iPad Vs. Netbook: Does a Physical Keyboard Really Matter?

While his email is original, the question from community member “Tamloo” is an all-too-familiar one for me (unedited):

Hey Chris, I have been a really big fan of yous over the past couple of years. You are one of the main sources I get my technology news from. One thing I really like about you is that yes, you can be an “Apple Fanboy” at sometimes, but for the most part, you do reviews fairly and over a wide range of products and software. Unlike other tech reviews, you don’t just focus on one specific platform or company.

Well, the main reason why I am emailing you is because I recently purchased an Asus Netbook computer last year. It worked great for traveling since I travel very frequently; however I accidentally dropped my computer one week after the warranty expired and the screen completely shattered (huge crack down the middle, and I can’t see a thing on the screen). Sadly, during these rough economic times, I don’t know what kind of small-easy-to-use computer I could invest in at the moment.

Right now, all I have to use when I travel is my new iPhone4 (which I have grew to love over a month). I have not been much of an Apple fan, however I think it is actually coming out of me at the moment just like WilsonTech1 has lately. My main dilemma is what kind of computer should I get? Right now, I am extremely happy with my iPhone, and I am considering getting an iPad. But I don’t know if it is worth getting since I don’t know if the price is really right to me. If I get an iPad, I will most likely be getting the original as seeing the price has been dropped.

Now, the thing I like about a netbook is that it has a physical keyboard, but watching you videos, you state that the virtual keyboard isn’t that bad on the iPad. Is that really true? I like the iPhone’s keyboard and find it easy to use and normally don’t miss a key when typing. But does the iPad’s keyboard have that same easy and fluent functionality and can I type fast enough to have it replace a netbook?

What is your stance on this, should I go the extra $200 and buy an iPad or would a new netbook be worth it? Thanks for your opinion.

I appreciate that you’re asking for my opinion, but I can’t really tell you what to buy. It’s your money, and you need to be the one who makes the decision that works best for you. I’m only here to provide a good amount of perspective; I really have no horse in this race.

What I find most uplifting about the phrasing of your question is how you’re referring to an iPad as a computer — which it absolutely is. Few people have made this distinction, but I can tell you that the iPad can certainly do more than my first “home computer” could. The iPad is a computer.

Now, on to the crux of your quandary.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found super-compact notebook / netbook computers to have super-scrunched, unusable-for-anything-but-infant-hand keyboards — and this flat fact, to me, defeats the purpose of having a keyboard in the first place. If your WPM on an average netbook is half of what it is on a standard keyboard, I’d be shocked.

So, are you in love with the keyboard, or merely the idea of the keyboard?

If the lack of a physical keyboard is what’s keeping you from buying an iPad, rest assured that there are countless iPad cases that accommodate workable keyboards that couple with the iPad (AND iPhone) via Bluetooth. You could also pick up an Apple Wireless Keyboard and use that in a similar fashion.

Moreover, iOS typo correction kicks the shot out of anything I’ve ever seen as a default in Windows (outright, third-party tools notwithstanding). Doesn’t that count for something in relation to keyboarding?

So, if that doesn’t help you decide, you should also be considering battery life. I’ve yet to find a single netbook computer that came close to 10-hour battery life after any amount of usage. You’d be lucky to find one that lasted 5 hours when doing nothing. If you’re never more than three hours from an electrical outlet, this may be less of an issue for you.

I think you may be better off comparing the iPad against other tablet computers (no, not Tablet PCs). There are quite a few Android devices on the market that weigh in at the same price point as a netbook, although you’re more than likely sacrificing quality if you go that direction – not just in terms of construction, but in absolute hardware features (resistive screen, no multi-touch, et al).

You can always save money — but at what cost?

It’s this phrase alone that continues to poke holes in the “too expensive” theory. Ask any owner of a faulty product how much more they would have paid to have something that just worked.

Either way, if you’re looking to save money on your impending purchase, we have a coupon site for you to use that includes savings on Apple computers.

22 thoughts on “iPad Vs. Netbook: Does a Physical Keyboard Really Matter?”

  1. Actually, people nowadays prefer to bring tablet PC’s instead of netbooks. I think netbooks will be losing its shine when the tablet pc’s goes more innovated and are given lots of features that the netbook can do and cannot do.

