Air vs. iPad and 11" vs 13": Some Thoughts

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by $MacUser$, Dec 25, 2011.

  1. $MacUser$, Dec 25, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2011

    $MacUser$ macrumors 6502

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    #1
    So I've been living with my 11" Air several weeks now and have had an iPad since it debuted in 2010. There's been quite a bit of discussion regarding the 11" Air making an iPad redundant and vise versa, which was weighing heavy on my decision to buy one. Having lived with both for an extended period I'll offer up my thoughts to anyone considering these devices.


    Summary

    • The iPad excels at casual browsing and general media consumption, especially when factoring in the 10 hour battery life.
    • The iPad is more comfortable and natural to use in relined/relaxed situations such as a sofa or bed.
    • The 11" Air is not an iPad substitute.
    • The iPad is not a laptop substitute.
    • The 11" Air makes a great desktop replacement when combined with an external monitor and mouse/keyboard.
    • The Air and iPad make a great team, complimenting one another and fulfilling all needs an average user would have. They are not redundant.
    • The 11" Air is superior from a mobility standpoint when compared to the 13".
    • The 13" is a better choice if it will be the sole computing device used without an external monitor or iPad.


    Background

    Prior to the past few weeks I was on a Mini exclusively since 2007. Before that I had a 17" Powerbook, but found myself using it on a desk as a desktop 95% of the time (due primarily to its bulk) and figured I'd just go desktop when it came time to upgrade.

    When the iPad came out in 2010 I thought it'd be a great way to get back into portable computing without making my Mini redundant. Since an iPad has been marketed as a compliment to a fully-featured computer from the start, I figured it would be a great addition, with the two machines combined having all the benefits of a laptop without any of the drawbacks.

    Given the mini was over four years old and beginning to show its age, it was time to move on up. Since I needed a fully-featured laptop for work by this point I started considering the Air. After all the reading and research I did prior to purchase I was set on the 11" model. For me, it seemed to replace both the mini and the iPad with one device. My reasoning was that it's effectively the same size [footprint] as an iPad, while having full OSX and the ability to attach to a large monitor and use as a desktop when needed.

    All this in mind I planned on selling the iPad and using the 11" Air as my sole device.


    11" Air: In Real Life

    After receiving the Air it met my expectations in terms of performance and mobility. It is indeed a small package; for practical purposes it doesn't take up any more room than my iPad. Easily the best computer of this size on the market, which, if you're reading this, is probably self-evident.

    Does the Air really fill the role of both desktop and iPad though? My answer to that is no. First off, after reading and research it seems the size and weight similarities between the Air and the iPad would make casual use on the sofa or in bed a roughly similar experience. However in actual use I find the iPad much more natural and comfortable in those types of situations. True, the 11" Air is about 1000% easier and just generally better to use "off the desk" when compared to a standard laptop, but the iPad is the clear winner in this regard.

    The Air also suffers when it comes to battery life. On paper I figured five hours would be just fine, but in real life I never acknowledged how much I've come to expect the 10+ hours of browsing/multimedia use the iPad offers. I at first thought something was wrong with my Air -- How is the battery draining that fast?? -- but after adjusting settings accordingly (turning off bluetooth and flash, dimming to 50%), I was in fact getting the full advertised life.


    The iPad's Shortcomings

    Of course, the iPad isn't perfect. True, it has that long battery life and great form factor, but when I originally purchased it I had banked on doing some light productivity with industry-specific apps. In short, I intended the iPad as a "laptop replacement."

    Unfortunately, the specific app I was looking for back in May 2010 still hasn't been released, and in general I find the iPad in its current form lacking when it comes to productivity, even with the external keyboard. It's been stated many times and I'll reiterate here: The iPad excels at consumption, but quickly shows its weaknesses when it comes to creation. Even typing this forum post would have been a chore on the 'Pad.

