Opinion: MacBook, or iMac + iPad?



The announcement of the iPad has done a lot of things: it’s stoked up excitement in the Mac using community, it’s got a bunch of developers feverishly coding exciting new stuff, and it’s got retailers and cell phone companies the world over drooling over the money they can make from it.

And it’s also somewhat upset my plans for buying a new Mac.

You see, I had made my decision: I was going to get myself a 13 inch (possibly 15 inch) MacBook Pro before April, which is when the new tax year starts here in the UK. I’d done all the testing and research that I needed to do, I’d consulted friends who have purchased a MacBook Pro recently, and I knew that what I needed matched pretty well with what it can do.

All fine, then.

And then Steve comes along with his iPad and suddenly, I have new options open to me. I have to start my thinking all over again.

A new possibility has opened up. Instead of buying a MacBook Pro, the new theory is that I could buy an iMac (probably a 21.5 inch – a 27 incher would swamp my desk, not to mention my peripheral vision) and an iPad, probably for roughly the same amount of money that the MacBook Pro would cost me.

I’ve not used a desktop computer for years now, so it would be a considerable change for me. Right now I carry my MacBook around the house, around the town, working where the mood and the whim takes me. I value that freedom.

And yet the iPad opens up new possibilities. Most of what I do is web browsing and writing. I have no doubt it will make an excellent web browsing device, although I wonder how it will cope with my particular web workflow. For example, I save lots of stuff to Delicious with a keyboard shortcut, so how can I easily replicate that? Another example: I like to use bookmarklets like Readability and Instapaper, so will I still be able to do so without fuss?

As for writing: well, I need to try out both the software keyboard and the hardware accessory. I need to know whether I can really, truly type directly on the iPad itself, and I need to see just how bulky the keyboard accessory might be in a bag.

So for the time being, my finger is hovering over the Apple Store BUY button. As soon as the iPad is out, I’m going to go to my nearest Store and give it some serious investigation. The fundamental question I’ll be trying to answer is: “Can this be enough of a laptop replacement to make a desktop computer a better choice for me in future?”

The reason I’m waffling on about this here is because I have a feeling that I’m not be the only person in this position. If you’re asking yourself similar questions, I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are, both for and against the iPad.

But ultimately none of us are going to get any answers until we can get our hands on an iPad and put it through its paces. I can’t wait.

UPDATE: A lot of people have been emailing me to ask what I finally decided to do, and the answer is: I bought the MacBook Pro, and I’m happy with it. But I have a strong suspicion that in a year or two, when the time comes to upgrade that machine, I shall be buying whatever incarnation of iPad is new, plus whatever the iMac has morphed into. That’s assuming that no other amazing new devices have appeared in the meantime, which is a pretty big assumption when you’re talking about Apple…

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  • eddie

    What did you decide to do?

    I’m in the same predicament. However, I sold my PC laptop because I want to do iphone development, android development, and windows 7 phone development. With Mac OS X and using either vmware fusion or parallels desktop, I can run different OS in virtualization mode with ease. The problem I have is trying to decide whether to buy a macbook air, a macbook pro or an imac. I never use the dvd/cd drive, so that’s why I was thinking of macbook air. The last time I had a desktop was when I was in middle school. I like the fact I can take my laptop anywhere but then I realized that even when I had one, I rarely took it anywhere. I like the performance power of the imac and the 27 inch display as well but I like the freedom a laptop entails.

  • Javlon Turdiev

    Eddie & Giles, 

    If you already own an iPad 2, I suggest to go with iMac, 27′. You get better value and a machine for the money. It’s well worth it. To prove my point, you can take a look at benchmark tests, iMac,even with quad-core i5 processor, whereas MBP has i7, still performs fast. iMac + iPad is a the best option so far for DEVELOPERS. 
    I am still tempted to get MBP. 

  • Jacob J. DeVore

    Giles, I found myself in a similar position last year.  Rather than buy a MBP, I bought an iPad and a new Mac Mini.  With the Mini hooked up to my TV, I use it as a media center and anything that requires significant typing.  I thought the iPad would be an accessory, an extension of my desktop; in truth, my iPad has become my primary computer.

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  • David Wilkinson

    I am just about to buy the ipad3 and a iMac.  The way I see it, I rarely need the processing power or applications of a Mac when I’m away from home.  When I do, I’ll VNC.   People who genuinely need processing power / Mac apps on the move will always go for the laptop.  For most of us, the laptop is becoming an irrelevance.