The Perfect Laptop

There maybe no perfect laptops, but there are near perfect setups.

The rumors of the 12” Retina MacBook Air reached a new level of stupidity. People writing about the computer as if it were real. As if it was the messiah coming to save them from wasting $5,000 on a retina iMac. Many proclaimed it would be the perfect laptop.

Which is just silly, because it’s not even real. Not yet at least.

It did get me to thinking about what might actually be a perfect laptop. Wondering about form factors, about size, features, power, etc. I believe the current laptop I have, a 15” retina MacBook Pro, is the perfect laptop, but that’s only if I never have to tote it somewhere else.

If I have to move around, a 13” MacBook Air, or even the 11” is better. But then the screen isn’t retina, they are slower, and the display is a little cramped. Actually, my iPad Air is a better portable laptop, unless of course I have to do one of the half a dozen things that I can’t do easily on an iPad.

There is No Perfect Laptop

The first thing we have to realize is that there is no perfect laptop. What is perfect for one person won’t be for another. It all depends on your values (speed, size, battery, screen, etc).

Having said that, I won’t be stopped from thinking about this a little more. The way I look at a perfect laptop is in the bigger picture of my entire setup. To that end there are two possible setups:

  • Desktop based: either an iMac, or larger 15” laptop at home.
  • Highly portable: MacBook Air as a main machine.

I won’t get into which is better, both have their merits, but to determine what a perfect laptop is I like to think about it in the vein of the above two setup scenarios.

The Perfect Laptop For a Desktop Based System

If we can assume that your setup isn’t portable, because it is either an iMac/Mac Pro, or a larger laptop, then the 12” MacBook Air rumor is just about the best compromise. It’s not overly small, but in comparison it is really small. Essentially, you would be looking to this device as an add-on to a system which is not at all portable.

So for this setup the 12” Air makes sense, hell even a 13” Air is a pretty good addition. I would also go one step further and look at the iPad you would pair, because we are all wealthy enough to buy everything, so naturally you would want a retina iPad mini, to get even more portability.

I’d also pair that with an iPhone 6. That’s a nicely stepped down system from desktop to iPhone. The perfect package.

The Perfect Laptop For a Portable System

What if a laptop will be your only machine, and you want your setup to be really portable? That’s where i think the 12”/13” MacBook Air falls short. Here a 13” retina MacBook Pro is a better solution. Slightly less portable, but it is your only computer so you likely need the power that machine can pack. You get it staying MacBooks Pro, but still get a very small machine.

Additionally, I would pair this with an iPad Air 2 to get more power, and better screen real estate for when the MacBook Pro is too large, and an iPhone 6 plus for when the iPad is too large. Again, here, I think the overall system is perfect.

You See How Pointless This Is Yet?

Those two scenarios are my scenarios and most of you probably disagree. That’s why it is utterly pointless to pontificate about what may be the perfect laptop.

Would a 12” MacBook Air with retina be cool? Probably, but only if it is good and we don’t know enough to know that yet. I’d much rather live in the boring reality and say that your screen sizes should step down nicely from the largest machine to the smallest. And that’s part of the reason I want an iPhone 6+ instead of my iPhone 6.

Then again I’d like a lot of different things in my computing setup, but I can’t justify them because everything I have works pretty perfectly for me.

Further Reading: Matt Gemmell’s post is excellent as well.

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