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Taking the Mac plunge - MacBook Air or Ipad?

turtlerockturtlerock Registered User Posts: 1,184 Senior Member
edited March 2012 in College Computers
Starting as a Freshman in the Fall, so I decided I would get a new computing device for my studies and school work. Problem is I can't decide if an Ipad 2 Wi-Fi only 64GB would suffice or if I should opt for the MBA 11" with 4GB RAM and the 128GB SSD. I have searched and read a lot of points on both ends, but still I cannot come to a conclusion. Price is not a factor - I am willing to spend for either-or and get accessories if need be.

I currently have a 17" Toshiba X205 with 4GB RAM and 500GB HD that I bought in Dec 2007 (4 years old now) mainly for gaming purposes and it has served exceptionally well. I plan to keep that around as a desktop replacement though I hardly play PC games anymore. Would keeping that around do the Ipad justice? Can a PC be a good supplement to an Ipad?

I plan to take class notes, use email, messaging, internet (obviously), VERY light music management (5-6 GB), and typing school papers and other academic related projects on whichever I choose (use of iWorks a lot) . I would only watch video if I was streaming online instead of storing movies directly. I would get some games, but really light stuff just to help pass random boredom and such. I plan to be a business major. I have a lot of photos, but I already keep those on an external HD and don't really care to look at them once but every couple years or so.

The only other iProduct I have ever owned was a 2nd gen iPod nano I bought in 2006, but I'm a quick learner and I'm not afraid of adapting to the different software and controls. I don't have an iPhone (or any cell phone - odd, I know) and I don't plan on getting one. Not because I don't like them, just because, well, I don't carry a cell phone.

Again, I would be willing to get any peripherals to enhance the experience, like a wireless kayboard and stylus for Ipad etc. I have been hearing rumors of the Ipad 3, but from what I gather there won't be anything added to it that will have a dramatic effect on me waiting for it. I have also heard new MBA models will arrive this Spring.

So, which device seems like it would fit my bill in your experiences and opinions? Thanks to all ahead of time.
Post edited by turtlerock on

Replies to: Taking the Mac plunge - MacBook Air or Ipad?

  • clarinette52clarinette52 Registered User Posts: 709 Member
    I would get a MacBook Air for the simple reason of having a physical keyboard.
  • flutterfly_28flutterfly_28 Registered User Posts: 1,515 Senior Member
    The Macbook Air is amazing. I don't think an iPad is enough for college.
  • Vot123Vot123 Registered User Posts: 306 Member
    If it were me I'd get the laptop, not the iPad. The iPad is a glorified (yet useful) and bigger-screened iPod. For the things you want to do you're better off with the Air. If money was no object I'd recommend even more the MacBook Pro which seems to be a big hit with college students, but if weight and portability is crucial to you then perhaps the Air would suit you better. We went through this very issue last summer with D just before she left for college. With the laptop's OS you'll be able to use a regular, uncompromised word processing program, presentation program, whatever. And it'll be a sight better and faster than your old Toshiba.

    I admit that the iPad is a cool device however. But as a supplement to a regular computer, not the main course.
  • turtlerockturtlerock Registered User Posts: 1,184 Senior Member
    Thanks to everyone thus far. I have considered the Pro, but after lugging around a 17" behemoth for the last several years I want the lightestweight experience. Seems like it's MBA hands down so far.
  • vonlostvonlost Super Moderator Posts: 24,098 Super Moderator
    Same with our daughter; she had a MBP for years and now loves the lightness of her Air.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,670 Super Moderator
    I am on a Mac campus and I just took the Mac plunge, switching from a 14.1" Toshiba. I also have an iPad 2 and an iPhone, so it made sense for me to get the MacBook Pro (13")

    Honestly, I don't think the MacBook Pro is that heavy. I have the 13" and it's 4.5 lbs, definitely lighter than any notebook computer I've ever owned with the exception of one fragile Sony Vaio. The MacBook Air 13" is 2.96 lbs; i'm not sure there's a huge difference that you can feel in that roughly 1.5 lb. However, the Air is also slimmer than the Pro which is useful when packing stuff. I know a few people that use the Air as their primary computer. You can get an optical drive pretty cheaply for the few times that you'll need it - most things you can install directly from the Internet now, though. And if you know you won't need much storage, then the SSD will work fine for you. I'm in graduate school and I have about 200 GB of stuff on my 500 GB hard drive, but only 17 GB of that is actually school-related stuff. The rest I was storing on an external HDD before I got this computer.

    Honestly, I would not get an iPad as a standalone computer. I love my iPad and it's great for mobile tasks - perfect screen size for reading scientific articles, books, and newspaper articles; it's also great for browsing the web on the go. I have a mobile broadband stick that I use the very very few times that I don't have WiFi, but you can download articles and books to the device. I also have a bluetooth keyboard. However, I will say that word processing on the iPad is a bit clunky, although I do have a great app that stores my documents right on ****. I would say wait until September, when you can buy the Air and get like a $200 credit, then use that to defray the cost of an iPad as well. However, the 13" Air is only ~1.6 lbs. heavier than the iPad, so you may find that you just take your Air everywhere and don't really need the iPad.
  • turtlerockturtlerock Registered User Posts: 1,184 Senior Member
    Great share, juillet! I'm pretty solid on opting for the MBA 11" now. Like I said, I only have 5-6GB of music and some misc docs right now. I too have about 230GB taken up on a 500GB HD (mostly games as the big files) and I have all the important stuff backed-up on an external 80GB HD (pics, iTunes Library, and the docs - all of it actually only takes up about 45GB). So, since I won't be doing any gaming on it, I think the 128GB SSD will do just fine. At least over 4-5 years. I know I've heard that Macs will last much longer than that even.

