MacBook Air or MacBook + iPad

Discussion in 'iPad' started by bigp9998, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. bigp9998 macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2007
    I'm waiting for MBA and MB updates but I'd like to get some thoughts on this comparison.

    They end up costing around the same for me when you factor in student discounts and gift card from Best Buy (to match Apple promo).

    Macbook $899 (Student Price)
    ~$40 to upgrade to 4GB RAM
    iPad 16GB WiFi $499
    -$100 from Best Buy gift card

    Macbook Air w/ 4GB RAM $1339 (Student Price)

    They really do want to make this decision difficult, don't they...I'm a student and I don't really need the ultra-portable that the Air offers, but it would be nice to have. I also have no use for a disc drive, and I like that the Air has an SSD and hi-res screen. I could use the iPad for things like Netflix (is wireless internet really fast enough to stream movies to an iPad??) and browsing. One reason I am leaning towards that is because I do not have a smartphone so it would be nice to have a portable internet solution. Has anybody else made this decision or have any thoughts about it?
  2. tmarks11 macrumors 6502a

    May 3, 2010
    If I was a student again (I remember my 7 yrs of college fondly...), I think the 11" MBA would be my choice of the two options you mentioned. Same weight, almost same size as ipad, easier to take notes on, so I would put it in my backpack and lug it to class with me. Hopefully more colleges will soon be embracing the new millinium of technology, and etextbooks will become the norm.

    MBA makes a great netflix player as well. i have 2010 11" MBA+2ipad first gen. Love them all, I would buy another 2011 MBA, except that I am not fond of Apple abandoning discrete GPUs (assuming the rumor mills are correct).

    Unfortunately, MBA isn't offered with a 3G option. Maybe Apple will fix that when they offer new MBA next week.

    Now for my moment of heresy: I would also strongly consider getting a convertable tablet instead. Possibly something like the fujitsu T730 (i3 processor), which has an active digitizer and also is available with a capacitive multitouch screen ($1200). Why? Well, As an engineer, typing alone (or drawing on an ipad screen) would have been useless for notetaking in 70% of my classes. The pen based active digitizer is very useful. One-note is a very powerful windows tool.

    It is very surprising that Apple hasn't ever offered an equivilent solution.

    If you go this kind of route, steer clearly of any atom processor convertable tablets (like dell duo)!

    Ipad is great for browsing the internet, displaying textbooks (if you can find ebook versions). Not so good for notetaking. And drawing with your finger for quick sketches in class? Not so good.

    Always on internet connection? Your univerisity doesn't have wifi hotspots throughout campus?
  3. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    i am a grad student and i have an mbp 13 and an ipad 1. i am sure i would be happy with any combination of mbp (13 or 15), mba (11 or 13), and ipad (1 or 2). you'll win no matter what you choose. it's apple :)

    i bought the mbp 13 for three reasons: 1. the mba is outdated (until refresh), 2. i wanted (but really don't need) the extra hdd memory, and 3. it's also nice to have 8gb of ram (i use adobe acrobat pro constantly to combine files, do ocr, and optimize).

    anyhow, i recommend you think about your workflow. how will you use the devices and how do you learn best? here is what i do:

    1. i take handwritten notes in class (i remember better this way and have better-organized notes)
    2. i read the ipad in between classes (digitized everything)
    3. i scan handwritten notes at home (paperless life)
    4. i write papers on the mbp at home or in coffee shops
    5. i might type up notes letter when reviewing, but only if necessary

    basically, most days i just carry the ipad, pen/pencil, and a notebook to class. all of this easily fits into a handsome man purse (small waterfield vertigo no need for books--they are digitized. no need for a computer--i have writing materials for content creation and the ipad for consumption.

    this won't work for everyone, of course, but it is something to think about. here are some more details for putting this into practice if you are interested. it's long, so don't bother reading unless you want to give this method a try!

    -------------------READING ON THE IPAD-------------------------

    I purchased a first generation iPad at a discounted price after Apple released the iPad 2 in March of this year, because I wanted to view PDF files of scanned / photographed materials. I highly recommend the device for this purpose, especially if you do a lot of traveling, or want to go paperless. No more heavy backpacks full of library books and no more agonizing over which materials to pack for a trip. I have gone for days without touching the computer, and just carry around a Moleskine notebook and the iPad, because everything I want to read is inside it.

    After trying several PDF readers, I have settled on GoodReader. It is relatively inexpensive (600 yen / 5 USD) for the wide range of features that it offers.

    Initially, I found the iPad's performance disappointing, because it frequently crashed when trying to read my documents. I do not know the technical details, but it appears that some elements in newer versions of Adobe are incompatible with the iPad. Fortunately, there is a simple solution. If you optimize the file for an earlier version (I usually choose the "Adobe Acrobat 4.0 and later" setting) then everything works great. If you are scanning something black and white, then your files will be fine, but grayscale and color sometimes introduce these incompatible elements.

    Apple forces users to go through iTunes in order to transfer files between devices, and this causes headaches if you have a lot of PDF files organized into folders, because iTunes strips the folders away. GoodReader USB is a free app available outside the Apple store. Download it onto your computer and you can easily transfer everything without having to go through the clunky iTunes interface. As an added bonus, unlike iTunes, you can still use your iPad while everything is syncing.

    -------------------GOING PAPERLESS-------------------------

    Besides books, dissertations, and articles already in digital form, I have scanned most of my personal library of printed books and all of my research notes into PDF form. It is incredibly liberating. Not only does this enable me to carry everything with me wherever I go for instant access, it also allows me to search through everything as I would a database online. The OCR (Optical Character Recognition) in programs isn't perfect, but it is quite helpful nonetheless.

