With every new iPad aimed at professional users, the question of whether it’s finally the time to use an iPad instead of a MacBook becomes worthier of an answer. The second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is out, and its cost is similar to the cost of Apple’s MacBook Air. But can all the latest tech Apple has packed into the iPad Pro make up for the lack of a physical keyboard and full-blown desktop operating system? Let’s find out.
iPad Pro 12.9in (2017) vs MacBook Air
|Apple||Apple MacBook Air 13.3-Inch Laptop||873.85|
|Apple||Apple iPad Pro 12.9-Inch||628.99|
At 6.9 mm, the latest iPad Pro is much thinner than the MacBook Air, which is 17 mm when measured at the thickest point. But apart from the difference in thickness, the two devices are otherwise similar in size; the iPad Pro measures in at 305.7 x 220.6 mm, while the MacBook Air measures in at 325 x 227 mm. Even though you can fit a MacBook Air inside the same backpack compartment as the iPad Pro doesn’t mean that it’s equally easy to carry. The MacBook Air weighs 1342 grams, which is twice as much as the much more portable iPad Pro and its 677 grams. Still, both devices are far lighter, smaller, and overall portable than the vast majority of regular laptops.
Being the most portable MacBook at the time of its release, the MacBook Air doesn’t come nearly with as many ports as you might expect, but it still boasts more connectivity options than the iPad Pro, which offers only a 3.5 mm audio jack and a Lighting port for charging, data, and accessories. The MacBook Air has a 3.5 mm audio jack, two USB 3.0 ports, a single Thunderbolt 2 port, and an SDXC card slot. It also has the MagSafe 2 connector for charging, which allows the connected charging cable to disconnect without damaging the connector and without pulling the computer, causing it to fall on the ground.
Surprisingly, the iPad Pro sounds much better than the MacBook Air thanks to its quad-speaker system. The MacBook Air has only a pair of stereo speakers, which aren’t nearly as loud nor clear as we would like them to be. On the other hand, the quad-speaker system is loud, clear, and relatively boomy.
Looking at the stunning, sharp display of the iPad Pro, it’s instantly apparent just how much have displays advanced over the years. With 2732 x 2048 pixels, the 12.9-inch LED touchscreen is perfect for everything from document editing to the web to multimedia.
The MacBook Air with its glossy 13.3-inch display with just 1440 x 900 pixels doesn’t really stand a chance in comparison. The difference between the two devices becomes even more apparent when you consider that the iPad Pro is touch-enabled and optimized for the Apple Pencil, a fantastic stylus that allows for precise, realistic drawing and natural handwriting. Yes, you can plug a third-party graphics tablet like those made by Wacom to the MacBook Air, but a capable graphics tablet can set you back nearly as much as the entire laptop.
The iPad Pro comes with Apple’s A10X Fusion chipset, which is the most powerful chipset the company has ever produced. The chipset has at its disposal 4 GB of RAM, which is perfectly adequate even for demanding professional use. The sheer processing power of the chipset is evident everywhere. The system flies, apps open instantly and work without lag, and games run flawlessly at the highest graphical settings. To live up to the Pro in the name, Apple offers the iPad Pro with 64, 256, or 512 GB of internal storage space. The 10,875 mAh battery can power the laptop for up to 11 hours, but it takes over 4 hours to charge.
The MacBook Air comes with a relatively dated 1.8 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with 8 GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 6000 graphics processing unit. The available storage options are a 128 GB or 256 GB PCIe-based SSD. Even though the MacBook Air is far from the cutting-edge of ultra-portable laptops, it still handles very respectably just about everything you may throw at it.
But even the hardware differences between the two devices don’t, in many ways, cut as deep as the difference between iOS and macOS. The latest version of the iOS operating system on the iPad Pro gives you access to more than 1,500,000 million apps, but its multitasking capabilities are nowhere near as sophisticated as those of macOS. With the latest update, you can at least easily place two apps side-by-side and change their size, but anything beyond that isn’t really possible.
On the other hand, macOS is a full-fledged desktop operating system with countless professional apps, including Adobe Photoshop, the desktop version of Microsoft Word, Final Cut Pro X, and many others. The App Store on macOS doesn’t include nearly as many apps as the one on iOS, but the selection is more refined. Expect the average price of an app for the MacBook Air to be much higher than the average price of an app for the iPad Pro, though—professional and desktop apps don’t come cheap.
Verdict: Tablet Versus Laptop
Our comparison has revealed that, while in many ways technologically superior, a fantastic tablet such as the iPad Pro still isn’t a good substitute even for an aging laptop such as the MacBook Air. The performance is there, but it’s difficult to take advantage of it without a proper desktop operating system. Recent iOS updates indicate that Apple would like to make the operating system more suitable for professional users, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with. Until that happens, we recommend pros to stick with regular laptops. For everyday users, an iPad Pro could be a good replacement for a laptop such as the MacBook Air. It’s, however, necessary to come prepared and be ready to enter a world filled with Lightning accessories, such as memory card readers, external keyboards, and adapters.