Tech Tips: iPad or laptop? Depends what you need
November 30, 2012
Kenny asks: I'm contemplating getting an iPad or a new small computer and can't decide which would be right for me. Do you have any suggestions?
I do love my iPad for consuming content (viewing videos, listening to music, reading magazines and e-books, browsing web pages), and of course, you have other options as well. If you want something cheaper, you can look into the Kindle Fire (goo.gl/jTwj) or one of the many Android tablets (goo.gl/vYEqB). They all do well at showing you content.
None of these does a great job when it comes to creating new content — the form factor and the lack of a physical keyboard and mouse make things difficult. The iPad (and any Android tablet that allows hooking up a keyboard) do the best because you can easily hook up a Bluetooth keyboard and use the thousands of apps available on the device for creating music, videos and documents. But it's still not as easy as using a laptop because without support for a mouse, you end up having to take your hands off the keyboard and point at the screen far more often than I like.
If your goal is to create content — whether it be the written word, music or video — my guess is that you'll be happier using a full-fledged laptop. Either a full-sized laptop or a new Ultrabook, like the MacBook Air (goo.gl/QQVOY) or some of the other Windows-based Ultrabooks (goo.gl/h2x00), should do fine.
Testing my Internet service
Scott asks: I just changed my Internet service to a new faster service. But it seems like it is still slow compared to the speeds I used to see. How can I tell what speed I am getting?
We don't think anyone feels their Internet connection is as fast as they feel it should be — that's just the "nature of the beast." You get accustomed to your Internet speed, and over time, it always just seems to get slower and slower. In many cases, it has nothing to do with the physical connection: Sites you visit publish more and more content that is physically larger and takes longer to download. For example, perhaps you didn't previously stream movies, and now you watch Netflix all day long.
It is possible that your browser could cause the throughput to slow down progressively because of browser extensions — add-ins for your browser, which may give you a better presentation of data or more features but which may cause the browser to feel slower. These add-ins might require more bandwidth and computer power, which can cause the perceived speed to be slower. You might want to try loading your browser without add-ins (the steps to do this are different for each browser, but you can find online instructions for your particular browser).
You may also notice that the speed is different depending on the time of day. For most home Internet users, you effectively share your Internet connection (your bandwidth, at least) with your neighbors. When everyone is home streaming movies, you may find that the speed is slower than it is in the middle of the night.
Are you sure other people in your own home are not downloading large video files? Ask them.
If you want to confirm that you're getting the speed promised by your ISP, there are tools that can test the upload and download speed of your Internet connection. We find the testing tool at http://www.speedtest.net to be the simplest to use. It's unlikely you'll ever see numbers on the speed test website that match your provider's promised speeds exactly — there are many factors that affect the exact speed of uploading and downloading at any given moment. You can use the speed you're paying for (generally a different number for upload and download) along with the online speed test tool to track trends. If you find that your connection speed is always much lower than specified, call your Internet provider and complain. It's also useful to turn off the modem, wait 30 seconds, then turn it back on. This reboot can sometimes help.
Doug Behl and Ken Getzspent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken's tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to email@example.com.
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