    1. The Tablet PC never took off – and it never will. It was markedly overpriced and overwhelmingly under-optimized. The only way Microsoft will find success in a mobile computer strategy in line with the iPad is with its own mobile OS (along the lines of Windows Phone 7, or whatever they’ll call it next week). Certainly, “Windows Starter Edition” isn’t the answer.

      Via Wikipedia: “By the release of the iPad 2 in March 2011, more than 15 million iPads had been sold — more than all other tablet PCs combined.” Don’t shoot the messenger!

  2. what does he need the netbook/ipad for? for the netbooks i would recommend getting 1 with an AMD zacate processor. runs alot smoother than the intel atom processors.

    1. His needs could assumedly be met by both the iPad and/or Netbook – or he wouldn’t be considering one over the other. I don’t think processor really matters, and without any kind of empirical data, “smoother” is a rather wild, unfounded, relative assertion.

  3. The Dell Inspiron Duo is a Tablet PC, however it has a interface which is also optimised for “Tablet mode” this is priced just a bit under the iPad (in the UK it has anyway) and I am surprised that hasn’t been more successful – I reckon they just need to have more applications and make it thinner!

    1. The experience remains unoptimized. What you’re suggesting is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. Inevitably, you have to deal with Windows on a Tablet PC – and that’s the problem. Windows, itself, is not built for mobile or touch experiences; those “features” are treated as add-ons, not core to the experience. This, coupled with economics, is why Tablet PCs didn’t take off – and never will.

  4. Hey, thanks for making this blog post Chris! I have decided that an iPad may not be worth it at the moment and went with another netbook. Luckily, using your coupon site I found the one I was looking at for $100 off the original price. I decided to get an Asus Eee PC 1015PEB.

    I decided not to go with an iPad because I’m waiting for Apple to add more features to it and possibly better battery life. I just don’t feel like the iPad is ready for me yet. Sure it can do a lot of things better than my netbook; for example, play video games, but I didn’t get the netbook to play games on anyway. I just want a fast and easy way to connect to the internet on-the-go.

    Thanks for the help Chris! I appreciate it!

    1. I respect your choice, but I’m not sure any company can beat a 10 hour battery life after heavy usage – and there are countless “video games” available for all iOS hardware. 😉 Plus, I don’t know how much more “fast and easy” a netbook is over an iPad? Seems as though you had already made up your mind which direction you wanted to go, and that would have been nice to know as I detailed the options.

      1. Well, I totally agree with you that an iPad is more portable than a netbook because you pretty much only carry around a screen and not the screen + a keyboard.

        Overall, I think an iPad could of been better, but I didn’t want to pay the extra money for something that didn’t have a physical keyboard. There is nothing wrong with having the virtual keyboard, however knowing me, I like to type a lot and on my iPhone 4 I miss the keys quite frequently and I didn’t want to pay an extra fee for the keyboard that I would have to lung around.

        Thanks for all of your help Chris!

        1. Add the weight of a keyboard to lug around against the weight of the iPad, then compare that weight to the total weight of the netbook you got. Let me know how that math works out. 😉

        2. “I like the iPhone’s keyboard and find it easy to use and normally don’t miss a key when typing.” – what you said in the email.

          “on my iPhone 4 I miss the keys quite frequently” – what you said in the comment.

          So… which is it?

        3. “I like the iPhone’s keyboard and find it easy to use and normally don’t miss a key when typing.” – what you said in the email.

          “on my iPhone 4 I miss the keys quite frequently” – what you said in the comment.

          So… which is it?

        4. “I like the iPhone’s keyboard and find it easy to use and normally don’t miss a key when typing.” – what you said in the email.

          “on my iPhone 4 I miss the keys quite frequently” – what you said in the comment.

          So… which is it?

    1. Well, I’m definitely not a fan of iTunes – don’t get me wrong. But I’d much rather sync this data wirelessly, automagically (kinda like the way Dropbox works, without the Dropbox premium price tag).

    2. Well, I’m definitely not a fan of iTunes – don’t get me wrong. But I’d much rather sync this data wirelessly, automagically (kinda like the way Dropbox works, without the Dropbox premium price tag).

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