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Can the iPad Air replace the Macbook Air?

Can the iPad Air replace the Macbook Air?

We compare the user experience with Apple's superslim laptop and tablet

The latest iPad - the superslim iPad Air - can seemingly do anything. But can the iPad Air replace a laptop? Is it time to ditch your Macbook Air for the iPad Air?

The ultra-light iPad Air

With all the fancy, newfangled upgrades Apple keeps rolling out for its top-of-the-line tablets, we wanted to know if you could really ditch your laptop for the iPad. There was only one way to find out: replacing a MacBook Air with the iPad Air for a day.

So we've got two obvious points of comparison between these two products: hardware and software. We wanted to compare the two most alike products in Apple's lineup (by name and by look), and hardware-wise, the two actually aren't too different when looking at pure tech specs.

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iPad Air vs MacBook Air comparison review: Tech specs

The iPad Air Wi-Fi + Data model measures 169.5 mm by 240 mm, with a depth of 7.5mm, and weighs 478g; while the Macbook Air weighs 1.08 kg and is 30 cm by 19.2 cm, with a depth of 1.7 cm when the laptop is closed.

Although the MacBook Air is nearly double the weight of the iPad Air, both machines live up to their names as being light as, well, you know. You obviously don't flip open the iPad beyond peeling off its Smart Cover, so the user experience is blatantly different. Then again, you can choose which colour iPad Air you'd like, while the MacBook is relegated to that same silver that can only be altered by accessories.

Using the iPad to do anything for extended periods of time also depends on your accessories and arm strength. The iPad Air's inability to stand on its own accord is like a baby that can't do much else but lay on its belly. Thank goodness for mum and dad's help propping him up.

Consider the MacBook Air the iPad's cool older sister: the one who can ride her bike without training wheels, but still wears a helmet because that's the safe thing to do. (The helmet stands for some sort of protective carrying case in this metaphor, for the record.)

MacBook Air (2013) review

iPad Air vs MacBook Air comparison review: Software

Not to point out the obvious, but the two different products offer different user experiences, most notably in the operating systems.

Sure, there are loads of apps out there to allow you to do many of the same things on the iPad as the MacBook, but don't expect to do the same things in the same ways.

Case-in-point: word processing. The iOS version of the Pages app, for example, is powerful and there's really not much you feel you're missing when tapping out a quick story. But copy-pasting things like quotes or numbers or anything really from the web browser to the document is time-consuming and requires more gestures than I'd like. Of course, this all is made easier using a wireless keyboard, but that'll cost you.

Again, pointing out the obvious, but you can't have multiple windows open on the same screen, so if the aim is to multitask, you'll be switching back and forth between apps. This is easier on iOS 7, but still more of a hassle if you're trying to work between multiple documents.

Let's not forget about price, either. The cheapest 11-inch Macbook Air will set you back £849, compared to the 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad Air's £399 price tag.

iPad Air vs MacBook Air comparison review: Conclusion

As you've caught on by now, trying to compare the iPad Air with the Macbook Air is comparing apples or oranges. Sure, you get some of the same things from both products, but ultimately they're two different products offering different experiences. And it's up to you, the buyer, to decide which is best for you - or whether you'll just get both.

Lauren Dezenski on Twitter | Macworld UK on Twitter

See also:

iPad Air vs iPad 4 comparison review: Is it worth upgrading from your iPad 4 to Apple's new iPad Air?

iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air comparison review: Which new iPad should I buy?


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