Your *next* computer: a Mac? ... or an iPad?

This is a delicate topic for Mac lovers.
I hope I can present it in a way that is respectful and fair to both sides of the question.

I bought my first Mac (128K) in 1984.
Almost 30 years since, many different Macs on my desk.
Now starting to wonder about my next Mac.
Should it be another Mac?

Or an iPad instead?

Why this question?

Recently I started reading the blog of Matt Gemmel.
He used to be a software developer, and he wrote a blog on the side.
On his blog he has written extensively, and fondly, about Keyboard Maestro, along with other computer-related topics.

Recently he stopped doing software development.
Now, he makes his living writing about computers, Internet, and technology.

For the past month Matt Gemmel has been only using an iPad.
No more MacBook.

He loves it.

I’ve been stunned to read about his intense romance with the iPad.
He says that he can not see himself ever going back to using a Mac.
His future is tablet.

To the iPad, he’s added an external keyboard with an angled back.
At first glance, in a photo, I thought it was a MacBook Air, but, no, it is an iPad plus a keyboard.
No mouse; No trackpad.

For storage he uses DropBox, but there are external storage drives for iPad.

He has not complained, not even once, about any problem with speed.

But I’m still skeptical.
What else might be lurking beneath the surface of such a drastic change?

I don’t have dog in this race right now, but maybe soon.
My MacBook Pro is 3 years old.
From much experience, I know that’s close to the end of it’s useful life.
It could suddenly die tomorrow, or next week, or next month.
So I’m trying to think ahead about the replacement.

What about you?
If your Mac died suddenly, would you buy another Mac?

Or would you consider replacing it with an iPad?

Thoughts, please.

One of Matt Gemmel’s many posts about Keyboard Maestro:

Matt’s latest in a series of posts about his iPad experiences over the past month:

  1. Peter has stated many times that he has no intention of ceasing development of Keyboard Maestro. It’s how he makes his living and supports his family.

  2. The only platform Keyboard Maestro runs on is a Mac.

  3. If numbers 1 & 2 aren’t enough, I can’t EVER imagine doing Video Editing on an iPad. Maybe for quick touch-ups, but never for true post-production work.

So I can’t see myself stopping using a Mac for the foreseeable future.

PS: My wife’s MacBook Pro is 7 years old. The iMac I’m using to type this message on is 4 years old. They’re working just fine, thank you very much!

Of course, if someone wanted to splurge and buy be a nice shiny new 27" iMac, I wouldn’t complain. :slight_smile:

1 Like

@DanThomas -

Yes, so much easier to continue with what I know, rather than switching to something unknown.

And there is a broad market for refurbished Macs.
When this MBP dies, just buy another, same model, refurbished, and swap the hard drive.


I have actually tried using an iPad as my primary travel device, even for extended trips to client offices. Bottom line: It was not even close to a MacBook Air in meeting my needs.


No matter how much you dress up an iPad, it is still a tablet, with a tablet OS, and with most tablet apps falling far short of what is available on a Mac.

You have almost no automation tools for the iPad, certainly none that compare with the Mac tools.

Now, I will say that there are some use cases, some apps, that are better suited for an iPad than a Mac. But none of these fall into my primary workflows. Having said that, you should know I own 3 iPads, but mostly for reading, day-travel, and to keep check on the stock market (excellent UI and charts in ThinkOrSwim) when I am away from my desk.

I’m with Dan here. I think the MacBook Air/Pro life is much more than 3 years, certainly from a hardware reliability perspective.

I currently have 3 Macs, and none have had any failures:

  1. 2011 MBA-11
  2. 2012 MBA-13
  3. 2013 MBP-15R

I bought the MBA-11 to replace the iPad I tried to make work for travel.
While it worked great, especially for very short (1-2) day trips, I soon found that I could make good use of a larger screen, that also comes with longer battery life. So I bought the MBA-13. It was at this point that I completely switched from a Windows Laptop to a Mac Laptop.

I bought the 2013 MBP-15R, not for portability, but for power I needed at my home office to do video editing. It rarely leaves my desk.

Since all of the MacBooks have SSDs, drive failure is almost a thing of the past. Of course I still backup my Macs just-in-case, but I’ve had no failures, or even the slightest issue.

