iPad Air 3, Mini 4 or Pro for a PhD student?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by suburbanwar, Feb 9, 2016.

  1. suburbanwar macrumors newbie

    suburbanwar

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    Netherlands
    #1
    I currently own the original iPad mini and need to upgrade because it is not sufficient anymore. It works, but can become terribly slow, crash under light loads and has the screen retention problem when the brightness is turned up. I use the iPad mini as my main personal computer when I'm not at my desk. My Macbook Pro (2010, also getting old) is only used at home for backups and for downloading media. As a PhD student, i have a Dell laptop at my desk which I use with cross-platform apps like Evernote and Google docs. The general use case for the iPad is when I'm at home (50%) for work and entertainment, when I'm travelling (25%) and during lectures (25%). Even though i love the small size of the mini, reading/annotating articles and writing texts is sometimes a pain because of the small screen. That is why i'm looking to upgrade to possibly a larger screen size. I'm also intrigued by the ability of the Apple Pencil to make notes, draw schemes and annotate pdf's. But i'm afraid the iPad pro may be to big (and a bit to expensive) for my use case. The upcoming iPad Air 3 may be interesting if it gets pencil support. Key question to you; what are your experiences with the three sizes? Which one would you choose in my situation and why?
     
  2. apple_iBoy macrumors 6502a

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    Philadelphia, PA
    #2
    I'd say being able to annotate PDF files of journal papers would be nice. I had a collection of thousands of PDFs on my computer but the really useful ones I always had to print so I could make notations on them. So that's one in favor of iPad Pro.

    I'm a professor and have been using the Apple pencil to solve engineering problems in class. I can sit anywhere in the room and have my screen projected via the Apple TV we have hooked up in the room.

    So I like the iPad Pro but it is big. It's not comfortable for me to lay around reading a book with. I miss my iPad mini, which could be held with a single hand.
     
  3. masotime macrumors 68000

    masotime

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    #3
    Wait for the iPad Air 3 to be announced, then make a decision. The mini really shines more as a commuting iPad than anything. If you find yourself spending a significant amount of time commuting (via public transport), then the iPad mini has a separate use case.

    Otherwise if the iPad Air 3 is launched with Pencil support, then it's largely down to screen size preference and the portability tradeoff. If not, I'd go for the iPad Pro.
     
  4. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    Jul 17, 2008
    #4
    I've used all three sizes, and if I were still working on a Ph.D., I'd pick the Pro. Yes, it's large, and more expensive, but it is so good in terms of letting you get work done, it's worth the tradeoff. Bigger screen means you get to see more of your documents at once, which is a huge plus, whether you are reading or writing. Also, split screen on the Pro is much more usable than on the smaller models. And even though the dimensions of the Pro are similar to the smaller notebooks like the retina MacBook and the 11 inch MacBook Air, it's still an iPad, and it handles like an iPad. Not having a keyboard attached means you can whip it out and use it like a clipboard, as opposed to notebook computers where you have to flip them open and find a place to put it down so you can type.

    If you can't afford the Pro, the Air will be a step up from the mini in terms of productivity, but if there is any way you can manage to finance a Pro, do it. It provides the best combination of productivity and mobility to get academic work done.
     
  5. Channan macrumors 68030

    Channan

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    #5
    If you got this far on the first gen mini, I say either stick with a mini or maybe go with the Air. Keep in mind the portability of the mini when making your purchase. If you slip it in your pockets frequently to get it out of the way, you won't have that ability with either the Air or Pro.
     
  6. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    #6
    It's true that the Pro doesn't fit in a pocket, but if you are carrying around a booking, like most students do, the it's a non-issue. The dimensions of iPP is smaller than a standard sized paper notebook.
     
  7. Channan macrumors 68030

    Channan

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    #7
    If school was the only place he carried it around, then it might not be an issue. I'm on vacation right now and brought my iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 2. I didn't think I'd really use the mini much, since I generally use my Air more, but being able to stuff my mini in my pocket when I'm finished using it is so convenient.
     
  8. greensalad, Feb 9, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016

    greensalad macrumors regular

    greensalad

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    #8
    Hey suburbanwar,

    I went from a first-gen mini to an iPad Air 2 in September or October last year. I wanted something I could be a bit more productive on - split screen for reading on one side and taking notes on the other.

    I bought a mini 4 and loved it except that split view, and even playing around with GarageBand, felt squashed on the small screen. I returned the mini 4 and got the Air 2 a few days later.

    The bigger screen is great but I do miss the ultra portability of the mini. The practicality of the larger screen for what I use this thing for definitely outweighs any of the mini's strengths though. In my experience also, going from an A5 to an A8 or later will change how you use an iPad, which will make you want a larger screen even more.

    I'd say your choice is between an Air 3 and a Pro:
    - A Pro looks great as a portable-desktop machine for reading PDFs and typing. Perhaps getting a Pro and keeping your mini as a satellite would be the ideal?
    - The Air feels a great compromise between power and and portability.

