For years people have been wondering when the iPad Pro will become a MacBook replacement. Many are hoping the just-updated 2020 iPad Pro model with its support for mice and trackpads could be the one.
The thing is, the most popular Mac Apple sells is the MacBook Air, which has also just been updated. And it’s popular for a reason: it’s light, thin, and powerful. But let’s face it, both are great mobility machines for outside of the house.
So, how do they compare and which should you get? Let’s take a look at them.
iPad Pro (2020) vs MacBook Air (2020) Quick Comparison
- iPad Pro (2020) – The iPad Pro (2020) features a glass and aluminum body. It also features Face ID and support for the Apple Pencil 2. Additionally, it supports the new trackpad Magic Keyboard case (which is an additional purchase).
- MacBook Air (2020) – The MacBook Air (2020) features an aluminum tear-drop body. It also features Touch ID and the new Magic Keyboard built-in.
Winner? iPad Pro (2020) – From a design perspective, we think the iPad Pro just looks cooler than the MacBook Air–especially with that optional Magic Keyboard.
- iPad Pro (2020) – The iPad Pro (2020) comes in two models: an 11in model with a 2388 × 1668 pixel display at 264 pixels per inch, or 12.9in model with a 2732 x 2048 pixel display at 264 pixels per inch.
- MacBook Air (2020) – The MacBook Air (2020) sports a 13.3in 2560 × 1600 pixel display at 227 pixels per inch.
Winner? iPad Pro (2020) – The iPad Pro gives you the option of two display sizes, each of which, while smaller than the MacBook Air’s display, have a higher pixel density and thus a technically better display. Those displays are also edge-to-edge thanks to Face ID. It also sports a True Tone display with a wide color gamut.
- iPad Pro (2020) – the iPad Pro (2020) features the A12Z chipset. The A12Z has an 8-core graphics processor, which enables advanced augmented reality features.
- MacBook Air (2020) – the MacBook Air (2020) features the Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 chipset.
Winner? MacBook Air (2020) – But just barely. Intel’s Core i series is still a bit faster at most tasks than the A12Z found in the iPad Pro, but the iPad isn’t far behind.
- iPad Pro (2020) – the 2020 iPad Pro features a front 7MP 1080p HD camera and a rear dual-lens 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide system, which can shoot in 4K HD, and sports a Quad-LED True Tone flash. The rear camera module also sports a LiDAR sensor, which enables new augmented reality features.
- MacBook Air (2020) – The MacBook Air (2020) features a front 720p HD FaceTimes camera.
Winner? iPad Pro (2020) – It’s got a dual-lens rear camera setup and also sports a new LiDAR sensor for augmented reality tasks. That’s not even to mention that the iPad Pro’s FaceTime camera is 1080p while the MacBook Air’s is only 720p.
- iPad Pro (2020) – 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
- MacBook Air (2020) – 256, 512GB or 1, 2TB
- iPad Pro (2020) – The iPad Pro (2020) will get you about 10 hours of battery life with mixed usage.
- MacBook Air (2020) – The MacBook Air (2020) will get you about 11 hours of battery life with mixed usage.
Winner? MacBook Air (2020) – It’ll eek out an extra hour of battery life on average.
- iPad Pro (2020) 12in – 128GB $999, 256GB $1099, 512GB $1299, 1TB $1499 (add $150 on for the cellular model).
- iPad Pro (2020) 11in: 128GB $799, 256GB $899, 512GB $1099, 1TB $1299 (add $150 on for the cellular model).
- MacBook Air (2020) – starting at $999 and going up to $2,249 fully maxed out.
Look, this is a hard call. The iPad Pro clearly wins in design and display technology. But the MacBook Air wins when it comes to internals. But those aren’t the most glaring differentiators between the devices. That would be the OS they run.
The iPad Pro runs iPadOS 13. iPadOS is a very capable operating system, especially for a tablet. This is even more true considering Apple added mouse support into iPadOS 13.4. On the other hand, the MacBook Air uses macOS, arguably the best operating system on the planet.
As both devices now offer mouse support, your choice between the two may come down to which OS you’re more comfortable using for your work. But if you don’t already own a Mac or another PC, you may want to avoid the iPad Pro. It’s a great hybrid, but it’s not as good as a standalone computer yet (it’ll get there eventually). But if you already have a separate computer and just want a light and thin device to take with you outside of the home, the iPad Pro can’t be beaten on size and weight.
iPad Pro (2020) vs MacBook Air (2020): Specs
Here are the specs for the iPad Pro (2020):
- Display: 11in 2388 × 1668 pixel at 264 pixels per inch or 12.9in 2732×2048 pixel at 264 pixels per inch; True Tone display; Wide color display
- Colors: Silver or Space Grey
- Storage: 128, 256, 512GB or 1TB
- Processors: A12Z Bionic with Neural Engine
- Cameras: front 7MP 1080p HD camera and a rear dual-lens 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide, 4k HD camera with Quad-LED True Tone flash
- Size: 280.6 mm x 214.9 mm x 5.9 mm (12.9in) or 247.6 mm x 178.5 mm x 5.9 mm (11in)
- Weight: 641 grams (12.9in) or 471 grams (11in)
- Speakers: 4
- Other: Face ID, LiDAR Sensor, USB-C, Apple Pencil version 2 support, Smart Connector
And here are the specs for the MacBook Air (2020):
- Display: 13.3in 2560 × 1600 pixel at 227 pixels per inch
- Colors: Silver, Gold, or Space Grey
- Storage: 256, 512GB or 1, 2TB
- Processors: Intel Core i3, i5, or i7
- Cameras: 720p FaceTime HD camera
- Size: 0.41–1.61 cm x 30.41 cm x 21.24 cm
- Weight: 1.29 kg
- Speakers: Stereo
- Other: Touch ID, 2 USB-C ports
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.