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iPad Pro 2020 vs MacBook: what are the differences?


The iPad has been slowly becoming a laptop and the newest iPad Pro that Apple announced yesterday, is the closest Apple has taken the iPad to a laptop yet.

So… should you just buy the iPad Pro with the new Magic Keyboard instead of a laptop in 2020?

Well, yes, and also, no. Here are the main things that you should take into consideration.

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook: main differences

  • iPad is lighter and more portable
  • Macbook has professional apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic that the iPad lacks
  • Both have a keyboard, but Macbook has a solid connection while the iPad uses magnetic connection
  • 1mm key travel on both keyboards
  • Both keyboards have trackpads, but the one on the Macbook is bigger

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook: Software

iPadOS vs macOS

There seem to be two types of Macbook users: one is your average everyday user or student who just enjoys the experience and uses their laptop for browsing the web and for lectures, as well as a few specialized tasks, while the second category are professional users that have chosen the Mac because of specific apps. Video editors that use Final Cut Pro, sound professionals that use Logic Pro X, photo editors that use Photoshop, and the list goes on.

The general rule of thumb here is that if you belong to the professional group of users that require that specialized software, an iPad Pro is simply a no-go. iPad OS doesn’t have those professional apps. Case closed.

If you, however, are a student, or the creative type that likes to draw, or a casual user that would enjoy something that is more portable, the iPad Pro could actually be the better choice.

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook Keyboard

Magic Keyboard vs real keyboard

The new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro not only looks cool and has your iPad floating in a futuristic way, but it also comes with a trackpad that allows you to make precise selections. While you could have a trackpad on third party keyboards like ones from Logitech for example, this seems to be the most advanced implementation that is now also supported in software with your cursor changing depending on context.

Another interesting detail is that the Magic Keyboard has a key travel of 1mm, which is exactly the same as the key travel on the new 2019 edition of Macbook (the ones where you have the fixed keyboard). So yes, this is not your typical whimsy iPad keyboard.

While all of that is great, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • the iPad keyboard uses a magnetic connection and not a solid connection like on Macbooks. No matter how strong that magnet connection is, it will not be as strong and solid as that of a Macbook (or any traditional laptop for that matter)
  • the trackpad is actually way smaller than the trackpad on a Macbook
  • most power user shortcuts will simply not work on the iPad for the simple reason that it uses iPad OS

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook: Battery Life

The iPad Pro uses an Apple A12Z, an ARM-based chip, while the Macbooks are all based on Intel chips, and that makes a world of a difference.

First, because of this difference you also have the difference in applications, but second, because of battery life as well.

Apple claims that the iPad Pro 2020 is more powerful than most laptops, and it certainly has the ability to handle intense tasks.

And when it comes to battery life, here is a comparison:

Interestingly, Apple is also surprisingly generous about telling us the actual specifications of this iPad Pro. The 11″ model has a 28.65-watt-hour battery, while the 12.9″ version comes with a 36.71-watt-hour cell. This compares to a 50-watt-hour battery on Macbook Air and a 58-watt-hour cell on the 13″ Macbook Pro.

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook for College

So… if you are a student in college, should you go for the iPad Pro or a Macbook?

The more solid form factor of a Macbook makes it the better machine for typing and most power user tasks will be much easier done on a Macbook. Things like photo editing, video editing, connection with other peripherals like a solid state drive, the professional software… the reason why a Macbook is the superior machine are just so plentiful.

There is one main reason to get the iPad instead: portability. It’s lighter and you can easily detach it from the keyboard and carry it around everywhere. As good as that sounds, it seems like the Macbook makes the more convincing case in a college environment.

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook for Gaming

The Apple platform has often been the source of ridicule in the professional gaming community. PC gamers would be quick to point out that the Steam store has a much wider selection of titles on Windows and why even bother with a Mac.

But if you are looking between a Macbook and an iPad for gaming… well, go for the Macbook. It might not support all the games on the Steam store, but it has many of the best ones.  

Yes, unlike the iPad, the Macbook has real games, the type that are not corrupted by in-app purchases AND it also has many of the best games from iOS like Asphalt. Plus, you also get Apple Arcade on both the Macbook and the iPad.

Now, not all iPad OS mobile games are available on the Mac, so that might be a consideration. The other thing a Macbook lacks is the portability of the iPad. So for example, you can use an iPad as the steering wheel in a racing game, and then you can also try completely new types of games like AR games.

All of you Fortnite lovers, the game is available on both the Macbook and iPad. The 120Hz option on the iPad gives you better reaction time, but the better trackpad on a Macbook gives you more precise control. We would opt for the Macbook.

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook: Price

Finally, it’s time to compare prices.

Here is a breakdown:

As you can see the Macbook Pro is definitely still more costly, but that also reflects its wider range of capabilities and functions.

At the end of the day, the iPad Pro 2020 is the closest the iPad has ever gotten to a Macbook without the pro-grade apps. It’s a great option for creatives that will use the Apple Pencil and for casual users, but for college students and professionals, the Macbooks seem like the better option.

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