    That said, in quick order the iPad became my browser/media player/video viewer of choice, effectively being used for 75%+ of my computing needs, and it really does excel in this area. It has just the right combination of efficiency and interface for this sort of work. It is still a bit glitchy, a lack of overall memory being my biggest gripe, but this has improved with the iPad 2 and I'm sure will get even better with the 3. I imagine the iPad will be quite mature by its fourth iteration, but still won't replace a computer...yet.


    iPad + Air

    When originally purchasing the iPad -- when I had a Mini -- I felt having a laptop and an iPad together was redundant and unnecessary. Now I see quite clearly they both do different things with different degrees of competence. After having used them side by side for a while now, it makes perfect sense to use the iPad for its intended purpose -- browsing and media consumption -- thus taking that burden off the laptop and have a more comfortable experience in the process. Meanwhile, the Air can be used as a desktop replacement and also has the advantage of full-featured computational portability when required, in an eminently mobile package. I don't know if there's ever been a laptop that's crammed this much performance into such a small and convenient package. The promise of more efficient and powerful CPUs down the line will only make this better.

    Had I ended up getting rid of my iPad I would have put an unnecessary burden on my Air's battery. Seeing now how much I rely on the iPad for casual computing I imagine I would've been tethered to the Air's charging cord a good 50% of the time, crippling what is already an inferior mobile platform for casual use when we're doing a direct comparison to the iPad.


    11" vs. 13"

    My primary reason for going with the 11" was a [faulty] belief that it would replace both my desktop and my iPad. I now know that to be untrue, but with this knowledge would I instead have gone with the 13"? Well, with the added screen real-estate, processing power and battery life for only a marginal increase in price (I'm on the 4GB 11") it would have seemed a no-brainer at the time. BUT...

    ...I've come to see the 11" form factor as a bonus, even with an iPad in the equation. For those times around the house I need OSX on the sofa or I want to hook it up to the TV for HBO Go, the 11" is just easier. It's also easier to transport, and much less obtrusive in tight quarters (think airplane tray table).

    Regarding the 1.6 and 1.7 GHz processors, yes, there is a measurable difference. Will it really make a practical impact for the type of real-world situations this class of consumer-level computer is subject to? No. And if it does -- if you're the type of user pushing the machine to its performance edge -- you're better suited with a MB Pro.

    Screen real-estate: The difference in actual resolution is not significant. That said, if you're getting this as a primary machine without an external monitor, then yes, for sure, go with the 13. And if you intend to use it on the go many hours each day you might be better served with the 13", although on the other side of the coin you'll be adding weight and size that detracts from mobility.

    In my experience I haven't found the 11" screen to be a detriment. In fact it's quite a nice display, one that I can (and have) used for hours on end without issue. True, coming from a 20" external on my mini I do wish it had more real estate, but practically speaking we're talking the difference between a desktop and a laptop, not between the 11 and 13. And I have that same 20" at home I can thunderbolt to the 11 whenever I choose.

    Speaking specifically about eleven diagonal inches, at times it's difficult to fit some windows (iTunes in particular), but Lion has a great full-screen feature that makes this a non-issue. Using this with the OSX hotkeys mitigates the small screen size. At worst, it's an occasional minor and fleeting annoyance for someone accustomed to larger screens. For emphasis, given the fairly close resolutions between the 11 and 13 you're not gaining all that much actual usable space on the screen, just a physically larger display.

    The seven hour battery life on the 13 is a clear plus compared to the 11's five, especially if it will be your sole machine. If, however, you're using it in conjunction with an iPad then battery life becomes a non-issue. Given I won't for the most part be using it in casual iPad-specific locations where I wouldn't want the burden of a charger, I can think of very few scenarios where I'd need more than five uninterrupted hours of battery power without using the A/C adapter.

    The only real exception is air travel, where I frequently do West-to-East coast flights and back again, but having just done one the 5 hours is fine (the trip is only 5-6 hours). So I'd say for me, the 11" is still the winner.

    ----------

    I hope this may have been some help to a potential purchaser. The actual use of these three devices in real life was a bit misty for me, but now having used them their specific applications and niches have become clear.

    Enjoy your mac whatever way you go, and above all...

    Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year!
     
