12" MacBook, 11" MBA, iPad Air 2 or iPad Pro?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by kylera, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. kylera, Sep 10, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2015

    kylera macrumors 65816

    kylera

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Location:
    Seoul
    #1
    I am in a situation right now where I will have to do a lot of typing on the go. I can see myself doing work in a bus on regular long distance (1.5 hours one way) commutes, as well as random benches, subways or cafes.

    My work will consist primarily of translation work; these will be primarily of scripts for TV shows so I am envisioning a two-window split screen scenario where one half will be the document in question and the other half will be a web browser with a dictionary page and other pages for when I need to look stuff up. Depending on the situation, I may need to fire up some video footage to watch or listen to relevant parts.

    However, my other requirement here is that whichever way I go, the device has to be compact. Despite being on the lighter side, my MBA 13" is definitely heavy in its own right when I pack other things in my bag. This has brought me to the devices listed in the title, though there are unique aspects for each device that attract me one way or another. I'm seeking advice from other users because of that. I'm also considering the iPad Pro simply because it weighs as much as an iPad 4 and an iPhone 5 put together, which is still much lighter than a MacBook.

    Vision-wise, I'm on the decent end. I don't need any glasses (yet) and I don't have to squint at small texts when the device is at standard distance (seated lap to head).

    I'm also in the last semester of my undergraduate studies at the moment, so I'll also be using this for making Keynote presentations.

    The following list of devices also features what I perceive to be advantages and shortcomings. I have zero experience with them other than briefly trying them out at Apple resellers, so please correct me where necessary.

    12" MacBook
    Pros:
    - Thinnest and lightest among all MacBooks
    - Full-fledged OS X
    - Easy Windows availability (possibly necessary because I live in Korea, the Land of ActiveX)
    - Retina display
    - Excellent battery life (same rated as 11" MBA)
    - Can utilize external battery pack for extended outside usage
    - More screen real estate compared to MBA

    Cons:
    - Underpowered for its price
    - $100 more expensive than 11" when specced to 8GB RAM/256GB storage (ignoring CPU)
    - Requires dongle for USB peripherals
    - Requires tethering for Internet access (I have an iPhone 5C and a heavy data plan that allows tethering, but this would sap either the MB's battery or the iPhone's battery)
    - Requires separate video-out dongle for monitor-out

    11" MacBook Air
    Pros:
    - Full-fledged OS X
    - Easy Windows availability (possibly necessary because I live in Korea, the Land of ActiveX)
    - Excellent battery life (same rated as MB)
    - USB ports for flash drives
    - More CPU oomph
    - Cheaper

    Cons:
    - Seemingly on the verge of being phased out (completely subjective)
    - TN display is not very outdoor-friendly (this was my experience with my 13" 2012 MBA, and reviews seem to show that the latest MBAs still use the same screen)
    - Non-Retina display
    - Lesser screen space compared to MB (1366 x 768 vs 1440 x 900 or higher)
    - Requires tethering for Internet access (same con as mentioned above)
    - Requires separate video-out dongle for monitor-out (but I already own the dongle for the 13" MBA, so I can reuse it here, so not a con - mentioned in case someone were to bring it up)
    - No option for comparatively affordable external power compared to the likes for the MB

    iPad Air 2 and Pro
    Pros:
    - Lightest machine among all, even when a Bluetooth keyboard is included
    - Retina display
    - Excellent battery life (potentially the best among the three)
    - On-demand LTE connectivity (if I go the iPad route, I am definitely getting the cellular model)
    - More versatility in terms of usage (I game and read more on my iPad than on my Macs)
    - Cheapest among all (though excluding Bluetooth keyboard; Air 2)
    - Can use onscreen keyboard if I'm standing

    Cons:
    - Productivity software available for iOS have fewer features compared to OS X counterparts (though I do not make use of any "advanced" features - just italics, bold, underline, strikethrough, and tab adjustment)
    - Requires a separate Bluetooth keyboard, and that too something that'll let me work on my lap - something akin to the Clamcase - if I want to really do mobile work
    - iOS 9 split-screen multitasking support is still a major question mark; I have no idea whether this applies to all apps or not
    - Need to remote access a Windows machine in case I need something exclusive to Windows
    - (Pro) The Smart Keyboard doesn't look very touch-typing-friendly (again, speculation based on looks and impressions)
    - (Pro) LTE model price is extremely close to the MBA

    At this point, after listing out my thoughts, the iPad Pro and the MBA 11" are in distant third and fourth places, while the iPad Air 2 and the MacBook are on the verge of being on the shortlist. What are your thoughts?

