Hosting and bandwidth provided by MacAce.net.
If you find this page useful, please
Bookmark & Share
What are the differences between the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models and the iPad 2? Which is best for my needs?
Please note that the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models have been discontinued.
If one just casually glances at 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) -- and the iPad 2 models -- the iPad 2 (Wi-Fi), iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/A-GPS), and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/A-GPS) -- it is obvious that the basic form of each is quite different.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (11" & 13" MacBook Air)
Although both the MacBook Air models (above) and the iPad 2 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. (iPad 2)
Although telling the devices apart is quick and easy, deciding which one to buy may be harder for some. Both the MacBook Air and the iPad have become more capable with each subsequent release.
Quick Decision Overview
Which is best for your needs? Well, that depends on exactly what your needs may be.
The iPad 2 has a variety of improvements compared to the original iPad. In particular, faster performance, dual cameras, and system-wide mirroring support make it far more useful for general computing type tasks.
Nevertheless, just as for the original iPad, the iPad 2 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. However, Apple also has released iPad versions of iMovie and Garage Band and has placed more emphasis on creation of fun content for the second revision of the device.
A MacBook Air, on the other hand, is 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 technically demanding tasks like heavy photo work or high-end video editing and encoding.
As the iPad line is not geared toward those who care about technical details, those attracted primarily to the iPad may choose to stop reading now. However, for those who would like a detailed comparison to fully understand the differences, the following also can be useful.
The iPad 2 models all have a 9.7-Inch 1024x768 LED-backlit IPS glossy 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 much higher 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 2 models are 9.50 inches by 7.31 inches by 0.34 inches and weigh around 1.3 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 2 models have a speaker, front and back "FaceTime" webcams and a built-in mic 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 2.1+EDR and the option of 3G GSM or CDMA 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 peripherials 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, 3G networking support or A-GPS.
One major difference between the iPad 2 and the MacBook Air is software support. The iPad 2 runs iOS 4.3 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 2 models use a 1 GHz "Apple A5" processor with 512 MB of RAM and 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB of internal flash memory for storage and 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 series 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 Wi-Fi only iPad 2 model and 9-10 hours for the Wi-Fi/3G-equipped iPad 2 model (the lower estimate reflecting use over a 3G 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 2 models and the "Mid-2011" MacBook Air models are summarized below:
MacBook Air 11"
MacBook Air 13"
|Trackpad:||Touchscreen||Inertial Multitouch||Inertial Multitouch|
|Standard OS:||iOS 4.3+||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 A5||Intel Core i5||Intel Core i5|
|Standard RAM:||512 MB||2 GB, 4 GB||2 GB|
|Maximum RAM:||512 MB||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:||3G†† & Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi|
|Ext Disp Support:||1024x768||2560x1600||2560x1600|
|WebCam:||Yes (2)||Yes (1)||Yes (1)|
|SD Card Slot:||None||None||Yes|
|Max Battery Life:||9-10 Hours||5 Hours||7 Hours|
|Dimensions (In):||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.34||.11-.68 x 11.8 x 7.56||.11-.68 x 12.8 x 8.94|
|Weight (Lbs):||1.33, 1.35, 1.34||2.38||2.96|
|Model Numbers:||A1395/A1396/A1397||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 earlier, if your mobile needs lean more toward consuming content and creating fun content that does not require a great deal of typing, an iPad 2 possibly could be ideal. If you need to produce content, particularly text-heavy content while on the run, a MacBook Air is a better choice.