  2. glen e, Dec 25, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2011

    glen e macrumors 68030

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    #2
    an exceptional post - well said - the only people who tout the MBA "trounces" the ipad are fan boys that have not thought it out or used both in many situations. I travel for a living and an ipad in an airport/plane/hotel room "trounces" the MBA. But I can't create content as well on an ipad so they both travel with me. Then with a monitor and keyboard, my MBA becomes my desktop at home. But when I want to surf here while the wife watches x factor, the ipad wins again. THEY PEACEFULLY COEXIST IN MY HOUSEHOLD. I could not get along without either of them.
     
  3. gary c macrumors member

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    Feb 2, 2008
    #3
    i have had a I mac for about 6 years and really like it at home. I am sold on apple products. By far the best in the business. We were going on a 2 week trip and wanted something portable. I went through the iPad vs air 11 for several weeks. Reading all the post I could. I settled on the Air 11 and am very pleased with it. On our trip it was really nice stopping at a Starbucks to look up restaurants and motels. It sure made the travel experience better. Either way I am sure I would have been happy but glad I settled on the air. It just seems much better for this old guy.
     
  4. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

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    #4
    I can't stand using a tablet. I just find it uncomfortable in any position. I'm not a fanboy of anything.

    Can't you accept that different people have different wants/needs/likes ? I don't like browsing with my head tilted forward looking down at a tablet, at all.
     
  5. The Samurai macrumors 68000

    The Samurai

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  6. glen e macrumors 68030

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    #6
    get any of the cases that stand the tablet up like a MBA...wow that was hard....
     
  7. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

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    #7
    But why ? Again, can't you just accept difference ? Why does it have to be a "fanboy" thing. And those cases don't really work well on your lap, like a laptop does.

    Frankly, I think your intervention in this thread was out of line. Not everyone enjoys tablets.
     
  8. glen e macrumors 68030

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    #8
    there was no intervention, and I really don't care what you think....your argument is weak....in many cases I don't like the "tablet" either, but I don't think it's a x vs y type thing that many want to make it.
     
  9. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

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    #9
    What argument ? I'm offering my opinion. You stated that anyone that thinks a MBA trounces an iPad is a fanboy, I simply said for me, the MBA does and I'm no fanboy.

    What do you think I'm a fanboy of exactly for not liking the tablet form factor ?

    Again, the only weak thing was your characterization of anyone who doesn't like tablets to be "fanboys". That is what I took exception to.
     
  10. mcman77 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2011
    #10
    Good post, I enjoyed the read. I am in a dilema of what combo to go for or just to go with a 13" pro.

    Personally I would prefer a 11.6" MBP (what do you think?) is ideal for me. I sometimes need the power but more times need the mobility.

    My question, could you use the 13" on the sofa or in bed?

    I don't mind the small screen of the 11, its just the processing power compared to a 13 Pro.

    Thanks
     
  11. VMMan macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2009
    #11
    I really like my iPad, but on the couch or in bed, I greatly prefer the MBA 11". The weight, balance, and ability to angle the LCD offer a surprisingly very pleasant experience. With the iPad, it always seemed a little bit awkward in finding a position for prolonged use on the couch or in bed.
     
  12. vitzr macrumors 68030

    vitzr

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    California
    #12
    Thank you for pointing out the truth behind most of the arguments on any Apple forum.

    Steve Jobs arrogance and selfish attitude is widely practiced by many in the Apple Eco System. It's why they must cling to the belief there has to be a winner at the expense of someone or something.

    Having an enjoyable, intelligent discussion about the many interesting Apple products, is beyond their interests. They just want to pump up their ego at others expense. Small minded irrational thinking.
     
  13. TheJing macrumors 6502a

    TheJing

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    #13
    I disagree. You always have to hold the iPad which gets very annoying after 10 minutes. You just want to put the thing down. The Smart Cover doesn't help at since it won't be stable at all on your lap or on the bed.

    The only time an iPad is more comfortable and natural to use is when walking, in my opinion.
     
