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Macbook Air + Ipad vs. Macbook Pro vs. Surface Pro

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Hey everyone :)

I currently have a Macbook Air that is approximately 1.5 years old (switched from windows). I LOVE the Mac interface compared to Windows, but I am very disappointed in the Air's performance. Emails, note-taking, and studying is fine, but as my primary laptop I notice that it gets really slow when I have a lot of tabs open or streaming videos. I was wondering which of the following options you guys think is the best for me:

1) Keep my Macbook Air, and buy an ipad pro on the side for studying while commuting and consuming media.

2) Selling my Macbook Air (hopefully I can get few hundred dollars), and buying a Macbook pro (probably the 2015 model)

3) Selling my Macbook Air and buying the Surface Pro 4 (Not sure if the 5 is out yet).

All these options will be cost me a similar amount (maybe option 1 being most expensive). If you have any other setup suggestions, I would love to know them! 

 

Thanks all

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3 minutes ago, 1997 said:

I also love the mac interface but hate the lack of features in apple devices. herés what I use:

Macbook (Pro, although it doesn't matter, an air would be fine for studying too but I do video editing): for checking emails, googling, watching lectures, and anything that requires extensive typing.

Surface (Pro 3): for annotating slides using one note, annotating textbooks, sketching condensed notes. 

sometimes I find myself needing both on the same day, so it does get heavy and it's a bit of an expensive combination.

If you plan on annotating notes, the iPad simply does not compare to the surface. On the surface, you can go from typing to writing with the pen immediately, where as on the iPad, you have to click a "draw" button before using the pencil... That's a huge inconvenience. 

If i only had to choose one, I would pick the surface only because it can do almost everything the MacBook can and a little bit more. Disadvantages: the windows interface is less organized and intuitive, less reliable than a MacBook (viruses, crashes) and some apps are not available for windows (eg:anatomy atlases, etc.), also the surface is really not fun to type on, so if you mostly type out your notes (vs writing/sketching them), don't go with the surface.

Things may change with iOS 11

feel free to ask any questions about these devices. I've been using both for about 2 years now, what will work best for you really depends on your studying style (typing vs writing) and what your needs are (eg: do you need specific apps that are only available on mac/iPads)

Thanks for your response :D 

I've never taken notes by hand (I do all my studying through my laptop). If this is the case, would you not recommend me selling my Air and buying a Surface Pro since the Air clearly has the better keyboard? 

If I were to just buy a completely new device to use alongside with my macbook air, would you still recommend the surface pro over the ipad, even though if I were to get the ipad I'd have 2 apple devices (easy syncing)? I'd primarily use the surface pro/ipad for work (reading study notes / annotating slides) rather than media consumption. 

Thanks again !

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Hey,

I would look into cleaning up your MacBook Air. It shouldn't be slowing down like that. Theres a software called Onyx for OSX that does a great job of clearing up clutter and stuff that slows down your computer. Not sure how computer savvy you are, but if you want to give it a go it could help fix your problem.

Also, the new iPad Pro is absolutely ridiculous. Some benchmarks show that its more powerful than the fully loaded MacBook Pro, and iOS 11 is addressing a lot shortcomings you could experience on the tablet. Also the Apple Pencil is supposed to be top notch for annotation. I'm looking into buying the iPad Pro for school this year and have heard good things. 

Surface is pretty dope too, but its larger and clunkier. The new one (after the pro 4) is simply called Surface Pro and it came out yesterday.

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I've been looking at the Surface Book, which functions as a full laptop (with mac style metal casing and keyboard), but the screen is detachable tablet (like the Surface Pro). Seems to me this would do away with the negatives around the typing experience, and it means you don't have to carry more than once device. I'm a life-long Mac user though, so a little hesitant to make the switch. Anyone have any thoughts on the Surface Book as a primary device for med school?

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1 hour ago, Synth1 said:

I've been looking at the Surface Book, which functions as a full laptop (with mac style metal casing and keyboard), but the screen is detachable tablet (like the Surface Pro). Seems to me this would do away with the negatives around the typing experience, and it means you don't have to carry more than once device. I'm a life-long Mac user though, so a little hesitant to make the switch. Anyone have any thoughts on the Surface Book as a primary device for med school?

