iPad or Air?
June 12, 2012 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Air or iPad?

Trying to decide. Considerations:

- I travel a lot so weight and carry-ability are major considerations. I pad seems to win here. Not only is the device itself smaller but it doesn't have the (admittedly pretty well designed) "brick".

- I type a lot and not a fan of the onscreen keyboard, so an external keypad will be a requirement for an iPad. This reduces the weight and carryability advantage. Also, since most of the keyboards I've seen are separate units, it seems like that would be awkward typing in a cramped coach seat.

- On the other hand, iPad battery life better. Almost double, essentially.

- Also, reading is easier on iPad, which would eliminate the need for a Kindle.

- And, there's all those apps for the iPad.

- However, internal storage is more limited on the iPad, and if I understand correctly even with external harddrive you can move files from iPad to external but not external to iPad. That really bugs me. (sidebar explanations for the rationale for this welcome)

- Video usage will be minimal, but I do have and manipulate still photos a fair amount. Gaming also minimal.

- At home, it'd be nice to have something to plug into a stereo receiver and easily play music.

- iPads about $700 cheaper, which is not inconsequential right now.

- If I go iPad, it will be without the data plan.

- Bonus: how much better is that retina display, really? I wasn't as blown away as I thought I'd be at the Apple Store.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
- However, internal storage is more limited on the iPad, and if I understand correctly even with external harddrive you can move files from iPad to external but not external to iPad. That really bugs me. (sidebar explanations for the rationale for this welcome)

If you are looking for a very mobile device for basic computing, the iPad is pretty hard to beat, in my opinion. However, if you are the kind of person who prefers manually managing your file system, the iPad may not be for you. The guiding premise of iOS is to hide the file system from the user. All file management is done by the apps that create/use the files. The "rationale" for this is really a philosophical one -- Apple believes that there is no need for the average user to worry about their device's file system. If you are comfortable operating in that sort of environment (as I am) it is quite refreshing and simple, but if you are the kind of user that will struggle against that limitation, the iPad may not be the device for you.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:58 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

...and if I understand correctly even with external harddrive you can move files from iPad to external but not external to iPad. That really bugs me. (sidebar explanations for the rationale for this welcome)

The rationale? iCloud. Apple wants you to think of iCloud as the iPad's "hard drive", as far as file storage is concerned. This frees them to pursue lighter, smaller form factors while maintaining usefulness.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:59 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have an iPad and a Mac laptop and they're just two completely different devices. If you need an Internet device and reader, then you want an iPad. If you want a computer (e.g. if you want to compose long documents) you want the Air.

That said, I love my Zaggmate: it's an iPad case that, when you open it, is a BlueTooth keyboard. So you get your keyboard without adding much weight or bag-space.

It's not incredibly wonderful to type on it on a plane, but the device has not yet been made that's incredibly well-suited for typing on a plane.
posted by escabeche at 5:59 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The keyboard-as-case, such as from Logitech might fill the bill.

I use an Apple wireless keyboard for my MBP-as-desktop, and it works with my iPad as well. I have not found a good case to compactly carry and protect both of them at the same time, though.
posted by jgirl at 6:04 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

11 inch MacAir + charger I think more or less equals the weight and "carry-ability" of an iPad + external keyboard + charger so this really seems awash to me. The MacAir, fully encased in aluminum when closed, would seem more durable.

I would say it depends on what your PRIMARY use of the device will be. The iPad external keyboard is a substandard notebook computer. A notebook computer is a substandard book reader.

Confronted with the same dilemma, and using my set-up primarily as an on-the-go notebook computer, I selected the 11 inch MacBook Air.