    For bound materials (books), an office-quality scanner/photocopy machine will be the fastest and easiest way to digitize them. I recommend the black and white, 600 dpi, lowest compression settings. For unbound materials (handouts, pamphlets, etc.) the office machine will still be the best choice, but you can also use Fujitsu's ScanSnap. Because it is portable, you can also use it while traveling. Be careful to purchase the one compatible with both Macs and PCs. I did not, and had to hack the files to get it to work with my Mac.

    When you generate tens of thousands of PDF files, it is a good idea to keep things organized. I have heard that some people dump everything into a single folder. However, that seems unwieldy to me, and you'll undoubtedly have difficulty once you outgrow your hard disk drive.I recommend a few simple rules I've developed over the years. Basically, put a date on everything.

    If you want to search your files for information (basically using your collected materials as a massive personal database) you'll probably want to get Adobe Acrobat Pro. The student discount makes it quite reasonable.
  4. poca macrumors newbie

    Jul 9, 2011
    palpatine, When scanning your textbooks? do you have to scan 1 page at a time for 700 page books? I really want to have all my books on a ipad/kindle but I can't figure out how to get some of the books on without scanning for hours.
  5. palpatine, Jul 9, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011

    palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    i scan two pages at once. if i do black and white i can do 10-15 scans a minute (depending on the size of the book), so a 700 page textbook would take about half an hour (2 pages per scan x 350). rev up the ipad and enjoy an episode of jon stewart! i am scanning research materials, and the process is neverending, so i usually burn through several thousand pages a week. i spend a lot of time at the scanning machine :)

    the good news for you is that you only have to do it for a few textbooks if you are an undergraduate. share the chore with a friend and you are talking about 15 minutes a piece for a semester worth of reading. take a brake from WoW and spend an hour or two to do all of your classes. it will be worth it.

    if you are willing to take the financial hit, you can tear off the spine, trim the pages a bit (so they don't get caught), and feed it through the machine. i guess this wouldn't take more than 10 minutes, and it is much easier.

    of course, this assumes an office-quality machine. i have access to one in my research center (one of the few on campus that are networked to a computer so that the scans actually get sent somewhere). you could try kinkos or some place like that.

    i have scanned textbooks through the scan snap. of course, this requires you to destroy the book in the process. it is slower than the office scanner, but not too bad. the scansnap really shines, though, as something for looseleaf notes, because they come in smaller bunches.

    You could use a flatbed scanner. I have a brand new one that I bought for this purpose before I knew I'd have access to the office scanner. It was quite miserable, and it turns out that the quality was a little lower than the office scanner or scansnap for some reason. It is so slow...

    Pictures! I almost forgot to mention this. It is BY FAR the fastest method. It is blazing fast. I have a very nice digital camera (about $200) that I hook up to a tripod (maybe a 30 dollar investment) and rig so that it is stable (links on the internet for this kind of stuff), hanging over the table, and pointed down. I just turn the page, snap the picture, and move on. The pictures are quite nice and very readable. But, the OCR doesn't work quite as well, so I don't recommend it.
  6. bigp9998 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2007
    Thanks for the responses guys! I take my notes by hand...I have to draw way too many graphs to want to do any of that on a computer. Plus it is way too easy to get distracted if you are on a computer in class.

    I definitely would not be scanning textbooks...You don't need to take them to class anyway in most cases, and I much prefer to read paper than a screen.

    If I got an MBA it would definitely be the 13" as this is going to be my primary computer and I think the 11" screen is too small. I write most of my papers in the library or in other buildings on campus, not in my apartment. But I use my own computer, not school/library computers to do that.

    We have wireless internet throughout campus, so I don't care about 3G at all (for either device).

    Would love to hear more opinions on this!
  7. saberahul macrumors 68040

    Nov 6, 2008
    This is exactly what I have been doing with my iPad since I got it. Way more productive. I use the Notes Plus app to take my notes and draw everything there. As I hardly see a need to submit something, I don't take a pen or a pencil and paper. All I take is my iPad and the Griffin stylus (which I cannot find...)
  8. englishman macrumors 6502a


    Nov 6, 2006
    If you don't need ultra performance go with the 13 MBA.

    Light, good battery life in latest version, cheaper if you buy used. Advice to me on this forum was get 4GB as can't add after.
  9. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    glad to hear it is working for others as well. i really wish apple would have made it more clear to me what the potential for this ipad was (did they know?), because i wish i had bought it sooner!

    haven't tried the griffin. but, have tried the bamboo stylus. hated it. besides, i often want to look at a text, especially in discussions, and i cannot do that if i am taking notes on the ipad.
  10. jamesryanbell macrumors 68020


    Mar 17, 2009
    I traded (effectively) iPad 1 for an 11" MBA Refurb Ultimate, and it's the best move I've ever made for a second device. It weighs one pound more, runs OSX (HUGE plus for creation, central file storage freaks like myself, and a real keyboard is nice too), and I'm currently ROUTINELY getting close to six hours of battery life out of it. The SSD is smokin' fast too compared to rotating drives.

    I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
  11. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    i agree. if you are creating content, then the ipad falls short. you can do it, but it takes a bit more work. if it is a choice between a fully functioning computer and an ipad, it's an easy decision.

    however, for consumption, the ipad sure beats turning the mba on it's side to read. and, being able to read on one screen and write on another is a plus. i think they work best as a combination.
  12. englishman macrumors 6502a


    Nov 6, 2006
    Why could there not be a Notes Plus app for the MBA... I guess its the trackpad size and different functionality but the app looks good. Maybe I'm behind the times. I like the electronic storage thing but have always thought that meant typing. If I could write...

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