  14. Robyr macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2010
    #14
    Also when in transit. I feel not only a bit odd, but worried for the safety of the Air, when using it on a bus or something. When I am commuting to work I use my tablet (a Xoom, don't shoot, I come in peace ;) ) to catch up on the news and listen to music. When I am at my destination I use the Air. Its the best of both worlds, really. Especially when I can carry my 11"er in the same bag I carry my Xoom in.
     
  15. TheJing macrumors 6502a

    TheJing

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    #15
    Of course, good point!
     
  16. ET iPhone Home macrumors 68040

    ET iPhone Home

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    #16
    Great Review and Assessment of these Products by the way. The only portable laptop that packs a punch over the MBA, IMO, is the Sony Vaio Z Series. I guess, this can all be subjective, since both can be customized. But Sony tends to lead the pack and equipped this particular Z laptop, their flagship model, with the latest, having USB 3.0, offering 1920x1080 or 1600x900 res. on a 13.1 screen, 128 256 512SSD offerings, 4 6 8 GB Ram Choices, HDMI Port, Sheet Battery, all under weight compared to the MBA.

    Don't get me wrong, my MBA has more use time than my Sony Vaio Z, as it serves best for my personal computing needs. OSX is much leaner compared to Windows 7. Besides, the Vaio Z is more a work laptop. I do like both products - Apple all the way and strictly only Sony's Flagship Z Series. Just wanted to respond to the statement above is all. Thanks.
     
  17. Liquinn Suspended

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    Apr 10, 2011
    #17
    You have to hold the iPad? Sometimes, when I'm at the desk I have it stood on a stand; therefore there's no need for me to hold it. But it depends where and what you're doing I guess.
     
  18. ethics101 macrumors regular

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    Apr 16, 2011
    #18
    Honestly, the iPad is perfect for browsing and if I didn't have a job it would be my only portblable machine, but when you need to create presentations or do any sort of databasing, you need a laptop.


    Great post BTW. Only disagreement i have is that I feel the size difference between the 13 and 11 is exaggerated in form factor. Yes, it might seem smaller, but in daily use ill take the extra screen over the negligible weight.
     
  19. TheJing macrumors 6502a

    TheJing

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    #19
    I actually quoted the OP and he was talking about using it on a couch or in bed, where you have to hold it.
    On a table, however, the stand works perfectly fine as you said.
     
  20. entatlrg macrumors 68040

    entatlrg

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    #20
    Then hold it up! It's not heavy.

    OP - well written post. I own both, for my needs they compliment each other well.
     
  21. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

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    #21
    *sigh*, so many people who fail to accept differences. :rolleyes:

    A laptop is more comfortable to me than a tablet for browsing, be it in bed, on a couch, on the kitchen counter or wherever. That's my personal preference.

    It doesn't make me a fanboy of anything like the original comment from glen_e suggested.
     
  22. glen e macrumors 68030

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    #22
    I posted before you - I did not accuse YOU of anything...I accused those who blindly bash the pad and hold the MBA up as superior as a fanboy.....

    Then you come along rather defensively and say "I'm not a fan boy",....

    You were not who I was referring to, but you brought it on, so I continued it...

    Just forget it....glad you like whatever you like....
     
  23. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

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    #23
    And again, those who don't like the iPad or tablets and find ultrabooks like the MBA superior to them are not fanboys of anything. They just have different preferences than you do.
     
  24. DollaTwentyFive macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    Great post. I have both the 11" MBA and the iPad 2. I agree with your assessment. Each works well for different things and I enjoy using both devices.
     
  25. iSee macrumors 68040

    iSee

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    Oct 25, 2004
    #25
    A great post.

    As someone with a similar experience (was using 2009 iMac i7 + original iPad before getting 11" Air a few weeks ago) I can't argue with the OP's conclusions.

    I only thing I'd say is that I now find the sluggishness of my iPad compared to the Air annoying. I don't browse the web on my iPad anymore, though it's still great for reading and video (I used my phone + bluetooth headphones for audio). For anything else I look to my Air first.
     

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