One MacBook Pro, an iMac plus a MacBook Air, or a laptop plus an iPad?

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MacBook Pro and iPad

MacNews’s Dennis Sellers says that for some time now, he’s been using a 27-inch iMac as his main work machine (and only Mac), and pressing his iPad into service for a minimum amount of work when he’s on the road. He says that while he loves the Apple tablet, he quickly discovered that it doesn’t cut it as a serious work platform when he needs to be running Safari, Pages, Pixelmator and Mail and jumping back and forth among the apps. So, while weathering a recent lengthy power and Internet outage, he borrowed his wife’s aging MacBook Pro and worked from his church building, which still had electricity and Internet service after the storms passed.

The inconvenience of all this set Sellers to pondering two potential options for his next round of hardware upgrades.

One alternative he’s considering is replacing the iMac with a 15-inch or 17-inch MacBook Pro and an external display for home office use, which would allow him to always access all his files, data and production software available on a portable Mac.

Option two would be to keep an iMac as his main workhorse computer, and have a MacBook, 13-inch MacBook Pro or MacBook Air as the secondary machine, which would necessitate syncing files between the two Macs, but give him both a workstation Mac and a back-up Mac.

Personally, I would lean to option one, retaining the iPad as a secondary machine. I live in an isolated rural area where lengthy power outages and Internet blackouts (wireless broadband) are banefully frequent, and switched almost entirely to laptop computers for everything 15 years ago partly for that reason, partly because I just relish the portability and versatility of laptops, and partly because, as Dennis noted, I can take all my files, data, applications, and full functionality with me in a compact, self-contained package when I go mobile.

Actually, I rarely take my number one laptop—an aluminum unibody MacBook—on the road, leaving it connected by a spaghetti-tangle of cables to an array of input devices, hubs, and peripherals at my home office workstation most of the time. I use a second laptop, an older PowerBook which I keep synced with the MacBook in terms of file backups and a suite of production applications, and also take along an external hard drive with an up-to-date clone of my MacBook’s hard drive as extra insurance of full work-flow functionality on the road. Works for me.

However, I’m planning to augment that with an iPad 2 soon, when the supply backlog eases, which will make for more convenient light-duty computing on the go, with everything still fitting comfortably in my computer briefcase.

How about you? What’s your mode of addressing the workstation computer/road warrioring computer saw-off?

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  • David Ross

    I'm doing option #1 with an iPad and an 11" MacBook Air, and a carrying bag sized to fit either one. The Air spends most of it's time like your laptop, hooked to to an array of devices including a 22" monitor and a couple external drives. But when I need the power of a "real computer", it slips in my bag and is every bit as portable as the iPad.