iPad Pro Versus MacBook Air: Which is Right For You?

Figure out which Apple device is best for your needs!

With college semesters approaching right around the corner, it's more important than ever to be proactive in making sure you select the right product for you. It can be confusing and overwhelming to choose a product, especially when you are needing it for school or work. These products are essential to our productivity, convenience, and effectiveness.

They also come with many factors to consider, like storage needs, product use, and personal needs. Oftentimes, students and budget-mindful Apple users alike attempt to decide between an iPad Pro and a MacBook Pro, knowing that there are pros and cons to each product depending on how they may or may not want to use their products.

As tech has advances, and iPads have gotten better and better, more and more people are choosing between iPad Pros and MacBook Airs. Often, people are doing this to save money, but sometimes they are actually spending more. There are so many factors to consider here, to save yourself money, and make sure you buy the best product for yourself.

In this guide, I will compare the iPad Pro and MacBook Air and cover the differences between the two so that you can make the most educated decision possible.

Note: All prices and information below was referenced from apple.com. Prices may vary elsewhere.

2020 Apple MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip2020 Apple MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip ×1
2020 Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)2020 Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch) ×1
2021 Apple 11-inch iPad Pro2021 Apple 11-inch iPad Pro ×1

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Consider the Cost

Cost should be your first and foremost consideration. Regardless of which product you decide on, making sure you stick to your guns about how much you are willing to spend is crucial. There is no need to get all the bells and whistles, which is significantly more expensive if you do not need them. So, having a price point is really important in ensuring you don't go over your budget simply to have the coolest or best piece of tech.

When you are thinking about cost and budget, here are some things to consider:

  • How much are you able to afford without even considering what the product will be, include, or what it will look like? Consider what your budget allows without considering the product at all.
  • Now, consider the device a bit. What features do you have to have, that may cost a bit more? For example, do you know that you will need extra storage space or a bigger display? These things cost more, so have them in your mind going forward.
  • What features can you go without, or that are completely unnecessary for your uses, so that you can get some bang for your buck without going for all the bells and whistles?
  • Are you a student? If so, you can get a discount, and possibly free AirPods on apple.com/education.
  • How do the prices compare between products? Are you actually saving money by choosing one Apple product over another?

Let's check out the price comparison table below:

Product Price Price with Upgraded Storage Price with Even More Storage
iPad Pro 11-inch 128 GB: 799$ 256 GB: 899$ 512 GB: 1099$
iPad Pro 12.9-inch 128 GB: 1,099$ 256 GB: 1,199$ 512 GB: 1,399$
MacBook Air 256 GB: 999$ 512 GB: 1,249$ 1TB: 1,399$
Apple Pencil 2nd Generation: 129$ N/A N/A
Magic Keyboard 11-inch: 299$ 12.9-inch: 349$ N/A N/A
Smart Keyboard 11-inch: 179$ 12.9-inch: 199$ N/A N/A

Do you see why this comparison is so important?

If you need at least 256 GB of storage and you have to have a keyboard for school or work, it's actually cheaper to buy a MacBook Air, plus you would have a bigger display (which I get into later). Alternatively, if you don't need very much storage, and you don't have to have a keyboard, you save money by buying an 11-inch iPad Pro.

Consider How You Work

How I like to work, might be very different from how you like to work. For example, in recent years, I have found that I need bigger displays to be able to read text effectively. I also prefer to have a keyboard, since it is really crucial to what I do as a writer: write. Others might not mind a smaller display or using the screen on an iPad Pro to type versus a physical keybaord.

How do you work? Here are a few things to consider regarding your work style:

  • Storage - Do you like to save tons of random items, videos, documents, and pictures to your devices and you can't seem to break the habit? In this case, having more storage will save you later.
  • Do you need a bigger display due to your eyesight or visual impairments? Then, you may want to use a 12.9-inch iPad Pro or the MacBook Air which is 13.3 inches versus the 11-inch iPad Pro.
  • Do you like to move around a lot and switch from tablet to keyboard? In this case, an iPad Pro might be better for you, since the keyboard can be detached whenever you like.
  • Do you like to have your product in your lap on the subway or the couch? If so, a MacBook Air might be more practical.
Consider Your Storage Needs

I've already mentioned storage a couple of times throughout this guide. That's because it is so important. It's probably one of the bigger considerations a buyer should have when purchasing new tech. There is nothing more cumbersome than having an iPad or MacBook that doesn't meet your storage needs. In fact, there are a lot of consequences that come with getting a product that doesn't meet your storage needs.

