iPad versus Netbook-Tablet Hybrid Head to Head - HotHardware

iPad versus Netbook-Tablet Hybrid Head to Head

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The Atom-Based Netbook-Tablet Convertible As A Work Machine:

So, the S10-3t can fold over and become just as much of a tablet as Apple's iPad, albeit somewhat larger and heavier. So that's taken care of but what it can also do is flip back and become a netbook, with a real, physical keyboard. That's a huge bonus for true professionals. There's just no way to type out even an article as large as this on a virtual keyboard with any level of extended comfort. Real keyboards are necessary to get real work done, so the netbook/tablet wins in a landslide here. Then there's the issue of ports. The S10-3t, as well as many other touch panel-based netbooks (Asus' Eee PC T91 comes to mind from last year), has a few USB 2.0 sockets that can be used for mostly anything, as well as an SD card reader, VGA output for showing content on an external display and oftentimes an eSATA socket.

Again, the S10-3t just feels more like a "real" computer here. If you're looking to get work done that requires those ports, there's no question that the iPad will let you down, while the S10-3t and tablet convertibles like it, will manage. On the software side, Lenovo installs the full version of Windows 7 on the S10-3t, so aside from exceptions of soiftware that requires a really powerful CPU or GPU, you can install any real desktop app onto the tablet/netbook hybrid. Need Photoshop? It can install. It won't run with blazing speed, but it works in a pinch. The same can be said for any special media player you prefer or most any other "work app" that is only compatible with Windows systems. In case you haven't realized, a machine with a full-blown operating system crushes the iPad in terms of its ability to get actual work accomplished.

The issue here is that real work takes longer to get done on the S10-3t. We were underwhelmed with the performance, with the N470 processor taking long periods of time to launch basic applications and handle rather basic tasks but it did get them done.  If you go into it knowing that your netbook will perform noticeably slower than a Core 2 Duo or Core i3-powered notebook (not to mention your quad-core desktop), you'll be okay. If you expect to whiz in and out of applications like you can on the iPad, you'll be let down. It's a matter of compromise, but at least the S10-3t acts like a real PC, even if slowly.

The Atom-Based Netbook-Tablet Convertible As A Fun Machine:

Here's where the S10-3t starts to look a little less appealing. Whereas the iPad is tailor made to scream through HD content and interact seamlessly with Netflix, ABC and loads of other Web programming, the S10-3t stutters through the same thing. The integrated GPU is no match for most 1080p material, and even some 720p content stutters and lags in places. Even YouTube HD seems burdensome. The desktop version of iTunes works well enough for audio, and playing back image slideshows is also fine. But for HD media playback, the iPad simply wins out hands down. A discrete GPU would turn the tables significantly for the tablet convertible, but it would also raise the price by at least $100, if not more.

Then there's Flash. The iPad cannot handle Flash, and if the bickering between Adobe and Apple is any indication, it never will. Many websites are shifting to HTML5 just to suit Apple, but you can't count on every single site doing that. The bad news is that the S10-3t doesn't really handle Flash well. It will (slowly) load it, and most content plays back steady if no multi-tasking is going on in the background, but again, it's a compromise. It will handle Flash, but slowly, and with occasional playback issues. Apple would rather you just see HTML5 media in a seamless fashion. You'll have to be the judge as to which philosophy you'll subscribe to.

The Atom-Based Netbook-Tablet Convertible Overall Usability:

Here's where we describe the mixed bag that is using the S10-3t. The S10-3t can act like a real PC. It can do "grown-up" tasks. It can load Photoshop and Word, and it can easily attach documents and files to e-mails. But it does so slowly. It won't blow you away with speed, and in fact, it will probably frustrate you on occasion. If you're looking for a machine that works quickly, with "instant-on" sort of speed like the iPad, this isn't it. But in order to get real work done while having that sort of performance, you'll need to spend far more on a robust ultraportable or full-size notebook, and then you're really comparing apples to oranges.

The touch panel also needs some TLC. Responsiveness is generally lacking, and the Windows desktop just isn't meant to be used with a fingernail or stylus.  There are some desktop apps that make frequently used menu items larger in order to touch them more easily, but it's still no quicker than using the trackpad. In our opinion, the S10-3t falls badly short as a tablet PC, as does Windows 7's touch interface currently.  Neither really makes using a computer with your fingers a joy, and both make it very easy to just throw your arms up in frustration and go back to the keyboard/trackpad input method.
You really need to bolt on some third-party UI, like HP's TouchSmart interface for example, to provide a reasonable touch UI experience on Windows 7 as it stands today. 

The innovation that Apple has engineered in this space has not yet been replicated in the PC space. If you have very specific uses or know of very specific software titles that were built to work with touch panels, you can consider this point moot, but the average consumer should know that using a touch panel on a Windows 7 netbook isn't a very productive experience.

At the end of the day, the S10-3t is a far better work machine than fun machine, and it will actually enable you to get "real work" done, which is something the iPad can't say. Using it may be cumbersome on occasion.  However, if you're willing to deal with a few hiccups and a touch panel that isn't nearly as beautiful or responsive as the one on the iPad, you may, at some point make a decision to consider a netbook or tablet convertible and get down to business. Of course, you need to make sure your work won't keep you away from the AC outlet for too long.  In our testing, the S10-3t's battery only lasted 2-3 hours, which is around 4x shorter than the iPad's battery life.

The Breakdown:

  • Acts as a tablet PC or a true netbook
  • Has a real, full OS installed (Windows 7)
  • Can get "real work" done, just like a "real PC"
  • Very expandable thanks to numerous ports
  • Can't handle HD multi-media
  • Touch panel performance is lackluster
  • Windows 7 interface isn't tailor made for touch use
  • Battery life is nearly 4x shorter than the iPad

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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.



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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!

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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 :)

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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. :)

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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.



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@ 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.

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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!)


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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

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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.

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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.

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