Personally, I am in the market for a new laptop for residency as well so I will share my thoughts.

The Surface laptop, Surface Pro and Surface Book are both very capable devices with excellent bang for buck (hardware wise - bigger storage and processor for the same price, excellent touch screens and a superb pen). I don't take notes by hand as I find it significantly slower than typing, so I am not sure the Surface Pen is really necessary for my needs. However, they both run Windows, and this means that you will have to run anti-virus and anti-malware scans once in a while, deal with the device slowing down with time (more significant than Mac OS).

All Macbooks have excellent build quality and stability. The MacBooks Pros, although quite powerful, are significantly overpriced. The MacBook Air was recently refreshed with new internals, but the non-Retina display screen is just awful and is the worst among all the laptops mentioned in this post. The 12" MacBook is portable, has a great screen, is reasonably priced but very underpowered.

The Dell XPS 13 or XPS 15 are two other great choices not to be overlooked.

Regardless of what you decide on ultimately, remember to use the Student/Education Discount to save yourself some pocket money.

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I'm glad this thread was brought up.

I'm thinking about getting an IPad Pro to take notes, but I guess I'm hesitant about the ability to type and its ability to serve my needs when I'm on campus. I don't want to be carrying around my MacBook Air and IPad Pro - too heavy.

I wrote my notes in undergrad because I like drawing diagrams, and also I think the speed constraints of hand writing force you to digest the material at that point and make it the most concise as possible.

I guess my question is, are there med students out there who think that content is too heavy to be able to get it all in on handwriting alone?

Thanks!

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1 hour ago, ArchEnemy said:

Personally, I am in the market for a new laptop for residency as well so I will share my thoughts.

The Surface laptop, Surface Pro and Surface Book are both very capable devices with excellent bang for buck (hardware wise - bigger storage and processor for the same price, excellent touch screens and a superb pen). I don't take notes by hand as I find it significantly slower than typing, so I am not sure the Surface Pen is really necessary for my needs. However, they both run Windows, and this means that you will have to run anti-virus and anti-malware scans once in a while, deal with the device slowing down with time (more significant than Mac OS).

All Macbooks have excellent build quality and stability. The MacBooks Pros, although quite powerful, are significantly overpriced. The MacBook Air was recently refreshed with new internals, but the non-Retina display screen is just awful and is the worst among all the laptops mentioned in this post. The 12" MacBook is portable, has a great screen, is reasonably priced but very underpowered.

The Dell XPS 13 or XPS 15 are two other great choices not to be overlooked.

Regardless of what you decide on ultimately, remember to use the Student/Education Discount to save yourself some pocket money.

The Dell XPS 13 has actually been recommended to me before, but I haven't had a very good experience with Dell computers. What is it about the Dell XPS (13, probably, 15 is a bit big) that you like as it applies to being a laptop for students?

Edit: I mean, the minimal chassis is beautiful and would make it convenient to carry around, but what about performance-wise? Also, because my current laptop has a pretty loud fan, how's the cooling?

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6 hours ago, gangliocytoma said:

Also, the new iPad Pro is absolutely ridiculous. Some benchmarks show that its more powerful than the fully loaded MacBook Pro, and iOS 11 is addressing a lot shortcomings you could experience on the tablet. Also the Apple Pencil is supposed to be top notch for annotation. I'm looking into buying the iPad Pro for school this year and have heard good things. 

Hey, I'm also considering the ipad pro, but I'm reluctant because of the sizes. I'm not sure if the 9 in is too small and if the 12 in is too big. Any take on it?

4 hours ago, catchlynall said:

I'm glad this thread was brought up.

I'm thinking about getting an IPad Pro to take notes, but I guess I'm hesitant about the ability to type and its ability to serve my needs when I'm on campus. I don't want to be carrying around my MacBook Air and IPad Pro - too heavy.

Well, at my second year of undergrad, I had both the macbook air and the ipad (an older generation), and I found they were light enough. I pretty much had only those two + an agenda, one notebook for bullet journaling, and my pencil case, since all m notes, books and powerpoints were now in my ipad/macbook, I didn't need to carry anything else. I'm not sure with medschool though, maybe we obligatory need to have some paper manuals or something. 

