A year ago, when the iPad mini came out, I kept my full-sized iPad because of the retina screen. And it’s not like that was a sacrifice. I love the larger display on my full-sized iPad for writing and reading. The size and weight (which, come on, have never been that bad) have never bothered me. Sure, I can’t hold the iPad with one hand while lying down in bed, but I don’t do that anyway. For long-form reading I have a Kindle.

The question for me, today, on iPad Air Eve, is: could the iPad mini — which is cheaper, smaller, and lighter, with an even denser Retina than the iPad Air display — be just as good for how I use my iPad?

Maybe. But maybe not. Ugh.

All those who got early review units of the iPad Air are talking about how thin and light it is. Naturally. That’s the hallmark feature for which it’s named. Some wrote in their review that they will be leaving their old iPad mini for the new iPad Air, while others are not getting an Air and holding out for the new iPad Mini with Retina screen.

When I travel, I like to leave my MacBook Air at home and take just my iPad. In part because when I travel (especially vacation) I like to avoid bringing work with me. Also, there are a few days a week when I will leave my home office to go work from a coffee shop or the local library. Most of the time I like to take just my iPad on these occasions as well.

There are myriad conveniences to working from an iPad. The insane battery life; the extreme portability; super-fast LTE that’s available just about anywhere (except the middle of Kansas, fyi, in case you too happen to find yourself driving on I-70 between Denver and Kansas City); and more.

Also, the iPad comes with its own “anti-distraction software” — iOS itself. On the iPad you can only wrangle one app at a time.

But lately, when traveling or going to a coffee shop, I’ve been taking my MacBook Air with me more often than not. When I went to WWDC in 2012 I took only my iPad, yet this year I took my MacBook Air along.

As water likes to flow downward I naturally gravitate towards working from my laptop.

I’m at my desk working from my clamshelled MacBook Air right now, and I have 9 active application windows in my view: MarsEdit, nvAlt, Safari, Mail, Pages, Byword, Messages, Rdio, and OmniFocus. My MacBook Air is packed to the rafters with Keyboard Maestro macros, TextExpander snippets, keyboard shortcuts, and other scripts. It can display many app windows at once, and is generally more efficient for most tasks.

There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to iOS’s constraints just as there are advantages and disadvantages to the versatility of OS X. Each device and its operating system have their own ways of empowering creative work as well as hindering it.

It’s often easier for me to work from my MacBook Air and sometimes I flat out need to. But I want to and will continue to work from my iPad as often as possible.

Though I’m still not 100% confident that an iPad Air will be the best iPad for me now that the iPad mini has a Retina display, the alarm on my iPhone is set for tonight at 2:00 am local time. I’ll wake up, order my iPad through Apple’s Store app, choose in-store pickup (assuming it’s an option), and mosey down to my local Apple store some time tomorrow after I’ve had my coffee.

Then, in about a month from now, for the sake of science, I’ll get an iPad mini as well.1 I don’t want an iPad Air or an iPad mini specifically — I want the device that’s the most enjoyable and conducive to use for getting work done.

Perhaps it’s with the one that has a bigger screen that will prove to be thin and light enough. Or, maybe, the one that is thinner and lighter with a screen that proves to be big enough.

I don’t yet know how the pros and cons weigh against one another. But I do know that the iPad as a computer is the future. And the entire iOS and iDevice ecosystem is, to me, the most exciting and fascinating thing happening right now.

  1. Last year I had a very good feeling that this sort of dilemma would present itself, so I’ve been saving with the expectation of buying one of each so I could use and test them both. These are the sorts of sacrifices I’m willing to take for my job.