    I've previously done extensive work on both my 13" MBA and my iPad 4 with a separate keyboard. While the iPad 4 had required some more roundabouts compared to the MBA, it was still doable enough as is, so I'm not diving into productive iPad usage blind here.
     
  2. Mr West macrumors member

    Mr West

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    #2
    I'm sort of in the same situation. However, I am on the verge of opting for the MBA11.
    The price difference is huge (being sub $1000) AND the MBA11 is faster. iPad Pro is a no-go for me since I really need a good keyboard and 'full OS'. I doesn't scare me that the MBA might get phased, but I'm scared it will be upgraded, or a nice alternative will be introduced a couple of months after I buy one.
     
  3. AFEPPL macrumors 68020

    AFEPPL

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2014
    Location:
    England
    #3
    i see the iPad pro as a complete own goal. Its just a me too product from apple.
    rMB seems to have the right size, right keyboard and is able to run full OS X apps i dont see ports matter because if they did iPad wouldnt be an option either.
     
  4. kylera thread starter macrumors 65816

    kylera

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Location:
    Seoul
    #4
    I don't really have the luxury of waiting it out, unfortunately. I'll have to make a purchase sometime in October.

    As for worrying about stuff going out of date, let me help you put things in perspective. I bought the 13" MacBook Air back in 2012 right after it was released. If you look at ONLY the MBA lineup, yes, it was the newest and latest device at the time. However, about 3 or 4 months later after I bought it, the 13" Retina MBP came out. For only 300 grams more, it had a Retina display, a more powerful CPU and near-equivalent battery life. The motto here is that something better WILL always be coming out eventually, and as long as you can make do with what you have at that point, it's all good.

    All things considered, my MBA right now is a very capable machine as is. However, given my current situation, it doesn't fit the bill anymore, so I'm shopping.
     
  5. Mr West macrumors member

    Mr West

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    #5
    Thanks for the advice!
    Concerning your situation, if I understood, you are happy with your MBA13, but i's just too heavy.
    Well if budget isn't an issue, you could indeed go for new rMB.
    I don't have any experience with the device, but a 'mobile OS' seems risky if it's your main device.
    Same for the keyboard. But like I said, I haven't used the device.
     
  6. kylera thread starter macrumors 65816

    kylera

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Location:
    Seoul
    #6
    That's what I'm thinking as well. After all, work makes money, so I really should put that as a priority.

    At the same time, I enjoy gaming on my iPad 4 too much, so that's what's making this such an irrational thought.
     
  7. Mr West macrumors member

    Mr West

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    #7
    Well actually, now that I think of it, maybe you should try a Surface Pro 3. I got one for work, but since I don't want to put too much personal stuff on it, and my own laptop died, I'm looking to buy a new one.
    The surface is:
    - very light
    - versatile (you can use it as a tablet while standing)
    - same price a the rMP and plenty of power
    - GAMING. It's a full windows machine so you can install and play nearly every game
    - Keyboard is ok. Macbook is way better, but I'm guessing iPad pro is worse
     
  8. kylera, Sep 10, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2015

    kylera thread starter macrumors 65816

    kylera

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Location:
    Seoul
    #8
    I actually tried out the Surface Pro 3 in person at a shop, but the kickstand actually was what I thought the biggest shortcoming for my situation. I can't imagine propping that with the Type Cover on my lap while I'm working and typing away. What is your opinion on that, assuming you also have the Type Cover?

    Maybe I'll stop by the store again some other time and actually try to put it ON my lap...
     
  9. Mr West macrumors member

    Mr West

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    #9
    Good point. Indeed it's not ideal to use on your lap although it's doable.
    However, for long busrides without a table it will pose a problem. For lap usage, a real laptop is way better.
    The problem is that the kickstand reaches far behind the keyboard. So you need a much bigger surface (area) to hold it stable. As much as I like the Surface, I can not recommend tit for lap usage, but like I said, it's doable.
    I won't suprise me if me iPad Pro copes with the same problem.
     
  10. mcgroarty macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2011
    #10
    Personally, I'd rule out the iPad for this work if video or audio tracks will be a frequent source. With Mac or Windows you'll be able to use playback apps for which you can assign global hotkeys to skip back 3, 5, 10 seconds. You'll probably do that a lot with any audio translation or transcription work. It's unlikely that you'll be able to do the same with an iPad.
     
  11. blesscheese macrumors 6502a

    blesscheese

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2010
    Location:
    Central CA
    #11
    My thoughts are, in addition to the above, currently with the iPad (the pro with pencil may be a different matter) *precision* placement of things like audio/video sliders is a pain for me.

    With a trackpad, I can place the start point exactly where I want it. Also, if you can type, I wouldn't want my hands traveling too far from the keyboard, as that is where i am most efficient. Constantly lifting my hand up and poking at the iPad screen with my finger just slows me down (I currently use my iPad with a clamshell keyboard).

