2020 has been an extremely odd year on all accounts, and Apple has not been left out of the weirdness. The company started the year off on the right foot, by releasing the highly-anticipated update to the iPhone SE. Then, we saw an all-new iPad Pro, complete with the LiDAR scanner and the introduction of the Magic Keyboard for said iPads.
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Since then, Apple has released its 2020 flagship iPhone, while introducing new Mac hardware. For years, we have seen rumors about Apple eventually transitioning away from Intel in favor of its own processors. These rumors continued to ramp up after seeing the performance gains of the iPad Pro’s A12Z compared to the Intel chipsets found in the MacBook Air and Pro.
iPad vs MacBook: Pro vs Air Specifications
|iPad Pro||MacBook Air|
|Display||11-inch / 12.9-inch||13.3-inch|
|Processor||Apple A12Z||Apple M1|
|RAM||6GB||8GB / 16GB|
|Storage||Up to 1TB||Up to 2TB|
|Charging||USB-C||USB-C / Thunderbolt|
|Battery Life||Up to 10 hours||Up to 18 hours|
|Colors||Space Gray / Silver||Gold / Silver / Space Gray|
|Weight||1.04 pounds / 1.42 pounds||2.8 pounds|
What’s so special about the new MacBook Air
Until WWDC ’20 and Tim Cook’s “One More Thing”, there was not much hope for the Mac. It has seemed that the lineup has largely been forgotten as the iPad Pro continued to grow in power and popularity. Outside of pushing the necessary update to get rid of the inferior keyboard in favor of a more traditional and reliable option.
But as the year continued on, hope was starting to wane about whether Apple would really give us the Apple Silicon Macs that were anticipated. That all changed in the beginning of November, as Apple introduced the new MacBook Air, Pro, and Mac mini.
Apple M1 is here
Although Apple has been planning on making the move from Intel to its own chipsets, that’s a rather daunting task. The last time Apple made this kind of transition was back in the PowerPC days, when the switch to Intel helped to turn the MacBook into a lineup of powerhouse computers. Since then, we have seen the iPad take over Intel chips in terms of performance, so it was only a matter of time for a new change to arrive.
That’s where the Apple M1 has come in to “save the day” for the Mac lineup. We already knew that Apple’s new chipset would be based on its own processors. This was evidenced by the Mac Developer Transition Kit being powered by the same A12Z from the 2020 iPad Pro.
Fast forwarding to the launch of the new MacBook Air, Pro, and Mini, we now have Apple Silicon in some of the most popular Macs. So what does that mean? The Apple M1 promises to deliver up to 3.5x faster CPU performance compared to previous generation chipsets. GPU performance is up to 6x faster, along with providing the battery life we all crave, with Macs lasting up to 2x longer than those running Intel-powered Macs.
iOS apps on a Mac
Every move that Apple takes is more and more calculated, the company is playing chess while the rest of the industry is playing checkers. With the introduction and inclusion of the Apple M1, this has opened the door for more apps to be available. But instead of solely relying on developers to update their apps with support for the M1, Apple changed the game entirely.
The Apple App Store is home to almost 3 million applications, and now many of those can be used on your Mac. Yes, there are developers who have already updated their “desktop-class” applications to take advantage of the M1. However, you can finally download and use many of the same apps you know and love from your iPad, on your Mac.
There are some limitations, as it’s difficult for a touchscreen to be simulated by only being able to use a keyboard and mouse. However, we’ve seen the integration with a keyboard and trackpad with the Magic Keyboard for iPad, which launched earlier in 2020.
Has the iPad Pro been cannibalized?
It’s easy to sit and say that the iPad Pro no longer has any place in the Apple lineup of iPads anymore. And we said the same thing about the 11-inch model after the iPad Air was updated with a new design and an updated processor. However, there are still a few key features as to why you may prefer the iPad Pro over the MacBook Air.
Namely, you’re looking at the touchscreen and application integration for the iPad over the Mac. Yes, Apple did everything it could to make this transition seamless, but the truth remains that not every app will work as you expect. The M1 is still in its infancy, and it will take time for developers to work out the kinks.
Another big benefit to the iPad Pro over the MacBook Air is cellular connectivity. While you have the option to purchase a Wi-Fi only model, Apple also offers a variant that can be connected to a cellular network. For the time being, there is no such option with the MacBook Air.
When it comes to deciding whether you the iPad Pro or MacBook Air is right for you, it’s important to consider the cost. While the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at just $799, you may think that’s one heckuva deal considering that the new M1 Mac mini is priced at just $699 for the entry-level model. However, if you plan on using the iPad Pro for more than just a tablet, then there are more costs associated.
|iPad Pro||Wi-Fi||Folio||Magic Keyboard||Cellular||Folio||Magic Keyboard|
The first of which is the addition of a keyboard. You can grab the Smart Keyboard Folio for $179 for the 11-inch model, or $199 for the 12.9-inch model. Getting the full “laptop experience” means adding on a trackpad, which is where the Magic Keyboard comes into play. The 11-inch model is priced at $299, while the larger 12.9-inch model comes in at $349. That’s without even taking a look at the added benefit of the Apple Pencil, or anything else.
So for reference, just to get yourself the full experience (minus Pencil), for an 11-inch model, you’re looking at $978 with the Keyboard Folio and $1098 with the Magic Keyboard. For those who want the bigger screen will have to fork out $1198 for the Folio and $1348 for the Magic Keyboard. All of that while the base model MacBook Air is priced at $999 with 256GB of storage. Bumping up to 16GB of RAM with 512GB of storage will cost you $1449, about $100 more than the 12.9-inch iPad with Smart Keyboard Folio.
Which should you buy?
While cost differences play a major role in many decisions, let’s put those aside for a moment. If you want to live on the bleeding edge of technology, and are willing to go through the M1’s growing pains, the MacBook Air is a fantastic device with little compromises. This is an all-in-one solution, with the ability to run many of your favorite Mac and iPadOS apps on a single machine. You will have to miss out on the touch screen, ability to detach the keyboard, and cellular connectivity.
The iPad Pro on the other hand, is priced similarly for the base model 11-inch and 12.9-inch models. You won’t be able to run desktop-class applications, but you get that sweet touch screen, ability to use the iPad as a tablet, and have the convenience of cellular connectivity.
As someone who owns both the 11-inch iPad Pro and M1-powered MacBook Air, let’s just say that my iPad has been collecting dust for a few weeks.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.