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iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: Two very different machines, or are they?

Similar pricing, but are the Macbook Air and iPad Pro really that similar?
By

Published onApril 18, 2023

Apple iPad Pro (2022)
MSRP: $799.99
Check price
Positives
Classy design
Dazzling XDR display
Ridiculously strong performance
Booming quad speakers
Improved connectivity
Apple Pencil hover a delight for digital artists
Negatives
Fancy display only on larger model
Stage Manager needs work
Limited pro-grade apps
Relatively slow to charge
Awkward front camera
Expensive accessories
The Bottom Line.
Laptop-beating performance and subtle quality-of-life improvements cement the iPad Pro M2 as the most powerful, feature-packed iPad to date. The lack of flashy upgrades does shine a harsh spotlight on iPadOS 16's fumbled multitasking features and the continued dearth of "pro" apps means a lot of the tablet's raw power remains untapped. But if you want the very best iPad — no matter the caveats or the cost — the 2022 iPad Pro won't disappoint.Read full review...
Apple MacBook Air M2
MSRP: $1,199.00
Check price
Positives
Refined design
Efficient performance
Outstanding battery life
Negatives
Slow SSD on base model
Limited ports
Display only 60Hz
The Bottom Line.
For any current prospective MacBook Air buyers, the M2 model is that device. It's a touch more elegant, it's a shade more powerful, the speakers are a touch fuller, the screen is a tinge larger and brighter. Put simply, it's just that tiny bit nicer than the humble MacBook Air M1, which is set to remain on sale as the entry-level MacBook Air for the foreseeable future. Are all those flourishes worth an extra $200?Read full review...

The iPad Pro is often billed as a tablet for professionals, but can it replace a laptop? Simple question, but the answer really depends on what you plan to use it for. The most obvious comparison to the iPad Pro would be the Macbook Air, as they are similarly priced and share some of the same DNA. Let’s jump in and take a closer look at the iPad Pro vs Macbook Air.

iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: At a glance

Curious about how the iPad Pro and Macbook Air compare? Here's a quick summary of the key differences:

  • The Macbook Air has higher RAM configurations available
  • The Macbook Air has better battery life than the iPad Pro
  • The iPad Pro has a better display than the Macbook Air
  • Macbook Air has a touch screen and support for Apple Pencil
  • The Macbook Air runs Mac OS, iPad Pro uses iPad OS
  • The iPad Pro has a rear camera setup, the Macbook Air doesn't

iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: Specs

MacBook Air M2Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Display
MacBook Air M2
13.6-inch Liquid Retina (IPS)
2,560 x 1,664 pixels, 224 ppi
Wide color (P3)
True Tone technology
Support for 1 billion colors
500 nits max brightness
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
11-inch Liquid Retina LED
2,388 x 1,668 pixels
264ppi
ProMotion (120Hz refresh rate)
600 nits max
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
12.9-inch mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR
2,732 x 2,048 pixels
264ppi
ProMotion (120Hz refresh rate)
1,000 nits max full screen, 1,600 nits peak (HDR content only)
CPU/GPU
MacBook Air M2
Apple M2
8-core CPU
8- or 10-core GPU
16-core Neural Engine
100GB/s memory bandwidth
Media Engine: Hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Apple M2
8-core CPU
10-core GPU
16-core Neural Engine
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Apple M2
8-core CPU
10-core GPU
16-core Neural Engine
RAM
MacBook Air M2
8GB
Configurable up to 24GB
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
8GB
16GB (1TB and 2TB storage models only)
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
8GB
16GB (1TB and 2TB storage models only)
Storage
MacBook Air M2
256GB SSD
Configurable up to 2TB
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
128GB
256GB
512GB
1TB
2TB
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
128GB
256GB
512GB
1TB
2TB
Cameras
MacBook Air M2
1080p FaceTime HD camera
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Main:
12MP camera
ƒ/1.8 aperture

Secondary:
10MP ultrawide, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 125° field of view

Front:
12MP
ƒ/2.4 aperture
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Main:
12MP camera
ƒ/1.8 aperture

Secondary:
10MP ultrawide, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 125° field of view