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5 hours ago, HalfBaked said:

Hey, I'm also considering the ipad pro, but I'm reluctant because of the sizes. I'm not sure if the 9 in is too small and if the 12 in is too big. Any take on it?

Well, at my second year of undergrad, I had both the macbook air and the ipad (an older generation), and I found they were light enough. I pretty much had only those two + an agenda, one notebook for bullet journaling, and my pencil case, since all m notes, books and powerpoints were now in my ipad/macbook, I didn't need to carry anything else. I'm not sure with medschool though, maybe we obligatory need to have some paper manuals or something. 

The new iPad comes in 10.5 inch and 12.9 inches. I was used to using an 8 inch tablet for note taking in undergrad so it may take me some getting used to with the 10 inch pro, but from what I hear the screen/display is absolutely gorgeous. Also, larger screen makes it easier to use a stylus. 

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Friends, the 2017 12" MacBook is the way to go. I will go through the pro's and con's, and my reasons for getting it (I've thought about this for a long time):

Pro's

  1. Very portable: 2 pounds, thinner than MacBook Air
  2. Very quiet: it doesn’t have fans so no fan noise
  3. Superb build quality, though this is typical of Apple products.
  4. Amazing keyboard - 2nd gen butterfly keys, I can type so fast on this thing it’s crazy. By far my favourite keyboard. It’s also much quieter than a standard laptop keyboard. You have to go to an Apple store or Best Buy to try this keyboard out to understand what I mean.
  5. Amazing screen: LED-backlit Retina display.
  6. Amazing speakers: hands down best speakers on a laptop I’ve ever heard.

Notes:

  • Since charging is by USB-C, you can use portable chargers. I carry around 2 and have enough juice for 20 additional hours of battery life on my MacBook and 2-3 full charges for my phone.
  • You DON'T need a touch screen for making diagrams. I've been using the trackpad to draw stuff in lecture for 3 years. My 3rd year physiology course was 100% handwriting (no powerpoint slides) and I got through the entire course using only the trackpad. I’ll include some pics below, these are from 2015 - the software is much better now, especially with OneNote (I made these with 2015 preview).

z0oC6vc.png

and

QRaYMaZ.png

 

THESE ARE 100% TRACKPAD + TYPING. 

Cons

  1. Underpowered specs: I have found this to be untrue. It’s NOT underpowered. It seems that way on paper, but what you need to keep in mind is that Apple’s software is optimized to run very efficiently with it’s hardware. The 2016 model was capable of editing 4k videos (the 2017 is even more powerful), see:
    The average med student isn’t gonna be doing heavy video editing or hardcore gaming anyway, so even if it WAS underpowered, it doesn’t matter lol

 

2. Only 1 USB-C port. You can do your every day file transferring over Wi-Fi. This is meant to be a laptop for school, so I don’t see why would need a HDMI or SD card port but if you absolutely need to connect to a TV or plug in a SD card, you can just buy a $20 adapter.

3. 480p front-facing camera. I barely use the camera on my laptop lol, if I wanna Skype I’ll usually just use my phone.

Obviously it would be nice if those cons didn’t exist, but none of them are significant inconveniences imo. Most of them have an easy solution. If this is your laptop for SCHOOL, who cares if you can’t do hardcore gaming or have to resort to 480p for FaceTime (ohh the tragedy). They’re all things that can easily be worked around. No single laptop is “perfect” for med students, but this is as close as it gets.

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Check out the Dell Xps 13. I bought that laptop last fall. Very light, powerful, lot of battery (10 hours on average) and nice display. I use it mostly for studying and movies. Starcraft 2 works fines on low setting (70 fps), although I wouldn't buy this laptop for gaming. 

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10 hours ago, Sauna said:

Friends, the 2017 12" MacBook is the way to go. I will go through the pro's and con's, and my reasons for getting it (I've thought about this for a long time):

Pro's

  1. Very portable: 2 pounds, thinner than MacBook Air
  2. Very quiet: it doesn’t have fans so no fan noise
  3. Superb build quality, though this is typical of Apple products.
  4. Amazing keyboard - 2nd gen butterfly keys, I can type so fast on this thing it’s crazy. By far my favourite keyboard. It’s also much quieter than a standard laptop keyboard. You have to go to an Apple store or Best Buy to try this keyboard out to understand what I mean.
  5. Amazing screen: LED-backlit Retina display.
  6. Amazing speakers: hands down best speakers on a laptop I’ve ever heard.

