The latest models of the iPad Pro and MacBook Air are both powered by Apple's impressive M1 chip. In fact, the devices are so comparable that it's almost impossible to decide whether you'd rather have a tablet or a laptop.
This is because these devices are incredibly similar to each other. The choice on top of each other depends on incredibly small details and personal preferences.
We're here to help you find out where you are. You are probably feeling undecided right now, but we will hopefully help you make the right choice for your needs.
iPad Pro versus MacBook Air: Under the hood
Both devices are powered by exactly the same M1 chip. So they're incredibly close, if not identical, when it comes to overall processing power.
The current iPad Pro offers an eight-core CPU and an eight-core GPU. It's one of the fastest mobile devices available right now, and Apple prides itself on being faster than many PC laptops.
Although the iPad Pro is a tablet, it can handle tasks like 4K video editing, 3D design, and augmented reality creation with ease.
The MacBook Air also has an eight-core CPU, but offers four efficiency cores. You can get the laptop with a seven or eight core GPU.
As expected, both the MacBook Air and iPad Pro offer similar RAM storage, either 8 GB or 16 GB, depending on the configuration chosen.
The devices also have very similar storage capacities. The iPad Pro is smaller from 128 GB, but you can also purchase models with 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB and even 2 TB. The M1 MacBook Air has 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB depending on the configuration.
The only real difference is that the iPad Pro starts out with a smaller storage capacity of 128GB. This will only become beneficial when we look at the prices for each configuration later.
iPad Pro vs. MacBook Air: design and dimensions
The M1 MacBook Air is only available in one size: 13.3-inch. The current iPad Pro is available in 11 inches or 12.9 inches.
The 13.3-inch MacBook Air is technically larger than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, it is only 0.4 inch in size difference.
There's also a 0.4 inch difference in thickness – the MacBook Air is 0.6 inches thick while the iPad Pro is 0.2 inches thick. When you received the Magic Keyboard cover with the iPad Pro, the thickness of each device is exactly the same.
In terms of weight, the iPad Pro is lighter. The M1 MacBook Air weighs around 2.8 pounds, while the 12.9-inch iPad Pro weighs 1.4 pounds and the 11-inch iPad Pro weighs 1 pound.
However, the Magic Keyboard cover adds weight and thickness. The version for the 11-inch iPad Pro weighs about 1.3 pounds for a final weight of 2.3 pounds.
With the Magic keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the entire setup weighs 3 pounds. That's actually more than the MacBook Air.
So purchasing the tablet is no guarantee that you will get the lighter device. But it's also only a 0.2 pound difference in weight.
There are major differences in the connections between the devices.
The M1 MacBook Air has two Thunderbolt 3 or USB 4 ports and a headphone jack. The iPad Pro has a single USB-C port and no headphone jack.
So, to use headphones with the iPad Pro, you'll need a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter or wireless headphones.
Thunderbolt 3 ports can use USB-C accessories, but USB-C ports cannot use Thunderbolt 3 accessories. Perhaps this will help you a little when deciding between devices, as the MacBook is far better equipped with ports.
iPad Pro vs. MacBook Air: Displays and cameras
The iPad Pro has a better display than the M1 MacBook Air, but only slightly.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a resolution of 2732 x 2048 pixels and 264 ppi (pixels per inch). The 11-inch iPad Pro offers a resolution of 2388 x 1668 pixels at 264 ppi.
The M1 MacBook Air is in between with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. Although it has a lower ppi of 227.
In contrast to the iPad Pro, the MacBook Air supports other scaled resolutions. However, the iPad Pro has a Liquid Retina display and not just Retina to keep those cool, rounded corners. With the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you get a Liquid Retina XDR display for improved color reproduction and brightness. This gives it an advantage.
In terms of cameras, the iPad Pro easily wins. The M1 MacBook Air has the 720p FaceTime camera and not much else. Both iPad Pro models have two cameras, a 12MP true depth camera in the front and 12MP wide and 10MP ultrawide cameras in the rear.
The iPad Pro cameras can take photos, record videos, and make calls in 4K while fitting a frame much better.
