Solving the iPad2 – MacBook Air question

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OK, y’all. I’ve read tons of things in the past couple of days about the iPad2 and the MacBook Air, and I still can’t make up my mind. So I need your help. Please vote for how I should resolve my tech dilemma and add a comment if you have some insight for me!

Here’s my situation:
I work out of a home office, but I spend a lot of my time in my clients’ offices. I also travel out of town from time to time, and that’s going to increase this year. I need Internet access when I’m on the go, but I hate schlepping a lot of stuff around. My neck is ready to kill me. So I can’t keep hauling around my MacBook Pro.

Here are my technical requirements and considerations:

  • I do a lot of writing. I use Microsoft Office and sometimes Pages and Numbers.
  • I use Excel and OmniGraffle a lot for information architecture and taxonomy planning.
  • I use TextMate a fair amount.
  • I use DropBox daily to manage my files.
  • I use some web-based apps like Basecamp, manage my blog, etc.
  • I have a Sprint Overdrive which I like OK but isn’t cheap.

Here are the options I’m considering:

  • I have a 2-year-old MacBook Pro. I might upgrade it this year, or I might wait til next year. I’m not unhappy with it.
  • I’m considering the iPad2 with a wireless keyboard, and keeping the MB Pro for at home. My concerns: It’s not quite the same as a computer. How fast will it be? Could I get rid of the Overdrive if I got a 3G plan? Would that be stupid? Should I get a wireless iPad and keep the Overdrive? Can I really use it as a laptop on a 2-3 day trip?
  • I’m considering the MacBook Air. Concerns: Can I replace my computer with it? [I’m thinking no.] I’d still have to keep the Overdrive. Will it be confusing to have two computers if I have Dropbox? Or just unnecessary? How does the power of the MB Pro compare to the Air?
  • I’m glad to consider your favorite option too.

As you can see, I’m nowhere close to making a decision. Please help!

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8 Responses to Solving the iPad2 – MacBook Air question

  1. Jackson Miller March 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    I would like to propose a slightly crazy solution: both.

    Get the iPad 2. You may or may not be able to do a 2-3 day trip with it, but you will LOVE it on the plane. Check your MBP in your luggage to get it off your shoulder.

    Then, when it comes time to replace the MBP, get the Air instead. Yes, there is less storage, but aside from media files, how much storage do you really need?

    The Air + iPad2 should combine to be less than your MBP. Since the MBP is two years old I am assuming it is a 15″ and cost you around $2,000. The combination of the Air + iPad2 costs about the same as your 15″ MBP did.

    As for the 3G iPad2 vs Sprint Overdrive, I have the same problem. The Overdrive is not cheap and the battery kind of sucks. I am tempted to get the tethering plan on my phone so that I can pay one bill and use iPad, MBP, and phone all on the same plan. For now I am sticking with the Overdrive though.

  2. Joey Strawn March 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    You gotta go with the Macbook Air, although that may be just me voting for what I want to buy. I’m not sure yet. : )

  3. Laura Creekmore March 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    Jackson, thank you. I don’t think that’s crazy at all. There are so many parameters here that I’m having trouble wrapping my head around them all. This is really helpful!!

  4. jim voorhies March 15, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    I remember seeing that Josh Clark (@tapworthy – and someone else I follow on Twitter) has made their Air the go-to machine for everything. The older iPads handle the standard Mac apps like Pages & Keynote so I’m sure they’ll open Office files. And there are partners here who have given up the laptop (mostly) for iPads.

    My only hesitation for the iPad2, as lustfully cool as it is, would be file storage. Of course, with Dropbox, if you trust the safety of the cloud, storage space is no impediment and all your files would be wherever you are (as long as you’ve got a signal). I’m a bit leery of the cloud, especially since Delicious got bought out. There’s no telling what a new owner could do to all your cloudly everything if it bought out a provider while you were vacating somewhere disconnected. So my innate paranoia keeps me in hard drive storage.

    The cost has kept me from an overdrive although I feel like I NEED it – we live in the last mile with dial up at home. But I have no actual need for it. I had an air card for a while in my work laptop but never felt good about the company paying for my surfing – er, working from home -when I did it so seldom.

  5. barbara young March 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    I have a small MacBook and an IPad. (we also have PCs in the house) The Pad is a useful (fun, fun) toy, and portable, and with some work you can manage most of the common functions, but the iPad is not a computer. Even blogging can present some problems. Extra steps to get to the same point.

    If you do go the IPad route, you will find Dropbox is almost irreplacable. It is a royal pain to have to go into iTunes to sync files. I’ve never tried their pro level services, the free version works fine for the amount of work I give it. I have noticed there is some duplication of files, but I do have two computers, the iPad and an iPod on the same account. There is probably a better configuration.

    I’d get the Air, and look for a good deal on a first gen iPad and have them both.

  6. Michael Dixon March 15, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Totally agree with Jackson. Though he has more faith in airline luggage handlers than I do. :)

    iPad 2 now – even if it only handles 80-90% of your traveling needs, that’s probably enough to justify the $. Lug the MBP along only when you need it.

    By the time your MBP’s bugging you, the Air will probably have been updated again and you’ll get more for your money. I think it’ll replace the MBP just fine.

    On data plans, all of the options seem expensive. Now that iOS 4.3 is out, tethering with Personal Hotspot might be the way to go, though I haven’t tried it myself.

  7. aecreek March 16, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    I’m really torn on this one. I’ve gone back and forth several times. I tend to think that the iPad won’t quite be enough for what you need, even with the external keyboard. I have an iPad (albeit first generation) that is a bit clunky on several web pages that I edit on it, and it’s not really a computer. But it is a lot of fun.

    I’d definitely hold off on the MacBook Air until the next release. It should see major speed increases.

    Of course, this is from a person who already has justified in her head having an iPad, MacBook Pro and an iPhone, and I’m going to buy an Air with the next version for most of my traveling. And let’s not talk about how many of each of those I have because of the work vs. personal device separation.

    If you’re leery of the cloud, thumb drives and portable external drives are insanely cheap these days. Useful for the Air but not for the iPad, of course.

  8. Laura Creekmore March 16, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    OK, here’s how y’all are making me lean right now:
    *Get an iPad2 now, with the keyboard. Use it as much as possible. [I’m thinking I’ll get the 3G version but try it with the Overdrive at first, before signing up for another data plan.]
    *See what kind of upgrades get announced for MacBook Air in the next round.

    I’m going to mull on that for a little while!

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