What happens when your product doesn't have enough storage:

  • Constant maintenance - The need to constantly be deleting, making room, etc. due to a lack of storage can be annoying and time-consuming.
  • Inability to update - If you don't have enough space for your data and updates, you may end up with a non-functional product that you have to delete data you need simply to update.
  • Third-Party Accessories - You may end up needing to buy an external drive, flash drive, etc. to transfer data you need to, in order to avoid deleting data you want. This can be pricey, depending on the storage allocated on that device and the brand, etc.
  • A product crash - If you do not maintain your data, and the storage gets too full, the product can experience unexpected shutdowns, performance issues, and can even shut down without the memory available to power up again, meaning you need to erase the product and start over.

How to avoid the above:

  • Look at the products you use. How much storage do they have? Are you using them comfortably, without storage issues?
  • If so, stick to the amount of storage you have. If not, increase the amount of storage you have on your next product.
  • Consider that on an iPad, you will want to have a minimum of 4 GB available on your product at all times to avoid performance issues, and so you can update as needed. Even more than this is recommended. I'd shoot for 5GB-10GB.
  • Consider that on a MacBook, you will want to have about 13GB of free space at all times. This is because updates and upgrades are significantly bigger on a MacBook. Also, you need a bit of wiggle room for great performance. Consider having about 15GB at any given time for best results.
Consider What You Use it For

This is another important consideration when buying a new piece of tech. While the baseline iPad Pro is cheaper, it isn't cheaper by much, so if it doesn't suit what you need it for, it's not very practical. Alternatively, if you absolutely need an Apple Pencil for your design classes, you may be better off spending a bit more to get an iPad Pro versus buying a MacBook Air.

Some things to consider to make sure you get the product that suits your uses:

  • Are you a graphic designer or artist? If so, do you need an Apple Pencil to create? Apple Pencils will only work with iPads. If you need particular software or access to certain programs, make sure they are compatible with your iPad Pro or MacBook Air, depending on which you chose, before buying.
  • Do you mainly use your product for homework, writing papers, or surfing the web? If so, having a keyboard might be important for your effectiveness. Here's, where I vote MacBook Air.
  • Do you also like to game? Make sure that the product you are leaning toward can handle your extracurricular uses. Not all apps and games will work for all devices.
  • Will you be using it for years or replacing it in a year or two? If so, when buying Apple Care for your products, the extra warranty actually lasts for three years on a MacBook and only one year on an iPad Pro. Something to consider when thinking about the longevity of your product. Alternatively, you can continue to repurchase it monthly on an iPad, while you cannot do so on a MacBook Air.
Compare and Contrast

The side-by-side table below does not cover all features or costs but gives a basic look at the most important or considered features and their price points. Consider that each time you add something, be it an accessory or a but more storage, you are increasing the price of that device by a minimum of 100$.

Product Storage Display Weight Chip Battery Life Accessories (bought separately) Price
iPad Pro 128 GB-2TB (a price increase of 100$-200$ for each storage upgrade) 11-inch (799$ base price) or 12.9-inch (1,099$ base price) 11-inch: 1.03 lbs (Wi-Fi only) 12.9-inch: 1.5 lbs (Wi-Fi only) Apple M1 Chip 11-inch: 28.65-watt-hour rechargeable 12.9-inch: 40.88-watt-hour rechargeable both up to 10 hours (Wi-Fi only) Magic Keyboard or Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) Smart Keyboard for Folio 128 GB Base 11-inch with with accessories: 928$ 128 GB Base 12.9-inch with accessories: 1,228$
MacBook Air 256 GB (configurable from 512- 2TB with a price increase of 200$ or more) 13.3-inch 2.8 pounds Apple M1 Chip 49.9‑watt‑hour lithium‑polymer battery of 15 hours normal use N/A 256 GB model: 999$ 512 GB model: 1,249$
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