Notes:

  • Since charging is by USB-C, you can use portable chargers. I carry around 2 and have enough juice for 20 additional hours of battery life on my MacBook and 2-3 full charges for my phone.
  • You DON'T need a touch screen for making diagrams. I've been using the trackpad to draw stuff in lecture for 3 years. My 3rd year physiology course was 100% handwriting (no powerpoint slides) and I got through the entire course using only the trackpad. I’ll include some pics below, these are from 2015 - the software is much better now, especially with OneNote (I made these with 2015 preview).

z0oC6vc.png

and

QRaYMaZ.png

 

THESE ARE 100% TRACKPAD + TYPING. 

Cons

  1. Underpowered specs: I have found this to be untrue. It’s NOT underpowered. It seems that way on paper, but what you need to keep in mind is that Apple’s software is optimized to run very efficiently with it’s hardware. The 2016 model was capable of editing 4k videos (the 2017 is even more powerful), see:
    The average med student isn’t gonna be doing heavy video editing or hardcore gaming anyway, so even if it WAS underpowered, it doesn’t matter lol

 

2. Only 1 USB-C port. You can do your every day file transferring over Wi-Fi. This is meant to be a laptop for school, so I don’t see why would need a HDMI or SD card port but if you absolutely need to connect to a TV or plug in a SD card, you can just buy a $20 adapter.

3. 480p front-facing camera. I barely use the camera on my laptop lol, if I wanna Skype I’ll usually just use my phone.

Obviously it would be nice if those cons didn’t exist, but none of them are significant inconveniences imo. Most of them have an easy solution. If this is your laptop for SCHOOL, who cares if you can’t do hardcore gaming or have to resort to 480p for FaceTime (ohh the tragedy). They’re all things that can easily be worked around. No single laptop is “perfect” for med students, but this is as close as it gets.

The simple fact that the macbook doesn't have stylus input (wacom/ntrig) is the dealbreaker.

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1 hour ago, JarBlues said:

The simple fact that the macbook doesn't have stylus input (wacom/ntrig) is the dealbreaker.

I just prefer the neatness that comes with typing rather than handwriting words, inserting perfect arrows/shapes rather than drawing them, etc. It makes the end product super neat and a joy to study. I also wouldn't be able to read my handwriting if my life depended on it haha :lol: So there's that too!

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14 hours ago, Sauna said:

I just prefer the neatness that comes with typing rather than handwriting words, inserting perfect arrows/shapes rather than drawing them, etc. It makes the end product super neat and a joy to study. I also wouldn't be able to read my handwriting if my life depended on it haha :lol: So there's that too!

ya it's definitely a preference! I find that I remember information much better by writing it down instead of typing so every time I get a new laptop I have to make sure I can use a pen with it

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20 minutes ago, Guest09 said:

Anyone have any input on the HP Spectre 360? I think that's my top contender right now. 

It's got solid reviews, much better quality than most (all) HP laptops, and should meet all your needs.

Few negative things I've heard is the stylus sucks so go try it out in the store first, when you're in tablet mode the keyboard is on the backside, it's deactivated but could be uncomfortable to hold, and of course all the downsides of Windows. 

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I don't know if this will be of much help, but I found this app very helpful in undergrad on my iPad (Notability). You can download the lectures, write notes on top and record lectures too (it plays back the notes you wrote to time of the recording too). I thought it was worth the cost... just going to leave the link here...

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/notability/id360593530?mt=8

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I recently got the HP spectre and I have to say I am impressed with it. The pen is not bad at all. It's not sensitive enough that you can shade with it like you would while drawing, but it is responsive enough that it catches all the little things about my cursive handwriting. The result looks as if it came from me writing on paper, which is exactly what I needed. The computer itself is very well-designed and I am completely happy with the purchase. Only thing I wish could be a bit better is the battery life. I clocked it lasting about 7 hours with a mixed of watching movies, doing work in it and running software. I have a portable charger, so it won't die on me, but I wish it had enough for an entire work day, like 9-10 hours. Overall, though, 7 hours with video is not too shabby and I love the design and functionality. 

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