Hosting and bandwidth provided by MacAce.net.
If you find this page useful, please
Bookmark & Share
What are all the differences between the iPad 3rd Gen and the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models?
Please note that the iPad 3rd Gen and "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models both have been discontinued. However, this Q&A can be particularly useful for general comparison of the iPad and MacBook Air as well as anyone considering these models specifically on the used market.
With even a quick glance at the iPad 3rd Gen models -- the iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi Only), iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS), and iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS) -- and the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models -- the MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.6 11-Inch (Mid-2011) and "Core i5" 1.7 13-Inch (Mid-2011) -- it is obvious that the basic form of each is quite different.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad 3rd Gen)
Although both the iPad 3rd Gen models (above) and the MacBook Air models (below) are razor thin, there is no mistaking the MacBook Air with its full-size backlit keyboard and overall "traditional" notebook design.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (11" & 13" MacBook Air)
Although telling the devices apart is quick and easy, deciding which one to buy may be a significant challenge for some. Both the MacBook Air and the iPad have become more capable with each subsequent release.
Quick Decision Overview
To determine whether an iPad 3rd Gen or "Mid-2011" MacBook Air is better for you, it is important to have a solid understanding of the general functionality and intended use of each.
The iPad 3rd Gen has significant improvements compared to the iPad 2. In particular, it has a much higher-resolution display, better rear camera, support for 4G LTE as an option and improved graphics performance.
Although Apple has placed more-and-more emphasis on the creation of fun content like music, movies, and photos with the release of each new iPad model -- creating a slick new version of iPhoto for the iPad 3rd Gen, in particular. The iPad still remains best suited for those who primarily use a computer to surf the web, write a modest amount of e-mail, play music, present photos, and watch non-Flash videos and only sometimes type documents, use spreadsheets, and prepare presentations.
A MacBook Air, on the other hand, remains a better choice for those who write quite a bit of e-mail and type documents, use spreadsheets, and prepare presentations all the time as well as surf the web, play music, present photos and watch a variety of video formats. Although the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models are considerably faster than earlier ones, the MacBook Pro line still is better suited for those who do demanding tasks like heavy photo work or high-end video editing and encoding.
Those interested in a short and simple answer may choose to stop reading now. However, for those who would like a detailed comparison to fully understand all the differences, even technical ones, the following also can be worthwhile.
The iPad 3rd Gen models all have a "resolutionary" 9.7-inch 2048x1536 (264 ppi) "retina" touchscreen display with an onscreen "soft" keyboard (and external keyboard options at extra cost). By contrast, the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models have non-touchscreen displays that are lower resolution for their physical dimensions (1366x768 for the 11-Inch and 1440x900 for the 13-Inch). The MacBook Air models also have backlit "chiclet-style" keyboards as well as glass "no button" trackpads with "inertial scrolling" support.
The iPad 3rd Gen models are 9.50 inches by 7.31 inches by 0.37 inches and weigh about 1.4 pounds. The MacBook Air models are not quite as small or as light as the iPad, but the 11-Inch model comes fairly close. Both are 0.11 of an inch at the front and taper to 0.68 of an inch at the rear, but the 11-Inch model is 11.8 inches by 7.56 inches when closed and the 13-Inch model is 12.8 inches by 8.94 inches when closed to accommodate the larger display. The 11-Inch model weighs 2.38 pounds and the 13-Inch model weighs 2.96 pounds.
Feature & Connectivity Differences
The iPad 3rd Gen models have a speaker, built-in mic, a front-mounted VGA quality "FaceTime" camera and a rear-mounted 5 megapixel "iSight" camera capable of shooting 1080p video as well as an accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, an ambient light sensor, and a digital compass. For connectivity, they have a 30-pin USB-based iPod dock port and a headphone jack as well as 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and the option of 4G LTE wireless and A-GPS.
The features and connectivity for the MacBook Air models are quite different. The MacBook Air models have integrated stereo speakers, a single front-facing integrated "FaceTime" webcam, and a side mounted internal microphone. They also have 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, dual USB 2.0 ports, analog audio out, and a "Thunderbolt" port that supports an external 2560x1600 display in addition to peripherals that support the Thunderbolt standard. A 10/100Base-T Ethernet adapter also is available for US$29. The 13-Inch MacBook Air model additionally has an integrated SD Card slot. However, neither MacBook Air has a compass, mobile networking support or A-GPS.
