Since I am a little bit of a geek, I always get a bunch of queries from my friends and acquaintances on a number of technology related questions. Lately, with the release of the iPad 2, I have been getting a lot of questions from people around whether to buy a great (but rather expensive) tablet or the Macbook Air.

Today, I got a call at 9 am from someone in a line for an iPad 2 at a Target (lines, even now?) and I decided enough was enough. I had to write a post about it.

So, dear reader, if you are having an iPad vs. Macbook Air conundrum, here is the lowdown:

First off, the products are inherently different. They run different operating systems and are meant for different things. But I am assuming, that’s not a concern with people who are contemplating an iPad vs. the Macbook Air. I think most people who ask this question are concerned about portability and usability for actual functionality.

Let me say it upfront – all things considered, the Macbook Air is a fully functional (and surprisingly, pretty high powered) laptop. The Macbook Air is fantastically engineered – it has a wonderful display, a great keyboard, unbelievable battery life and is so light that really, no words can do justice. You really need to make a trip to an Apple Store to test it.

The iPad is also a great product – but its a tablet. And it too, it is surprisingly functional. It will replace a vast majority of tasks that you normally use your laptop for (browsing, blogging, emails, etc.) and do it better than a laptop. Personally, I find browsing on the iPad much more visceral because of the touch functionality compared to the laptop. And absolutely fantastic apps like Zite and Flipboard are transforming the iPad experience. It has a gorgeous screen, a very usable keyboard and has some seriously productivity apps (like Pages).

However, it is not a laptop. And if you want to use the iPad for anything more than casual usage, you’ll miss a physical keyboard. And a robust operating system. (Pages, for e.g. on the iPad does not have a folder based file system to categorize your documents).

If you have a laptop and are looking for an instantly on device for casual and some light productivity usage, the iPad is a good choice. Else, get the Macbook Air. If you consider that you can get an 11 inch Macbook Air for a thousand bucks, it seems like a great deal. I would argue that the Macbook Air is just as portable with an iPad (with a cover). And it really is a fully functional laptop – perhaps better because it does have instant on/off capabilities, a significantly bigger screen and a top quality keyboard and touchpad.

Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is a fantastic device – if it is used as a tablet – but as things stand, it is not a laptop replacement. However, the Macbook Air, can definitely replace your primary laptop. (unless you are a graphics designer or use your laptop that needs a ton of CPU / GPU power).

Update: Isn’t it amazing that you write a blog post and then you stumble across an article on exactly the same topic. I stumbled across one here. It does seem to have some more information – but comes to the same conclusion as this blogger. Click here to read.

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