Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Re: iPad, MacBook, or new Windows laptop?

Kind of depends on what you want to use it for.

If you want to do structural stuff (although I vaguely recall you deciding to get out of the business), then a Windows laptop is the best option by and large.  You can certainly go the Mac option, but since there are basically no structural apps for the Mac anymore (Multiframe went Windows and never looked back), at least that I am aware of, you will still be forced to running Windows on your Mac…either in a VM program like Parallels (which is what I use with my MBP) or Fusion or in dual boot in Bootcamp.  Running Windows in Bootcamp is basically running Windows native, but Apple may not provide full driver support for all the features of the particular Mac.  For example, you will not get the battery benefit of the dual graphics systems on 15" and 17" MBP…Apple only supports the discrete graphics card in Windows, so you will lose battery life.  Other wise it is no different than an actual Window machine…except you can also boot in the Mac OS.  Running Windows in Parallels work fine.  You do get some performance loss by running it in a VM, but for most stuff you likely won't notice.  If you need to AutoCAD, I believe that after taking a LONG hiatus from the Mac, they finally released a new version…I believe.

As to the iPad and structural engineering stuff, there are actually some structural apps, including what looks like a full 3D frame analysis program.  I have no clue how good any of those apps are.  Of course, you could also using some remote login software to log back into a desktop…but this assumes you have an Internet connection…and it will be slower than dirt for things like CAD and likely even graphics structural software.  I am sure that someone (I won't name names, Stan <grin>) might chime in about going with an Android tablet.  If you do want to consider that option, then it appears that do have some structural apps as well, but a cursory review seems to be less than what is available for the iPad…but then I did not look that long or hard.  It will have basically the same ability to log in remotely to a home computer.

Now, if you are talking non-structural stuff, then things even out a bit more for "typical stuff" such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, email, browsing, etc.  They definitely even out between a MacBook of some sort and a Windows laptop.  Both will do "typical stuff" just fine.  Whether one will do it better than the other will largely be a matter of personal preference and/or just what you are used to.  While Windows and the Mac OS are very similar in many ways, it is those small differences that tend to annoy the crap out of some people who switch.  Some won't be bothered by those little differences (I go between the two with no problems), but it still might take them a little time to get used to those differences if they haven't use the other before.  It is only when you need to do more specialized things (such as structural engineering) where there starts to be significant differences.  In general, in such situations, Windows is the better choice, but some times it is better to go with a Mac.  It all depends on what that specialized stuff that you need to do.  You can certainly get Windows or Mac laptops that are about the same size as an iPad if that is the concern.  The 11" MacBook Air fits that bill VERY well.

For the iPad and Android tablets, it will certainly do the "typical stuff", but some it might not be up to snuff compared to using a laptop with Windows or Mac OS.  You can do basic word processing and spreadsheet stuff, but more advanced features will be lacking.  Email and browsing by and large will be fine, but again you will be missing some more advanced features.  As you are probably aware, as it has been hammered home left and right, an iPad won't do Flash, so if you care at all about that then you don't want an iPad.  FWIW, I have found Flash on Android devices to be rather so-so.  It is actually fairly worthless on my Android phone…much of the time it is almost impossible to "click" on Flash interface elements.  I don't know if it will be better on an Android tablet.  The iPad definitely has way more in terms of apps.  But, if you only need the "core" apps plus maybe some "major" apps, then Android will work just as well.  The key is that you should look through the Apple App Store and the Android Market to see if either has apps that appear to do what you need.  While you can get laptops that are similar in size to an iPad or (10") Android tablet, tablets have the advantage of being able to use them in more physical situations.  For example, doing some thing with a tablet while standing up and not near a table is perfectly reasonable, but really awkward, if not impossible, with a laptop.  And if you really need/want a physical keyboard, there are options.

You also did not mention anything about how small/portable/heavy, powerful, and/or how much battery life you might want.  Those will certainly effect things.

The other thing it depends on is your budget.

Since you mentioned a MacBook, I assume that you focused on keeping the bottom line cost low since the lowest cost MacBook is the base MacBook Air (unless you go used or maybe refurbished from Apple).  But, if bottom line low cost is important, then you are likely look at Windows or maybe a tablet.

You also did not mention which MacBook you are considering…the Air or Pro…and if Pro, the 13", 15", or 17".

I can say the personally I went the path of an 11" MacBook Air.  It gives me something the size of an iPad, but that is a true computer (and is WAY more powerful than some netbook).  I can run Windows on it if I need, so I can run RISA on it if I need to.  I was kind of debating between it and an iPad, but ultimately the iPad was just not up to what I wanted it to do.  I might still get an iPad at a future date.  It could be more useful for reading stuff (like PDFs or just a book) and a little more convenient media "consumption"…and it has a better battery life (I get about 4 hours or so with the Air…depending on what I am doing).  I still have a more powerful computer as my primary computer.


On Aug 23, 2011, at 10:42 PM, Bill Polhemus wrote:

Discuss amongst yourselves.

I'm a little verklempt.

William L. Polhemus, Jr. P.E.
Via iPhone 4