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Old Jun 13, 2013, 11:39 PM   #1
hjb
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Surprised myself with Air/iPad comparison

(A similar but not identical post appears in the Air forum.)

Two years ago, I bought a iPad2. I was pretty sure it would be a luxury, certainly not my "work computer," but that's what happened. I've been using the iPad in place of a portable computer. I use it every day for word processing (Pages: 1-5 page documents, mostly, but some as long as 10-15 pages with some graphics), Numbers (budgets), email, schedule (I love the sync with other Apple devices, and use this constantly), showing off Keynote presentations, and other general office (and fun) use. When building Keynotes, or OmniGraffle diagrams, I start on the iPad, then move to iMac 21.5" for fancier designs, more detailed work, etc.

I visited the Apple Store today to check out the latest 11 and 13 inch Airs, and to again consider the 13 MPB Retina. My intent: choose one of these so that I could do more efficient work on a portable. I was surprised to find that I preferred my current iPad + iMac setup, and I wondered whether others had gone through similar thought processes. That is: I thought I was going to buy an Air today, and I left the store without one. This confused me, so I'm reaching out to others for their insight and experiences.

Briefly:

1. The built-in 3G connectivity in the iPad (which I use often) is a missing feature on the portable Macs. Yes, I can use the iPhone's connectivity, but this seems like a workaround.

2. I've gotten used to the iPad's touch screen, and surprise myself by typing directly onto the iPad surface most of the time (external keyboard via Bluetooth sometimes).

3. The experience of working with the 11-inch screen sets expectations that don't resolve as nicely as they do on the iPad. Specifically, because I can only open one screen/document on the iPad at a time, the experience is always easy to read and solid. When I open two docs on the Air 11, they're both a bit too small and because the Air is a computer not a tablet, I can't quite bring the screen closer to my eyes.

4. The experience of working on the 13-inch screen is better, but now I'm spending over $1,500 for something that weighs twice as much as the iPad2 (2 1/2 times if I consider the retina MBP13).

5. There are some things that I can't do on the iPad that I can do on the Air: build and modify FileMaker databases (so I do them on the iMac when I get to my desk), use Adobe Creative Suite (which requires more concentration that remote environments provide, for me, much of the time), watch Flash video (infrequent occurrence, though sometimes annoying), and... okay, now I'm struggling a bit for more.

I do like the idea of actually typing on a proper keyboard into, say, Pages, and certainly, but what began as a likely purchase of an Air today is beginning to look like a full-sized iPad upgrade later this year. I've surprised myself, and I would like to hear other people's experiences.

Thanks!
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Old Jun 16, 2013, 01:51 AM   #2
ipsychedelic
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Well, my current setup is a Mini with an iPad (and iPhone of course).

I'd personally ditch the Mini for a MBP if they were as cheap (because they hold a lot of more power, not because I really dig the screen or keyboard which are things I'd never use on a laptop-as-desktop).
So in my case I consider the MBP as a desktop replacement more as the mobile device.

Why, I don't know.

When the first iPad came out, I wasn't an Apple fan, and I thought "Who in their right mind would get this PoS in favor of a proper net-top with access to a proper desktop OS).
With time I realized the answer was Apps. Yes that is correct. The Apps that have came out over the years just change the paradigm that the iPad is just a device for "media consumption" and can actually be used as an alternative mobile "laptop" solution.
Notetaking apps, blog composers, word processors, mobile music production, some soft photo retouching et. al., make it a great, smaller, easier-to-carry alternative than a laptop.

Like you say, there are stuff that can be done on a laptop, like the ease of use on the filesystem (USB drives anyone?) and the use of some more "proper" desktop apps... but what I always tell myself to calm down the urge to even consider a MBP or MBA is "You're not an executive on the road, neither a graphics designer/music producer in a freelance job traveling around the world, needing a proper desktop suite of applications". For those people, then a MBA at minimum or the MBP would be the right choice because of the closeness of iOS and the lack of a "proper" desktop OS to run their "pro" apps within... but for the rest, the iPad specially has proven to be the little machine that could.

In your case I assume the iMac is more than enough for your desktop needs so unless you'd require the creative suite 24/7 on-the-go (and your jobs requires it and so on), there is not much of a need of a MBP.

Oh and one last thing is, as you mention (sorta), a 11" screen like in the MBA is too small, even a 13" might not be the greatest compromise, so, in order to feel "complete" a 15" might be the right choice and that means a huge-ass MBP to carry around vs the iPad.
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Old Jun 16, 2013, 09:24 AM   #3
hafr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hjb View Post
1. The built-in 3G connectivity in the iPad (which I use often) is a missing feature on the portable Macs. Yes, I can use the iPhone's connectivity, but this seems like a workaround.
Still a workaround, but a much simpler one: get a 3G dongle.

Quote:
2. I've gotten used to the iPad's touch screen, and surprise myself by typing directly onto the iPad surface most of the time (external keyboard via Bluetooth sometimes).
But you'd still be more effective with a proper keyboard, right?

Quote:
3. The experience of working with the 11-inch screen sets expectations that don't resolve as nicely as they do on the iPad. Specifically, because I can only open one screen/document on the iPad at a time, the experience is always easy to read and solid. When I open two docs on the Air 11, they're both a bit too small and because the Air is a computer not a tablet, I can't quite bring the screen closer to my eyes.
On the other hand, you can easily add another workspace and swipe between the two documents on the MBA.

If it were me, I'd wait and see what Apple has in store for their next iPad with iOS 7. Considering the way other tablets are going, I can't really see Apple keeping the iPad as a "toy" (in comparison) where you can't even have proper multitasking...
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Old Jun 16, 2013, 07:08 PM   #4
firestarter
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I agree with your points hjb.

A couple of months back I bought a MBA 11 inch. I'd tried them out in store, but only for a few minutes. I figured I could do with a portable computer for times I need to do more heavy typing (I have an iPad 1, 3 and a Mac Pro).

I was disappointed with the MBA. The WiFi reception was poor, which didn't help - but I also reflected on all the points you've made. The screen was small and seemed low res, portability wasn't that great, no 3/4G needs addressing.

I sent it back. The iPad is much better at a lot of the portability things I need a computer for, and for typing larger documents I just picked up a bluetooth keyboard.
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