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.