iPad for School?

What I need

As you may or may not know of me, I am finishing up my junior year in high school and will soon be moving into my senior year and then college. For my career path, which will be Electronics Engineering or Computer Science, computing will be essential. I will have to make a decision in the very near future regarding purchasing a computer that will likely have to last throughout my high school and college career (5 years) and allow me to take notes, write papers, and give presentations. I'm posting some of my ideas in order to hopefully illicit discussion regarding my choices, and maybe gain some further ideas into my situation. If you have any ideas for me or anything that I missed, please comment or tweet me @kersny.

What I've got

Right now, I am running on a Dell Inspiron 600m laptop with a broken and removed screen on either a 17" or 23" monitor. This has a 1.6Ghz processor, 512mb of RAM, and a 60gb hard drive... so yeah, its pretty weak. Seriously though, I dual boot XP and Ubuntu 10.04 and it manages to handle many tasks well, such as Visual Studio 2010 Express, but it has its problems and slows considerably for other common tasks or any sort of multitasking.


1. MacBook

Purchasing a MacBook was my first thought when I considered buying a computer. I have always wanted one, and they offer many advantages. I'm sure that a MacBook would be plenty durable to last 5+ years, and I know that I could run OSX, Windows 7, and Linux to handle anything required of me in college The 8-10 hour battery life would also be great for note-taking and college classes. The only problems I see with this options are price and power. Obviously, a Macbook is not cheap and would require a considerable chunk of change. The other downside, power, is not so concrete. I was quite disappointed in the latest refresh of the MacBook line by Apple, and although I have read many of the reasons and justifications for doing so (one such), I don't really want to buy a $1200 laptop with a Core 2 Duo chip to last my entire college career. I just think that this would be too underpowered for the things that I could be doing throughout college. The next step up, a 15", is too expensive now but would have the lowest specs that I would probably consider purchasing.

tl;dr: I'd love to get a Macbook, but the power of the 13" model and the price of the 15" model are whats holding me back.

2. Regular Laptop

It's hard for me to look at the MacBook and not see the huge "Mac Tax" imposed on such an item. I could buy an i7 laptop with 4 Gigs of RAM from any number of PC companies for much less than even the low end MacBook. I know that this should be plenty powerful to handle most anything I would throw at it throughout my college years, but it has its own set of cons. The first of such would be durability, which is important for something that has to last 5 years. I've seen many a laptop fail hardware or case wise, and that could be a huge problem for a college kid. Another smaller concern is the fact that it is not a Mac, meaning that I could not develop apps for the iPhone or iPad.

tl;dr: A Windows Laptop would be plenty powerful but I'm scared about durability and I couldn't do iPhone development.

3. The iPad/Mac Mini power combo

This is an interesting option that I have been looking into over the last couple of weeks. For much less than the price that I would have to spend on a sufficiently powerful MacBook, I could get both an iPad and a Mac Mini. I would buy an iPad now, and use it through my senior year and onto college. I could write papers (with an external keyboard of course), give presentations, and do all the research required of me in my senior year. Add to this the ease of note taking and portability in college, and it could make a great platform. I would, however, have to buy a complementary Mac Mini in order to support coding and other programs that won't run on an iPad. This could be pushed into college, after a refresh or two, and give me a powerful box to anything not supported on an iPad. The only problems in this situation would be the known issues with content creation on the iPad and any labs or such in college that would require real programs to be run in the classroom, such as maybe an IDE or Compiler. I do believe, however, that a college cannot force you to have a computer if that don't provide you with one, and will likely have them available in any such lab situations.

tl;dr: An iPad + Mac Mini combo should let me do everything I need throughout high school and college, unless I am required to run special programs during class.

So that is my situation and those are the options that I am currently considering. If you have any experience, advice, opinion, or idea, please let me know.

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