12" Macbook Air or Surface Pro 3 for student?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by saintforlife, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. saintforlife macrumors 65816

    Feb 25, 2011
    I am starting grad school this fall and am trying to decide what computer to use for classwork during the next few years. Ideally I'd like to carry the most versatile and portable device. The apps I will be using during school the most will be Excel, Word and PowerPoint. The school is giving iPads for all the students and our text books will be distributed digitally through iBooks, so I will always have the iPad with me.

    Having said that, I have narrowed down my computer choice to the new 12" MBA or the Surface Pro 3. (I know the 12" MBA is not released yet, but all signs point towards it happening later this year anyway.) My biggest attraction towards the Surface Pro 3 is the fact that it comes with a digital pen and you can write directly in OneNote using free text in your own handwriting and record audio/video of the lecture at the same time. I think that is a killer feature for any student. When you take notes using only notebooks, sometimes you tend to miss stuff the lecturer says and if you can record audio and sync it contextually with your notes, it really helps.

    What do you guys think? Which device will serve my needs better - the SP3 or the MBA?
  2. capathy21 macrumors 65816


    Jun 16, 2014
    Houston, Texas
    I will try to be as unbiased as possible although since I have picked up a mac, I do not miss Windows one bit. The SP3 does look like a nice device. However if you are going to be using an iPad, I think it would behoove you to get the Mac to stay in the ecosystem. Do you have an iPhone also? I would also think since you are going to have an iPad, the SP3 would almost be like another tablet and do you really need two tablets?
  3. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    How could you possibly evaluate a computer that has not been released yet? There is still a lot of uncertainty about exactly what the 12" MBA will be (see today's story on the MacRumors home page for example). What will the battery life be like? How would a retina screen impact performance? How hot will it get if there isn't a fan. What will it look like? Will it have an ARM processor? How much will it cost?

    Maybe you could find a used MBA, then trade it in for the Microsoft $650 rebate on the Surface if you don't like it. :D
  4. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    You need to consider, whether a laptop or a tablet that acts like a laptop best fits your needs. Look also at the software you need to run.

    Personally, I think a laptop because of the better keyboard is the choice but you need (or want) to run windows, and like the idea of a touch screen and/or a pen, then get the SP3.
  5. Kryckter macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2009
    Im with this comment.

    What is the software you are going to be using, and how do you like to take notes. I prefer typing, and if I was only using word and its siblings, MBA all the way. If you needed alot of windows programs, well then I would do the MBA and have vmware fusion or parallels.

    I guess I would just say MBA.
  6. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    What if the new 12" MBA has an ARM processor? ;)
  7. Kryckter macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2009
    Thats a good curveball then... And since the OP was looking for the 12", I dunno. I would probably change my answer to an 11" or 13" then. :D
  8. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    For me, that would clinch it right there. Get the MacBook Air. You'll have a more seamless experience with the iPad. Plus, there is OneNote for the iPad as well. The same device that has your textbook can also be used for note taking.


    :rolleyes: The 12" MBA isn't getting an ARM processor.
  9. sracer macrumors 604


    Apr 9, 2010
    Good suggestion. Just be aware that neither the OSX nor iOS versions of OneNote support hand drawing. To get that capability, you'd need to use Outline+ for iOS... a OneNote clone that DOES support it.
  10. saintforlife thread starter macrumors 65816

    Feb 25, 2011
    The programs I will use most often are Excel, Word and PowerPoint. I want to use OneNote to take notes. Most lecturers in this school don't allow students to have laptops open during class, they only allow hand written notes. So the reason I was considering the SP3 was that I could write using the digital pen directly in OneNote and record the lecture at the same time (pretty neat if you ask me). If I go the MBA route, I'd have to use something like LiveScribe smartpen and smart notebook and then sync it later with Evernote or something similar....quite inelegant if you ask me.
  11. cedwhatev macrumors 6502


    Oct 22, 2011
    Yeah, I'd go with the Air, and although the SP3 sounds like a sweet device, it just won't compare. If you're that taken by the fact that you can write on the SP3, then you're obviously in the market for a tablet moreso than a notebook. The MBA is unbeatable, and if I were you, I'd just go with the current 11" or 13" model. It's made for students with its dominant battery life, and you will not be disappointed.
  12. ZombiePete macrumors 68020


    Aug 6, 2008
    San Antonio, TX
    So did you just want everyone to validate your decision to get the SP3?
  13. ob81 macrumors 65816


    Jun 11, 2007
    Virginia Beach
    My recommendation is to also ask this question on a surface forum as well.

    They both are great devices. If you have apple devices, then the air would fit in great.
  14. bit density macrumors 6502

    Mar 5, 2004
    It comes down to this...

    I have a feeling that you're not going to be at a great advantage with the possible retina in the 12 in. However, the rest of the air is magic. And you ought to put one of the other two airs on the list as well. For office type stuff, these are amazing machines...

    However, the surface pro 3, possibly has a killer app. It depends and I haven't seen much about it yet. But a one note centric system with a killer pen, could very well be awesome and what tips the scale. Office will be a compromise on that system, it will just not be as good as it is on the air, the hardware will always get in the way more than the air. But one-note, as the center of a system, could be one kick ass system for an information centric worker (A grad student could fit in well for that).
  15. yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    Since you may have to take the iPad to the classroom, it would be awkward to take both the iPad and SP3 to the classroom, wouldn't it?

    iPad can be used to taking notes. I use a program called notability and use my finger to draw picture. The drawing is not very accurate but the result is decent (the program uses some algorithms to beautify the drawings). There are also third-party pens. Note that iPad touch screen is capacity based, so technically it cannot be as accurate as SP3 even with pens. But one might find it acceptable.