    I will wait until at least after this Spring as I've heard some rumors that the MBA will get a refresh of models. Anyone have leads on that? I won't buy the external optical drive right away as most say they almost never even use it. I might just end up buying it during that ONE time I'll be in a bind that I need one.

    On a related note: I'm looking into software for Macs and I'm a little confused in terms of doc proccessing software. What the heck is the difference between iWorks and Office for Mac (besides the price)? I know that you can view, edit, and send MS doc files through iWorks, but then why do they have Office for Mac? Which one is suggested to use for college? Is iWorks also compatible with OpenOffice? Once I get the MBA, I would be converting my Toshiba to Ubuntu OS just for fun.

    Thank to everyone for their input.
  • turtlerockturtlerock Registered User Posts: 1,184 Senior Member
    So, I'm reading that if you're keeping a lot of work and files to yourself (i.e. creating your own files not to share, or receiving files and not needing to send them back), then iWorks is better for the user friendly interface and clean simple format of it's docs. But if you're planning on sharing a lot of files with other PC/Office users, then Office for Mac is better for the easier compatability. I suppose I'd opt for Office for Mac then because most of my classmates and professors would be using some form of Office product still.

    Any thoughts?
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,670 Super Moderator
    I think that assessment is a fair one - iWork, from what I hear, has a better user interface and is better to use for Mac users (I'm about to get the free trial myself; I hear Keynote in particular is great). There's also the benefit of using iWork on iOS to view and edit your documents if you have an iPhone or acquire an iPad later on. You can also open Office files in iWork, like you said. I think it would be workable, and in addition most campuses have multiple computer labs so that if you needed to use Office for some reason, you could just go there.

    But wait until you get to campus - many colleges offer a free or deeply discounted version of Office for their students. My undergrad and my grad institution have offered it for free, so I've never had to pay for Office. Also, at the beginning of every school year Microsoft has an offer called "The Ultimate Steal" during which you can get Office as a discounted price. It used to be $60, but I think with Office 2010/2011 it's now $99.

    Microsoft® Store

    About OpenOffice - I would suppose that if you saved your OO.o documents as .doc, you could then open them in iWork. That would be an easy enough fix.

    As for rumors about the MBA, try MacRumors.com or CNET.
  • turtlerockturtlerock Registered User Posts: 1,184 Senior Member
    Thanks juillet. I'm pretty sure when I was in the military, they also gave us a discounted price on the software. I know for sure I ended up buying MS Office 2010 for like $35 and I saw that Office for Mac was also like $20, so I'm pretty sure I snagged it up just in case me or a friend ever wanted it later and saved the confirmation email and link away. I'll have to check on that because it was a year and a half ago or so. But if not, then I can wait for school to start and ask about those deals too.
  • notakidnotakid Registered User Posts: 688 Member
    I'll second those who say Air over iPad. Just got my daughter one. They don't run same operating system. iPad runs same system as iPhone, not really a substitute for a real computer for college use.
  • vonlostvonlost Super Moderator Posts: 24,098 Super Moderator
    ^ Agree. The iPad is perfect for couch surfing, much easier to hold than a small clamshell, but it's not a full-time college computer.
  • digmediadigmedia Registered User Posts: 3,307 Senior Member
    Just bought an Air day-before-yesterday. I am a long time Mac user and this is a supplement to what I already have. Agree with others that the iPad is NOT what you need for college. HOWEVER, BE AWARE OF THE MBA LIMITATIONS, namely:

    1. There is no CD/DVD drive. That means that you cannot easily load software. You need to download it, use a remote drive on another Mac connected on the same network, or buy an external drive. You also won't be ripping CDs or DVDs nor will you be creating CDs/DVDs of photos, songs, etc.

    2. The memory is like a flash drive - no moving parts, which is great for reliability, BUT it's small: either 64GB or 128GB (price starts accelerating). So you won't be storing a lot of content. I got the 64GB, but with the operating system, etc, that left only 43GB available.

    It's a good supplement, but for a college computer, I'd definitely go with the MBP.
  • vonlostvonlost Super Moderator Posts: 24,098 Super Moderator
    ^ I haven't loaded an app from CD/DVD in ages. Apps will increasingly come from the app store and web sites. Thumb drives are taking over non-web transport duties. Our DD got the external drive with her Air and hasn't opened the box yet. :eek:
  • turtlerockturtlerock Registered User Posts: 1,184 Senior Member
    digmedia, thanks for the fore-warnings, however I have been reading that most if not almost everyone who has an MBA hasn't ever needed the external disk drive. Like I mentioned before, I'll plan to buy the external disk drive at that one moment that I find I absolutely need it. To be honest, the last time I put a CD in my personal computer was a long time ago when I was still playing PC games.

    And as for storage, I'll only be initially putting my iTunes library on it, which is about 5GB. I have a ton of photos, but I wouldn't care to keep those on my MBA since I look at them once every blue moon. Right now they can stay on the external HD that I already have. Other than that, the only docs I'll be creating are the ones for school, so for that I'm told that the 128GB SSD should suffice.

    All in all, I think the MBA will be a fine purchase when I get it.
This discussion has been closed.