Front:
12MP
ƒ/2.4 aperture
Audio
MacBook Air M2
Four-speaker sound system
Wide stereo sound
Spatial audio
Three-mic array with directional beamforming
3.5mm headphone jack
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Four speaker system
No headphone jack
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Four speaker system
No headphone jack
Battery
MacBook Air M2
52.6Wh lithium-polymer battery
67W charging
MagSafe 3
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
28.65Wh
Rated for 10 hours
20W charging
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
40.88Wh
Rated for 10 hours
20W charging
Network
MacBook Air M2
802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compatible
Bluetooth 5.0
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.3
5G (sub-6GHz, mmWave US only)
eSIM (cellular model only)
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.3
5G (sub-6GHz, mmWave US only)
eSIM (cellular model only)
Connectivity/sensors
MacBook Air M2
2x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports with support for:
Charging
DisplayPort
Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s)
USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
LiDAR scanner
Three-axis gyro
Accelerometer
Barometer
Ambient light sensor
Smart Connector
Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
LiDAR scanner
Three-axis gyro
Accelerometer
Barometer
Ambient light sensor
Smart Connector
Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s)
USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)
Software
MacBook Air M2
macOS Monterey
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
iPad OS
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
iPad OS
Dimensions and weight
MacBook Air M2
1.13 x 30.41 x 21.5 cm (0.44 x 11.97 x 8.46 inches)
1.24kg
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm
Colors
MacBook Air M2
Silver
Space Grey
Starlight
Midnight
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Space Gray, Silver
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Space Gray, Silver
Biometric security
MacBook Air M2
Touch ID
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Face ID
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Face ID

The iPad Pro and Macbook Air have a few important things in common, despite being completely different form factors. You’ll get an Apple M2 SoC with either device, but the Air has an optional variant with two more GPU cores than the iPad Pro. Even the storage and RAM configurations are similar.

The iPad Pro and Macbook Air are backed by 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage, respectively. Of course, you’ll find variants with more RAM and storage. The iPad Pro maxes out at 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage. Meanwhile, the Macbook Air has the same maximum storage but can handle up to 24GB of RAM.

Theoretically, the two machines should perform similarly, but the software underneath complicates things. The Macbook Air runs on Mac OS instead of the mobile-centric iPad OS. The Mac has a full-fledged computer OS which means it is capable of professional-grade Mac programs that just don’t exist for the iPad Pro. It also runs select iPad and iPhone apps as an added bonus, though many popular apps aren’t included as they wouldn’t play nicely without a touchscreen.

I spent a little time messing around with iMovie on my iPad, and it was clearly missing out on many of the high-end features you’d find in the Mac OS version. This same story applies to apps like Garage Band. Even worse, popular apps like Final Cut don’t even attempt to offer a version that works with the iPad family.

It’s not just the app situation. The iPad Pro should be a multi-tasking champion, but Stage Manager gets in the way. This program is designed to simplify app management but tends to have issues properly scaling apps and isn’t very consistent.

Apple iPad Pro M2 2022 stage manager
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

On the bright side, iPad OS is less resource intensive than Mac OS. This means that an iPad Pro with 16GB of RAM will run with fewer hiccups than a similarly spec’d Macbook Air for everyday tasks. It’s where power user activities get involved that the Macbook Air truly shines.

Let’s also talk about storage space briefly. Yes, the Macbook has more in the base model, but it’s a laptop. Its apps are often much bigger. 256GB of storage is pretty puny for a laptop, and you’ll be much better served upgrading to at least the 512GB model.

So far, most of the specs have either been similar or marginally favoring the Macbook Air. One area where the iPad Pro outshines the Macbook Air is the display technology involved. Before we get into the specifics, let’s talk about the Macbook Air.

The Macbook Air has a good display, but the iPad Pro is better and brighter in many ways.

The Macbook Air has a capable 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display. It is sharp, has accurate colors, and works reasonably well outdoors. It’s also capped to 60Hz and doesn’t have the crazy brightness levels you’ll find with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The larger iPad Pro has an impressive Liquid Retina XDR display, which is a fancy way of saying it has a micro-LED display. This type of display is capable of a whopping 1,600 nits. This makes it a much better fit for locations with heavy sunlight.

Be aware you won’t get this display with the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro. The more modest LED display is capable of a peak brightness of 600 nits. That’s still slightly above the Macbook  Air’s peak brightness of 495 nits.

Apple iPad Pro M2 2022 logo and apple pencil
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The iPad Pro also has a touchscreen, something no Mac currently offers. This has obvious benefits for mobile apps, but the real standout is the ability to pair an Apple Pencil (sold separately). This opens the door to a bunch of use cases, from note-taking to sketching.

Now let’s talk about the obvious difference between the two: one is a tablet, and one is not. To help bridge this gap, we recommend adding a keyboard. While plenty of iPad keyboards are out there, the official Magic Keyboard is worth the premium. It feels the most like a real Macbook keyboard and can even be folded with the display attached like a regular laptop. I can also vouch that it has much better viewing angles than you’ll find with most other solutions. The addition of USB-C passthrough is also very helpful.

If you hope to get a device with Face ID, you’ll be disappointed to know the Macbook Air only has Touch ID. The iPad Pro does have Face ID, however. Of course, you get fewer ports with the iPad Pro — just one single USB-C slot. The Macbook Air is only marginally better, adding a second USB-C port. The good news is that you don’t have to use either port for charging, as the Macbook Air uses Magsafe for charging. This not only frees up a slot, it means that if someone trips on your cord, the magnetic cable will fall out instead of causing your computer to come crashing to the ground.

