Yes you are correct you have to use an exchange account. I have done it for years now on my ipad, so I never think about it.
But in terms of functionality yes you lose access to docs..etc. For that I just login on the website, but I dont use docs or anything else that much.
It does not make sense why gmail is like that.
Funny thing though - the emails themselves are far better than on droid. They load fast, look much better and the functionality is easier for me. The droid gmail app would always move slow, you had to hit the back button or every time you opened it, it showed the last email you sent instead of your inbox..had to press a tab to get to another account instead of being able to see both..etc.