Unfortunately, the 11 inch MacBook Air is a substandard 15 inch MacBook Pro so I have one of these on my desk for real work.
posted by three blind mice at 6:05 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tell me about it. I just hauled both a MBP 13" and an iPad encased in a heavy weatherproof case on a 10 day trip with multiple flights/hotels/cars/destinations. I can't do without either one in my workflow at the moment, so the dream of a single portable solution is still elusive. I wouldn't want to write on anything less than a real keyboard and I need to carry a lot of data; and increasingly I wouldn't want to read on anything but the iPad, especially since it has finally, finally solved the problem of permitting good old handwritten annotation of PDF documents that feels almost like scrawling my comments on paper but lets me carry thousands of pages with me to the fucking beach or on a hunting trip (this is still a hypiohetical, however) if I want to (hence the heavy weatherproof case). As far as reading on airplanes, which is very important to me, the iPad has been a revelation, fully compatible at last with a persistent cup of coffee on the tray in coach, disappears into the seat pocket when necessary, and suitable for the quick snapshot out the plane window, no less. But no way can I sit down and write 10 quick pages, or even 5 quick pages, on even the best iPad keyboards (Adonit and ClamCase seem to be the best options out there) on a regular basis, and I often need access to my data and media, which fill most of a 500GB drive full of stuff that would be impractical to keep in the cloud (the idea still gives me the security creeps too, some of my data is sensitive and under IRB restrictions, for example).
posted by spitbull at 6:19 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Air is a far better device than a tablet in my experience and even in regard to reading eBooks the Kindle is so small to also take along for travel is a better device for reading than a tablet anyway.

The moment you have to laptopize a tablet by getting a keyboard is the key in basically just getting a laptop instead. You'll have full control over the file system, more storage, far more power (at the cost of battery life of course), far more flexibility, much better productivity applications, and a web experience that doesn't include getting around mobile versions of web sites.
posted by juiceCake at 6:36 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

What will you be using the keyboard for on the iPad? I bought a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad hoping to use google docs and the experience was miserable. Safari doesn't support cursor key presses from the keyboard, so navigation was via touchscreen. If you can, try out the iPad + keyboard combo with every use case you can think of first.
posted by dr. fresh at 6:45 AM on June 12, 2012

Tough call.

I'd just add the I really like having the external keyboard for iPad for typing--it's a lot more ergonomic. E.g., in an airplane seat, you can use some sort of simple case to hook the iPad to the backrest and then bluetooth keyboard is in your lap. (I do the same thing if I need to type something in my car.)

Also, the apps now that duplicate Office programs (MS Word, Powerpoint, etc.) are great.

I never take my Lenovo laptop out of its docking station these days...all the other plusses of the iPad (instant on, flexibility, etc) really outweigh the power of the laptop.
posted by Jon44 at 6:45 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Air, but the 13". It really doesn't weigh much more than the 11" and it's easier to type on. Most bags you'd put it in can just as easily accommodate the larger size as the smaller.

I have both and if I have to lug either around I always go with the Air. The iPad, from my standpoint, is a pure consumption device with a few games. It's nice for reading in bed, but for actual work it's Air by a landslide.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:46 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you already have a Kindle, I would stick with it for reading books. iPad is far too heavy for comfortable book reading. Maybe if you really want to carry one less thing, the iPad would let you lose the Kindle. But if you ever find yourself holding the Kindle with one hand, forget that with iPad because it is too heavy.
posted by massysett at 6:47 AM on June 12, 2012

But if you ever find yourself holding the Kindle with one hand, forget that with iPad because it is too heavy.

I literally hold my iPad in one hand for reading every day. Maybe I am just super ripped, though.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:06 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe think about what will leave you feeling more annoying - lugging extra weight and having to read off your computer screen, or needing to get something typed and having to deal with apps and a bluetooth keyboard? I.e., play to the worst case, not best case scenario.

As far as costs - since they just announced new products the old ones should be available somewhat cheaper soon, and they may well be good enough for you.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:20 AM on June 12, 2012

One possible option would be to wait a little. There are some other Ivy Bridge based devices coming to market which may do better as tablet/laptop hybrid replacements than would be the case with the Apple products. For example an Asus Transformer Book. Even with Windows 8 these could be quite good machines.
posted by rongorongo at 7:20 AM on June 12, 2012

I agree this mostly comes down to how you're going to use it. If you're going to be using it ways where the iPad is better, or not at much of a deficit, that's a point in the iPad's favor; otherwise, a point for the Air. If you're mostly going to be typing plain-text notes and e-mail, surfing the web, and reading, you could certainly get by with the iPad handily.

