Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
58,662
22,260


Apple in March updated both the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro, and with the iPad Pro increasingly positioned as a computer replacement, we thought we'd compare both new machines to see how they measure up and which one might be a better buy depending on user needs.


We're comparing the base model 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the base model 13-inch MacBook Air. The base 12.9-inch iPad Pro features an A12Z chip with an 8-core CPU and GPU, 6GB RAM, and 128GB storage space. It's priced at $999, but there's no keyboard included, and a keyboard is a definite requirement for using an iPad Pro in lieu of a traditional notebook computer.

macbookairipadprosidebyside.jpg

Keyboards can be cheap if you're using a simple Bluetooth solution, or expensive if you choose the $179 Smart Keyboard Folio. If you're holding out for the Magic Keyboard with trackpad that'll bring an even more MacBook-like experience to the iPad Pro, expect to spend an additional $350 for the 12.9-inch version ($300 for the 11-inch model).

ipadprooncouch.jpg

The base 13-inch MacBook Air features a 1.1GHz dual-core Core i3 processor and Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 256GB of storage, and 8GB RAM. It too is priced starting at $999, and doesn't require any additional purchases, though it's often worth paying extra to upgrade the processor and the RAM if you can afford it.

macbookair.jpg

When it comes to raw performance, if you compare Geekbench scores, the iPad Pro comes out on top, and by a wide margin. Single-core scores for the i3 chip in the MacBook Air are typically right around 1070, while multi-core scores are around 2100.

iPad Pro scores, though, are right around 1,100 when it comes to single-core performance, and much more impressive in multi-core performance with scores closer to 4670. In raw performance, the iPad Pro is going to give you more bang for your buck, but operating system limitations are worth taking into account.

overhead.jpg

macOS and iPadOS are incredibly different, with iPadOS being quite a bit more limited when it comes to multitasking and attaching peripherals. The MacBook Air has two USB-C ports, while the iPad Pro has just the one. The iPad Pro can support 4K and 5K displays, while the new MacBook Air works with 4K, 5K, and 6K displays, but the iPad Pro also works with Apple Pencil, while the MacBook Air does not.

macbookairipadprokeyboards.jpg

Both of these devices are designed for content consumption and creation, but are not ideal for some of the most system intensive tasks like 3D rendering or video editing. In general, though, they're both capable of the same kinds of basic tasks - browsing the web, coding, sending emails, writing documents, playing games, etc., but the iPad Pro is going to be better for gaming and it has features the MacBook Air is just lacking, such as the dual camera setup and LiDAR Scanner.

camerasipadpro.jpg

Given the faster processor, the iPad Pro is better if you do want to do things like edit videos, record music, edit photos, and more. It's quiet, it's fast, and it definitely has an edge over the MacBook Air for system intensive tasks. It's a wash when it comes to battery life as both offer 10 to 11 hours, but in terms of connectivity, the iPad Pro offers both WiFi 6 and a cellular option, useful for working anywhere.

As for design, both devices are portable and easy to take anywhere, but there are also a lot of differences to be aware of. You have a traditional notebook form factor with built-in trackpad and keyboard with the MacBook Air, but the iPad Pro offers a touch-first experience. You can add a keyboard, of course, but it's still a much different usage experience.

macbookairipadproback.jpg

Someone who has a long history working with a notebook form factor may have a harder time adjusting to the touch experience of the iPad Pro, while someone who primarily works off of an iPhone or other touch device will be able to adjust to non-notebook life more quickly.

With trackpad and mouse support added in iPadOS 13.4, using an iPad is more like using a Mac notebook than ever, but so far, the trackpad experience just isn't as good as the built-in trackpad on the Mac. It's just not as simple to use, at least not yet. That could change when Apple releases its Magic Keyboard.

macbookairipadprokeyboardscloser.jpg

Both the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air are capable machines able to easily complete everyday tasks, but the iPad Pro wins out in terms of feature set and power while the MacBook Air wins for ease of use in multitasking situations. It's easy to say the iPad Pro is better because it's more capable, but it's still just not able to replace the functionality that you can get with a MacBook Air.

Choosing between the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air as a main machine for work and home use will come down to each individual's work habits, preferences, software requirements, and workflow. A multitasking heavy workload that requires multiple apps to be used at once won't translate well to an iPad, but a job that requires more focus on a single app like writing or coding could work well on an iPad.

Do you use an iPad as a main work machine in lieu of a Mac or PC? Do you prefer the iPad Pro over the MacBook Air, or vice versa? Let us know in the comments.

Article Link: Apple's 2020 MacBook Air vs. 2020 iPad Pro
 

nutmac

macrumors 603
Mar 30, 2004
5,725
6,344
Easy choice between the two... MacBook of course. Why would anyone want the gimped iPad?
If I didn't have ANY Apple devices, I would get iPhone first, then either MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, then iPad Pro.

That is not to say iPad Pro is a lesser device. My family loves to use Pencil 2 on 11-inch iPad Pro. And its portability makes it more ideal device for couch or bed.
[automerge]1585779002[/automerge]
The i3 MacBook Air shouldn't really exist honestly. $100 more gets you an i5 that's nearly twice as fast.
It exists for the same reason $1099 iMac exists (with dual-core processor and 1TB hard drive). To hit lower price point for those that desire a Mac.
 

K-Funk

macrumors regular
Jul 24, 2007
108
23
Over the last decade, Apple devotees have argued that one should spend hundreds of extra dollars to get a Mac instead of a PC because of the various nuanced advantages that OS X (now MacOS) has over Windows.

Now, suddenly, everyone is like, "Sweet, you can use a mouse with an iPad, so might as well use the iPad as a computer. No need for a Mac anymore." It's quite the 180--suddenly, differences between operating systems are irrelevant, as if mouse support by itself turns the iPad into a real computer.
 
  • Like
Reactions: wegster and mtneer

Mainsail

macrumors 68020
Sep 19, 2010
2,043
2,588
Per the OP: "In general, though, they're both capable of the same kinds of basic tasks - browsing the web, coding, sending emails, writing documents, playing games, etc.," Can you code with an iPad? Just wondering.
 

Abazigal

Contributor
Jul 18, 2011
17,064
17,215
Singapore
While I am tempted by the new MacBook Air, I ultimately can’t justify lugging 3 computers to and from work. I already bring my 11” iPad Pro and work-issues windows laptop everywhere I go. At home, I have my 5k iMac for the heavy lifting.

And I know that a Mac will not be able to do the things I do on my iPad, much less do them the way I want them done. No touchscreen or stylus support, no inbuilt 4g, no ability to detach the keyboard, the list goes on.

The iPad is not a “laptop replacement” for me (and countless other people like myself). It’s a “laptop alternative.” It’s not a replacement because there’s nothing there to replace. For me, the iPad turning into a laptop isn’t the goal; the whole point is to let me do things I previously couldn’t. So the people who say that an iPad can never replace a laptop are missing that this is precisely the point.

Long live the iPad!
 

nutmac

macrumors 603
Mar 30, 2004
5,725
6,344
Over the last decade, Apple devotees have argued that one should spend hundreds of extra dollars to get a Mac instead of a PC because of the various nuanced advantages that OS X (now MacOS) has over Windows.

Now, suddenly, everyone is like, "Sweet, you can use a mouse with an iPad, so might as well use the iPad as a computer. No need for a Mac anymore." It's quite the 180--suddenly, differences between operating systems are irrelevant, as if mouse support by itself turns the iPad into a real computer.
Jokes on you as iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard cost way more than a PC or even entry level MacBook Air.
 
  • Like
Reactions: aajeevlin

Hastings101

macrumors 68020
Jun 22, 2010
2,284
1,222
K
I use my iPad Pro for just about everything I do except for PC Gaming. It IS limited in some ways (although that's getting better and better all the time), but the benefits in the long-run are huge imo. No surprise battery drains, no freezing, no crashing, no random restarts, no serious risk of malware, few user-impacting bugs, iCloud means no file loss ever again on and on. In my couple of years of using it as my main "work" machine, it just does what I need 100% of the time and as expected. I personally can't say the same for macOS Mojave or Catalina.

Here's to hoping iOS 14 removes more limitations, maybe some proper external monitor support for example.
 

OldSchoolMAC

macrumors newbie
Jul 11, 2005
2
3
Multi-tasking on an Ipad, even with a trackpad is not ideal. It is not meant to be a productivity OS. Dragging files between programs is a headache. Also, basic iOS programs do not have trackpad support. Microsoft Word and Google docs do not support the I cursors for highlighting. There are so many glitches with third-party mice and keyboards. The Ipad is great as a tablet but it really cannot replace a laptop, as much as I would truly love it to. Who wouldn't want a true 2-in-1 that runs on the apple eco-system?
[automerge]1585781271[/automerge]
To me, the only justifiable reason to use an iPad as a computer is that you can't afford both an iPad and a Mac.

To each his own, I guess, but I find even web browsing to be tedious on an iPad. If I tried to use an iPad to do actual work, I would go insane.

100%! It is an insane an untenable thought. The OS is built for touch and browsing, not that type on input.
 

mi7chy

Suspended
Oct 24, 2014
10,275
10,988
iPadOS is too gimped and too overpriced. I'd take the Macbook Air since it can bootcamp other OS' to remove Apple restrictions or even a $649 Pixelbook Go as a tweener.
 

Seanm87

macrumors 68000
Oct 10, 2014
1,912
3,577
Shouldnt the comparison be between the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro? I mean I know they just came out. Comparing the MacBook Air to the iPad air is more relevant as well.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Marlon DLTH :)
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.