Josh’s Gear Bag: Going Mobile with MacBook Air 11″, iPad & Air Display

It’s tough to give up the benefits of a big screen or a second monitor while working in a coffee shop or hotel, but with my current mobile setup I get the best of both worlds.

For the past few weeks I’ve used the MacBook Air 11-inch as my go-to mobile computer and for longer work sessions I pair it with an iPad which I use a second monitor.

The combination allows me to work on may main screen while staying connected to team members on the second screen without fumbling with a phone or sub-par IM apps on the iPad.

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The MacBook Air 11-inch with an iPad as a 2nd monitor using Air Display.

The size of the MacBook Air 11-inch makes it a great mobile companion, and I find that I am not slowed down by the keyboard, trackpad or power of this small machine. The 1366 x 768 resolution works well enough on its own, but it begins to feel a bit cramped while looking at notes, working on an article and managing Gotta Be Mobile team members on Google Talk.

By adding the iPad 3 to my bag, I can use Air Display to turn the iPad into a second monitor without any wires. The app works great and with a Retina Display iPad I can turn on HiDPI mode to get sharp-looking text i can still read. While most iPad cases will prop the iPad up for use as a monitor, I’ve taken to carrying the Ten One Designs Magnus. This slim, aluminum iPad stand holds the iPad at a great angle and keeps it steadier than most cases I’ve used. Plus it’s small enough to toss in a bag.

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The Magnus iPad stand works better than a case for this scenario.

Air Display also works well with the iPad mini, which makes for an even more mobile setup, but I’m still searching for a good iPad mini case that acts as a stand. The iPad mini smart cover doesn’t do a good enough job of keeping the iPad mini stable.

To carry all of this around I am using the Waterfield Designs Muzetto Outback bag. Waterfield Designs sent over the 10-inch bag to designed for tablets, but it can hold the 11-inch MacBook Air and an iPad when I need more than an iPad and a keyboard case. The bag looks great and includes room for the Magnus, a power adapter, pair of headphones and my Nexus 4 in a small pouch.

My mobile setup changes week, by week, but this combination lets me stay very mobile, without giving up screens or sacrificing battery life to use a small bag.

 

  

Comments

  1. dstrauss says

    With the exception of the second screen scenario, would someone please explain to me why this would be any better than the Surface Pro (unless you are just in love with Apple software, which is ok)? Also, are you just waiting for a beat-down at Starbucks while you spread out your wealth of Apple gear on the limited table space?

    • Josh Smith says

      A Surface Pro would work just as well, I don’t have access to one to work it into my workflow just yet, but I’ve used similar setups with Windows notebooks in the past. I was at an independent coffee shop where I shared a table with another person shortly after this photo. When they arrived I moved the iPad closer.

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