Even though the 2013 MBP-15R is still doing great, still provides all the power I really need, I have pretty much decided that the next Mac I buy will be an iMac 27 2TB Fusion (includes a 128GB SSD). I don’t really need it, but I want it. :wink:

I’m expecting Apple to upgrade the iMac early in 2017, and when they do the prices of the Late 2015 iMac should drop considerably. If I can get a great deal then, I’ll probably buy one.

So, for me, the iPad will never replace my Mac, unless it has acquired all of the Mac capabilities, OS, and UI. Who knows, maybe the iPad of the future will be a dual boot / quick switch between iOS and macOS.

Different tasks need different instruments.

I would be perfectly happy to write paragraphs in English on an iPad with a keyboard (not quite as good or fast for Hebrew or Chinese), and I like an iPad for ebook reading, but I wouldn’t want to write or debug much JavaScript or Haskell on it, or use it for Mathematica, Matlab or Octave, or for designing diagrams or web pages.

Matt Gemmell’s main activity, as far as I understand it, is writing in English, so his experience is understandable, I think, but it’s not the same as mine. For one thing, even for purely textual work, I would miss the wonderful swiss army knife of the unix command line.

As a footnote to this, is doesn’t look as if there has been any significant migration of professional use from macOS to iOS.

This week, Panic cited the lack of any substantial pro / iOS intersection as a key factor in their discontinuation of one of the best pieces of software on iOS:

( and iPad sales are still declining from their 2014 peak )

Much valuable “food for thought” on this thread.

Very important point.
Thank you, @ComplexPoint.

My premise for this thread was Matt Gemmel’s bounding enthusiasm for iPad.
After further observation, I see now that he’s a special case.
(More about that below.)


[quote=“ComplexPoint, post:6, topic:5611, full:true”]
This week, Panic cited the lack of any substantial pro / iOS intersection as a key factor in their discontinuation of … [/quote]

Another useful data point.
An established OSX developer, who took a step into iOS, is now backing away.

I use Panic’s FTP utility, which is highly reliable and has exceptional support.
If they are abandoning their work on iOS, that’s very helpful to know.
Thank you, @ComplexPoint, for mentioning it.


Right there is the heart of the matter.

When I thought from the perspective of the computer, I was unsure what to do.
But approaching the problem in terms of the operating system, the answer is clear.
For pro level computing, it is no contest.


I’m going to follow Mrs. Thomas’ example by continuing to use this MBP until it dies.
Then simply buy something else that runs Mac OS.

It doesn’t much matter what: Maybe an iMac, maybe a top-tier, Mac-Mini.
The essential is Mac OS.

With the benefit of hindsight, my OP should have asked:

If my old MacBook Pro dies tomorrow, 
and I have to rush out to buy a new computer, 
should it be:

* a low-end iMac
* a high-end Mac-Mini?


Mac Rumors predicts both of those will present new models in 2017.
If I were religious, I’d be saying prayers that this MBP holds out until then.

Since I opened this thread by referring to Matt Gemmel, I will include some of my thinking about his thinking.

In past years, Matt was an enthusiastic proponent of Keyboard Maestro.
That qualifies him as a man of superior intelligence, so I paid attention.
But after posting this topic, I took a more careful look at his web site.

1.) He’s changed his business from building software to writing a blog.

2.) He’s following Apple’s shift away from the smaller market of Macs, to the mass market of iPad.

That seems the best fit to the facts for his sudden enthusiasm for iPad.

My plan is to buy a mid-level iMac:

  • 27-in to get that great 5K high-res monitor ($500-$1000 if bought separately)
  • Upper Mid Level Processor (3.3 Ghz quad-core I5)
  • 8 GB RAM (to be upgraded to 24 GB using OWC RAM for $100)
  • 2 TB Fusion (maybe 3TB is cheap enough)
    • Comes with 128GB SSD built-in, which should be enough storage to handle all active apps and data
    • Then plenty of storage for other data without needing an external drive
  • Mid-level Graphics processor (AMD Radeon R9 M395 with 2GB)

I hope to get this for < $1,700, maybe much less.
I may have to wait for Black Friday 2017, but I’m in no hurry.

That’s my plan for now, but it seems to evolve weekly. :wink:

Hey Mark,

Matt has lost his mind…

When I bought my iPad 4, I spent 30 days using it as my only computer.

