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macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 14, 2011
Looking to buy one of these two combinations for a new grad entering college next year. Which combination do you think would be a better option? Would really appreciate getting your opinions as I can't quite decide.

- iPhone SE (2020) and M1 Macbook Air (Base Model)

- iPhone 12 Mini and iPad Air (4th Generation)

Thanks for the help!


macrumors 6502
Jan 24, 2009
San Diego/Tijuana
If its college then option one. When you are typing essays and need multiple windows open at the same time and typing 5-10 pages the ipad its going to feel very hard to work on. Can you do the same things on both? yes. but go with the laptop.


macrumors G5
Mar 20, 2003
Bay Area
Option 1, and it’s not close. The iPad is a very, very poor substitute for a laptop when you’re trying to work with numerous instances of numerous productivity apps, as is common with college work.


macrumors 6502
Oct 17, 2015
College student here, I strongly agree with Option 1. I bring my Mac to every class, never once my iPad. MacOS and the physical keyboard are very flexible and easy to type on for classwork. iPadOS... not so much.

When you look past the design and single camera, the iPhone SE is practically a no-compromises phone. It's very solid and made to last.

The only thing that would push it in favor of Option 2 is if a) they prefer taking notes by hand, and b) an Apple Pencil is in the cards.
Last edited:


macrumors 68000
Oct 17, 2015
Definitely option 1. Like others have said you cant beat productivity of a mac where its so much easier to use spreadsheets, type essays and coursework and prepare presentations etc. These M1 macs also have exceptional performance and battery life also, and you can also add another screen to make things easier. The iphone SE is a fine phone, very snappy, compact and light. Battery life is ok with light to moderate use. An ipad air 4 is great, but not as good as the mac for productivity unless you fork out £300 for the magic keyboard.

Marlon DLTH :)

macrumors 6502
Mar 4, 2020
How would you use the iPad? If you’re not going to use an Apple Pencil, get the Mac.

But as an student, using the Apple Pencil is a huge plus and the main reason I use an iPad Pro as my main computer.
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beach bum

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 6, 2011
Another thing to keep in mind is what courses will this person take? While my Mac has served me well with my classes, I've had to load Win10 through VM because software that I needed for my classes did not have a Mac equivalent. Also, if this person has already been accepted into a university, check to see what they recommend regarding computer programs needed for classes and/or have this person speak to his/her advisor for recommendations. Based on this information, you may want to consider the Intel Mac (option of Bootcamp or a virtual machine) vs the M1 as a Mac of either variety in my opinion is far superior to your basic laptop, i.e. build quality/longevity, and support.


Sep 16, 2017
I adore the 12 mini. But being a former student I would go with option 1 anytime. Comfort, space and ease of connections for file transfer matter a lot when on a computer intensively as they surely will be.

Functionally, the SE is almost as good as the 12 mini. The two are like iPhone non-Pro as opposed to Pro and I am staunchly iPhone non-Pro.
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macrumors 6502a
Jul 21, 2012
Personally I think the only way option 2 could work is if you can afford the magic keyboard or at least the Logitech keyboard with trackpad as that can convert the iPad into more like a laptop. if not I would say option 1.


macrumors 68030
Mar 7, 2012
New Orleans
School is the only reason I still use my MacBook but I couldn’t get by without it. I need it primarily for being able to have multiple windows and home screens at a time to get assignments done more efficiently.

But I also need it for the LockDown browser when I take exams online. I wouldn’t be able to take my tests on an iPad. So if I were in your position, I’d have to go with iPhone SE + MacBook if there was absolutely no way to save up a bit more and get the 12 mini.
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