There are a few other small things that set the two machines apart. Still, the biggest difference is one focuses on portability and touch; the other is a traditional computer meant chiefly for productivity.

iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: Size comparison

The iPad Pro and Macbook Air have the same processor, similar screen sizes, and the same general price range. And yet the two couldn’t be more different regarding size and design. The Macbook Air is about a pound heavier than the iPad Pro. It’s also much thinner and has a larger footprint. Adding the keyboard actually evens things out, and they weigh almost identically.

The iPad Pro is obviously much more portable, though it requires extra accessories like a keyboard to make the most of it.

iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: Camera

apple macbook air m2 notch webcam
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The iPad Pro has a dual cam configuration on the rear, with a 12MP standard and 10MP ultrawide shooter. It’s a good enough camera that’s more than capable of taking good shots during decent daylight conditions. The quality of the camera is comparable to an iPhone from a few years back, which means it’s great for occasional snaps but not necessarily a good option as your main camera.

The Macbook Air doesn’t have a rear camera. Thank goodness, as that would be beyond awkward to use. It does have a 1080p webcam, though. This works great in video calls, and can even take a selfie using Mac’s Photo Booth software. Probably not your best choice for selfies, but it’s still nice to know it’s possible.

The iPad Pro also has a good front camera, one that’s much better suited for selfies. Unfortunately, it’s not as great for video conferencing. Why? For whatever reason, the iPad Pro has its front camera vertically mounted. Unlike the Macbook, you look like you’re staring off into space when using it.

iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: Battery and charging

apple macbook air m2 magsafe ports
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The iPad Pro and Macbook Air both use battery-efficient ARM-based processors, but the larger size of the Macbook Air means it can fit a larger 52.6Whr battery into its chassis. The iPad Pro has a 7,538mAh, or 10,758MAh battery for the larger 12.9-inch model.

Despite hardware and battery differences, the two machines have comparable battery life. We consistently averaged 10-12 hours on a signal charge with the Air, as long as adaptive brightness and Apple’s adaptable contrast were turned on. Meanwhile, we typically get around 10 hours of life on the iPad Pro. The iPad Air does charge faster, though!

The iPad Pro sticks to a 20W charger and takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to go from zero to full. The Macbook Air comes with a 30W charger that takes a while to charge. But for just $20 — or free with select models — you can upgrade to a 67W charger. That’s what we did and we found it could charge up the whole laptop from zero to full in just under an hour and a half.

iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: Price

Apple iPad Pro M2 2022 display 2
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
  • Apple MacBook Air M2 (8GB/256GB/8-core GPU): $1,199 and up
  • Apple MacBook Air M2 (8GB/512GB/10-core GPU): $1,499 and up
  • iPad Pro (M2, 11-inch, Wi-Fi): $799-$1,899
  • iPad Pro (M2, 11-inch, Cellular): $999-$2,099
  • iPad Pro (M2, 12.9-inch, Wi-Fi):  $1,099-$2,099
  • iPad Pro (M2, 12.9-inch, Cellular): $1,299-$2,399

The Macbook Air M2 and iPad Pro were both released in 2022 and can be found at selected retailers, including Best Buy, Walmart, B&H, and Adorama. At first, the iPad Pro seems to be the cheaper bet, with a starting price of $400 less than the Air. Then you remember all the accessories like the Apple Magic Keyboard.

Once you factor that in, there’s a savings of maybe $100 or a little more if you go with a cheaper (but less quality) keyboard. You’ll get half the storage of the Macbook Air if you stick to the base iPad Pro. Just keep in mind that mobile apps tend to be smaller, so this is not as big of a difference as it sounds.

Noticed the trick here? This pricing parity only applies to the 11-inch iPad Pro. The bigger 12.9-inch version makes for a better comparison against the Macbook Air, but it’s also about $50 more than the base Macbook Air if you get the official Magic Keyboard.

iPad Pro vs Macbook Air: Which should you buy?

Apple iPad Pro M2 2022 display 3
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
iPad Pro with keyboard

Ultimately neither device is a much better value than the other. It comes down to whether you want a tablet that can moonlight as a laptop or need a true laptop experience. If you want and need a newer laptop, the Macbook Air has the advantage of true desktop apps, slightly better RAM and storage options, and there’s even marginally better battery life.

Would you rather buy an iPad Pro or the Macbook Air?

88 votes

The iPad Pro is a great entertainment device that can also be used to get real work done. But it’s really meant to complement an existing laptop or desktop setup. You know, for those situations, you don’t want to lug your full machine around the house or on a short business trip.

In most scenarios, our money is on the Macbook Air. It’s just a more powerful productivity machine.

See price at Amazon
Apple MacBook Air M2
8%off
Apple MacBook Air M2
Powerful processor
Thin and light
Upgraded webcam
See price at Amazon
Apple iPad Pro (2022)
1%off
Apple iPad Pro (2022)
Powerful M2 processor
iPadOS 16
Apple Pencil hover support
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