I do not think it is a fair comparison between a laptop and a tablet. Frankly, if you are one of those who often commute and require a device that you can count on, you should keep it simple and stay with a laptop.
On the other hand, if you are willing to make some minor sacrifices on the computing power, to make things happen creatively, and to require only the essential apps (namely email and web browser) to work most of the time, you may consider switching over to a tablet.
Before I dive into further details, I would like to mention that I personally own an Apple MacBook, an iPhone 4, and an iPad 2. So in this particular article, the products being covered are mainly the MacBook and the iPad 2.
Do I think my iPad 2 can replace my MacBook? Certainly not. In fact, I am writing this article now with my MacBook. I would never think I can do the same with my iPad 2. Imagine typing out a 400+ word document with your 2 index fingers, I am sure my 2 index fingers will not be too happy!
But, when I go out, I usually carry just my iPad 2 – and I believe I can handle most of my essential tasks with it. Here is how I can do it:
What are the 4 things everyone has to do everyday? Check emails, surf the web, like on Facebook, and twit on Twitter. There are many applications on the iPad 2 that allow me to do these tasks splendidly. There is no difference doing this in my MacBook vs. my iPad 2. Of course, do not expect me to reply your email in 1000 words, but I shall certainly reply you adequately with my iPad 2. So, I got my basis covered.
Next, I have some business related tasks to cover, for example, to make sure I am organized in my professional life. What do I need? I need an application that can keep my Notes organized (EverNote); another application to keep my critical files synchronized and readily available for access (DropBox), perhaps another application to let me take care of my basic word processing and spreadsheet needs (Google Apps); and last but not least, an application to track my tasks and to-do’s (WunderList). These applications can help me maintain my productivity just fine on my iPad 2 (and guess what, they synchronize automatically with my MacBook too)!
Once I am done with business, I will want to relax and enjoy a little time off. I may want to watch some video on YouTube, and the screen size (9.7 inch) on my iPad 2 is big enough; I do not think I can be much happier if I were to watch it on my 13″ MacBook, but I certainly do not want to watch video on my tiny iPhone 4 screen for too long as it puts too much strain on my eyes.
Besides watching video, the games being offered on the iPad 2 are simply amazing. They are so good that I believe they may have surpassed the quality of the computer-based games. With the advance technology built-in to the iPad 2, it can become a very nice game controller, with intuitive user input. The game controllers for computers are not at this level yet.
There may be things that you just cannot do with an iPad, for example, play a Flash game, or run a SQL server monitoring software. To cover these items, I do suggest you to get a Windows-based server hosting plan.
How will this help? For anything that you cannot do on the iPad 2, you can simply start a Remote Desktop application and connect back to your hosted Windows server, and you may play your Flash game there, or launch whatever applications that you need to run without the need to carry a laptop around. This is practically a “catch-all” solution which allows you to handle everything you need, all from your tablet.
So in summary, I conclude that my iPad 2 (tablet) is good enough to replace my MacBook (laptop) as my companion iDevice when I travel. The iPad 2 can do everything that I need to do remotely, as I am willing to do certain things creatively (like using a Remote Desktop application to log back onto my Windows server). This is why I can go out with only my iPad 2 and enjoy the benefit (small form-factor and “coolness”) it brings me.