If there’s a silly season for politicians and the talking heads of political punditry, then there’s a silly season for technology journalists-cum-pundits. That season is now.
It seems every other tech web site has something going about Apple’s hot-selling iPad; what it’s missing, what it needs, why it’s great, why it’s worthless, how it’s too this or too little that. So, let’s do an old fashioned head-to-head shootout—iPad 2 vs. MacBook.
Gunfight At The OS Corral
In early 2010 Apple stunned the tech world with the original iPad. Immediately, the talking heads of tech punditry decried it as nothing more than an iPod touch with a big screen, or a giant iPhone without the phone.
15-million iPads and less than a year later, and Apple had sold more computer tablet devices than all Windows tablets ever, and locked up about 90-percent of the market.
Would-be competitors went back to the drawing boards to compete. A year later they’re ready to go, just as Apple introduced the iPad 2 which is smaller, lighter, faster, and/or better than the newest competitor tablets.
Microsoft? Missing in action. HP’s Palm? Maybe later this year. Samsung’s Tab? It’s smooth but drawing dust on the shelves. Even Motorola’s vaunted and acclaimed Xoom pales by comparison.
Rather than compare an iPad with wannbe competition that clearly isn’t ready for prime time, let’s compare the post-PC era PC, the iPad 2, with the premier PC-era personal computer, Apple’s very own and perpetually hot-selling MacBook line in a head-to-head, feature-to-feature shootout.
Head To Head, Face To Face
Wait a minute. These are different devices, right? Yes. But they’re both personal computers. The MacBook represents the best of the old PC era. The iPad 2 represents, for now, the best of the post-PC era. If highly paid technology pundits can rag on iPad 2 or MacBook at will, then surely we can compare the two to see which is best, based on our nebulous comparative criteria, right?
Let the silly season games begin.
#16: Price Tag – The least expensive MacBook Air is still more expensive than the most expensive iPad with 3G and 64 gigabytes of storage. Advantage, iPad (1).
#15: Horsepower/CPU – The iPad features Apple’s home-grown, dual-core A5 CPU, while the MacBook line goes all Intel Inside. The iPad is fast and nimble but is it strong enough to handle Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop CS5, or Apple’s Final Cut Pro? No. Advantage, MacBook (1).
#14: Weight – We’re entering the portability, mobility century. Aluminum MacBook Air models are light and easy to toss into a backpack or briefcase, and not much bigger than the even lighter iPad. Advantage, iPad (2).
#13: Screen – Screen real estate is all important. Apple may have picked the perfect size for the iPad, but even the lowly plastic MacBook fares better with 1,280 by 800 pixels and can drive an external display up to 2,560 by 1,600 pixels. The iPad is limited to a paltry 1,024 by 768 pixels. Advantage, MacBook (2).
#12: Battery – Battery life in portable devices is critical. The least expensive MacBook gets up to 7 hours of usage vs. the highly acclaimed 10 hours of usage for the iPad. Advantage, iPad (3).
#11: Speakers and Microphones – The iPad comes with a single speaker. No stereo for you. All the MacBooks feature stereo. Both have microphones. Advantage, MacBook (3).
#10: Keyboard Input – The iPad has a built-in, onscreen keyboard. So does the MacBook, but using it is a chore. Instead, the MacBook has a wonderful, nearly full-sized keyboard with a trackpad. The iPad can use a Bluetooth keyboard for heavy duty typing, ostensibly as useful as the MacBook keyboard. Because the iPad’s onscreen keyboard makes it easier to use on an airplane, Advantage, iPad (4).
#9: Ports and Connectors – This is no contest. Both iPad and MacBook have wireless capability and can connect to nearly anything, but the least expensive MacBook comes with Gigabit Ethernet, a Mini Displayport, two USB 2.0 ports, audio in and out. Advantage, MacBook (4).
#8: Storage Options – This is no contest, either. The high end iPad comes with 64 gigabytes of flash storage, which merely equals the low end MacBook Air. Other MacBook Pro options move storage to a whopping 750 gigabytes of old-style hard disk drives. Bigger is better. So is mobile. The MacBooks have Advantage, MacBook (5).
#7: Graphics – The iPad 2 features graphic capabilities up to nine times faster than the original. And the iPad screen can be mirrored to a television. The MacBook models can drive very large LCD displays with resolution far exceeding that of the iPad. Advantage, MacBook (6).
#6: Communication Connectivity – The iPad comes with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and 3G (both CDMA and GSM, not in the same model) but no wired option. MacBook models come with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and wired Gigabit Ethernet (except for the MacBook Air). Advantage, our first Tie (1).
#5: Productivity Applications – The reason we buy a computer, whether of the PC era, or the post-PC era, is to use applications. Apple claims the iPad has 65,000 iPad-specific apps. I don’t know how many apps exist for the Mac but I’ve read that it exceeds 25,000 apps. Advantage, iPad, right? Except that the Mac also runs Windows apps. Except that the iPad can control the apps on your Mac via VNC remote screen control. Advantage, iPad (5).
#4: Games – Not to be confused with typical productivity apps, games are a whole different breed. If you want games, you need a PC. But a Mac runs Windows so it also, by default, can run all games for PCs. On the other hand, some of the new games for the iPad are to die for, and future games that take advantage of the built-in iPad gyroscope are sure to be fantastic. Advantage, Tie (2).
#3: Usability – This category is subjective by nature. If Macs and Windows PCs are the standard for personal computing, and the iPad is the first widely adopted post-PC era device, there must be a reason for its growing popularity. Apps on Macs or PCs will do more, but it’s easy to argue that those apps are not as usable as comparable apps on the iPad. Advantage, iPad (6).
#2: FaceTime Video Calls – Apple’s new two-way video calling is called FaceTime. It uses the built-in camera in the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and the Macs. FaceTime itself works the same on all devices, so it’s a tie, right? Not so fast. The iPad’s camera, like the iPhone and iPod touch versions, allow for both front-facing and rear-facing video. Not so on the Macs. Advantage, iPad (7).
#1 Available RAM – This is a gimme for the Mac. RAM determines how much multi-tasking the iPad or Mac can handle. The iPad has 512 megabytes. The lowliest of MacBooks comes in at 2 gigabytes. Advantage, MacBook (7).
If you’re keeping score, you can see that Apple has accomplished an original objective. The iPad is a perfectly placed product—right between the iPhone on one end, and the MacBook line on the other. So, it’s a tie with two ties.
What does this prove? Not much. People buy each device for different reasons. Technology pundits often compare hardware specifications between devices without regard to why people use a device in the first place, so we decided to make some fun comparisons.
What other categories could be added to compare the iPad with the Mac? Based on your experience, how would you rate each device? Feel free to roast us or agree with our insightfulness in the Comments section.