MacBook Pro or iPad Pro for college? (1 Viewer)

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smokey982

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My daughter will be starting college this fall as a freshman. For her high school graduation present she has asked for a new laptop. We are an Apple family so she was leaning toward the MacBook Pro. But after reading about the new iPad pro she’s not so sure now. I know the new iPads can do many things. But is there anything she wouldn’t be able to do on the iPad as a student that she could do with a MacBook? Any pros or cons either way?


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cpalmer2k

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Definitely go with the MacBook. I love my iPad but it just isn’t there “yet” as a full fledged laptop replacement. This is coming from a high school teacher with 15+ years experience. She will be much better off with a real laptop.

There are versions of Word, Excel, etc. that tie in to Office 365 that will work on the iPad now but they're still limited compared to their full fledged counterparts. She is likely to encounter other tasks/programs she might need too depending on her major over the course of four years that won't be usable on an iPad. I'd suggest going ahead and watching for a deal on Parallels too. They offer them several times a year. It would allow her to run any Windows programs naively on the Macbook down the road if she needs to.
 
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smokey982

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Have you seen or read about the newest iPad pro’s? I personally haven’t but my daughter has been investigating them recently. She seems to think the newest ones are more on par with laptops. We just had this discussion tonight so I haven’t had time to look into too much.


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cpalmer2k

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They're getting closer. Adding USB-C opened a lot of doors to connect devices like keyboards, etc. The problem is going to be the software aspect of it. Keep in mind when it comes time to write research papers, essays, etc. you're going to need to multi task with multiple windows, multiple programs, etc. The iPad does offer limited multitasking, but I can't imagine trying to write a paper or do research using it exclusively. There are features that are just "missing" from the iPad office applications too because they are extension of the Office 365 online version of office. For example, Office on the iPad can't do citations, bibliographies, etc. Here is quote from another site with a better explanation of the problems. When it comes time to do research, formal papers, etc. she will regret only having the iPad Pro. The hardware is awesome- but the Apps just don't measure up with full fledged software support a real computer offers.

Let’s be clear up front: the non-desktop versions of Office are no replacement for the full desktop version. Office 365 Online and the Office 365 Mobile Apps both offer a feature set similar to what you’d find in their Google Docs counterparts. They’re great if you just need the basic features, or if you occasionally need to view or make minor edits to documents (without the compatibility issues you’d run into using Google Docs, LibreOffice, or another suite of programs).

For example, some of the major features you’ll find missing in the online and mobile apps include:

And there are a lot more, somewhat minor, features you won’t be able to take advantage of in the online or mobile app versions of Office, as well. For a complete list, check out the Office Online Service Description on Microsoft TechNet. While that list specifically talks about the Office 365 Online experience, most of the same exclusions apply to the mobile apps, too.

NOTE: Some of these features we mentioned are viewable in the online and mobile app versions of Office; you just can’t create them there. For example, you cannot create a table of contents form in the online or mobile app versions, but you will be able to view one that was created in the desktop version.
 

Foxbat

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I'd vote for the new MacBook Air as being a worthy machine for college and at a price that's on-par with the iPad Pro. And since the $899 price for Educational Students undercuts the iPad Pro and includes the keyboard, trackpad, and an additional USB-C port, with more memory, I think it's the winner in Apple's educational solution. Plus, Apple fixed the keyboard! ;)

I'm typing this on a 2016 13" MacBook Pro (no Touch Bar) and I don't have an issue with the keyboard, but is is different than the new 2020 Air and my old 2012 Air. I do miss the MagSafe connector from my 2012 MacBook Air, but I have a breakaway USB-C cable that uses magnets to keep the connector and cable mated, so it works okay as a replacement.
 
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harshness

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I'd start by asking the college department that your daughter is majoring in what they recommend/require in terms of computer capability. If they require Windows applications or Chromebooks, starting with a Macbook may be a burden (I know this as I went through college in the early '80s with a Commodore 64).

Colleges and universities have to be practical and prepare their students for the real world (as opposed to the family setting) where someone in an ivory tower is making the computer choices.
 
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rad

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Another vote for the MacBook Air, I have the prior years version, replaced an even older Air, and very happy with it.
 

Radioguy41

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Check with whatever college she's planning to go to about their requirements before purchasing anything. Some/many/most have specific requirements as to what computers they want students to bring and connect to their system.
 
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smokey982

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She checked with the college and they don’t have any requirements. But I’m curious. Although we’re an Apple family and has always had great success with every Apple product we’ve owned. I’m wondering if there’s anything else out there that someone would recommend as well? I haven’t shopped for computers in several years so I have no idea what’s out there. One reason she was leaning towards the IPad was the ability to take notes directly on the pad with the Apple pen (although that’s not a deal breaker).