    I'm looking into doing a PhD myself. If it happens, and cost isn't a factor, I'd get a Pro as my PhD computer. Pencil support, the Smart Connector and stereo speakers can come to the Air anytime, but the fuller keyboard and big side-by-side apps/documents will always be exclusive to the Pro.
     
  9. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

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    May 20, 2010
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    Los Angeles, CA
    #9
    I'd say it highly depends on your needs. I like the iPad Air's ability to type much like one can on a laptop's keyboard. If you are not apt to type this way, then it sort of doesn't matter. The mini 4 is pretty versatile in terms of where you can take it. Hell, I have no trouble fitting mine in my pants pocket along with my smartphone and iPod touch. Though, the extra CPU core of the Air 2 might make it age a bit more gracefully (though that still remains to be seen). The iPad Pro is intriguing to me, but I can't imagine that I'd want to take it anywhere that I wouldn't be just as fine taking a 13" MacBook Air. The latter can at least run a substantially more capable OS.

    Given all of the hubbub around iPad Air 3 rumors, I'd hold off on buying an iPad Air 2 unless you wanted to take advantage of deals on Apple Certified Refurbished models as those won't change in availability or price when the Air 3 is eventually released.
     
  10. suburbanwar thread starter macrumors newbie

    suburbanwar

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    Feb 9, 2016
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    Netherlands
    #10
    Thank you all for your comments and recommendations! Some clarifications: I like the size of the Mini but I never carry it around in my pocket (always in my bag) or use it standing in public transport so an increase in size would not be a huge issue. As I'm feeling some restrictions now, the iPad Mini4 is sort of eliminated. The work I do on an iPad is getting to 'professional' for a Mini. That leaves me with the Air2/3 and the Pro. Normally I would wait until the Air3 is revealed before making a decision because the Pencil support is something that can be beneficial to my work. If the Air 3 gets it, that would be a great compromise in terms of costs and size. There is however a store action with the iPad Pro this week, and seeing people with similar use cases be very positive about it makes me curious. The Pro looks large when compared to a Mini, but it is true that I carry a college notebook with me every day without a problem, and the weight/size of the original iPad never bothered me that much. I like the fact that you have more screen in stead of a scaled up version of the Mini screen on the Air. So I'm going to test a Pro in the store and see if I can handle/finance it. If I love the experience, maybe I'll buy it, otherwise I'll wait for the Air3 to be announced.
     
  11. Shanghaichica macrumors 603

    Shanghaichica

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    Apr 8, 2013
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    UK
    #11
    I've not used an iPad pro but I have an air 2 and a mini 3. When I went back to university to retrain as a nurse I mostly used the original iPad mini at university. At times like you I felt that the mini was a bit too small. Towards the ends of my course I got an iPad air 1. I found that it was better for things like reading articles etc but I did miss the portability of the mini. The mini was so easy to carry around and just pull out and use. I've never used an iPad pro but I'd imagine that it would be too big to really be useful to me if I were still studying. Some days I used to take in my chromebook as it was very light and had a proper keyboard if I wanted to take notes or do some work. It was much easier to carry than my 15 inch dell lap top. I think if I were a student now I'd probably still stick with the iPad mini 3 and if I wanted to do heavier work I'd take in my 11 inch macbook air. I don't think I'd take my Air 2 as I don't think it would add enough over the mini to negate it being less portable. If I wanted to sacrifice portability I'd take in my Macbook air which can do far more than my iPad air 2.
     
  12. greensalad macrumors regular

    greensalad

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    Dec 17, 2013
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    #12
    Always keep in mind Apple's relaxed stance on product returns. That's how I got my mini 4 and accessories returned so easily. Also, no matter if you get the Air or Pro, both will have their strengths and compromises for your situation, and both will give you a great help in reading papers and getting stuff done. I couldn't imagine reading PDFs on an upright screen now :)
     
  13. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    Jul 17, 2008
    #13
    MBA vs iPP is a personal choice, of course. But while the size of a folded up MBA is about the same as an iPP, you need to open it up to use it. If I were in the library stacks, I could be carrying an iPP taking notes as I walked, whereas with an MBA, I would have to find a place to set it down to type, I know you are saying you'll use an iPad mini in such situations, but then you'll be carrying both the mini and an MBA. I don't know what things you envision doing while out and about, but there isn't much I do that can't be done on my iPads. My iMac at home is mostly just doing media server duty. If I had to write an academic paper, I might sit at my iMac to do final editing, but I'd problem do most of my draft writing on the iPP. Now, with the iPad Air, I might agree with you that the MBA is a better device for getting more done. But the iPP has as much screen space as the smaller MBA. Spec-wise and function-wise, the iPP is just a bigger iPad, but in terms of getting serious writing done on it, the iPP is in a different class from the smaller iPads. The larger screen makes writing on the iPP feel like writing on a laptop. And while you need a bigger bag to carry the iPP, once you get used to having it in your hand, it doesn't feel that much bigger than an iPad Air. So you get more productivity while sacrificing a little portability.
     
  14. Channan macrumors 68030

    Channan

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    New Orleans
    #14
    I don't understand how people's opinions of iPads changed with the Pro, like the Air was never a productivity machine, but just giving it a bigger screen makes it one.

