iPad Compared to a Laptop

by Alan Bradford

After its release in 2010, the Apple iPad became the highest selling tablet computer on the market. Though the iPad uses the same operating system as the iPhone, its size and functionality set it apart from smartphones. Beyond that, its touchscreen interaction, limited hardware and reduced size differentiate it from laptop computers. The iPad fits into a market for quick, on-the-go media viewing and Web browsing in tablet form.


The iPad is a smaller form factor than most laptop computers. The screen size is 9.7 inches diagonally, which is much smaller than the typical 12- to 13-inch screens on most laptop computers. Though several laptops now offer much slimmer profiles than ever before, the iPad's half-inch thickness across the entire device makes it thinner than virtually all laptop computers. However, these small dimensions come at a cost of fewer hardware features.


Laptop computers function like desktop computers, using similar, though miniaturized hardware components, such as a magnetic, spinning hard drive, a physical keyboard and a DVD drive. The iPad removes all but the most essential hardware components to preserve a smaller profile. For example, the iPad uses a smaller solid-state hard drive and has no physical keyboard or optical drive. The available ports are also limited to the standard dock connector, a headphone jack and a micro-SIM card port.

Input Devices

The primary input devices for a laptop computer are a keyboard and touch-pad. Many laptops also offer functional buttons around the case for such things as wireless connectivity, DVD play and volume controls and power. For additional buttons, the iPad offers only a power/sleep button, mute and volume controls and a Home button that returns you to the main menu. Besides these, all input is performed through the touch-screen display and operating system interaction.

Software Functionality

There's a noticeable difference between the productivity software native to the iPad and the software available on laptop computers. If some functionality within the word processing or email application on the iPad is missing, you must search for an alternative within Apple's App Store. In contrast, with a laptop running a more popular operating system, you can pick from a variety of third-party software solutions.

About the Author

Alan Bradford began his career as a technical writer and editor in 2000. He has worked in a variety of fields, including medical devices, military applications and PC/console game development. Bradford specializes in such topics as computers, PC gaming and family and spiritual life. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University.

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