Friday, December 3, 2010

iPad vs. MacBook Air

I've had a few people ask me via phone, comments to this blog, and email whether my MacBook Air would replace my iPad in my workflow. My mom is currently debating as to which she should purchase in the near future. It's a hard question given the MacBook Air possesses some key features of the iPad and vice versa.

I still think for the majority of folks, especially if you've already got a Mac, the iPad is the way to go. For everyday computing, checking email, web browsing, consuming content and playing games, the iPad wins. It just does. If you're a creative professional that works the back end of web design, visual and textual content, and similar you'll probably want a MacBook Air.

The iPad (64GB Wi-Fi Only $699 version)

This device has some features that make it almost unbeatable as a mobile computing device.

- 10 Hours of Battery Life
- Instant On (No Boot)
- Touch Screen Interface
- Large Selection of Quality Apps on the Cheap
- Best Email Browsing Experience of any mobile device (I've used)
- Beyond Portable

PlainText, Things, Sprite Something, Looptastic HD, iMockups and Instapaper are just a few apps I use regularly that wouldn't be the same on a standard Mac OSX Machine. Sketchbook Pro, Brushes, miniDraw HD, TouchUp, Filterstorm, Impression, and Diptic are all great visual creation apps that I've used and continue to use in my work.

After a successful wandering with my camera, I can easily hook up an SD card reader and pull the photos to my iPad, mess with them and store them until I get home. For consuming content on the go, via Netflix or iTunes the iPad is likewise unmatched for it's ability to store and summon what you want. Coupled with a ziplock bag, it a great companion in the bathtub.

The iPad is (for me) an indespensible tool and toy.

The Macbook Air 11.6 (64GB $999 version)

I think what Steve Jobs and others have said about the MacBook Air is more or less correct, it's the future of laptops. I think optical drives are on the way out, SSD's and downloadable media is on the way in. Yes, I had to use my iMac's optical drive (shared over the network) to load many of the programs now resident on my MacBook Air. I don't see optical drives disappearing from desktops anytime soon.

- Solid State Drive (Makes an otherwise slow computer quite capable)
- 5-7 hours of Battery Life
- Full Size Physical Keyboard + Multi-gesture Trackpad
- Instant On (from Sleep)
- Nimble enough to allow you to use Big Programs to handle Small Content
- Makes other Laptops, including it's 13.3 cousin, look like clunky junk

If I need to use Dreamweaver to mess with the website for Raging Rickshaw or alter a graphic for my Dad in Photoshop, my iPad cannot easily accomplish those tasks. When I need the functions my powerful iMac can provide while on the road? My MacBook Air can provide.

When I'm on the back end of a project and I'm doing a lot of editing, text formatting and arranging in Pages, the iPad version is just not up to speed yet (c'mon Apple!). You simply can't switch documents and edit text as quickly as you can with a full Mac OSX Machine equipped with a physical keyboard.

I store only audio content on my MacBook Air, just enough music to have something to listen to should I desire, and while it handles Netflix, Video and Audio like a champ, it's not as personable a device as the iPad. It runs Diablo 1 and Starcraft 1 like a champ, but there's not room on the SSD to have Starcraft 2 (20GB) or World of Warcraft (32GB) loaded and have room for much else.


Because of their size, I can carry them both in my tiny man-purse without a problem. However, I don't see my MacBook Air, for all it's wondrous portability, replacing my iPad for a few reasons:

1. App Store

Now, my position on this might change a little when the Lion OS is released. However, a Mac OS App Store would have to come a long way to achieve what the iOS App store has.

2. Battery Life

10 Hours? For a guy who carries a lot of anxiety about being caught somewhere without a mobile computing device to record ideas, doodles, and other information, the iPad is a great antidepressant.

3. Bathtub

I've tried to figure out a way to get my MacBook Air into a ziplock bag without impeding my ability to use the interface. The iPad is simply the best device for watching Netflix or doodling in Sketchbook Pro, while in a bathtub.

4. Unexpected Bonuses

What some people are beginning to figure out is that old ideas seem to work well with this new device. Here's one example:

The game Monkey Island is an oldie, but a goodie. I loved playing it on my friend's Amiga back in the day. To that end it was always really slow having to enter text and click with the mouse. The game was fun but laborious to play without a six pack of coke and a bag of gummy worms to make your limbs twitchy.

The revamped version of Monkey Island for the iPad is incredible. It's like the game was made for the iPad, years before the device reached the public. Also, like before, it keeps losing my saved games. It's nice to know some things never change.

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