    Ignoring the Pencil, the Air can do the same things as the Pro. I never had any problems seeing anything on my iPad Air, even with split screen.
     
  15. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

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    #15
    I'm not too sure that I see the merit of the phrase "too 'professional' for a Mini". They both run the same OS and that OS is just as ill-suited for mass-productivity on a 7.9" screen as it is on a 9.7" screen especially when the resolutions of both displays are the same. It being too small for you to comfortably use to get things done, that I can buy. You should go to an Apple Store and actually play with the iPad Pro. Personally, I'm curious about it, but it is way too large for me to use for any serious work. Also, iOS is poorly set up for productivity and multitasking even with the split-screen stuff added to the mini 4, the Air 2, and the Pro in iOS 9. Nothing that one would do in an iPad for productivity couldn't be done just as well or better on a MacBook Air and at the cost of the iPad Pro, you could almost afford a MacBook Air.
     
  16. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    #16
    One thing the iPads all do better than MacBooks is act as a ebook reader. And when you are doing academic research, reading is a huge part of what you do. So when you have an iPP, you have a best in class ebook reader, and you have a fairly good productivity device. It might not do as much as a MacBook, but it does enough for most on the go computing.

    And yes, size improves the writing experience so much on the iPP compared to the Air and the mini. Imagine, if you will, a device that had the exact same capabilities as a MacBook, but it had a mini-size screen. You CAN do everything on this device that you can do on a regular MacBook, but would you WANT to? I could have written a paper on my iPad Air -- technically, it did everything I needed in order to type a paper on it -- but I didn't particularly want to. But with the iPP, I enjoy writing longer documents on it.
     
  17. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

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    #17
    Writing documents is one thing. Managing them is another. The iPad Air and iPad Pro are both fine for writing documents (though I think the on-screen keyboard layout on the iPad Pro makes this substantially harder to do so without the external keyboard), but good luck managing them anywhere that isn't on a cloud-based service that happens to be compatible with the app you are using.

    Also, MacBooks are just as good at using iBooks as iPads are. If you were to make the case that using iBooks on an iPad is superior to doing so on an iPod touch or iPhone, I'd have to agree. But as far as doing so on a Mac vs. doing so on an iPad, they are no different. Actually, it might even be better on a Mac simply because you can have your book, your productivity app AND your web browser all open on your screen at the same time (something done by several casual use users). iOS's multitasking only works with two apps...which, while more than adequate on something like the iPad mini 4, is completely lame on the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro where you actually have room to have a third app, should you so desire.
     
  18. temna macrumors 6502a

    temna

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    #18
    Considering the continued backlog on orders for the Pencil, I'd seriously doubt the Air 3 supporting the Pencil. I'd just buy the Pro.
     
  19. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    #19
    It so happens I'm quite happy with managing my files through Dropbox, and all my apps are compatible with it. But if that's not the case with someone, then no, I wouldn't recommend they use an iPad.

    And no, MacBooks aren't as good a reading device as iPads, because they have keyboards. Keyboards are horrible when you are trying to read. They add extra weight and get in the way.
     
  20. evrard macrumors regular

    evrard

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    #20
    I'm a neuroscience PhD and use my iPad Pro for a ton of stuff around the lab.
     
  21. friedmud macrumors 65816

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    Jul 11, 2008
    #21
    I'm doing my PhD in Computational Nuclear Engineering at MIT (just passed my quals this week!) and you would have to pry my iPad Pro out of my cold dead hands!

    Note taking (whether in class, research meetings or working on a project) is awesome. I use Notability, you can see an example of my class notes here: http://forums.macrumors.com/threads/app-for-strictly-taking-notes.1950982/#post-22474535

    All of my journal articles I'm reading (or collaborating on) are organized on Dropbox. On my old iPad Air I used iAnnotate to mark them up... on the iPP I've switched over to PDFExpert. The big screen is awesome, and marking up with thr Pencil is completely natural.

    I would not at all hesitate to recommend the iPP for PhD work!
     
  22. Badrottie Suspended

    Badrottie

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    #22
    If you are Phd and work with patients I think Mini 4 is perfect for you. Easy to fit in your uniform pocket.
     
  23. Glideslope macrumors 601

    Glideslope

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    #23
    I agree with this. :apple:
     
  24. hungrypenguin macrumors member

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    May 19, 2015
    #24
    I also think it depends on your needs.
    I'd go for the iPad Pro because of the screen size and the Pencil support. Or the iPad Air 3 if it supports the Pencil too.
    In my opinion, the mini is a little bit too small for annotating and reading an article. I also have the mini (the first gen) and also did readings on it. For the kindle app, I think it's fantastic, but for articles I always had to zoom in and out the whole time, because they are written pretty small.
    I'd say if you really need it right now, then go for the Pro and if not and if you are not so sure about the screen size, you could wait for the Air 3.
     
  25. mhoepfin macrumors regular

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    Oct 8, 2014
    #25
    Go for the IPP and the ASK and Pencil. Really gives you a nice workflow. I've basically replaced a a laptop for a majority of my work with this combination and it is a joy to us native iOS apps.
     

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