Both the iPad and the MacBook Air offer phenomenal hardware solutions, but they occupy distinct niches. A well-accessorized iPad may take you pretty far along the way in getting work done on-the-go, but in no way does it provide the full OS X experience. In cost as well as weight, a low-end MacBook Air is not all that different from an iPad, but it lacks the simple form factor and touch-based interface that makes the iPad a perfect lightweight reading and connectivity solution. Two tools, two form factors -- which one is right for you?
At this time, Apple's computing solutions consist of five families. They include:
- Pocket solutions: small in form factor and big in music and gaming, these include the iPhone and iPod touch pocket-based devices.
- Tablets: perfect for on-the-go reading, media watching and lightweight connectivity, this family is represented by the iPad.
- Laptops: including the sleek MacBook Air as well as the more powerful (but larger) MacBook Pro, laptops provide mobility crossed with full OS X solutions.
- Desktops: ranging from the consumer-grade Mac mini through the incredibly able iMacs and topping out with the Mac Pro, these computers let you get your work done with as many monitors, hard drives and printers as your work demands.
- Other: a catch-all family for computers that don't fit into the other categories, this family is currently limited to the non-mobile TV-based Apple TV, which provides an iOS solution with a limited user appliance interface.
The iPad and MacBook Air belong to separate families, and yet they're often put up against each other for purchasing decisions, especially when considering the 11-inch entry MBA. Both provide mobile on-the-go solutions. Both are lightweight. Both are affordable. So why go for one over the other? It all comes down to use case.