iPad versus Netbook-Tablet Hybrid Head to Head

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Apple's iPad has left an indelible mark on the Tablet PC universe. It wasn't that long ago when just about everyone gave up on the tablet. Just about every notebook manufacturer in existence tried their hand at making a tablet at one point or another, and just about everyone hung it up by 2005. For whatever reasons, tablets never managed to catch on in the consumer industry, but now, things are different.

Consumers have shown a willingness to adapt somewhat and try new things. Some thought ultraportables would never catch on; their steep price tag and small screens didn't make sense to some, but road warriors have proven that these diminutive machines do actually have a place in society. Netbooks have a similar story. Many credit Asus'
Eee PC line with really kickstarting the netbook craze, and even today, these tiny, inexpensive laptops are selling like hotcakes to individuals who just need a simple machine for web browsing and e-mail to take on the go. No bells and whistles leads to lower costs, and lower costs lead to increased attention and sales.

The iPad has arrived during an interesting time. It's a time in which many consumers are re-evaluating their computing needs, and they're striving to decide whether a full-sized notebook, a netbook, a tablet or something in between is best for them. The iPad has definitely driven more people than would traditionally consider a tablet, to investigate the iPad's usage model.  That said, does it really make sense to buy this device over a netbook, or better still, a netbook / tablet hybrid? We covered the ins and outs of Apple's first tablet in our full review, but this article is intended to dig deeper and investigate whether an iPad or netbook / tablet hybrid is best suited for you. These two are the most similar of the machines currently available in terms of price, form factor and usability.

For our comparison, we're going to focus mainly on another machine that has just recently hit the market, Lenovo's IdeaPad S10-3t. It's a cutting-edge netbook / tablet hybrid with one of Intel's newest Atom processors, Windows 7, a full touch panel, a swivel screen to turn it into a full tablet, and of course something the iPad lacks: a real keyboard. The S10-3t starts at $549, while the iPad starts at $499, but if you want to add a USB port or SD card slot to the iPad, the starting price rises to $529, making these two machines comparable in terms of the initial investment.

Join us in the pages ahead to get a better idea of how the iPad does and doesn't live up to the standards set by modern day netbooks, and how the S10-3t outperforms and under-performs in a variety of tasks.

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David Dennis 4 years ago

I was going to try typing this in on my iPad, but unfortunately your rich text editor confused Mobile Safari to the extent that it was not allowing me to type :-(.

It was very interesting to see you compare the strengths and weaknesses of the iPad versus the netbook.  It looks like Steve Jobs was right: The netbook does everything terribly, while iPad does fewer things, but does them exceptionally well.

I run Photoshop on a 27" iMac with a gorgeous huge screen.  I have run it in the past on a 15" MacBook Pro, but in all honesty I don't think it was designed to function on a screen much smaller than that.  I think it would be sheer agony to try and use it on the netbook model you are describing.  It might sort of work, but if you think I am going to be sitting on a tight airline seat, netbook on the tray table, trying to fumble through Photoshop, I think you have overestimated my ability to deal with extreme pain. 

But what about my iPad, and Brushes or Sketchbook Pro, both under $10?  I might well be on that same airplane seat, with the same tray table, dabbling with drawing and getting some stuff done.  I'm certain there will be a "good enough" photo editing program available for iPad that will do things like switch colors and make image adjustments.  So before we even know it, we will have something that will drag a photo from my photo library, let me crop and adjust it and fit it to a document.  And that's pretty much all the Photoshop I need on the go.

In fact ... um .... I can do this already!  I go to Pages, put iPad in vertical orientation  for the menu, click on the picture icon, grab a photo from my library, resize it with my fingers, and it sorts out minor details like how text flows around it.  So really, if you want to create a document with photos from your photo library fully integrated, it's already there.  I would even say it's easier, sleeker and more intuitive than how Pages works on my Mac.  And it's all buttery smooth, never a lag, never an irritation.

iPad does not have Excel, but for everything I've tried to do, Numbers is better.  If you need to trade complex spreadsheets with corporate HQ it's probably not going to work.  But if you want to create your own financial projections, I like Numbers a lot.  It's sleek, beautifully designed and makes fantastic use of the on-screen keyboard system.

