PC every time you wanted a weather report.

There are, of course, many compelling reasons for owning an iPad – and we’ll detail these in our “Why You Need an iPad” companion piece next week – but in the mean time, don’t crack! There are plenty of reasons not to own an iPad, and here are ten of the best:

10. There are cheaper, more powerful notebooks

This Acer ultrabook costs less than the top-end iPad 2.

Many believe that the age of the conventional desktop PC is over. While the iPad is certainly a significant ‘post-PC’ product, the fact is, if you spend $500­–1000 on a proper notebook PC, you’ll get a device that’s more powerful and more flexible than the iPad. Sure, you sacrifice some degree of portability, but maybe that’s worth it for a full keyboard, more processing power, and expandable storage.

The PC remains the internet’s most capable interface, and until tablets like the iPad get seriously cheap – $300 or less – it’s still worth shopping around.

9. A bit small to watch movies, a bit big to listen to music

Most movies on iPad show black bars top and bottom.

Apple introduced the iPad as a ‘third device’ that fits between the small-screed ultra-portable iPod Touch/iPhone and the larger-screened MacBook notebooks. Traditionally, you used the pocket-sized iPod for music, and the full-sized notebook for watching movies.

When it comes to AV, the iPad fits rather awkwardly between the traditional devices. It’s a pain to haul around if you just want to use it for music, and would look ridiculous attached to an iPod dock – assuming it would even fit into one.

Meanwhile, watching movies on the iPad isn’t ideal either. On the train, sure it’s better than watching video on your phone. But that 4:3 screen means there’s no modern film or TV show that fills the whole display – you get black bars unless you zoom-in and crop out some of the video, or enjoy watching retro 4:3 TV or inferior “chopped” movies from the ’80s…

8. Max 64GB of storage doesn’t seem like a lot

This thumbdrive has as much storage as iPad 2's top model!

The iPad uses solid-state chips to store its data, and that’s great for reliability, durability and battery life. But flash memory – the tech it uses – is still expensive. The top model iPad 2 – at around $950 – has just 64 gigabytes of storage. Spend a grand on a notebook and you can expect as much as 750 GB of hard drive space.

Think 64 GB is more than enough? Consider that high definition movies run to a couple of GB each. And if you have good headphones you’ll be encoding your music in lossless or uncompressed formats – and that means albums up to a gigabyte each. If you want to store a serious music collection, 64 GB can fill up pretty quickly.

What’s more, you only get 64 GB on the most expensive model of iPad 2. For anyone on a budget, you might need to get by with as little as 16 GB. Apps can take up several hundred megabytes, and if you subscribe to digital magazines, you’ll need several gigabytes to hold your back issues.

It all adds up, and storage capacity is an area where PCs still have a big edge over tablets like the iPad.

7. Latest smartphones make the iPad’s screen seem unimpressive

The Galaxy Nexus has a 1280 x 720 screen.

Know anyone with a first-generation iPod Touch? Get them to show you the screen – compared to modern screens, it’s blocky and pixelated, horrible really. Point is, display technology advances quickly, and the iPad’s 1024 x 768 display is starting to get long in the tooth. In fact there’s already technology out today on smartphones that makes it look positively retro.

Let’s start with Apple’s own, and technically impressive, iPhone Retina Display. It doesn’t have more pixels than the iPad (just 640 x 960), but it mashes them down on to a 3.5 inch screen, which means a pixel density of 325 pixels-per-inch – that’s better than newspaper print. The iPad has a density of 132 PPI, the lowest of Apple’s current portable devices.

What about raw pixels then? Well there’s the Samsung Galaxy Nexus with 1280 x 720, on a 4.65 inch display, and other smartphone manufacturers doing the same. And many Android tablets, with their 16:9 displays, offer more pixels and an ideal screen “shape” than the iPad – at least when it comes to displaying movies. On the other hand, a 16:9 tablet display mean a longer device relative to its height, which has its own drawbacks.

Higher PPI and more pixels mean better image quality. And who will come out with the first portable 1080p device? The fight is on.