iPad Pro vs. MacBook: Which Should You Buy?

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"Should I get an iPad Pro or a MacBook?" For Apple fans, this has been a tough decision ever since the original iPad Pro was announced. The new iPad Pro and a series of MacBook updates make this sticky decision even more difficult, especially with the powerful iOS 11 on the way

lead_V2_image_ipad_notebookThe new iPad Pro models get a boost in size and processing power, with a 10.5-inch tablet replacing the 9.7-inch base model, and a step up to the new A10X Fusion chip. On the other hand, the MacBook line gets Intel's latest, 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors and will receive a new operating system: macOS High Sierra. This OS brings expanded capability and performance to the laptops.

From portability to pricing, several key distinctions between the laptop and tablet will affect your ability to work on either device, but Apple has pushed hard to narrow the gaps between these very different devices.

  iPad Pro Macbook 12-inch Macbook Pro 13-inch
Starting Price 10.5-inch - $64912.9-inch - $799 1299 $1,299 $1,799 with Touch Bar
Operating System iOS 10 macOS Sierra macOS Sierra
Processor A10X Fusion up to 1.4 GHz Intel Core i7 processor up to 3.5 GHz Intel Core i7processor
Memory 4GB 8GB 16GB 8GB 16GB
Graphics Integrated 12 core GPU Intel HD Graphics 615 Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
Storage 64GB 256GB 512GB 256GB SSD 512GB SSD 128GB SSD 256 512 1TB SSD
Ports Lightning Port USB-C 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
Display Size 10.5 inches 12.9 inches 12 13.3
Display Resolution 10.5-inch - 2224 x 1668 12.9-inch - 2732 x 2048 2304 x 1440 2560 x 1600
Touch Touch Screen Touch IDApple Pencil ($99) Force Touch trackpad Force Touch trackpadTouchBar(available without)
Keyboard Smart Keyboard - 10.5-inch ($159) Smart Keyboard - 12.9 inch ($169) Full-size backlit keyboard Full-size backlit keyboard
Cameras 7-megapixel FaceTime camera 12-megapixel rear-facing camera 480p FaceTime camera 720p FaceTime HD camera
Dimensions 10.5 inch - 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.2412.9-inch - 12 x 8.68 x 0.27 11.04 x 7.74 x 0.52 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59
Weight 10.5-inch - 1.03 (Wi-Fi) / 1.05 (Wi-Fi + Cellular)12.9-inch - 1.49 (Wi-Fi) / 1.53 (Wi-Fi + Cellular) 2.03 3.02

Which Is Right for You?

While the two styles of device have gotten more and more alike over the years, the central questions have stayed the same: Do you need productivity, performance or portability? Flexibility with inputs or more ports and storage? Budget-friendly pricing or the best tool for the money? Where you land on these questions will come down to your needs and preferences, but for getting things done, the MacBook Pro is our recommendation.

  iPad Pro

MacBook (12-inch)

MacBook Pro (13-inch)

Size and Portability  
OS and Office Capability  
Input and Interaction Draw Draw 
Cameras  
Storage and Ports  
Price  

The MacBook Pro wins the productivity battle thanks to its broad compatibility, capable OS, full feature set and range of configuration options. When you need a no-nonsense machine for even demanding office work, the MacBook Pro is the go-to choice.

Still, the iPad Pro offers several distinct features that the MacBook simply can't match, like touch and pen input and excellent portability. While we might recommend using the iPad Pro as a secondary device, there's a strong argument that it's the better choice for professionals who work outside of the office or creatives who need drawing and handwriting input.

  10.5-inch iPad Pro 12-inch MacBook
Laptop Mag Battery Test 13:55 9:29
Geekbench 4 9,233 6,853

The 12-inch MacBook might offer a more complete operating system than you'll find in any iPad, but it doesn't stack up well in head-to-head competition. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro trounced the macOS notebook in both battery life and overall performance, lasting more than 4 hours longer on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (13:55 vs 9:29) and netting a much higher score on the Geekbench 4 performance test (9,233 vs 6,853). 

We look forward to seeing how Apple's latest MacBook Pro notebooks fit into this puzzle. 

Photo credits: LaptopMag; Apple

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5 comments
  • Ryan_B Says:

    You don't have to take your iPad out of the case at Airport TSA. You also don't have to shut it down on take off and landing. I've been using a Mini with Word and it works well. I've got a 15" MacBook Pro that stays behind more often than not now on trips. I'm considering making the jump to a 12.9 iPad Pro.

  • David Says:

    @Boomer0127
    The iPad versions of Microsoft office are pretty good and more for feature than you may think. But there is one issue that causes me to keep going back to a laptop and that is you can only have one instance of any application open. So you can have Word and Excel open but not two copies of words and therefore could not drag and drop between one word documents and another. Or eve The iPad versions of Microsoft office are pretty good and more for feature than you may think. But there is one issue that causes me to keep going back to a laptop and that is you can only have one instance of any application open. So you can have word and excel open but not two copies of words and therefore could not drag and drop between one word documents and another. You could use some third-party viewer to see your documents at the same time you were editing one but not two copies of Word.

  • Dennis McElroy Says:

    I've finally "cut the cord." After spending the past 19 months with both a MacBook Pro and iPad Air 2, I've found I can do 90-95% of my work in the iPad. I've given up my MacBook Pro. I just couldn't warrant having both and the advantages of the iPad won the day for me.

  • dodod Says:

    Easy, if money is no object, Macbook, no brainer.

  • boomer0127 Says:

    So is MS Office for iPad considerably limited relative to the MacOS version? I am trying to make this decision, considering to ditch my 2007 17-inch MBP for a 12.9 iPadPro. I think the drag-and-drop between apps is the final straw, the only thing I can't do is reference management when i write manuscripts. I think i can use mendeley to drop formatted references into word on iOS. But if iOS Word is severely lacking features of MacOS Word then I am out of luck.

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