Most of what people are going to realistically work on in planes or coffee shops deals with text.  Apple has kindly provided (alas, not for free!) an external bluetooth keyboard that enables you to use it for heavy text entry and editing.  I haven't bought one yet, but I'm sure I will soon and I'm sure it will make iPad into a killer writing machine.

So the question is whether you are better off with a machine that is physically capable of sort of doing everything, but poorly, or a machine that can do a subset of everything, superbly.  I'd prefer the latter and I have already placed my bet with my own money :-).  And I think as more software is developed for iPad, it's going to get more and more capable, to the point where many people will actually prefer it to a Netbook or even full-fledged computer.

Like iPhone, iPad is unique, eccentric and brilliant in its innovation.  Unlike the netbook, it will only get better with more and better apps.

Hope that was helpful.



Dave_HH 4 years ago

Hey Dave! Thanks for your comments and input. Welcome to HH. I'd beg to differ with Jobs that netbooks doing things terribly, there are many things they do quite well, like productivity and web apps but multimedia is just not something they're remotely strong at. Though I'd suggest that's changing now slowly and will continue to evolve. Right now, primarly as an entertainment or infotainment device, the iPad is pretty darn great. I'm also looking forward to the upcoming slates with Droid other OS types. Will be interesting!

inspector 4 years ago

See :P told you the reply box is messed up on safari (iPhones/iPods/iPads) HH! :D

David Dennis

Your response is bias because you are just taking the iPad side. It also just depends what you will be using your iPad or Netbook for. You are using it for photo editing so i would say the iPad could do better then a Netbook at simple things like cropping and color changes but if you want to do more then that you might not be able to unless you find a app for it. If it was me i would rather have the Netbook and a mouse for photo editing then a iPad as i think it would be less pain. If it was the ipad i would have to hover over it while its on the tray and edit but for a Netbook just sit back a bit and look straight. Even if the iPad was on a stand it would be moving alot while you try to use it. But its your personal feel and use that counts for yourself.


Edit: Ya the iPad would be great for entertainment on a plane but not for editing photos and stuff :)

Dave_HH 4 years ago

Inspector, this is with the forum interface, not the news comments interface, right? We're looking into a new editor actually and updating the forum software, which will hopefully help. I like Safari a lot, so we need to get it done.

And Insp, you're dead nuts right on there. I'm heading out on vacation soon and have an iPad here. I'll take it with me for the wife and kids to use, sure... but for my HH work, when I'm supposed to be "not working" at night when all is quiet, I'm breaking out a thin and light notebook to check in with this passion I have called HotHardware.com. :)

David Dennis 4 years ago

I don't think it's necessarily being biased to support iPad over its rivals.   I will admit to loathing Windows, however, and so I would probably never be a serious netbook customer.  I might consider Linux or Chrome, but truthfully I'm really happy with the Mac platform and I enjoy developing iPhone/iPad apps.  

So I may not be impartial, but I think I can be fair.  And your article admitted the netbook was sluggish, didn't run applications well, had crummy battery life and was essentially the same price as the iPad.  The iPad was fast, ran applications extremely well, had excellent battery life and you were paying the same price as the Netbook.  I think this gives us a clear winner unless you absolutely have to run Windows software.  

I am a horrible artist but I will say I find it easier to try painting with my fingers than a mouse or Wacom stylus, both of which I found horribly clumsy.  I will admit, though, that iPad does not yet have a photo editing application I can use and I leave that in the hands of my much more powerful iMac.  I think that will change in time.

For drawing and photo editing I would put iPad on a desk and use my fingers to directly manipulate it.  It feels very natural when used that way to paint.

By the way, the reply box works fine for Safari on the Mac, just not on the iPad.  Odd because iPad does fine with every other DHTML web site I try with it.  I think it has something to do with how keyboard entry is handled - it does not pull up the onscreen keyboard for iPad, so you can't type anything.  You don't need to change it to be compatible with Safari unless you are concerned about supporting iPads.  Oddly enough, epinions.com has a similar interface design and I think theirs works with the iPad, so you might want to check how they do it.

Dave, if you can try hooking up iPad to a Bluetooth keyboard I think you might find it easier to edit HotHardware.com on the iPad as opposed to the netbook.  If you do that, I'd be curious to hear the results.

By the way, I do need to give you credit for making this test.  I understand HotHardware is likely to be biased somewhat against Apple because their systems are expensive and designed to appeal to people who like a fully designed product instead of tinkering.  I think you have made a genuine effort to engage and consider both sides, and to me that's important in this debate.

