4 reasons why iPad still fails to be my main computer

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4 reasons why iPad still fails to be my main computer
With the release of the 2020 iPad Air 4, which has a modern iPad Pro-like design and is compatible with Pro accessories, I was convinced that this is the ideal tablet for everyone. Not as expensive as the Pro models, yet much more modernized than the budget iPad. I'd even argue that the iPad Air 4 does work as a main computer for students or casual users, if mainly used for basic web browsing, reading, watching movies and social media.

But as it turned out, like many iPad models before it, the 2020 iPad Air failed to be my main computer when it came to doing professional work, and I often found myself switching back to my Windows laptop. Here's why Apple's iPad didn't work for me, and why it might also not work for you as a professional.

Apple iPad Air 4

- New design, A14 Bionic chip, Apple Pencil 2 support, 64GB or 256GB storage

Desktop web browsing on iPad is still hit-and-miss

You might be attracted to an iPad over Android tablets because its web browser app – Safari – opens websites in desktop mode like a "real" desktop browser would. This suggests that you'll be able to do all kinds of web-related work as you would on PC, but that's not quite the case.

It's true that on iPad, Safari does way better than Chrome in opening heavy websites in desktop mode correctly, such as Facebook. Chrome fails to load websites like Facebook correctly and it doesn't even offer a permanent "Request Desktop Site" option. I had to edit its flags and enable a work-in-progress one, which is more than the average user should have to do.

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So for desktop web browsing Safari truly is the browser to use on iPad. While many desktop sites work fine on it, many CMS (content management systems) or other web-based services your company may be using won't work as well on iPad as they would on a computer, if at all. This means that if your professional work involves editing websites, writing and publishing articles and joining meetings on web-based platforms that aren't as mainstream as Zoom or Skype, you will likely face problems.

As an example, I recently had to participate in one such meeting and the service that it was held on outright said to use desktop computers, preferably running Chrome, in order for the website to work correctly. So using an iPad over a computer was simply out of the question. And the more your work relies on web-based software, the more you'll notice messages like that, asking you not to use tablets.

Safari refreshes pages in the background a lot

Even the cheapest iPads are considered powerful despite their small amount of RAM, and it's hard to argue with their blazing fast app performance, video rendering speeds and benchmark results. But I recently decided to edit and publish a video from my iPad...

Publishing a YouTube video via Safari on iPad generally works well enough, but during the upload process I opened 4 or 5 extra tabs that I needed, mostly Reddit pages. When I came back to check on my YouTube upload, the page refreshed. That was annoying, considering I had only 5 tabs open, so now I had to open back the specific video in YouTube Studio to finish its publishing process. I added metadata to the video, published it and decided to go back to the Reddit tabs – those started refreshing one by one too, which cleared any text I had written in preparation to share my video. So now I had to write that all over too.

You'd normally see such behavior on cheap computers with very little RAM, but it appears the 4 gigabytes on the iPad Air 4 aren't enough for competent multi-tab web browser work either. 4GB of RAM would normally be a deal-breaker on Android tablets or computers, but on iPads we normally don't see any side effects from that rather small number. Well, this is one to consider.

I'm aware that I can just use the YouTube app to publish a video, but the video publishing process in the app itself is so basic and lacking in features compared to the desktop experience, that I can't consider it a valuable option for professionals. Plus, that's besides the RAM management issue that I experienced in Safari for iPad.

Video editing is smooth and fun, but basic

If you're a professional YouTuber who needs a good video editing rig, you'll arguably be happier with a cheap iPad over a cheap PC. Both the budget iPad and the iPad Air 4 I'm using are fantastic machines for basic video editing, if you can work around the small amounts of base storage you get. Apple is still stingy in the storage department and sets ridiculous prices on the higher iPad storage options.

In any case, iPads come with a free app called iMovie that can be used for very basic video editing – cutting your footage, adding titles, music and not much else. But if you purchase a video editing app like the highly-revered LumaFusion, you can have more competent iPad video editing tools at your disposal.

Still, there's often more to editing videos than just cutting some footage, adding text and images, and maybe doing some color-correction. For designing their own special effects or unique intro animations, professionals would turn to software like Adobe After Effects, and there is nothing even remotely similar to it on iPad.

On a similar note, I feel the same about iPad music production. While basic beat making is possible, you don't have access to desktop-class VST (Virtual Studio Technology) plug-ins for designing complex sounds and sound effects. So in both cases, you can use an iPad but you'll face considerable limitations over just using a computer.

You can't be a game developer who uses an iPad

This is really out there, but it drives the point home. If you're after doing legit professional work like developing a game, even if it's an iPad game, you will need a computer. That's exactly what I'm doing in my spare time – designing and programming a PC game. If there was any way to do that on an iPad, I'd be first to tell you, but it's a pipe dream.

The fact is, you can't run serious desktop software like Unity or Unreal Engine on anything but a computer, and that is unlikely to change. Even if you currently don't want to do anything as grand as game design, consider the following...

While on a computer you can fully pursue your creative endeavors, regardless of what they are, on iPad you're limited to very basic professional tasks, because when all is said and done, it's still running a phone operating system.

Final thoughts

If you still want to invest in an iPad, with maybe a keyboard accessory and an Apple Pencil, to see if it works for you – go for it! My experience shouldn't discourage you. There are plenty of talented professionals who love their iPads and use them for drawing, animation, 3D modeling, writing books and even music production, and it all appears to work for them well enough.

Adopting a mobile-first device for professional tasks simply comes with a large number of compromises you will need to consider and work around (where possible). Hopefully, this article was helpful in setting your expectations before you make your iPad investment.

iPadOS has improved a lot in its quest to become a desktop replacement operating system. Downloading files from the internet is now much easier than it once was, and so is general file management. But there are still no solid hints that Apple has a serious intent to turn iPadOS into anything more than a glorified smartphone operating system.

But the Cupertino company can surprise. Here's hoping we'll start seeing more MacOS and less iOS in iPadOS soon enough.

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