So my lovely wife Crysta and I have been saving up money for a very important purpose. Every month, some money gets put aside, to be saved for later. Combined with our impending tax return, it looks like we can more than afford to do it too:
Replace every computer we own.
It's a bit overdue in some circumstances (Crysta's computer is a bit out of date for sure), and in other cases just now about time (my laptop). Not including my work equipment (as I don't own that), right now we own two laptops - she has a 15" Sony laptop, while I have a 13" Macbook. Her Sony is about six years old I want to say, while my Macbook is almost four years old.
Now, I've been a laptop person for over the last decade. I had a Toshiba laptop (which I loved dearly) from 1999 until 2007, and then after that I switched to my Mac. But the reason I loved the laptop was because I spent a lot of my twenties moving around. A major chunk was college, where I'd be in Milwaukee for three months and then Eau Claire for the rest of the year. Combined with going to cons, being able to toss my computer into a messenger bag was an important quality.
These days though, that sort of portability isn't really required anymore. I still travel to the occasional convention, but I don't spend long periods of time in more than one city. Because of this, I've decided to make a switch - from laptop to desktop.
What I intend on switching to is an iMac, although I may have to wait a little bit as the current line is due for a refresh. This will allow me to get something with a nice big screen, with a nice fast processor. I'll still need a device for while I travel, which is why I intend to also get the new iPad for such occasion. On the road, I don't need the full capabilities of my computer -- just good web browsing, email, and a few other apps. The iPad will fulfill those needs quite nicely.
Crysta, on the other hand, will be sticking with a laptop. Our plan though is to get her something significantly more portable than what she has now, as her 15" laptop is huge. What she's trying to decide between right now is a 13" Macbook Pro or a Macbook Air. We're going to go out and look at them in a store in the next few days so she can make a decision between the two. Either one will do everything she needs, so it's just a matter of long term power vs. portability.
In any case, whatever she chooses, it will be light years better than what she's working with now.
Idle curiosity, why are you going with the iMac desktop when you could get equivalent or better hardware for cheaper? Is it because your workflow mostly mac-only or do you just prefer the homogenous OS environment you're setting up?
As far as Air vs 13" MBP, it comes down to what you're going to use it for. If it is generic note-taking, lab work, word processing, etc, the only advantage I can see to upgrading is lighter, smaller, and better battery life, in which case the Air wins on the first two when compared to the MBP; if I remember correctly they both have about the same battery life. If you're going to do something a little more CPU intensive, for example 1080p video decoding, video filtering and encoding, matlab signal processing or data analysis on large data sets, you'll probably need more oomph than the Air is capable of providing. 400MHz doesn't sound like much, but it's the step from c2d to i5 or i7 that really sets them apart. In case you're wondering about the IGP switch (geforce 320M vs intel HD 3000) it looks like they're quite comperably (a side-grade for apple) even considering the GF 320M is a year old.
Anyhoo, it occurred to me late that you've been doing this computer thing at least as long as I have so you've probably thought of all this before. I'm sure you'll enjoy your new toys whatever you opt to do. ^^
I'm going with the iMac for a few reasons - 1. I really like OSX, and I don't want to go through the work of Hackintoshing something (I also want the upgrade to Lion to be a simple, painless process ). I work in Windows all day for work, and while I've got nothing against it, I just prefer the OSX environment. 2. The Form Factor. An all in one unit is best for the physical space I have.
Add those together, and the iMac is the headache free solution.
As for what my wife is getting - yeah. While I spend time rending videos and working on graphics, she doesn't. In truth, with the solid state drives in the Airs, I think the Air will actually feel faster for her even with it's slower hardware. I think it's mostly an issue of whether or not she'd occasionally run stuff for her lab work on it (which would benefit from the faster processor in the Pro) - which wouldn't be that often.
I think the Air is the better computer for her, but as it's going to be her machine, it's her decision in the end.
And just to blow your mind, and to break from all this apple stuff, while my wife has an iPhone... I don't.
I find it very intriguing how many of my computer-savvy friends are shifting to Mac. I grew up on them as my mother was a teacher and riding the tail end of the "Every school uses Macs" wave.
In college and professionally I've had to stick primarily with PC's, but find myself once again shifting back toward Macs. My reasoning was a result of compatability. Ever since PC's totally dominated the market in the 90's, Macs have had a multitude of very high quality PC emulation tools. As a result, it has always been hard to make the "most software only runs on PC" argument. I skipped over Macs the last time I was in the market due to price, primarily. But I did so very reluctantly. In the end, I'm a die hard Mac fan who has simply had to live in PC land due to the fiscal and technical realities of my situation.