I have a simple answer when friends ask, “What laptop do you recommend for around £300 to £400?” That answer: “Why don’t you buy an iPad and keyboard instead?” Good battery life, great performance and a top-quality screen go together to make for a product that, in most instances, will be far superior to a Windows 10 laptop at a similar price. All they need to do is add that keyboard and they’re good to go.
As if in acknowledgement of the iPad’s rising status as an all-round productivity tool, Apple has made this easier with the addition of its “Smart Connector” keyboard interface. This three-pin magnetic connector means you can add Apple’s Smart Keyboard for a laptop-like experience. It’s the first time you’ve been able to do this on Apple’s cheapest, non-Pro tablet. (Note it supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, too.)
As with all add-on keyboards, the iPad’s can’t match a “proper” laptop for feel; if I was going to type thousands of words, I wouldn’t use the Smart Keyboard. However, it’s a great choice for quick emails and the keys have a surprisingly nice feel considering their shallow depth.
Usability to the fore
Probably the biggest improvement to the newest iPad, somewhat ironically, is one you don’t have to buy new hardware to experience: iPadOS. To use the marketing term, this is iOS “reimagined” for the world of productivity. In other words, it’s a version of iOS that has been liberated from the shackles that Apple previously imposed upon it.
Much centres around the revamped Files app, which allows you to connect to an external hard disk drive and transfer files back and forth. Not only photos and videos, but any kind of file; this facility even extends to network drives. Other niceties include a Column View, just like the one you’ll see in the macOS Finder, allowing you to drill down folder by folder quickly and efficiently.
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