Can You Use an iPad as Your Main 'Computer'?

Updated on May 26, 2020
Tristan Stocker profile image

Tristan has been using an iPad since 2014 and has extensive experience in this area. He offers objective advice on personal electronics.

I’m sure most of us have seen the Apple Ad turned meme with the line “what’s a computer?” from a girl with an iPad Pro.


It’s been 3 years since that advert but the question remains - can an iPad be your next primary computing device? What are its limitations? Is the price justified?

I’ll try to answer those questions differently from most YouTubers who focus on tasks like video editing — most people simply don’t need a portable device for that use case (if you want that perspective then let me know and I’ll create a new Hub).

The software story

I have owned an iPad since 2014 with the iPad Air 2 which I used until 2019 when I decided to upgrade to the iPad Pro with its new design. Although during this time there have been improvements to the iPad’s hardware features, I would argue that the biggest change has been to software.

The truth is that iOS has always been the limiting factor for those considering an iPad as their primary computing device.

I have used every version of iOS for the iPad since iOS 8 and finally, with iPadOS 13, the iPad has fulfilled its original goal of being a portable, powerful and versatile device for everyone.

iPadOS introduced or improved on the software experience for all iPads, truly bringing them in line with the needs of most people.

  • Native USB drive support in the Files app.
  • Native mouse support more more precise control.
  • Improved multitasking with developers updating their apps for Split View and Slide Over.
  • A new Dock where apps can be easily accessed when within other apps.
  • Multiple instances of the same app so two notes or two Word documents can be opened at the same time.
  • The desktop version of Safari for web pages to always be the full version.

These are true improvements and additions to the iPad user experience which makes it a far more usable and functional device rather than it just being a larger iPhone as many people considered it before.

The fact is that, for the needs of most people, the software experience on an iPad is more than enough. A robust File manager, solid web browser and the largest catalogue of purpose-built apps means that what people consider ‘computing’ can be done with ease on any iPad with iPadOS 13.


The hardware reality

The hardware has also improved since my iPad Air 2 and has fallen dramatically in price, bringing the iPad into the reach of even more people. Now every version also supports the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard Folio. This means that you can make your own decision if those accessories are worth it for your individual needs.

People will often make a purchasing decision for computers based on the specifications compared to the price. I would contend that this is not an optimal method of decision making for computers in 2020. Although there is often a correlation, user experience is more important than specifications.

Apple has always been careful to maintain optimisation of their devices to preserve battery life and the longevity of devices. Therefore, speed for normal tasks should not be a consideration when purchasing an iPad as it is really not an issue nowadays.

Even the cheapest iPad (£349 or $329) has the A10 Fusion processor. Although it is a little old, it still performs perfectly with no stutters or slowdowns — it really is admirable for such a thin, fan-less slab of aluminium and glass.

Most people know what to expect with an iPad. If not then I would say to go visit an Apple Store when possible to see the different models they have available and to consider things such as the screen size.


The summary

We have covered software and hardware which are the two elements which contribute to a device. Both are very solid, nevermore so than in 2020, with only improvements to come with iPadOS 14.

That being, the truth is that absolutely nobody can categorically tell you if an iPad should be your sole computing device. I can tell you that it could be but the choice is really based on your own use cases. I can say that my iPad is my most used device but I still own a more traditional laptop.

It is important to research before purchasing technology of any kind. If you have done so and you believe that an iPad would work for you then go ahead and get one! You will certainly not be disappointed.

iPads are perfect for most people’s computing needs, however, if you have requirements such as a larger display or more power for power for gaming/ video editing then an iPad would not satisfy your needs. It is simply not built for that use.

Research your options properly, ask questions to people you trust and wait until the Apple Education discount in September for free Beats headphones and discounts, its the best time to buy!

Thank you and please ask any questions, I’m more than happy to answer based on my experience in this area.


A question for readers:

Would you consider using an iPad as your primary computing device?

See results


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