“It’s how you use it” revisited

Last week my colleague Nic Lake wrote an article about the way he uses his Apple hardware and what tasks he delegates to certain devices.

Like him, I’ve received similar questions about why and how I use the devices I own (pictured above), so with a courtesy nod to my colleague, here goes.

Mac mini

The model I have is the mid 2011 model with the discrete graphics hardware. It’s hooked up to a 24-inch Dell U2410 monitor with a 16:10 aspect ratio and an IPS panel. This is my main machine; it handles everything from photo and video editing (hence the IPS-equipped display), media serving needs and stores my entire digital life.

I’m a university student, which means that I’m writing and reading a lot and the big monitor helps greatly with this. I deliberately bought a monitor with a 16:10 aspect ratio (1920 px by 1200 px resolution) because the added vertical space — compared to monitors with a 16:9 ratio — comes in handy when having two text documents or spreadsheets open next to each other.

Before the Mac mini I owned a 15-inch MacBook Pro of the pre-unibody generation, but about a year back, I realised that I rarely carried it with me, having it sit on my desk mostly, connected to the already mentioned monitor. I decided to replace it with a desktop machine and get a smaller computer to carry with me. After much deliberation and comparison (11-inch Macbook Air vs. …), I chose to buy an iPad.


The model I have is the 32 GB black Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad 2. It’s rather hard to break-down the specific use cases of the iPad, because to me it’s almost as versatile as a regular Mac or PC. I guess the two most important ones are research/note-taking and overall media consumption.

iOS devices live through the software they are running, because they essentially become the app. This singular focus allows for impressive applications that have made my student life a lot easier (the most obvious one being reading PDFs and other documents on the device instead of printing them). I use the iPad in class, and I’ve written large parts of term papers on it, sometimes with and sometimes without a connected bluetooth keyboard.

Another thing I often use the iPad for very often is gaming. This little machine is capable of impressive graphics performance and I just love to play all kind of games on it. Only a very small selection of my music resides on the device and movies are put on or streamed to it on demand.

One thing I cannot overstate the importance of is the iPad’s impressive battery life. After almost a year of using it, I still get close to ten hours of use on one charge, no matter if I just surf the web, read books, watch movies, work or game on it. I can get through two busy work days without having to recharge, which is something laptops unfortunately cannot deliver yet.

The only regret I have regarding this device is having bought the Wi-Fi-only version. Having to tether it to the iPhone on the go, and thus, among other things, draining the battery of two devices isn’t optimal. The next one will definitely have cellular connectivity.


I have a 32 GB white iPhone 4S (in a green bumper) that almost never leaves my side. It’s really the Swiss knife of devices I own and if pressed it can handle many tasks that I’d usually use the iPad and Mac mini for.

About half of the storage space of the iPhone is dedicated to music. I love music and current iPhones have exceptionally good audio hardware; pair it with good headphones and music heaven is close (in my case those are Westone UM3X in ear monitors). The iPhone also carries my podcasts (another one of my addictions) and a few select games.

How do you use your devices? Tell us in the comments.

Besides his current full-time job as a student of Sinology and Marketing at the University of Trier, Germany, Alex likes to read about technology and the businesses behind it. He also has a personal blog.