M2 MacBook Air vs. M1 iPad Pro: Make the right choice [Video] – 9to5Mac | Hot Mobile Press

After using the M2 MacBook Air for over a week, I’m happy to share how it stacks up against the M1 iPad Pro. Here’s everything you need to know.

While the M1 iPad Pro is a powerful machine, I still used a MacBook Air for the 5% of tasks I can’t easily do on the iPad. However, I still use both devices for everything from creative work for YouTube and professional work in corporate suites like Microsoft to custom CRM software and more.

Because of this, I feel perfectly placed to do some in-depth reflections on which “computer” is the better buy for you and your workflow, to help you decide between the M1 iPad Pro and the all-new M2 MacBook Air.

For comparison, we are talking about the M1 iPad Pro with 256GB of storage. The baseline MacBook Air will set you back around $1200. That’s with the latest M2 chip, 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. The 256GB iPad Pro has 8GB of RAM and also costs $1200 for the same configuration. To really compare the M1 iPad Pro and M2 MacBook Air, we also need the magic keyboard accessory for the iPad Pro, which adds another $350 to the base price.

If you add this $350 accessory, the M1 iPad Pro is $1550, and the optional Apple Pencil is an additional $130. Fortunately, there are third-party Bluetooth accessories that are much cheaper and work with the iPad. As with most Apple products, for the absolute best in usability and functionality, you simply have to get the magic keyboard.

See table below for a full price comparison:

M2 MacBook Air M1 iPad Pro (Wi-Fi only
Price storage R.A.M. Price storage R.A.M.
$1,199 256GB 8GB $1099 128GB 8GB
$1,399 512GB 8GB $1199 256GB 8GB
$1,599 1TB 8GB $1399 512GB 8GB
$1,999 2TB 8GB $1799 1TB 16 gigabytes
$2,399 2TB 24GB $2199 2TB 16 gigabytes

Comparing the M2 MacBook Air directly to the M1 iPad Pro is unfair, as the tablet needs a little extra hardware to be considered a “computer” in the same way – think keyboard and Bluetooth mouse.

The iPad Pro has some hardware features that might justify the price hike depending on how you use the tablet. The first is the 12.9-inch miniLED display. The 120 Hz ProMotion display has a base brightness of 1000 nits and a peak brightness of 1600 nits. Because of this, you don’t have to worry about using the iPad Pro in bright or sunny environments. In addition, the iPad Pro’s miniLED screen is still the cheapest way to reach the quality level of the Apple Pro Display XDR. The display is in a league of its own.

In comparison, you get a 13.6-inch LED IPS Retina display on the M2 MacBook Air. In itself it’s great. In a direct comparison with the display of the iPad Pro, you will easily notice the refresh rate of 60 Hz and the maximum brightness of 500 nits.

M2 MacBook Air left, M1 iPad Pro right

When it comes to cameras, the iPad Pro easily wins. While you may not be using the dual rear cameras, you still have access to powerful photo and video sensors. Even if you don’t intend to use the rear camera setup at first, it’s there as an option and more than capable when you need to use it.

Obviously, the M2 MacBook Air doesn’t have any rear sensors. The new MacBook Air has a brand new, updated 1080p webcam, and while it’s a good upgrade, the selfie camera on the iPad still spins circles around the MacBook Air’s camera. In addition, the iPad has Center Stage built in. For security reasons, the iPad benefits from FaceID, but the M2 MacBook Air includes Touch ID. Both biometric security options are very fast, but FaceID is passive and requires no user action to unlock the device.

Listen to yourself in the video below and you can hear that the iPad speakers are fuller, louder, and offer more base than the MacBook Air. Technically, both have a quad-speaker system, but the iPad is simply a better speaker system.

If you value ports and expansion, the M2 MacBook Air is the obvious choice. Apple reintroduced MagSafe on the MacBook Air, freeing up an additional Thunderbolt port. This means you can connect two devices or accessories, while on the iPad you only have access to one port. This must be shared with power and data pass-through, but can be expanded with compatible USB-C hubs.

When you pick up the Magic Keyboard, it’s worth noting that there’s a power connector. However, it can only be used for power access and cannot be used as an additional iPad Pro access or expansion port. Even though there are two ports, the MacBook Air still only supports one external display with a resolution of up to 6K. The same goes for the iPad Pro, thanks to the addition of Stage Manager with iPad OS 16.

iPadOS 16 stage manager
iPadOS 16: Stage manager

Talking about charging, one area where you’ll notice the biggest difference is battery life. The MacBook Air is an absolute champion when it comes to battery longevity. Apple’s website claims that the M2-powered laptop has a maximum lifespan of 18 hours. We didn’t get a full 18 hours in our tests, but after a full day of heavy use with third-party apps like Google Chrome and Microsoft Suite apps, the MacBook Air has no issues. We were still able to end the day with about 50% battery remaining on this use case. In our opinion you can take this with you for a weekend of heavy use and not need to bring a charger.

Unfortunately, the iPad Pro can’t keep up here when it comes to durability. We regularly manage five to six hours of heavy use with the Magic Keyboard before we have to look for the charger.

When it comes to battery longevity, the M2 MacBook Air is a clear winner. Also, the maximum charging speed of iPad Pro is 33W compared to MacBook Air which can charge up to 67W via MagSafe.

The iPad Pro with optional Magic Keyboard combo makes the iPad heavier and thicker than the MacBook Air. While it’s heavier, it’s hard not to look to the iPad Pro, at least in terms of versatility and overall portability. As well as being a tablet for entertainment purposes, it is also becoming a powerful workhorse for many.

In many ways, the iPad is still the “must have” device on the market. Having owned the iPad since 2018, I personally made this decision for aesthetic reasons. It’s incredibly light, thin and powerful. In many ways it still seems too good to be true. Sure, the new MacBook Air design is amazing in its own right, but something about the iPad combined with the Magic Keyboard — and its unique floating hinge design — feels like a better package.

So from a pure hardware perspective – price aside – I feel like the iPad Pro has the edge. With great versatility, better onboard cameras and an arguably better display, it’s a top-of-the-line tech and that’s why Apple dominates this part of the market.

Conclusion: Which device is right for you still depends exclusively on preference and price. In my opinion, I would choose the iPad Pro for its portability, ease of use, and the fact that it’s generally more fun to use. You have millions of apps to choose from in the App Store, so you can always find something useful or fun. It’s just more versatile – it’s a tablet, digital notepad, computer and games console all in one.

It’s hard to argue that many people just want a laptop that’s familiar, does everything from work to productivity, can be used every day, and has great battery life. For this group, I would typically recommend the MacBook Air for cost/performance/familiarity reasons only.

If you can afford both, then the M1 iPad Pro and M2 MacBook Air complement each other perfectly thanks to features like sidecar, universal control and Apple’s ecosystem.

While the M1 iPad Pro is a solid choice for me, if I had to recommend a computer that I would use exclusively for the next five years, I would have a hard time looking past the M2 MacBook Air. It offers powerful desktop-level performance in a portable body with true desktop applications, a great keyboard, touchpad and external display support without compromise.

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