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.