How the iPad 2 Became My Favorite Computer

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Can the iPad replace a PC?

Ever since Apple announced its tablet nearly two years ago, the Internet has been awash in discussion of this question. Most of it has had a pretty theoretical feel and has gravitated toward conventional wisdom. A piece by Gotta Be Mobile’s Will Shanklin comes to the typical conclusions:

Whether you can replace your laptop with an iPad is going to depend on what your needs are. In early 2010, casual computer users could arguably replace a laptop with an iPad. Now it’s a no-brainer. When it comes to content consumption, a tablet is lighter, more portable, more comfortable, and more personal.

If part of your life involves creating professional-level content, tablets still have a long way to go before becoming your primary device. They don’t qualify now, and they won’t next year. Customers aren’t used to spending more than $10 for most tablet apps, so those consumer expectations could slow the march in this direction too.

The answer, therefore, hasn’t changed too much in a year. Tablets are moving in a “primary computing” direction, but they aren’t exactly sprinting. Maybe we’ll check back next year to see if the “tablets are for content consumption, notebooks are for content creation” cliche has changed. Right now it’s as true as ever.

I respectfully disagree with Shanklin. I think it’s possible to use an iPad as one’s primary device for professional-level content creation. Actually, scratch that. I’m positive it’s possible — because I’ve been doing it for the past three months, and I’ve been having a really good time.

(LIST: Tablets: ‘Why Should Somebody Buy This Instead of an iPad?’)

This hasn’t been one of those experiments-for-the-sake-of-experimentation in which someone temporarily forsakes a PC for another device in order to write about the experience (like, say, this). No, I’ve been using the iPad for my daily activities — running Technologizer, writing for TIME, CNET and and more — because I find it to be the preferable tool in multiple respects. I’ve been using it about 80% of the time, and using my MacBook Air about 20% of the time. I have no desire to go back.

If this startles you, I understand. It seems to startle most folks who notice I’m doing it. I’m startled myself. Or at least I was at first — at this point, I’ve been doing it long enough that I forget there’s anything unusual about it until someone reminds me.

It all started in August. I read Walt Mossberg’s review of four portable Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad 2 at All Things D and was intrigued — especially by the ZaggFolio, which cleverly builds a truly notebook-like keyboard into an attractive case. So I bought one. The ZaggFolio changed the way I use my iPad, and that changed my life.

Without the ZaggFolio, I used the iPad mostly for reading and light productivity. I’d happily type brief e-mails on it, but never anything as long as a meaty blog post or article. But Zagg’s no-compromise keyboard made typing every bit as comfy as it is on a notebook. All of a sudden I could write hundreds of words on the iPad. Or thousands of them.

(Side note: the ZaggFolio I bought was part of an early production run that was defective — its clasp didn’t shut securely. And after a few weeks, one of its keys fell off. I ended up replacing it with the Logitech Keyboard Case by Zagg for iPad 2, which puts a similar keyboard in a low-profile tray that doubles as a protector for the iPad 2′s screen. I prefer both of these models to rivals like the Adonit Writer, which don’t match the full-size, full-travel goodness of Zagg’s designs.)

Of course, having a nice keyboard for an iPad doesn’t instantly turn it into a pleasing laptop replacement. You’re typing into a radically different set of apps than are available on a notebook. Once I got the ZaggFolio, I had to figure out how to blog, edit photos and perform other tasks I do every day.

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