  16. Saturn1217 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 28, 2008
    What type of grad school?

    Will you need to write any kind of dissertation at the end? If so then MBA because eventually you will want a really good keyboard that you can use anywhere so that you can write whenever you have the chance.

    PhD student speaking here in the midst of thesis writing :(

    The note-taking aspects of the Surface Pro 3 are cool but I've managed to replicate most of them with either an iPad or a phone.
  17. AppleFanatic10 macrumors 68030


    Nov 2, 2010
    Encino, CA
    There are apps in the app store that allow you to do just that, so I don't think that a Surface Pro would be beneificial for you at all. Get the MBA; a lot of apps sync from the iPad sync with the MBA also.
  18. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    With Surface 2 Microsoft tried to replace the iPad, now the macbook air, with surface 4 what will try i wonder... there is a real desperate time in Microsoft and is not the same company like it was 10 years ago or even 5 years ago
  19. chabig macrumors 601

    Sep 6, 2002
    I've heard this before. Who has the time to sit in a lecture, then go home and listen to the whole thing over again?
  20. henrikdale macrumors newbie

    Mar 14, 2013
    From your responses here, it seems you have your mind set on the Surface Pro 3. That's of course fine, they are both nice devices and you should pick the one you want.

    I own both a Surface Pro and a MacBook Air and I think what you should ask yourself is "what type of notes will I be taking." The Surface has a surprisingly good keyboard, but it's not quite as good as the one you find on the MacBook. So if you're planning to type your notes, go for the Air (and maybe install a VM so you can run the Windows version of OneNote). If you really want handwritten notes (this is especially cool for STEM majors who rely on diagrams and equations, etc.) then the Surface Pro 3 is a good choice.
  21. taelan28, Jul 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014

    taelan28 macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2014
    I'd love me some surface pro fo sho, but since you already have an ipad it sorta defeats the purpose of a surface pro 3. I wanna tell you to get the pro 3 I think you should just get the 13 inch MBA. 11 is too small, a 12 inch aint coming and they're not porting OSX to ARM. Thats essentially doing what MS did with Windows RT. I like me some Windows RT but the world hates it.

    Being a surface 2 owner I can tell you that Windows 8.1 is sublime on the surface line. I like it. Even after converting to OSX 6 months ago I found myself bashing my head agains this file management even today.

    Get the MBA because you already have an ipad and dont need a second tablet.
    Get the SP3 because its sweet.
    DONT get the SP3 because you can take notes on the screen. Its called a notebook. A real goddamn notebook. As cool and impressive as the Ntrig tech is, its just a toy until it proves its consistent and preferential use over a pen and paper. As great as all these machines are at multitasking, you cant multitask like you can with a notebook and a computer as opposed to just a computer.
  22. Mac.User macrumors 6502

    Aug 25, 2013
    I have an 11in Air and a Surface Pro 2.

    BOth are i5 and 4GB RAM 128GB SSD

    I use the Surface MUCH more than the Air. It just has so many thing that are more handy with it have a great touch screen + a keyboard. I get almost the same battery life out of both, the Air does last 45min longer on average.

    For me the Surface has turned me back into a Windows fan.
  23. mr99 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 8, 2014

    Sorry to hear Mac user
  24. Truthfulie macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2013
    MBA 12" is still just a rumor and nothing more than that. With that said, even if the product was true, I feel that Office usage for your case will hinder you somewhere down the road if you did choose Mac over Windows machine.

    OneNote, Excel. While they do offer OS X versions, they are a joke compared to the Windows counterpart. Personally I found 12" form factor of SP3 a decent experience in laptop mode but found it is too big and heavy for tablet mode. Maybe I need to lift more weights. The typing experience still feels a bit awkward despite the tremendous improvement MS have made to the kickstand and the keyboard. It's just not as comfortable as hinged laptop. But it's a sacrifice you just take on any hybrid devices of today. It's a solid device that does laptop and tablet mode decently but cannot do neither exceptionally. I think if you can live with some of its quirks and get used to these things, it will serve you well though rather pricy considering the keyboard is optional peripheral.
  25. nixiemaiden macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    I have only had a SP3 for about a week but this is the device that I wish they had when I was in school. Most of my professors would post the lecture notes in power point or pdf before class so we could download them and follow along. This would have been amazing for just pulling those notes up and writing notes on them. Instead, I would print them out and add them to my binder to hand write notes on them. And then carry these huge binders full of printed notes around. I tried just taking notes on regular paper and it was such a pain to try and match it back up to the slide it went to.

    The SP3 is NOT a tablet replacement. You can't look at it that way at all. I was on the fence about whether or not to get a MBA or a SP3 for a portable laptop and I am glad I went with the SP3. The more I learn about Windows 8, the more I like it and the easier it is getting to use. If you haven't used Windows 8, there is a learning curve to it. I just love how they added "tablet" features to it like being able to see thumbnails of all of your open apps on the left hand side, being able to close apps by dragging them down, being able to pin windows side by side. Just a lot of little things that after learning them, seem common sense.

    On the same hand I have read about a lot of people having issues. Wifi issues, sleep issues, etc. I have been pretty lucky and haven't had any issues. I have been using it for a couple of hours every night for about a week now, I've installed every update, and I usually just sleep it by closing the cover.

    For me, the integration between my computer and my iPad doesn't matter. Since Apple started keeping all of my purchases in the cloud, I uninstalled iTunes and don't even bother with it (although I need to reinstall it because I had this genius idea to save $100 and go with a 16 GB iPhone and now I don't have enough space to do OTA updates). Everything that needs to be synced, I sync it to the cloud and then it doesn't even matter whether you are using mac or pc...everything streamlines pretty well regardless.

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