Hope that was of interest.



Dave_HH 4 years ago

@ DD, that was all definitely of interest, though again I'll correct you slightly because the word "biased" as a journalist, makes me more than a bit twitchy. :)

The real deal is, as Tech enthusiasts and journalists here, we love elegant design and superior function, along with competitive prices. Apple definitely hits two out of three here with the iPad.

David Dennis 4 years ago

I'm sorry, I should not have said biased, I should have said that we both come to these devices with a point of view :-).

I would say Apple gets three out of three, for the purposes for which the device was designed.  Certainly nobody would disagree that it is elegant.  It is faster and the software sleeker than the competition, so it has superior function.  And the price is about the same as the netbook you pitched against it, so even the price is fair.

That being said, yes, if you need a Windows laptop you should buy one.  Based on this review, though, you should not bother with a netbook but buy a full-fledged laptop instead.  After all, you can get something from Best Buy with a full-sized laptop label on it for $599, which is exactly what I paid for my 32GB iPad.

David (another one! We are taking over the world!  Ha!)


animatortom 4 years ago
Welcome David,

I thought that Apple fanatics were supposed to be the ones that are open minded and Eco-friendly. I grew up with Apple, yet when they Stopped producing computers that couldn't last, as upgradeable machines for more than two years. I had to switch to PC's just so the tech can keep up with the software development. Now you have to basically buy a new Apple every other year to keep up, unless you get an Intel bases G5Pro.
For what the IPad is capable of in terms of sketching, it is cheaper to just get a sketchbook and a pencil for getting ideas worked out on the go. With the IPad that is about all you get is elegance and flash.
Apple has hit the ground running in a market that most people thought was a lost cause, because everyone before them was charging way to much for the tablets. Yet if you ask any doctors, the tablets they use for work are invaluable and way more powerful than most laptops available to consumers. Of course the Fujitsu tablets and others like them are still highly priced, and a specific platform that most people don't feel they need.
I feel once we see all the competitors come out with their own versions, you will see Apple finally being forced to step up their game plan. When things like the Slate arrive with more features at the same price or less. Apple will have to follow suit and lower prices and increase features.
I have had my Gateway Tablet for close to five years, and it still serves me well still.  I have always touted how much this is the next wave and how everyone should have the added portability of a tablet.  But just because a company come out with something first does not mean it is the best!
Apple has tried taking over the world and they have failed. Then they had to bring back the Turtleneck salesman to rally their stormtroopers to take over the chancellery. :P
RyuGTX 4 years ago

Thanks for the review. The iPad seems to be a lot better than what we were all speculating in the forums pre-launch and pre-review.


I didn't know that the iPad had a keyboard accessory until I saw the picture of it in your review. I went and looked it up in the Apple store and found out that the keyboard/dock was $69.99. Pretty steep price.


I'm glad you did a comparison with a tablet pc. The tablet pc will fit my needs much better, but I don't think I will go with the Lenovo one. For comparison purposes, the Lenovo unit was great because it sat in the same price range as the iPad. I'll probably go with the HP Touch Smart tablet laptop. Or maybe wait until they stick an i3 in there. Not sure how the Core 2 Duo SUxxxx performs.

Dominic 4 years ago

I have 2 MacBook pro 15 Old +17 New and iMac, just got the new Wi-Fi + 3G 64GB iPad and think it was the wrong thing to get just get yourself the MacBook white with a dongle, you cant Yahoo on the Ipad it at all and in Facebook you can't IM and also you con't  use IWork it will cost you another £18 the hole point of getting the iPad is so you can work on the move and that it is smaller computer than a laptop all it is good for is playing free games. and that is all we have done with it I have taken the sim card out of the iPad and gone back to my MacBook Pro & dongle and a large bag, as I can do all my work on the MacBook Pro don't waist your money on the iPad get a Small MacBook I wish I had got a small MacBook as I still loose my MacBook to my wife when we are out and the hole point of getting the iPad was so she could chat on it and play on the net but this was a waist of Money. it is not fit for purpose. as apple advertise it as a small computer. and it not as good as the iPhone.

robsocu 3 years ago

Nice post!. check out this one http://convert-dvd-ipad.com/dvdipad/ipad-2-galaxy-tab/

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