The MacBook Air camera offers a lot less, but it still works well. Unless you care about a great camera, the field of play stays pretty even. Otherwise, it's a huge win for the iPad Pro.
iPad Pro vs. MacBook Air: Operating Systems
iPadOS offers split-screen capabilities, as well as many other multitasking features that are not available on an iPhone. This means that multiple apps are visible at the same time on your iPad Pro and work a bit more like a laptop workspace with a touchscreen.
The MacBook Air meanwhile works with macOS. However, with an M1 chip, users can run iOS and iPadOS apps on their Mac. This means that you can use your laptop like a tablet without a touchscreen.
However, users have complained that gesture controls for mobile apps on the M1 MacBooks are a bit confusing. However, organizing application windows is much easier on a MacBook than it is on an iPad Pro.
You will likely have a preference for iPadOS and macOS, but the systems are becoming more and more similar. You really can choose whether you want a touch screen or not.
iPad Pro vs. MacBook Air: Battery Face-Off
The M1 MacBook Air has a 49.4 watt hour lithium polymer battery. It can surf the Internet for 15 hours and play back up to 18 hours in the Apple TV app.
The 11-inch iPad Pro has a 28.65-watt-hour lithium polymer battery and the 12.9-inch battery has a 36.71-watt-hour battery. These batteries last for 10 hours while surfing the Internet or watching video.
That extra five to eight hours might give the MacBook Air a benefit for some, but 10 hours is still pretty long battery life for the iPad Pro. If you can easily charge, you may not notice a difference.
iPad Pro vs. MacBook Air: Keyboard and Accessories
The M1 MacBook Air has a built-in keyboard, while the iPad Pro has an optional Magic Keyboard cover, which you can purchase for $ 299.
These keyboards are actually identical. They are full-size, backlit, and have scissor-type mechanisms for the keys (an improvement over the fragile butterfly keyboard model of previous MacBooks).
The Magic Keyboard case for the iPad Pro also comes with a trackpad. It's smaller than that of the MacBook Air, but allows for multi-touch gestures and cursor controls, just like MacBook trackpads.
If you prefer laptops because they are easier to type on, you might get a Magic Keyboard cover to purchase the iPad. However, if you don't want to spend the extra cash, then you might prefer the MacBook Air.
iPad Pro vs. MacBook Air: Price comparison
The prices for the MacBook Air and iPad Pro are different, but not radical.
The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $ 799 for 128GB of storage and non-cellular Wi-Fi connectivity. Upgrading the memory can cost up to $ 1,299.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $ 1099. This corresponds to the M1 MacBook Air with a 7-core GPU.
At this price, however, there is only 128 GB of base storage available compared to the MacBook Air's 256 GB. However, you can upgrade the storage and go up to $ 2,199 for 1TB.
Cellular connection on the iPad Pro costs an additional $ 150 to $ 200 for both models.
You can add 2TB of storage to the seven-core MacBook Air for up to $ 1,799. The MacBook Air with an 8-core GPU and 512GB of storage starts at $ 1,249. If you go to 2TB it hits $ 1,849.
Increasing the memory to 16GB costs an additional $ 200 on both MacBook Air models.
The prices are pretty close overall. The iPad Pro will cost you even more, however: $ 299 for the Magic Keyboard cover and $ 129 for the second-generation Apple Pencil.
So the iPad Pro can be more expensive. But its features might be worth your while. Ultimately, it all comes down to your budget and what you want most from your device.
Which one will you choose?
The M1 MacBook Air and the latest iPad Pro are remarkably similar. From size to features to price, every device can meet your needs.
Your specific settings will help you decide which device is best for you. Or maybe you can get both and use Sidecar to get even more out of the devices!
How to use your iPad as a second Mac monitor with a sidecar
If you have a newer Mac and a newer iPad, you can use the sidecar feature to get an additional monitor.
About the author
(8 articles published)
Jessica has been writing technical articles since 2018 and loves knitting, crocheting and embroidering little things in her free time.
By Jessica Lanman
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