iMac Vs. Laptop Vs. iPad

Hardware and Accessories

I am looking to update as I only have an ipad mini 2 as I purchased this shortly after loosing my eyesight as a test run of voiceover. I will not go back to Jaws(which i used only in demo)
I now want to upgrade and am debating between an iMac, Macbook or even just an ipad with larger memory. We need a household computer in the house for my middle schooler as well. So I have a few questions.
1. Is Mac OS similar to iOs?
2. Would I run into problems with voiceover if I shared a device such as an iMac with my child? Such as turning voiceover on/off or finding the iMac inaccessible if my son were to disable it for his use and forget to turn it back on.
3. What does a computer offer that an ipad does not?
Thank you for your input as this is a pricey choice and I want to choose what is best for our family without breaking the bank.



Submitted by Chris on Wednesday, August 9, 2017


It depends on what you want to do. The only difference between the iMac and MacBook is that one is a desktop computer with the monitor built into the same case as the computer. The MacBook is a standard laptop computer. This applies to the Air, Pro, and standard 12 inch MacBook. If you're looking for the cheapest Mac, go with the $1000 MacBook Air. It will offer you a reasonable computing experience if you're not planning to do anything like edit video or other processor intensive activities. If you want a desktop computer with a big screen, go for the cheapest iMac. If you want the cheapest possible device from Apple, go for an iPad.

I'll do my best to describe the differences between macOS and iOS. macOS is a traditional desktop operating system like Windows. This means it's not nearly as locked down as iOS is. You have access to the file system using the Finder, multitasking is much easier, you can use many external devices like USB flash drives, etc. If you get the iPad, you're getting a very locked down system. You can't use things like USB flash drives, the file system isn't visible to the average user, and many other restrictions. The question you need to ask yourself is what do you plan to do with your computer? If you just want something to surf the internet, check email, and use some apps, the iPad will work. If you want a full desktop experience with access to all kinds of programs, go for a Mac.

You don't need to worry about not being able to access your Mac. If your sighted son wants to use it, press Command F5 to turn VoiceOver off. When you're ready to use it again, press Command F5 to turn VoiceOver on. When you get your Mac and turn it on, wait about 30 seconds and press Command F5 to get access from the setup screen. I hope this helps you. If you need me to clarify anything, feel free to ask.

Submitted by sarahlise on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thank you! I think I may need to go computer route to allow for flash drives. I am thinking desktop would be best to prevent accidental damage such as a drop with a laptop.
Any thoughts on the Mac mini I think it is called; which is the small box that you hook to a monitor. I will not be doing intense processes such as editing; but more documents, spreadsheets and internet surfing. Along with similar things for my son's school work.
Thank you for the command plus f5 tip.
So I guess my next question is imac versus mac mini?
And... thoughts on buying open box or refurbished if there is a warranty such as apple care through best buy or Walmart care plan(Walmart owuld save me considerable $$$)
Sorry for silly questions, just a big purchase.

Submitted by Chris on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Mac Mini is the cheapest Mac Apple sells. It starts at $500 which I think is fantastic. That should be good enough for your needs. You'll need to connect the box to power and then attach your own keyboard and mouse. The Mini has an internal speaker, but I'd recommend connecting it to a pair of speakers or headphones for the best sound experience. I have a Mini from 2006 and the speaker is horrid! I suppose it works when listening to VoiceOver, but even then it's a little muffled and boxy. If I remember correctly, the Mini has 4 USB ports, a few Thunderbolt ports, an SD card slot, and the HDMI port for the screen. If this is your first Mac, you can't go wrong with the Mini. It also has built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth. While it is a desktop, it's also portable enough that you could throw it into a backpack and carry it around with you if desired. I love the concept and am considering buying a modern Mini once Apple finally gets around to updating it.

Submitted by Kent on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I am totally blind and I have a Mac Mini which does everything I need to do with a computer. But saying that, I use my phone with a bluetooth keyboard 90 percent Of the time. Mac OS is very keyboard intensive unless you customize it within the 4 different commanders. Most apps that I use on in IOS do what I need. But I have dedicated one home page to nothing but shortcuts to full websites so that I can access the full websites if I am required too. The learning curve is much less when using the phone/IPad with a bluetooth keyboard. Scott Davert has a 4 podcast series here in AppleVis which will give you an idea of how it works. If cost is a problem, you can also even go with an IPod with the keyboard which would be less than $400 for the whole outfit.

Submitted by Justin on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I'd say go for the mac root. Personally, I've had a few macBooks over the years and they are stable reliable machines. But it sounds like for what you want for you and your son/family, you'd like the iMac, probably with the 27 inch screen. Not exactly sure if they've stopped allowing you to change out the internals like the MacBooks have, but I'd say max everything out, at least as much as you can. I personally have the 2016 MacBook pro with touch bar, 15 inch, Core I7 with 500GB flash storage and love the thing.
The sound is incredible, it feels very nice, typing feedback is great. You'll either love or hate the new apple keyboards, but for my needs, it's great! If you've got an apple store near you, i'd say go to it and speak to them about iMacs and give em your situation.

Submitted by david s on Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Since it will be a shared PC, I’d say go for an iMac or Mini. With an iMac, everything you need, mouse, keyboard and monitor is included. With a Mini, you need to purchase those items. The advantage of purchasing them seperately is you can pick out the keyboard you are comfortable with, get a trackpad instead of a mouse. With a trackpad, you can use the same gestures as on an IOS device. IF your television has an HDMI port, you can connect the mini to it. If your family complains about the sharpness of the picture, you can always purchase a monitor.

As far as specs, you want to purchase the fastest CPU and the most RAM and hard drive. If possible, get one with a Hybrid drive. It may cost a bit more but in the long run, you will be able to use your Mac a bit longer.

As far as open box, there’s nothing wrong with them and you actually save money which you can put back into your pocket or use it to purchase the extended warranty. Personally, I stopped buying extra warranty on my apple devices as I haven’t really had any problems.

HTH and good luck.

Submitted by Tyler on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

One important thing to know about the Mac Mini is that Apple hasn't updated it in almost three years. That's a long time for a computer to go without an update in design or specs. If you buy a Mac Mini now, you will get, for example, a chip from 2014, several generations behind much of the current Mac lineup. For some, this factors into their purchase decision, and for others it doesn't, so I thought I'd put it out there.

Also, you can create separate user accounts for you and your son; so when you log in, Voiceover will be automatically enabled for you and you will have all your files and settings, and when he logs in, Voiceover will be automatically disabled for him and he will have his own files and settings. Voiceover can be set to automatically come on at the login window, making it accessible for you to enter your username and password.


Submitted by sarahlise on Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thank you all for your wonderful input. It appears I will be going iMac route as I price the highest level of a mac mini plus a monitor, keyboard and mouse and I end up way to close to the price of an open box 2016 imac with more memory and a hybrid drive to justify the little bit of savings.
As for the protection plan; if my youngest touches it; there must be a protection plan. Heck he doesn't even have to touch it; just be in the same room. I have never regretted a protection plan for him; though as they start adding deductibles I will start questioning it.
Again thank you all.