Why My $185 Tablet Crushes Your $200 Laptop

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My PCWorld peer Tom Dunlap recently took issue with the tablet as a primary mobile computing platform. His article, "My $200 Laptop Can Beat Your $500 Tablet" details the traits and features that he feels are lacking in tablets, or that illustrate why a laptop is a better mobile platform. I respectfully disagree.

Let's start with the initial premise that Dunlap's Lenovo notebook is $200, as compared to the entry-level price of a new 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad 2 at $500. Dunlap explains in the article that the Lenovo ThinkPad X30 was purchased used, and admits that a used iPad would be cheaper and make the comparison more even. I found someone selling a 64GB Wi-Fi only original iPad that is less than three months old for $185 locally on Craigslist. Apparently, he really needs the cash.

So, shop around. The deals are out there. Bottom line--I see your used $200 Lenovo ThinkPad X30, and raise you a used 64GB Wi-Fi original iPad for $185. Now, let's look at why this is the year of the tablet, and why we now live in a "post-PC" era.

My Reasons

Dunlap laid out some specific scenarios and situations that--in his opinion--illustrate how his ThinkPad "crushes your iPad 2". Well, here is my response to why I believe my iPad eats your notebook's breakfast, steals its lunch money, and sends it crying home to mommy with self-esteem issues that will require extensive therapy.

Portability. The Lenovo ThinkPad X30 is not big per se, but setting an iPad 2 on top of the notebook, the ThinkPad is about an inch wider, and an inch and a half taller than the tablet. The iPad 2's thickness of only 0.34 inches is about a quarter of the 1.2-inch thick notebook--and that is only when it is closed and useless. The iPad 2 also weighs in at about a third of the weight of the Lenovo notebook--2.4 pounds lighter to be precise.

You might assert--as Dunlap did in his article--that we're only talking about another pound or two. It sounds negligible when you say it, but anyone who has used an original iPad, and then held an iPad 2 will tell you that even the difference of a few ounces between them is noticeable. That extra two and a half pounds will take its toll as you carry the notebook through airports and hotels--never mind the additional weight of the any peripherals you might lug around with it.

My iPad is unobtrusive. It fits nicely in any bag--like carrying the latest issue of PCWorld along with me, and it doesn't require its own luggage.

Usability. The iPad--or tablets in general--just work. They work on the go. They work one-handed. They work instantly. The iPad 2 with the fabled Smart Cover is automatically on as soon as you crack open the cover. How long does it take your notebook to get to a functional state once you power it up? I can get out my iPad, check my email--and maybe even fire off a quick reply or two--in the time it takes you to get your laptop out, open, and booted up.

The tablet is designed to be mobile. The notebook is an effort to take a desktop and carry it with you--but at its core it is still a "desktop" OS. While I pinch and zoom and swipe and tap my way around my iPad, you will be sitting next to me on the airplane trying to figure out how to get enough elbow room to use your little eraser point mouse thingy, or--even worse--trying to use a mobile Bluetooth or USB mouse on that little fold out tray that really only has enough room for a small drink and that bag of peanuts or pretzels.

When you get where you're going, and you can actually set up shop--unpack, plug in, and open your notebook on an actual desk workspace, and connect your external mouse, then it wins in usability. That is because the notebook is a portable PC more than a mobile PC. You can take it from Point A to Point B with relative ease, just don't try to use it in transit.

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