    All in all, I love my MBA 13 for work. The iPad is fun for reading books, etc., but getting work done just takes more effort, and isn't as efficient.

    One more note, I picked up the rMB at a store, and it just felt flimsy. In any case, I would seriously consider a MBA, either the 11 or the 13. My wife as the 11, and she takes it with her almost everywhere.
     
  12. pjfan macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 24, 2009
    Location:
    Columbus OH
    #12
    Your needs seem perfect for the rMB. I tried to convert to all iPad environment when traveling, and what I learned was that it was great for my "focus" writing, not comparison or multitasking writing. Now, the iPad pro might be good at this, but the rMB is purpose built for your use case.

    Tethering doesn't take much away from my iPhone 6+ battery (that I can tell).
     
  13. ChristopherFitch macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2015
    #13
    Don't try to use an iPad/Clamcase for what you're describing. I'm a screenwriter and I can't begin to describe the hell of trying to work on scripts without a trackpad. From what it sounds like you would need to click around the scripts a lot, writing things, etc. I'll tell you without equivocation: I had an iPad with a Clamcase and it was a total horror show. I feel so strongly about this, I basically registered just to pass that along (and to ask a question about Garageband somewhere else, but seriously, get one of the Macbooks).
     
  14. Soccertess macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    #14
    The MBA11 is fantastic, plus having ports is a must. Couldn't see myself sharing a usb port with the charging port.. and I don't want to carry several adaptors.. plus it has the magnetic charging port! I wouldn't touch the 12 Macbook with a 10 foot pole! (unless it had wireless charging)

    And you are right, full OS is key. iOS is too locked down and without a file system, not sure how useful it would be unless it isn't your main computer.

    I love my MBA11, OSX is fantastic.. only thing is the bezel is too wide and you could easily have a larger screen. Hopefully Tim just focuses on Apple Watch and doesn't screw the MBAs up!
     
  15. riviera74 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2015
    Location:
    Fort Myers FL
    #15
    Why settle for an MBA11 when he could use the extra screen space that comes with an MBA13?
     
  16. AFEPPL macrumors 68020

    AFEPPL

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2014
    Location:
    England
    #16
    Or more to the point, why settle for a poor screen.. go in the middle 12" and get a retina display.
     
  17. Mr West macrumors member

    Mr West

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    #17
    He currently has an MBA13, but's too big/heavy.
     
  18. Mr West macrumors member

    Mr West

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    #18
    Thanks! I'm pretty sure I'll buy one in one of the coming weeks.
     
  19. kylera thread starter macrumors 65816

    kylera

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Location:
    Seoul
    #19
    Thank you for all your advice!

    I'm convinced that I should go the route of the rMB. Now, given my stated tasks, will I notice any additional boost if I opt for the 1.2 or 1.3Ghz CPUs?
     
  20. riviera74 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2015
    Location:
    Fort Myers FL
    #20
    Maybe a little. I would recommend getting 512GB SSD over the 256GB SSD. The Core M is meant to be a cool, efficient CPU, not quite the powerhouse CPUs that are in the MBA or rMBP.
     
  21. Macjack macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2002
    #21
    Kylera,

    I want to support your choice. With the described tasks, you won't notice any shortcomings in the speed 95 % percent of the time, maybe more often. Get at least the 1.2 GHz version. The 1.3 GHz does not really make enough difference for the price differential for most. If I remember well, the 512 GB versions have faster SSDs. On my rMB I have write speeds of around 460 MB/s and read speeds beyond 840 MB/s.

    I am also running a Surface Pro 3, which I like for the sound (yes, better voices than on all my macs, including thunderbolt display). With the keyboard attached, it is only ok on a table. Though it has a touch screen, I always use a mouse. So, don't overestimate the touch feature on a productivity machine.
     
  22. kylera thread starter macrumors 65816

    kylera

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2010
    Location:
    Seoul
    #22
    Do you have any sources regarding the SSD difference, by any chance?
     
  23. Mr West macrumors member

    Mr West

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2012
    #23
    +1. Indeed when you use a mouse, the touch-feature is nearly obsolete.
     
  24. Macjack macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2002
    #24
    Not sure, where I originally found it, but on anandtech.com there is a test of the 256GB machine. Read speeds are rated at 665 MB/s, whereas I get above 840 MB/s. Maybe not life-changing, but probably notable. Write speeds are about the same.
     
  25. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #25
    Doesn't sound like it'll nmake much difference to you, if you go for the 512GB SSD you'll get 1.2 speed anyway though so buy on storage size.
     

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