iPad or 11" MacBook Air?

Until recently I really couldn't answer this question. However, I recently purchased an 11" MacBook Air and I've been using an iPad since the very first iPad hit the streets. So, for those of you asking the question "Which should I buy?"...I have a few things for you to think about.

If you are Tim Cook (CEO of Apple for those of you that aren't total Apple geeks like me), then the answer is you can do 80% of your work using just an iPad. A recent TUAW article quotes Tim Cook as saying that he is able do 80% of everything he does just on his iPad. But he RUNS Apple, of course most if not all of his corporate tools work on an iPad. But what about the rest of us? For me, I can do most of my job on my iPad (probably around 80%), but the 20% that I can't do is pretty darn important stuff:

  • Accessing browser certificate enabled VPN databases (I can get the certificates installed on my Mac but it won't work on an iPad)
  • Downloading and/or modifying a document from SharePoint
  • Uploading a document to SharePoint from my iPad

The above 3 items are things I have to do on a normal basis so my mobile computing solution must be able to effeciently handle these tasks. Yes, there are 3rd party apps that can help with some of the SharePoint items but it is still less than ideal. No, my days of being able to only carry an iPad for work are not here yet. But what about the rest of you?

I bought my 11" MacBook Air as my main home computer. I replaced my iMac with a Mac Mini and an external monitor (see my previous post for the exact setup). Purchasing my 11" MacBook Air is now completing what for me is a perfect setup. Now I can use my Mac Mini as a home server and use my 11" MacBook Air as my main computer. In fact, I'm sitting on the couch with my feet up eating dinner as I write this. The 11" MacBook Air is the perfect combination of extreme portability without sacraficing any functionality. So that's how I use my 11" MacBook Air, but what about my iPad? I use my iPad for the following tasks:

  • Watching training videos while on the elliptical trainer at the gym
  • Reading my RSS news feed
  • Reading iBooks
  • Outlining (OmniOutliner) and mindmapping (iThoughts)
  • Browsing my social networks
  • Sheet music display when playing piano and keyboards
  • Reading and responding to email

Mayby I'm old school, but there is something about touching things with your fingers when doing creative work that make it more engaging. Granted, reading a book on an iPad doesn't have the same "feel" as the paper from a book it certainly has more feel than reading something off a laptop screen. Since I have both an iPad and an 11" MacBook Air I am able to pick and choose what tasks I do on which device. But what if you could only have one?

If you are thinking about buying just one of these devices and trying to figure out which one to get, think about these things:

  • How often will you need an exernal keyboard with your iPad to be effecient with what you want to do? (extra cost & extra weight. You can get an external keyboard for the iPad but that makes it almost as bulky & expensive as an 11" MacBook Air)
  • How rough are you on devices? (A MacBook Air is a lot more durable to carry around without any kind of bulky case)
  • Are there any tasks you can't do on an iPad? (Don't handicapp yourself, even for a small percentage of your tasks, just for the percieved additional portability of an iPad)
  • How good is your eyesight? (The 11" MacBook Air screen can be a little small at times, while the iPad is held closer to the face and has a retina screen)
  • How often do you do work while on a flight? (You can't beat an iPad when you crammed into an airline seat with little elbow room)
  • Are you planning to use this device for both work and play? (An iPad is a great device for play, both reading and playing games)

There is no right answer to this question. Everybody's case is going to be a little bit different. The best thing you can do is think about all the things you plan to do with that ONE device and get the device that allows you to do those tasks best. If all elese fails and you purchase the wrong device, Apple devices have great re-sale value. You won't be out too much money if you have to sell your device and buy the other. Apple also has an excellent return policy if you change your mind within their 14-day return policy AND you purchased the device directly from Apple.

It's a tough decision, so good luck!

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