Laptop vs iPad: which is right for you?
As we continue our buying advice discussion on laptops versus iPads, let's look at the reasons to buy a laptop.
The laptop advantage
Buy a new laptop today, and you'll probably get a hard drive with 10 times more storage than an iPad. It's easy to add more storage, too. External hard disks are cheap, and you can buy portable versions which will slip into a bag.
The iPad has no way of adding storage, so you're effectively stuck with the capacity you buy. The smallest has 16GB, and the largest is currently 64GB. There are ways around this limit, but none are entirely satisfactory. You can sign up for a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or even Apple's own iCloud, but when files aren't stored locally on the iPad itself they can be slow to load or in the wrong format, so will need converting first.
This brings us neatly to compatibility. Laptops are great because, with the right software, they can display or play almost any file. The iPad is much more restrictive and requires videos, for example, to be in MP4 (H.264) format before they'll play. It means you might have to convert files before you can play them, which could be more hassle than you're willing to accept.
For photos and music, the iPad supports the common JPG and MP3 formats, so these aren't a problem for most people.
Transferring files to the iPad has to be done via iTunes, not Windows Explorer. This lack of drag-and-drop support is initially a bit frustrating, but it's absent for a reason: a good user experience. Filtering everything through iTunes means you won't end up in a situation where you've transferred a video, say, and you're sitting on a plane only to find that your tablet doesn't support it and you've got nothing to watch.
Which iPad should I buy?
Assuming you decide the iPad's limitations are outweighed by its advantages (which they are), you need to make a choice. In fact, three choices.
The first is whether you want to be able to get online when you're out and about. If you do, you'll want to buy the 4G version of the new iPad (3G for older versions). It's £100 more than the equivalent model without a micro SIM slot.
Next, you have to work out how much memory you'll need. Here, the old rule 'get the best you can afford' applies. Apple charges steeply for more memory, so the Wi-Fi only 16GB version is £80 cheaper than the 32GB model, which itself is £80 cheaper than the 64GB model.
Finally, you'll have to choose whether to go for a black or white iPad. That's a decision we can't help you with!