After 1 day of using it I bought a keyboard for it – and a few days later a stand.

It was a major bust as a Mac-replacement.

Shortly after I finished my self-imposed exile from civilization I talked to Adam Engst (of TidBITS), and he said I was a brave soul indeed. He also said there was no way in hell TidBITS could possibly be published from an iPad-only shop, and I have no problem whatsoever understanding his perspective.

While things have improved since then, it still takes 10 times longer to get many things done on an iPad as it does on a Mac with a real keyboard and a robust operating system.

The software to do many things doesn’t exist or is very awkward, and automation for iOS is mediocre at best.

I do like the iPad for various things, and I want one of the 12.9 inch iPad Pros – but there are too many other demands on my wallet for the foreseeable future.

My next Mac will most likely be a 2017 5K iMac, although my decision depends upon the choices Apple makes in the refresh. If they blow it I’ll probably buy a 2016 5K iMac i7.


1 Like

Chris, do you know something I don’t?
(well, that’s a stupid question. :smile:)

AFAIK, the latest iMac is still the Late 2015 model, even it if was manufacured in 2016.

See Identify the model of your iMac – Apple Support

Also of interest:
Apple iMac Specs (All iMac Tech Specs) @

Hmmmm, perhaps.
But a quick browse of his web site shows he definitely not lost his ego.
That may be a factor behind his iPad escapade.

[quote=“ccstone, post:9, topic:5611”]
… takes 10 times longer to get many things done on an iPad as it does on a Mac with a real keyboard and a robust operating system. [/quote]

Nice summary of the situation.


Interesting to read about interest here in iMac.
It is correct that, in the middle range of each line, the iMac, MBP, and Mac-Mini all have very similar operating specs?
What differs is just the shape?
Or not?

I don't think so. I think they are quite different.
IMO, the iMac provides the most bang for the buck, especially when you consider the 5K 27-in screen.

Sorry, but I think the Mac-Mini is in a category all by itself.

See this comparison of MBP-15R and iMac 27.

Compare Mac models - Apple

1 Like

Hey JM,

You’re right of course. I was thinking year of manufacture instead of model-year.


Interested in an iMac 27 Late 2015 Model?

Hey guys, if you are, then you might want to take a look at this list:
iMac 27" 2TB Fusion Drive Desktops at

In the past, has offered some killer deals (like including AppleCare at no cost) a few times a year.

I have added my favorite to their Wish List, and to their Price Drop List, so I’ll get an email if and when the price drops.

These iMacs come brand new with full Apple warranty, but you do not pay any sales tax, and expedited shipping is free. That also could save you $170-$200 compared to buying from Apple.

1 Like

Thank you very much, @JMichaelTX, for mentioning Adorama.
I didn’t know about them before.

Good prices.

I’m looking at high-end Mac-Mini (I’ve already got a screen).

Does iOS 11 with a 12.9" iPad Pro change any minds? I’m thinking primarily about using Affinity Photo for photo retouching and Keynote for slide creation initially.

Of course the jury is out on iOS 11 till the Fall and with a File App, responsive pencil, full size keyboard, drag and drop, expanded dock, searchable handwriting, and a decent app switcher that the use case has expanded considerable.

The macOS is still going to be essential for scanning docs in, using apps that haven’t yet be written for iOS, and a 27" iMac screen still is better for side by side comparison needs. Now if they’d just allow support for a trackpad…

Hey Bern,

Not even remotely…

Everything I said in post #9 still goes.

I will soon buy a new Kaby Lake 5K iMac, and while I’d like to buy a new MacBook “Pro” I think they’re vastly overpriced junk and will wait and see what comes out next year.

I think I am going to buy a 12.9 iPad to replace my aging iPad 4, because I like the iPad for what it’s good at — but it’s got a looong way to go to become a viable computer replacement.

I think v11 is the first iOS that has given tablets (vs iPhones) much love since iOS 6, so that at least is a step in the right direction.


My card was just charged so my 12.9 iPad should be on its way soon. I agree with you that it likely won’t replace my 27" iMac as I have 5 scanners and printers, an optical drive, a couple external HDs, and no Keyboard Maestro :wink:

I’m willing to bend, adjust, reorganize, work long and intensely, and push hard to get as much done on it as I can IF it will simplify my work flow and setup.

We’ll see how far I can push it :smiley: