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iPad Pro vs MacBook Air: Tablet or laptop?


First launched in November 2015, the iPad Pro series is Apple’s most premium-level tablet, boasting features that can’t be found on any other Apple device.

In comparison, the MacBook Air launched further back in 2008 and has remained the go-to choice for most users seeking an Apple computer. But does one triumph over the other? Is one better value for money or perhaps packed with more features?

Rather than focusing on specific models, we’ve put together this comparison guide to highlight the key differences between the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air ranges as a whole. Read on to see which device is better suited for you and your specific needs.

Pricing and availability

The most up to date iPad Pro that’s available from the Apple website is the newest iPad Pro M4 which was announced recently. Starting from £999/$999, this is the most expensive iPad offering to date.

If you were to add a Magic Keyboard to your iPad Pro, to create your own makeshift laptop, then this would set you back another £349 for the keyboard made for iPad Pro.

Both the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Air M3 models are both still readily available, starting from £999/$999 for a 13-inch M2 model and £1099/$1099 for a 13-inch M3 model. 

Design

The clearest difference between the iPad Pro and MacBook Air is that the former is a tablet and the latter is a laptop. The iPad Pro is predominantly a touchscreen tablet but is compatible with Apple’s Magic Keyboard, so you could create your own makeshift laptop if you wanted the best of both worlds.

Both the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air have always had a front-facing camera, making it ideal for video calling and taking the occasional selfie. While the MacBook Air’s camera can be found in the landscape position, until recently the iPad Pro’s camera was portrait, however this has now changed with the new iPad Pro M4.

If storage space is important to you then it’s worth noting that both the iPad Pro and MacBook Air have models that boast a massive 2TB capacity, although this is a new upgrade to the iPad Pro. Prior to this, the iPad Pro only offered a 1TB max of storage.

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Screen

Digital designers and creatives should especially consider the new iPad Pro thanks to its Ultra Retina XDR display, which has been hailed by Apple as the “world’s most advanced display.” This is a first for the iPad Pro, as all previous iterations of the tablet, plus all MacBook Air devices, have just had Apple’s Liquid Retina display.

As a tablet, the iPad Pro has remained a touchscreen device first and doesn’t require a trackpad or Bluetooth mouse to navigate. However, the iPad Pro is compatible with Apple Pencil, which launched back in 2015 and makes using the iPad Pro feel smoother, whether you’re drawing, handwriting notes or editing videos. The MacBook Air has never featured a touchscreen display and always included a trackpad built into the device.

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Performance

Upon its launch back in 2018 the iPad Pro 1st Generation ran on the A12X Bionic Chip, which was built specifically for the iPad Pro. From here the iPad Pro continued to upgrade its chipsets and now even runs on the M-series, Apple’s desktop-level chips. In fact, the iPad Pro has actually surpassed the base MacBook Pro with its chipset, running on the new M4 instead of the M3 which is found in the current MacBook Air.

It’s fair to assume that the new iPad Pro M4 would be slightly faster than the MacBook M3, although there likely won’t be a huge perceptible difference.

The two devices run on different operating systems, iPadOS and macOS. While the iPad Pro is still an impressively fast device, it still has more in common with iOS. In addition, while Macs are able to run iPadOS apps, iPads aren’t able to run macOS apps.

The MacBook Air has run on the M series since 2020 when Apple shifted away from Intel and focused on their own Apple Silicon.

Battery life

Neither the iPad Pro and MacBook Air have made any changes to their battery life in recent years.

While the battery life of the MacBook Air has improved since the 2020 move to the M-Series, leaping from 12-hours to up to 18-hours, the iPad Pro has maintained its 10-hour battery life throughout its lifespan.

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