I don't think the iPad's storage capacity is much of an issue unless you plan on doing something like editing video with it.

What is going to be an issue is figuring out where your data lives. If you get an iPad, it's not going to be your only computer (is it?). If you get the Air, it could be. You need to decide on how your going to keep your data synced up, through iCloud, or Dropbox, or whatever. This is true whenever you get into a multi-gadget situation, of course.
posted by adamrice at 7:23 AM on June 12, 2012

Best answer: - I type a lot

Air. I probably cut things like commenting on blogs and forums in half when using my iPad just because of how much it sucks to type more than a couple of sentences at a time on it. Even with a keyboard it's not very good.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:53 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think its Air by a hair. Thanks.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:59 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

BTW - the retina display on the iPad is a substantial improvement over the previous model when you're dealing with apps that are sensitive to data density - i.e.: spreadsheets, ssh/terminal sessions, maps, etc... It makes the iPad actually usable as a portable tool for these tasks instead of just a nice toy.
posted by Caviar at 10:26 AM on June 12, 2012

Also you can get the i5 11" Macbook Air refurb for around $750.

If it was either or, I would get the Air.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:41 AM on June 12, 2012

escabech mentioned the Zagg but didn't give a link so: zagg.com

I just got back from a two week trip with iPad 3 hooked up to a Zagg keyboard and case. It was one week of work and one week of kind-of-not-work. I'd say I operate at 75% capacity in terms of my ability to type, create, write and really buckle down. But that's much better than the 50% capacity I used to have with the on-screen keyboard.

Do you have another computer for your desk? If so, then I would say you should definitely go with the iPad, with the bluetooth keyboard and case from Zagg or someone similar.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2012

looking at your list the only one: However, internal storage is more limited on the iPad, and if I understand correctly even with external harddrive you can move files from iPad to external but not external to iPad. That really bugs me. that seems an issue is now a non-issue. iOS6 further integrates iCloud, so storage/transfer is a non-starter. It seems there are enough keyboard options, so the only other gotcha you mention is manipulating still images. Have you tried Photoshop on the iPad?
posted by Gungho at 12:16 PM on June 12, 2012

I carry both, like spitbull above, and I find the Air to be far more useful for doing things. The iPad is great for reading things. The 11" Air is the best laptop computer I've ever bought, and I think you can't go wrong with it if you want to do any computer-y things.

Don't worry too much about the power brick. In a bag, it's not much larger than the iPad charger.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:16 PM on June 12, 2012

If you have spent years using a proper keyboard, then adapting to an iPad keyboard will take a lot of practice. On the other hand if you have spent years texting on a phone the iPad will feel like an upgrade.

As others have said the Air and iPad are very different machines, really the comparison to make should be Macbook Pro vs Air or iPhone vs iPad.

Try to imagine neither device exists and your choice is between the Macbook Pro or an iPhone/iTouch, your answer to that will tell you which one to pick.
posted by Lanark at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2012

I have an Apple wireless keyboard and this case for it, which works really nice as a compact stable setup for the iPad. I have no problems working with the wireless keyboard, but the interface takes some getting used to. You generally can't tab around and use keyboard shortcuts with the iPad, and so you have to transfer from typing to poking at the screen and back again, which can be somewhat annoying.

I'm also not sure how great it would be for photo editing, as I've never tried to use it for that.

The battery life on the iPad is pretty awesome, though. But I think I really tend to use it more for short-term mostly passive activities. Games, internetting, watching videos on the airplane (so nice to have a portable video device that will last for the duration of a trans-Atlantic flight!). I do occasionally take it with me on business trips if I don't feel like lugging around my regular heavy laptop.

But if I had a 11" Air, that's what I'd be taking with me instead.
posted by that girl at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2012

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