We’ve had a few customers ask us whether they can use an iPad Pro in place of a MacBook Air? And our answer is usually, ‘It depends’.
At first glance, the latest iPad Pro and MacBook Air (13 and 15 inch) have a lot in common:
But there are also several differences between them:
Which one you choose depends on what you are looking for and what you are going to use it for. Here we compare some of the main features of each device.
The main difference here is obvious: the iPad Pro has a touch display. But the superiority of the iPad Pro display doesn’t end there.
The brightness of a display is measured in ‘nits’. The MacBook Air’s display has a maximum of 500 nits brightness, whereas the iPad Pro models have 600 nits max brightness, with the 12.9-inch model supporting up to 1000 nits max full-screen brightness and 1600 nits peak brightness for HDR content.
Both iPad Pro models also work with the second-generation Apple Pencil, including Apple Pencil hover, a feature that was introduced last year.
So, the iPad Pro screens not only have a touch display, but they are brighter than the MacBook Air.
If a touch display and / or screen brightness is important to you, or if you are an artist, or someone who prefers taking handwritten digital notes, then the iPad Pro is the winner in this category.
Keyboard & Storage
One factor that most people seem to agree upon is that if you are planning to use an iPad Pro in place of a laptop, then you’re going to need to buy a keyboard.
The price of keyboards varies hugely, from Apple’s own iPad companion Magic Keyboard, down to cheaper versions which can be sourced from companies like Amazon.
In terms of storage, the 11-inch iPad Pro’s base model comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The MacBook Air M2 base model comes with 8GB RAM and 256GB of SSD storage.
If you add the price of an Apple Magic Keyboard to the price of the 11-inch iPad Pro, it costs virtually the same as a MacBook Air, with its inbuilt keyboard and trackpad. But the MacBook Air removes the headache of finding a reasonably priced keyboard, AND you get double the storage capacity.
If value for money is your main driver, then the MacBook Air wins out here.
Software & Apps
Another major difference between the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air M2 is the operating system, with the iPad Pro running on iPad OS and the MacBook Air running on macOS.
The range of apps that are available on the iPad Pro, particularly apps that demand higher levels of RAM (such as Final Cut Pro X or Logic Pro X) is less than for the MacBook Air, although they both run Microsoft Office (if you use the free versions of the iPad apps you can see your Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents, but you’ll need an Office 365 subscription to edit and create new documents). Apps such as Garage Band and iMovie run pared-down versions on the iPad.
Furthermore, M2 Macs can now run iPadOS apps, but iPads can’t run some macOS apps.
If you need the full version of any particularly RAM-hungry apps, such as the ones mentioned above, then the MacBook Air is the one for you
One very specific advantage of the iPad Pro is its cellular connectivity option. With the addition of a SIM card, you can take the iPad Pro on the train for example, and with a 4G or 5G connection you’ll be able to work, stream music, videos or play games without the need to connect to the hotspot on your iPhone.
In terms of physical ports, the MacBook Air has more than the iPad Pro: two USB Thunderbolt 4 ports and a 3.5mm audio jack, vs only one Thunderbolt 4 port on the iPad Pro. This means that you can charge the MacBook Air whilst also plugging in another device, whereas with the iPad Pro the only way you can achieve this is to purchase a separate Thunderbolt dock.
If you like to take a device out and about (one that has a larger screen than your iPhone), don’t want the hassle of connecting to a hotspot and don’t generally need to connect other devices, then the iPad Pro is going to be best suited to your needs
There’s no getting away from it, the MacBook Air has a substantially longer battery life than the iPad Pro – 50% longer in fact (15 hours for the MacBook Air vs 10 hours for the iPad Pro – which reduces to 9 hours if you get one of the cellular models).
So, if battery life is a top consideration for you, the MacBook Air is a clear winner.
Which One is Right for Me?
Overall, the better device is the MacBook Air: you simply get more for your money – more storage, more ports, more high-end apps, a built-in keyboard / trackpad and a longer battery life.
The iPad Pro serves more of a niche market, but if a touchscreen and cellular connectivity are non-negotiables for you, then it’s an obvious choice. Just be aware that, if you also purchase a keyboard and thunderbolt dock, it may end up costing you more than a MacBook Air.
Blue Apple Systems Ltd
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Loxwood Road, Alfold
Surrey, GU6 8HP
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