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.

iRig and AmpliTube Rock You


Add to iTunes | Add to YouTube | Add to Google | RSS Feed

This is a guest post written by Imei Hsu.

My first band was an all-girl band that didn’t need a keyboardist (my first musical instrument of choice), just a second electric guitarist and substitute bass player. Instead of passing me over for the audition, they stuck a guitar in my hands, handed me a lyric sheet with chord progressions, and asked me to give it a go. I did, and I got the part. Good thing I knew a few standard chords on the guitar. Songwriting and practice times used to take forever, mostly because we had to haul in our own equipment (including quarter-inch cables, stomp pedals, mics and mic stands, and speakers that almost weighed as much as I did). We scratched notes on paper, made rudimentary recordings, and we didn’t even have a video camera between us. What’s a girl rocker to do? If I could, I’d climb into a time machine with iRig and AmpliTube for iPad and iPhone, and rock the living daylights out those girls.

IKMultiMedia sells an impressive family of software instruments designed for the modern musician. It takes bulky components and hacked pieces of hardware strung together with miles of chords, and streamlines your set up to not only be less cumbersome, but also less painful to the consumer’s wallet.

Ben of Ben Union spent just fifteen minutes in my art loft in Seattle playing with the iRig and Amplitube on my iPhone4 (also available on iPad), and in moments, he was playing sweet licks and grooves with very minimal set up, and no gigantor speakers and amplifiers to carry. We ran sound through my Bose speaker, and compared it to the Fender Vibrochamp amp (which I rescued from a garbage dump, and once scraped off a dried frog that had taken shelter in the back and ended up getting fried onto the metal parts). Amplitube is the mobile app of the moment for the modern guitarist and composer, allowing users to create, process, record, and amplify music seamlessly, without the burden of carting around heavy, sometimes fragile, and often expensive equipment. Users can plug in a set of headphones or external speakers into the iRig, insert the ⅛-inch plug to the iPhone, and plug a ¼-inch cable from the guitar to a port on other end.

The latest version of the killer app, AmpliTube 3, ramps user’s experience with the following elements:

  • 160 pieces of gear, more than double the amount of other packages
  • 51 individual stompboxes and effects
  • 31 amplifier preamp & power sections
  • 46 speaker cabinet models
  • 15 high end stage and studio mics
  • 17 post amp rack effects
  • Open architecture, so users can add more packages as you need them, like AmpliTube Fender™ and Ampeg® SVX
  • Drag and drop features, so you can locate your components where you want it

Additionally, AmpliTube 3 boasts the proprietary VRM™ (Volumetric Response Modeling) technology, allowing users to add ultra-accurate rotating speaker effects, free dual mic placement plus room ambiance and response. Translation: ever wanted to sound like you were in a different-sized room, with a variety of vintage sounds and effects at the touch of your finger on a screen? If you are a guitar, bassist, drummer, or vocalist, you should be waving your hands wildly by now, shouting, “I want!” I know Ben was having a blast with AmpliTube, and he had not even explored all the settings!

While most of the app world is not accustomed to the cost of applications for music creation, any musician would tell you that the price of this app and hardware are well worth it. With nothing to wear out, and upgrades and additions available, this is a system no modern musician can afford to pass up, unless s/he is willing to be passed by.

B. Imei Hsu is a nurse psychotherapist, Bellydance and Bollywood dance artist, musician and vocalist, and coach for artful businesses. She creates content for her own businesses, including Hips For Hire, as well as content for other blogs, including Psycho Nurse on Lockergnome. You can drop in on her art loft in the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle, WA, where she lives and plays with her iPad loving cat, Charles-Monet, by tuning in at Ustream.tv.

How to Learn to Play Piano

Learning to play the piano isn’t as hard as you used to think it is, thanks to Synthesia. Synthesia is a game that can help you learn how to play the piano using falling notes. Synthesia comes with over 100 songs which are in the MIDI format. If you want to learn a song that isn’t included, do a simple search for the song title (or artist) with the tag MIDI added to it. You’ll be surprised to find millions – and millions – of hits. You can also get some great suggestions on the website forums.

If you have a piano or keyboard connected to your computer (via USB, MIDI cables or an adapter), Synthesia will read from it and score your playing. Choose what parts of a song you want to practice and let the app play the rest, allowing you to focus on your personal goal. You can enable musical notation for any song in your repertoire or leave it off and just enjoy the falling notes.

During melody practice, Synthesia will wait for you to play the correct note before it moves on. You will see what notes are coming next right on the lighted keyboard, allowing you to find difficult chords and combinations faster.

Challenge your friends and compete against some of the best players out there using Synthesia’s online scoreboard. You can also capture your favorite renditions and upload them to your YouTube channel, as MisterMoes has done above.

How to Carry a Keyboard in Your Pocket


Add to iTunes | Add to YouTube | Add to Google | RSS Feed

If you’re someone who wants a physical keyboard to use with your device, you might want to look at the Magic-Pro ProMini. It’s a full keyboard with a touchpad that actually rotates and works in either direction. It’s one of the only pieces of hardware that’s able to do that. It connects by way of a 2.4 GHz wireless network and will fit in your pocket!

The ProMini is a 3-in-1 multimedia wireless keyboard, which has a full keyboard (including function keys), a TouchPad and a laser pointer. It has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It has a range of up to about 90 feet, and boasts backlit LED lights to help you see in poor lighting environments.

This little keyboard is a great addition to any device. I gotta say… it really is cool. You can lounge in bed and use it to control all of your media without having to get up or move around much. Heck, you can even use it to help you tweet while you’re sitting in a meeting and don’t want to LOOK like you’re tweeting on your phone.

If you know of other (similar) cool devices, let me know about them. I love testing out and featuring new things here in our community.

Want to embed this video on your own site, blog, or forum? Use this code or download the video:

iPad Keyboard Dock Review


Add to iTunes | Add to YouTube | Add to Google | RSS Feed

I am definitely enjoying my iPad, even though I’ve only had it for a few days now. The main problem I’m having, though, is trying to type on the device. When in Landscape mode, it’s seriously difficult to type with my thumbs (or even all ten digits!). In Portrait mode, it’s a little easier to use my thumbs. However, the virtual keyboard is so large that I can’t go very fast. To solve this problem, I bought myself the iPad Keyboard Dock from Apple.

This keyboard, by the way, is pretty much the same as the wireless keyboard that I use on my Mac Pro. I love that particular keyboard. It allows me to type faster than I ever have before… seriously! It really is excellent.

In the little bit of time I’ve used this keyboard dock for my iPad, I’ve been really happy with it. I can plug my audio speakers into the back of it if I wanted. I’d like to find a form-fitting protector for the back of the iPad so that it’s not so exposed when it’s sitting in the dock.

Using the keyboard is very simple. It has all of the normal keys you would expect. There is a search key and even a brightness key. I really appreciate that, so that I don’t have to migrate through the iPad itself to adjust the screen brightness. You’ll also find a button that will automatically open a photo slideshow. It can’t get any easier than that.

There’s a blank function key at the top. I’m not really sure what that’s for… perhaps to help me get past a bout of writer’s block? You can mute the iPad by touching the volume down control on the built-in iPod controls.

As I already said, I’m really happy with this keyboard dock. It looks good, it works well and it lets me type properly again.

Want to embed this video on your own site, blog, or forum? Use this code or download the video: