Back to school 2019: should you choose Apple's Mac or an iPad

Posted:
in General Discussion
If you're getting ready to head off to school in the fall, you may be asking yourself "Should I get a Mac or an iPad?" Fortunately, we're more than happy to show you the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision.

Choosing an iPad or Mac for college


It's getting to be that time of year again, the time of year when fledgling college students make their way to campus for the first time. It can be overwhelming, between figuring out the dorm situation, meal plans, text books, class schedules--the last thing you want to worry about is tech.

Chances are, you're still going to worry about tech anyway. Maybe you've decided that you definitely want an Apple product for college, but you're not sure if you should go with an iPad or a Mac. After all, one is a full-fledged computer, but the iPad is ultra-portable, and even with the new MacBook Air pricing, probably more affordable. How do you know which to pick?

If you're torn between getting an iPad or Mac for college, your choice is going to come down to a few different key factors.

What's your college's policy on required equipment?

Most colleges -- art and design colleges being an obvious exception -- won't force students to purchase computers as a requirement to attend, but most do require students to be able to follow expected rules. Every college will require students to be able to access their email on a daily basis, which either a Mac or an iPad could easily do.




Some colleges require students to access a course management system, like Canvas. Some of these course management systems have apps that allow students to read and submit assignments, though it's best to check with your academic advisor on what they recommend.

Typically, most course management systems recommend any tests or quizzes be taken on a physical computer. However, as many colleges still offer freely available computers to use in dorms, public computer labs, libraries, and student union buildings, this might not be that big of a deal, either. Only needing to swing by a computer lab a couple times a semester may be enough of a reason to stick with an iPad over a Mac.

If you are a student who is enrolled in online courses, it's probably a better idea to get yourself a Mac, as you may not have access to a computer lab easily. This allows you to make sure you always have the tools available to you to complete any assignment your professor gives you, and you'll never have to worry about running into a file type the iPad can't handle.

What's your major?

Your major is probably the biggest factor in whether you pick out an iPad or Mac for college. As stated earlier, most design and art students will need to buy a computer, and most design colleges prefer their students get a Mac anyway. For prospective artists and designers, we recommend going as full-featured as you can. A MacBook Pro is good, but an iMac may be better.

Humanities students, however, may find an iPad more useful. In history and literature majors, it's not uncommon to be assigned five or more books per class. Renting or purchasing books digitally can help save money, and we find that it's more enjoyable to read long-form text on an iPad than on a computer screen. Not to mention, it's a lot easier to take an iPad to class than a pile of books, or even a laptop.

iPad Pro with Pencil


As for other majors, it largely depends on your college's method of teaching, and whether or not your major requires any special software you'll be required to use in your classes. Your best bet is to talk to either your academic advisor, or the professor in charge of the department your major is within. They'll be able to tell you if there are going to be any specific software requirements or collaborative apps you'll have to be able to access to complete a course successfully.

What do you want out of your device?

Like most things, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. If you're the type of person who has come to rely on a computer to do a lot of things, go ahead and get yourself a Mac. If you're planning on playing a lot of video games during your time at school, get yourself a Mac.

MacBook Air


However, if you want something ultra-portable that you can throw in your bag when you step out the door, an iPad might be the thing for you. More and more colleges are opening up to the idea of allowing students to work mostly on mobile and tablet devices, and the iPad is way ahead of the game when it comes to meeting and exceeding students needs.

If you choose to go with an iPad, we do highly recommend buying an iPad Pro if it's in your budget, and you won't get far without remembering to buy a compatible keyboard--our personal recommendation is the Apple smart keyboard or the Keyfolio. This setup gives you plenty of room to read through reference material, watch videos, and write papers as needed, and the extra screen space gives you the ability to open Pages and Safari at the same time, making research a breeze.

Typing on an iPad Pro


An Apple Pencil is optional, though many students may find taking handwritten notes on the iPad a nice alternative to carrying around and managing multiple notebooks.

The case for an iPad in general

Students who already have an older computer they're fine with using for class may still be interested in snagging one of the new iPad Minis to use as an e-reader and notebook for class. While we don't think it'd be a good sole device for college, as a companion device, it's hard to beat it.

Best student discounts

While Apple offers savings for college students and faculty, often the best discounts can be found at authorized resellers without having to hand over a student ID or .edu email address. AppleInsider readers, for instance, can save hundreds on the latest MacBook Pros. Current iPads and iPad Pros are also on sale with aggressive instant rebates.

For the best deals and product availability, check out the Apple Price Guide, which is updated throughout the day.

Mac Price Comparison Guides iPad Price Comparison Guides
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    nhtnht Posts: 4,494member
    The answer is why not both.  A Mac mini and an iPad meets pretty much every use case except for those that need to bring a full up laptop to class.
    GeorgeBMaccornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    kestralkestral Posts: 251member
    Mac.
    stevenoz
  • Reply 3 of 23
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member
    Mac. 

    Because every college student must learn coding.
    cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 23
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,352member
    Mac and partition it with Windows 10 and they then have almost no limitations on software.
  • Reply 5 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,556member
    Are they serious? Until Apple makes iOS grow up, you need a real computer, not one that's hobbled by its operating system.
    entropys
  • Reply 6 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,953member
    This is perhaps the prime case for why Apple needs to open up the Cursor/Mouse on the iPad. The prospects of typing a term paper on an iPad only beat out the prospects of typing them the way I did -- on a typewriter.
  • Reply 7 of 23
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member
    This is perhaps the prime case for why Apple needs to open up the Cursor/Mouse on the iPad. The prospects of typing a term paper on an iPad only beat out the prospects of typing them the way I did -- on a typewriter.
    Those guys have grown up on on-screen keyboards, your life experiences do not apply to them. They don’t even know what a typewriter is or may have never seen one except in movies.
    edited July 12 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 23
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,361member
    Anyone going into a creative field (imho) is going to need a Mac desktop (any) and an iPad (Pencil compatible) for drawing/sketching. Unless it's an engineering or architecture program which requires Catia, SolidWorks or the like that only run on Windoze. Then you're screwed. For now. Rhino & Fusion360 have both been ported to Mac & likely more to come. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,801member
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    firelockGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member
    entropys said:
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    2-core vs 4-core. 128 vs 256 SSD. I’d suggest MBA with 256 SSD. Portability is more important for students, they shouldn’t need to carry external drives.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    aaarrrggghaaarrrgggh Posts: 1,582member
    For a college student, the iPad Pro keyboard is way too damage-prone to be a good investment. After six months mine has serious wear issues, and I am not hard on my stuff. But hey, if you can amortize the extra keyboards into your student loans why worry!

    For college, the Air is the way to go. For professionals with an income though, the iPad Pro is great. 
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    firelockfirelock Posts: 161member
    We supplied my daughter with a MacBook and iPad mini. Most universities today handle class work through web portals. You usually get your assignments and turn them in through these portals. They are frequently poorly built and barely work right on a PC or Mac, nevertheless an iPad. Just accessing the school’s student portal (so I can pay the bills, check on registration, sign up for dorm rooms) on my iPad Pro was an huge exercise in frustration as the frames didn’t work right. Students also frequently have to put files on flash drives so they can use them on a school computer or give to a friend who has a PC when they are working on group projects. MAYBE you could consider an iPad Pro after iPad OS comes out with it’s desktop class browser and the ability to use external drives, but until that proves itself a Mac laptop is the only way to go in my opinion. YMMV

    EDIT: Another thing I just thought of. My daughter had to complete some projects in InDesign for a technical marketing class. They had a school computer lab setup with Adobe CC that they could use so she didn’t need it on her laptop. However one weekend we wanted her to come home for a family event, but she said she had to stay on campus to use the school lab to complete her InDesign project. Since I have a CC subscription I told her that I would install it on her MacBook, and she could complete the work at home. Obviously not possible on an iPad.
    edited July 13 macplusplusGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,953member
    This is perhaps the prime case for why Apple needs to open up the Cursor/Mouse on the iPad. The prospects of typing a term paper on an iPad only beat out the prospects of typing them the way I did -- on a typewriter.
    Those guys have grown up on on-screen keyboards, your life experiences do not apply to them. They don’t even know what a typewriter is or may have never seen one except in movies.
    Nice diversion!
    But the point still stands:   Serious typing on a crappy keyboard without a mouse sucks.
  • Reply 14 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,953member
    entropys said:
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    Yeh, without a quality input mechanism (A good keyboard with a mouse) the iPad remains primarily an output device.

    But, that said, as textbooks go increasingly towards e-Books, a quality output device is needed.   Nobody likes reading books at a desk -- which it the primary place for a laptop to be used.
  • Reply 15 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,953member
    firelock said:
    We supplied my daughter with a MacBook and iPad mini. Most universities today handle class work through web portals. You usually get your assignments and turn them in through these portals. They are frequently poorly built and barely work right on a PC or Mac, nevertheless an iPad. Just accessing the school’s student portal (so I can pay the bills, check on registration, sign up for dorm rooms) on my iPad Pro was an huge exercise in frustration as the frames didn’t work right. Students also frequently have to put files on flash drives so they can use them on a school computer or give to a friend who has a PC when they are working on group projects. MAYBE you could consider an iPad Pro after iPad OS comes out with it’s desktop class browser and the ability to use external drives, but until that proves itself a Mac laptop is the only way to go in my opinion. YMMV

    EDIT: Another thing I just thought of. My daughter had to complete some projects in InDesign for a technical marketing class. They had a school computer lab setup with Adobe CC that they could use so she didn’t need it on her laptop. However one weekend we wanted her to come home for a family event, but she said she had to stay on campus to use the school lab to complete her InDesign project. Since I have a CC subscription I told her that I would install it on her MacBook, and she could complete the work at home. Obviously not possible on an iPad.
    Real Life
    Reality

    It's how it works.   The real world doesn't exist in an Apple Bubble.
  • Reply 16 of 23
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member
    entropys said:
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    Yeh, without a quality input mechanism (A good keyboard with a mouse) the iPad remains primarily an output device.

    But, that said, as textbooks go increasingly towards e-Books, a quality output device is needed.   Nobody likes reading books at a desk -- which it the primary place for a laptop to be used.
    With a good keyboard and a mouse the iPad's primary place is a desk too. What's its difference from a laptop? OK the iPad is detachable but a computer offers more interactivity in terms of content creation during reading, they will clip notes, assemble these is documents, download course material, especially videos, and so on... They may always get an iPad as an optional device, but their primary device must be a computer. Since they are in the learning phase of their life acquiring computer literacy is more important than ease of use.
    edited July 13
  • Reply 17 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,953member
    entropys said:
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    Yeh, without a quality input mechanism (A good keyboard with a mouse) the iPad remains primarily an output device.

    But, that said, as textbooks go increasingly towards e-Books, a quality output device is needed.   Nobody likes reading books at a desk -- which it the primary place for a laptop to be used.
    With a good keyboard and a mouse the iPad's primary place is a desk too. What's its difference from a laptop? OK the iPad is detachable but a computer offers more interactivity in terms of content creation during reading, they will clip notes, assemble these is documents, download course material, especially videos, and so on... They may always get an iPad as an optional device, but their primary device must be a computer. Since they are in the learning phase of their life acquiring computer literacy is more important than ease of use.
    Yes, it is detacheable -- which makes it a traditional iPad.  You sort of shot down your own argument there. 

    As for the rest, there is no technical reason why an iPad with a quality keyboard and mouse can't do all of those things well.

    The difference between the iPad with a keyboard and mouse versus a MacBook will more likely be on the more robust and flexible MacOS versus the simplified iPad OS -- once the hardware constraints are overcome and Apple takes its leg irons off of the iPad OS.
    entropys
  • Reply 18 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,556member
    entropys said:
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    Yeh, without a quality input mechanism (A good keyboard with a mouse) the iPad remains primarily an output device.

    But, that said, as textbooks go increasingly towards e-Books, a quality output device is needed.   Nobody likes reading books at a desk -- which it the primary place for a laptop to be used.
    With a good keyboard and a mouse the iPad's primary place is a desk too. What's its difference from a laptop? OK the iPad is detachable but a computer offers more interactivity in terms of content creation during reading, they will clip notes, assemble these is documents, download course material, especially videos, and so on... They may always get an iPad as an optional device, but their primary device must be a computer. Since they are in the learning phase of their life acquiring computer literacy is more important than ease of use.
    I have a 2019 12” iPad Pro with a Logitech folio keyboard and it’s awesome. Uses the smart connector so I never have to worry about charging or Bluetooth connectivity issues, backlit and has a nice feel, too. I use it on a desk and everywhere else. I haven’t checked, but I assume a similar keyboard is available for the newer iPad Pros, so you’re not limited to Apple’s sub-par Smart Keyboard. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 19 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,556member

    For a college student, the iPad Pro keyboard is way too damage-prone to be a good investment. After six months mine has serious wear issues, and I am not hard on my stuff. But hey, if you can amortize the extra keyboards into your student loans why worry!

    For college, the Air is the way to go. For professionals with an income though, the iPad Pro is great. 
    entropys said:
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    2-core vs 4-core. 128 vs 256 SSD. I’d suggest MBA with 256 SSD. Portability is more important for students, they shouldn’t need to carry external drives.
    The main reason to get a laptop is portability. If you are planning on carrying around an entire briefcase of extras it kind of defeats the purpose.

    Unless you are really strapped for cash I’d always go with the larger hard drive, even if it means not upgrading the processor. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 20 of 23
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member
    MplsP said:
    entropys said:
    The real question  is 2019 MBA vs 13 Inch 2019 MBP?

     The iPad, as much as I love it, is still an optional extra.
    Yeh, without a quality input mechanism (A good keyboard with a mouse) the iPad remains primarily an output device.

    But, that said, as textbooks go increasingly towards e-Books, a quality output device is needed.   Nobody likes reading books at a desk -- which it the primary place for a laptop to be used.
    With a good keyboard and a mouse the iPad's primary place is a desk too. What's its difference from a laptop? OK the iPad is detachable but a computer offers more interactivity in terms of content creation during reading, they will clip notes, assemble these is documents, download course material, especially videos, and so on... They may always get an iPad as an optional device, but their primary device must be a computer. Since they are in the learning phase of their life acquiring computer literacy is more important than ease of use.
    I have a 2019 12” iPad Pro with a Logitech folio keyboard and it’s awesome. Uses the smart connector so I never have to worry about charging or Bluetooth connectivity issues, backlit and has a nice feel, too. I use it on a desk and everywhere else. I haven’t checked, but I assume a similar keyboard is available for the newer iPad Pros, so you’re not limited to Apple’s sub-par Smart Keyboard. 
    Logitech’s iPad accessories are great. If this is the external keyboard then Logitech is the first choice. It seems to me that Logitech understands iPad’s positioning better than Apple Marketing...
Sign In or Register to comment.