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Phil T

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I replaced a 2009 Macbook Pro with a 12" IPad Pro in December of 2017. Less then two years later I purchased an new MacBook Pro and my IPad sits in a drawer hardly ever used. Although the iPad worked pretty well for web surfing I came across too many times where I needed the full functions of a computer.

I do beta testing for a couple of companies and you cannot download and install software on different devices using a iPad.
 

smokey982

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Alright guys, I’ve narrowed my decision but need one more piece of advice. Based on what she’ll be doing we’ve decided on the MacBook Air. At the price point I’m looking at I can do 8GB of memory with 512GB hard drive. Or I can do 16GB memory with 256GB hard drive. It will be her primary computer for school and socially. I’m guessing the biggest thing required for storage would be photos. She keeps thousands of photos on her iPhone and when it starts getting full she’ll off load them to her computer. As for school, she’s just taking general studies. So no graphic designing or anything like that. So which way should I be leaning?


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Foxbat

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At the price point I’m looking at I can do 8GB of memory with 512GB hard drive. Or I can do 16GB memory with 256GB hard drive.
It depends on whether you're willing to pay Apple monthly for additional iCloud storage over the 5GB you get for free. Of course, there are other cloud storage/backup providers with much more affordable options. Most colleges provide a Student license for the Microsoft Office Suite, but if you pay for the Microsoft 365 I believe that includes 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage (not sure about the college license).

All that means is you could make a MacBook Air with 256 GB of SSD storage work, but at an additional ongoing cost. Going with the increased SSD storage would allow her to fit more media content internally. 8 GB of RAM is plenty for most things you would do on a MacBook Air. My son uses my old MacBook Air for his classwork and he doesn't have an issue with the SSD space since I replaced the 128 GB SSD with a 240 GB SSD I got from OWC. His issues are more related to it being 8 years old and having just 4 GB of RAM (especially when running Chrome).

In closing, I vote for 512 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM. If you were looking at the MacBook Pro I'd probably flip that as the Pro would be more likely to be used with applications that could make better use of 16 GB of RAM and you can always add more Mass Storage through Thunderbolt 3 external devices.
 

harshness

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While it has long been Apple's goal to wrangle the faithful into being beholden to their subscription iCloud storage, consider that there are Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices available (since Apple espouses effectively proprietary serial port standards) for relatively cheap that allow for inexpensive storage and dirt cheap USB A backup options. Some of them even double as print and media servers.

Carrying around all of your precious moments isn't a particularly sound long-term storage scheme and cloud storage subscriptions never go away.

An example of an option is this:

 

Foxbat

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(since Apple espouses effectively proprietary serial port standards)
I assume you're referring to Intel's Thunderbolt? We have Dells, HPs, and Lenovos at work that came with Thunderbolt ports. It's not just Apple…

Now, true, you won't find an AMD processor with Thunderbolt, but they could license the technology from Intel if it were worth it.

Also, the Thunderbolt 3 port uses the USB Type C connector, so these ports can be used for Display Port and USB 3.1 devices, again, hardly unique to Apple. I've used my MacBook Pro with a Dell USB 3.1 Dock and it worked as (unexpectedly) expected. It charged, provided Gigabit LAN, HDMI and Display Port monitors, plus USB 3 & USB 2 Type A ports. Cats and Dogs, sleeping together!

I do like your idea of getting a home NAS for extended storage, especially if it's accessible from outside the home. That's a factor of how good your ISP connection is. Mine sucks, so it isn't much of an option for me, but it's always better to have complete control and responsibility of your data at all stages, including off-site backups. I've thought about getting my brother and sister on-board with Synology and setting up a cross-replication backup so there would be two backups in case of one sibling losing their house to fire, flood, or storm damage.
 

