iPad or MacBook Air: Deciding which to take

Posted on by Mike Evans

It’s a much-discussed conundrum. Do I travel with an iPad and wireless keyboard or simply give in and pack the 11in MacBook Air? I’m ticking off the list for tomorrow’s flight to Beijing. I shall be away a week and will need to read the news, do some writing, despatch a few articles to MacFilos and, maybe, watch some television. At a pinch, with a few inconveniences, I could do all this on the iPad.

There are limitations. Handling pictures for MacFilos articles is difficult on the iPad and dead easy on a laptop. I also want to do some spreadsheet and database work (in Bento) and these things are just much easier on the Air. Bento’s iPad and iPhone apps have no cloud sync so there is a serious danger of lost work unless there is a mothership Mac within wifi distance. Another thing: handling photographs is easier on the Air, running Aperture, than on the iPad, even with the new iPhoto app.

So I’ve been dithering for days and only now have I made up my mind:  The Air wins. The clincher was when I got out the scales. The iPad (with Smartcover and Frogz Backbone cover) and the Apple wireless keyboard (in the lightweight Origami workstation) weighed in at 1.4 kg.

But I was surprised when I discovered that the MacBook Air (with a Speck plastic clip-on case) came to 100g less. The Air, although a few centimetres longer than the iPad, is much less bulky than the iPad and wireless keyboard combination.

What do I lose? Reading the news and books is more comfortable on the iPad; it is where a touch-screen comes into its own. I now love writing on the iPad, thanks to the Writing Kit application. Web browsing is better on the iPad, again because of the touch interface.

On the other hand, manipulating pictures and preparing web posts become easier tasks on the Mac; and I still much prefare a Mac for spreadsheet and database work.

At the end of my China visit I will be able to list all the disadvantages of not having an iPad. However, if I do miss it, I always have the iPhone which does everything the iPad can do (plus make calls) in a mini package. As you know, I prefer the iPhone for book reading to either a Kindle or the iPad. If push came to shove, I could manage without both Air and iPad.

The Air wins, but only for the moment. I suspect in twelve months’ time the iPad will have become my companion of choice for trips of up to two weeks.

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