One major difference between the iPad 3rd Gen and the MacBook Air is software support. The iPad 3rd Gen runs iOS 5.1 and higher (and compatible iOS applications, but cannot run Mac OS X or Windows applications), whereas the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models can run OS X 10.7 "Lion" and higher in addition to Windows 7 and higher (as well as compatible Mac OS X and Windows 7 applications, but they cannot run iOS applications).
Internal technical differences are substantial -- the iPad 3rd Gen line uses a dual-core 1 GHz Apple A5X processor with quad core graphics, 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB of internal flash memory for storage. By contrast, the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models use Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors of varying speed with 2 GB or 4 GB of standard RAM and 64 GB, 128 GB or 256 GB of internal flash memory for storage. Neither model has a hard drive or an optical drive. However, the MacBook Air can be configured with an external optical drive for US$79 and can be used with any external USB or Thunderbolt-equipped hard drive. The iPad does not support an external optical drive or hard drive.
Battery life is estimated as 10 hours for the iPad 3rd Gen line using Wi-Fi and 9 hours using 4G LTE (the lower estimate reflecting use over a cellular network as well as Wi-Fi). Battery life for the MacBook Air models is estimated as 5 hours and 7 hours for the 11-Inch and 13-Inch model, respectively.
The major differences between the iPad 3rd Gen models and the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models are summarized below:
iPad 3rd Gen
MacBook Air 11"
MacBook Air 13"
|Resolution:||2048x1536 (264 ppi)||1366x768||1440x900|
|Trackpad:||Touchscreen||Inertial Multitouch||Inertial Multitouch|
|Standard OS:||iOS 5.1||OS X Lion||OS X Lion|
|Windows:||No||Windows 7||Windows 7|
|Processor Speed:||1 GHz||1.6 GHz*||1.7 GHz**|
|Processor Type:||Apple A5X||Intel Core i5||Intel Core i5|
|Standard RAM:||1 GB||2 GB, 4 GB||4 GB|
|Maximum RAM:||1 GB||4 GB†||4 GB†|
|Storage:||16, 32, 64 GB||64 GB, 128 GB||128 GB, 256 GB|
|Optical Drive:||None||External (Opt)||External (Opt)|
|Data Networks:||4G†† & Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi|
|Ext Disp Support:||1080p||2560x1600||2560x1600|
|Rear Camera:||5 MP (1080p)||None||None|
|SD Card Slot:||None||None||Yes|
|Max Battery Life:||9-10 Hours||5 Hours||7 Hours|
|Dimensions (In):||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37||.11-.68 x 11.8 x 7.56||.11-.68 x 12.8 x 8.94|
|Weight (Lbs):||1.44, 1.46||2.38||2.96|
|Model Numbers:||A1416/A1430/A1403||A1370 (EMC 2471)||A1369 (EMC 2469)|
|Intro Price:||US$499-US$829††||US$999, US$1199||US$1299, US$1599|
* A 1.8 GHz Core i7 (I7-2677M) processor also is available via custom order for the 11-Inch MC969LL/A configuration (which has 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$150 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.
** A 1.8 GHz Core i7 (I7-2677M) processor also is available via custom order for the 13-Inch MC966LL/A configuration (which has 256 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$100 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.
† RAM is soldered in place and cannot be upgraded after purchase.
§ The MacBook Air models only provide Ethernet via an external Apple 10/100Base-T Ethernet adapter as a US$29 option.
Ultimately, as noted previously, if your mobile needs lean more toward consuming content and creating fun content that does not require a great deal of typing, an iPad 3rd Gen possibly could be ideal.
Although an external keyboard can be added to the iPad 3rd Gen via Bluetooth and some third-party keyboard cases effectively "convert" it to a clamshell-esq "netbook," for most of those who need to produce content, particularly text-heavy content while on the run, the MacBook Air would be a better choice.