iPad Air vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple Mobile Device Is Best for You?

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-10-14
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    iPad Air vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple Mobile Device Is Best for You?
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    iPad Air vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple Mobile Device Is Best for You?

    By Don Reisinger
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    Both Score High Points on Mobility
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    Both Score High Points on Mobility

    It's hard to fault either the iPad Air or MacBook Air when it comes to mobility. Apple's tablet is just 0.29 inches thick and weighs a pound, making it both lightweight and thin. The MacBook Air is just 0.68 inches thick and comes in at under 3 pounds in weight. Either device can be easily slipped into a purse or bag and carried without causing undue pressure.
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    Choose Between a Classic Notebook Design or a Thin Tablet
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    Choose Between a Classic Notebook Design or a Thin Tablet

    So, where do the differences lie between the MacBook Air and iPad Air? Look no further than the itches they scratch. The MacBook Air is a familiar clamshell notebook design with a built-in keyboard. The iPad Air, on the other hand, is a typical tablet that comes without a physical keyboard and includes a touch screen. The way people interact with the devices is very different.
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    Does the Operating System Matter in a Lightweight Package?
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    Does the Operating System Matter in a Lightweight Package?

    Those who are deciding between the iPad Air and MacBook Air also need to consider the operating systems they're running. The iPad Air is now running Apple's iOS 8, while the MacBook Air comes with Apple's OS X Mavericks. Soon enough, the notebook will run OS X Yosemite. Apple's iOS 8 is a mobile-first operating system. OS X is a full desktop operating system running on a highly mobile, lightweight notebook. Customer needs will determine which device offers the right combination of features and performance.
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    Operating System Choice May Matter Less Than Ever Now
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    Operating System Choice May Matter Less Than Ever Now

    While one could argue that mobile and desktop operating systems are very different, Apple has done a fine job of bringing them together. When Yosemite launches, for example, the operating system will be fully capable of working alongside iOS and doing everything from answering calls to responding to text messages. The operating systems also let users start working on one platform and pick up where they left off on the other. The two operating systems have never been more closely integrated.
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    Both Devices Deliver Solid Battery Performance
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    Both Devices Deliver Solid Battery Performance

    Apple touts strong battery life on both the iPad Air and MacBook Air. The MacBook Air, for example, features 9 hours of wireless Web use in the 11-inch model and 12 hours in the 13-inch version. Both the WiFi-only and LTE versions of the iPad Air come with 10 hours of Web surfing over WiFi.
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    Consider Connectivity While On the Go
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    Consider Connectivity While On the Go

    One of the more attractive things about mobile devices is their ability to be useful when going mobile. The iPad Air, for example, comes with the customer's choice of a WiFi-only version and an LTE option that lets users get on the Web via cellular networks. The MacBook Air is WiFi-only. However, it should be noted that users who have a personal hotspot feature on their mobile devices can share that with the MacBook Air to give it a wireless connection when outside WiFi range.
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    Who Wins Out on Design?
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    Who Wins Out on Design?

    Design matters greatly to customers today, and both the iPad Air and MacBook Air look awfully nice. Deciding which product wins out on design is an individual choice, but the differences are stark. The MacBook Air is a notebook featuring a clamshell design and extremely small, thin footprint. The iPad Air has a prominent display, small bezel and similarly small footprint.
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    Screen Size Matters to Some
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    Screen Size Matters to Some

    Screen size is an obvious concern to some customers, so it should be noted that Apple is offering different options. The iPad Air has a 9.7-inch screen, while the MacBook Air features 11-inch and 13-inch models for customers. The iPad Air's screen has a Retina display boasting a 2,048-by-1,536-pixel resolution. The 11-inch MacBook Air has a 1,366-by-768 native resolution, while the 13-inch model comes in at 1,440-by-900.
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    Is There a Future-Proofing Element?
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    Is There a Future-Proofing Element?

    When investing significant cash into mobile devices, one needs to determine which product will most likely stand the test of time. In that case, the MacBook Air might win out. Apple has a tendency to build new features into its iPads that practically require users to update every couple of years. That is driven partly by software features and partly by hardware limitations. The MacBook Air, meanwhile, has a tendency to last longer, since it's a computer with higher-end specifications that can handle Apple's regular software updates. The speed of innovation is not as fast in Mac notebooks, and that helps MacBook Airs last a bit longer than iPads for those who want to be on or near the cutting edge.
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    Consider the Pricing Model
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    Consider the Pricing Model

    So, how much are these devices going to set customers back? The iPad Air with WiFi starts at $499 for the 16GB version and tops out at $799 for the 128GB option. The LTE version starts at $629 for the same 16GB, and goes up to $929 for the 128GB version. The 11-inch MacBook Air is $899 and $1,099 for the 128GB and 256GB options, respectively. Those prices go up to $999 and $1,199 when customers choose the 13-inch version.
 

Back in the days when Windows machines were the unquestioned leader in the PC market, deciding on what type of computer to buy was simpler. PC buyers generally chose between a cream-colored Dell box or a cream-colored Hewlett-Packard box featuring the same components and the same operating system. The features weren't that different. It was possible to get a decent deal on the price if you were willing to shop around and see what models were on sale. Generally, picking one PC over another didn't spell the difference between more or less productivity. But in Apple's own product ecosystem, the choice is not quite so simple for people looking to buy a lightweight, highly mobile device with just the right specifications. These days, the question comes down to whether to go with a MacBook Air notebook or the iPad Air tablet. Complicating the decision, it's likely that Apple will release an updated iPad Air at an Oct. 16 media briefing. So which device should you choose? This eWEEK slide show highlights some of the factors to determine whether the iPad Air or the MacBook Air is the device to buy.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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