I spent the weekend using both my iPad and my new 11.6″ Macbook Air while visiting with my parents and relaxing on Halloween Day. I’ve read a few postings and online reviews about the Macbook Air, also known as the MBA, and the general statements about build quality, screen resolution, and speed are all true–it’s a solid, durable device and, even though the screen is small, the HD resolution is incredibly crisp and clear. Applications open quickly with no noticeable loss in performance when comparing the MBA to my Macbook or even my iMac which has a much faster processor and significantly more RAM.
But what about the iPad? Does the MBA replace the magical tablet? Not quite. Even though the MBA takes the best of the iPad (slim, portable design with a solid balance of processing power and good battery life) and adds a fantastic keyboard, the MBA is not a casual computer that you would use for ebook reading on the couch or checking email and staying on top of social profiles. The iPad remains a truly distinctive device.
Let me be clear, I love my Macbook Air. The computing power stuffed into an incredibly small form factor is amazing. Even with its newness, I was most comfortable pulling out the MBA for multi-window, multi-tasking use–blogging, news reader use, video and document editing–but still preferred using my iPad for general web surfing and periodic internet checks. The Macbook Air is still a laptop computer with interface strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, the tablet-based interface of the iPad is simply better for some tasks than others.
The iPad will travel with me as a primary satellite where communication and Internet access are more important than productivity. The MBA will be a no-brainer for extended travel or the need to be productive while on-the-go. The iMac will serve as headquarters for all data and media that will be synchronized between the other two devices where I don’t access what I need directly from the cloud.
Real life example: I wrote this post on the iPad because I was watching football and that’s when the inspiration struck me. Had I been sitting at a table or if my MBA had been closer, I may have pulled it out and begun typing away. I probably would have finished the post faster with fewer errors and thrown some pictures in for greater visual appeal. The point is, with so many options available for mobile computing, you can pick your tool(s) based on any number of factors (e.g., size, speed, longevity, interface, expansion).
I’m fortunate to be able to have both the Macbook Air and an iPad. For me, its not a matter of one versus the other but which to use most effectively for the job at hand when either would do. In today’s climate of newer and better devices every week, how productive you choose to be is less impacted by the tools you use than how you use them given the advantages and disadvantages inherent in all tools.
Bottom line: the Macbook goes and is replaced by the MBA. The MBA is a capable productivity companion that will be my first choice for dedicated remote work and extended travel. The iPad will continue to be my everyday device and is the perfect mobile tool of choice for casual computing.