harshness

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I assume you're referring to Intel's Thunderbolt? We have Dells, HPs, and Lenovos at work that came with Thunderbolt ports. It's not just Apple…
As you well know, "works with" isn't nearly the same thing as readily available nor can it be confused with economical.
Now, true, you won't find an AMD processor with Thunderbolt, but they could license the technology from Intel if it were worth it.
Clearly it hasn't been worth it. One of the longtime frustrations I've observed with Apple gear is that it begs for adapters (both hardware and software) to connect to pretty much anything non-Apple and that's a pain. It is more of a pain each time Apple introduces something new as you may feel compelled to upgrade or change out your adapters with each "advance" in technology.
Also, the Thunderbolt 3 port uses the USB Type C connector, so these ports can be used for Display Port and USB 3.1 devices, again, hardly unique to Apple. I've used my MacBook Pro with a Dell USB 3.1 Dock and it worked as (unexpectedly) expected. It charged, provided Gigabit LAN, HDMI and Display Port monitors, plus USB 3 & USB 2 Type A ports.
Many of those docks fetch more than the cost of a reasonable USB A connected hard drive (or even a NAS in some cases). A righteous analogy from the subscription TV world is the concept of "expandable storage" DVRs where some brands promised eSATA solutions while others offered USB solutions. Which one turned out to be much cheaper and was proudly delivered to consumers (a shot across the bow of Comcast and, to a lesser extent, DIRECTV)? I suspect that many more TiVo users opted for internal upgrades by a wide margin.
I do like your idea of getting a home NAS for extended storage, especially if it's accessible from outside the home. That's a factor of how good your ISP connection is. Mine sucks, so it isn't much of an option for me, but it's always better to have complete control and responsibility of your data at all stages, including off-site backups. I've thought about getting my brother and sister on-board with Synology and setting up a cross-replication backup so there would be two backups in case of one sibling losing their house to fire, flood, or storm damage.
I use a pair of Synology NAS units housed in different buildings at work. They are Internet accessible with a VPN connection to the campus LAN. One of the NAS devices updates a mirror on the other every night (takes about five minutes with modest daily file activity). The backup also does versioning for those who are habitually careless about what they overwrite.

For personal use, I usually just back up my NAS and keep the backup at some other address (work). The really handy part about NAS storage is that it works with pretty much any version of any OS (including Android, ChromeOS and iOS). NAS will work pretty much anywhere that TCP/IP is supported -- now and in the foreseeable future.
 

arlo

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I invite every single Mac lover to grab a few beers and kick back, head over to watch any Louis Rossman video on YouTube. Come back and tell me how you really love your apple mac's.
 

cpalmer2k

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I second a NAS and cloud based option. In my case I have a Synology NAS at home that runs Channels DVR anyway. I set up a share on it for all my work related documents and copied them over. The Synology Client mirrors everything from my work laptop and home laptop to the Synology box, which then uploads it along with all my other personal stuff to Dropbox as a third level backup.

I learned that lesson back in my college days. I sat down one night and started writing a research paper that had to be about 20 pages long. Finally finished it except for citations, so I saved it and went to take a shower. Came back and my screen was totally black. For some unknown reason my hard drive picked that moment to die. Ended up trying the freezer trick and managed to get most of my data back, but still wasn't able to recover all of it. Since that time I back up everything in multiple places.
 
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harshness

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I invite every single Mac lover to grab a few beers and kick back, head over to watch any Louis Rossman video on YouTube.
Rossmann's rants are mostly about misinformation (and in some cases baldface lies) regarding salvage of iDevices (and the data therein) that spool out of Apple Stores. Clearly Apple wants to create teachable moments using heartbreaking data loss to convince patrons that a perpetual subscription to iCloud is the one and only possible answer to data loss. Obviously, they're wrong more often than not, but they're in the business of selling and you don't advance your career by departing from official store policy.

Apple Stores are an entirely different division from the manufacturing side. Macbook manufacturing is done entirely by Chinese contractors (both mainland and R.O.C.)
 

smokey982

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Alright guys, I appreciate everyone’s input. But you guys will have to talk in “computers for dummies” language. If I’m understanding correctly, there’s better options for backing up data on a MacBook than iCloud? There was a guy in our local computer store yesterday that said she should be using a google backup for her photos. He said the Apple iCloud backup doesn’t keep a true resolution backup. Is anyone familiar with this? I assume this is for photos only?


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cpalmer2k

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Alright guys, I appreciate everyone’s input. But you guys will have to talk in “computers for dummies” language. If I’m understanding correctly, there’s better options for backing up data on a MacBook than iCloud? There was a guy in our local computer store yesterday that said she should be using a google backup for her photos. He said the Apple iCloud backup doesn’t keep a true resolution backup. Is anyone familiar with this? I assume this is for photos only?
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I think that is accurate. I know it use to be the case, but I haven't used iCloud for that in awhile so I'll let others confirm. Google Photos is a great option for backing up pictures. It will keep everything at "original resolution" assuming you pay for extra Google Drive storage when you run out of the "free" they give you. That would take care of your photo issues.

I still prefer Dropbox to Google Drive myself for documents, etc. It's easy to use and reasonable at about $120 or so a year for 2TB of Cloud Storage. You could in theory just make a "Photos" folder in Dropbox and store them all there.
 
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