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How the new iPad Pro compares to the new MacBook Air

How the new iPad Pro compares to the new MacBook Air

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Which to pick?

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Image: Apple

Apple just announced a new iPad Pro and a new MacBook Air, but the iPad Pro’s optional new keyboard case with a trackpad makes picking between the two a lot harder. If you get the iPad Pro with the new case, called the Magic Keyboard, you’re choosing between two similarly sized portable computing devices with a keyboard and trackpad. (Though Apple insists the new iPad Pro is not a computer.)

The main thing to keep in mind is that one of those computing devices is still a tablet and one is still a laptop, and each is (right now) better-suited for some tasks than others. iPadOS, which came out last year, did bring a lot more computer-y features to Apple’s tablets, like a more powerful Files app, letting a single app have multiple windows, and showing websites in desktop mode in Safari.

But if you want to make the new iPad Pro your main computer, you’ll need to make sure it can do the things you might rely on with your laptop or desktop. For me, that usually means arranging my Chrome, Twitter, and Slack windows in such a way that I can easily bounce between them. Others might need a specific photo or video editing app for their work, and that app might be easier to use with a mouse.

The new Magic Keyboard’s trackpad could help you do a lot more of those more computer tasks, but at launch, it’s not likely to unlock all new use cases. It may make things like editing and selecting text easier right away, though.

Bottom line, nobody outside of Apple has actually used the case yet, and it’s not coming out until May, while the new iPad Pro comes out on March 25th. And the upcoming iPadOS 13.4 software adds full mouse and trackpad support, but that’s not out until March 24th, so we don’t yet know how well it will work in practice.

And the decision is even harder because the new MacBook Air looks like the upgrade we’ve wanted for years. It has a reliable scissor switch keyboard, 10th Gen Intel Ice Lake processors that should be just fine for most people, improved graphics, 256GB base storage (double the 128GB base that Apple has offered for a long time), and it starts at $999, which is $100 less than its predecessor.

If you’re agonizing over which to pick, one thing that might help is taking a look at the specs in the table below. But also keep in mind that if you opt for the new iPad Pro right now and plan to get the new Magic Keyboard when it’s out, know that you’re banking on an untested case and a hope that iPadOS 13.4 makes the iPad do everything you need it to do — and right now, we just don’t know if that’s true.

The iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard sounds like a super interesting device, but there are still a lot of unknowns. With the MacBook Air, however, there’s not a lot you don’t already know about it. In that regard, at least, making a decision between these two products hasn’t really changed at all.

This table is best viewed in landscape mode on mobile devices.

iPad Pro (2020) vs. MacBook Air (2020)

CategoryiPad Pro 11-inchiPad Pro 12.9-inchMacBook Air with 1.1GHz Dual-Core i3 and 256GBMacBook Air with 1.1GHz Quad-Core i5 and 512GB
Starting price$799$999$999$1,299
OSiPadOS 13.4iPadOS 13.4macOS Catalina 10.15.3macOS Catalina 10.15.3
Display11-inch (2388 x 1668) Retina display12.9-inch (2732 x 2048) Retina display13.3-inch (2560 x 1600) Retina display13.3-inch (2560 x 1600) Retina display
Pixels per inch264 ppi264 ppi227 ppi227 ppi
Refresh rateUp to 120HzUp to 120HzUp to 60HzUp to 60Hz
Dimensions9.74 x 7.02 inches11.04 x 8.46 inches11.97 x 8.36 inches11.97 x 8.36 inches
Thickness.23 inches.23 inches.16 to .63 inches.16 to .63 inches
WeightWi-Fi: 471g; Wi-Fi + Cellular, 473gWi-Fi: 641g; Wi-Fi + Cellular, 643g1,290g1,290g
Battery capacity28.65 watt hours36.71 watt hours49.9 watt hours49.9 watt hours
ProcessorA12Z BionicA12Z Bionic1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3, configurable to 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 or 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, configurable to 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
RAMTBATBA8GB or 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X8GB or 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB PCIe-based SSD512GB, 1TB, 2TB PCIe-based SSD
PortsUSB-C (and another USB-C port with $299 Magic Keyboard)USB-C (and another USB-C port with $349 Magic Keyboard)Two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C portsTwo Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports
Rear cameras12MP (F/1.8) wide angle, 10MP (F/2.4) ultrawide12MP (F/1.8) wide angle, 10MP (F/2.4) ultrawideN/AN/A
Front cameras7MP (F/2.2), 1080p7MP (F/2.2), 1080p720p720p
LIDARYesYesNoNo
BiometricsFace IDFace IDTouch IDTouch ID
Brightness600 nits600 nitsTBATBA
LTEYes, with the $150 more expensive Wi-Fi + Cellular modelYes, with the $150 more expensive Wi-Fi + Cellular modelNoNo
Power Adapter18W USB-C18W USB-C30W USB-C30W USB-C
ColorsSpace gray, silverSpace gray, silverSpace gray, silver, goldSpace gray, silver, gold
Wi-Fi 6YesYesNoNo
3.5mm headphone jackNoNoYesYes
KeyboardAdd-on onlyAdd-on onlyYesYes
TrackpadYes, with $299 Magic KeyboardYes, with $349 Magic KeyboardYesYes
Stylus supportYes, with $129 Apple Pencil or supported stylusesYes, with $129 Apple Pencil or supported stylusesNoNo

Correction: We incorrectly listed one of the processor options as an Intel Core 1.5 instead of as an Intel Core i5 in the original version of this table. We regret the error.

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