iPad Pro 2021 (M1) vs MacBook (M1): what are the differences?

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alex mathos20 May 2021Last Update : 1 year ago
iPad Pro 2021 (M1) vs MacBook (M1): what are the differences?
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The new iPad Pro The 2021 edition comes with the same M1 chip as Apple’s Macbook lineup, which means we’ve finally reached a point where the much more portable iPad has the same performance as a laptop, but what’s the differences and which should you choose?

Apple has added features to the iPad to make it more like a Macbook, and it has added support for mobile apps on the Macbook to make it more like an iPad, but the basic difference remains: while the new 2021 iPad Pro family with the M1 is as powerful as a Macbook, it still runs on iPadOS, which means it lacks power user apps like Final Cut Pro, Logic, and Xcode, which professional users rely on to get the job done. So this automatically makes the iPad a lighter device, but keep in mind that rumors suggest that Apple may soon be adding support for professional apps to the iPad and finally elevating it to a real laptop replacement.

Still, if you do not really need these macOS apps and want a device that is portable and fast, you might be wondering which one to buy: an iPad Pro M1 or a Macbook?

Here are the most important things to consider.
iPad Pro 2021 (M1) vs Macbook (M1) main differences:
  • Software: iPadOS does not have pro grade apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic
  • iPad is lighter and more portable, but you have to buy a $ 350 keyboard separately and it uses a magnetic connection that is not as strong
  • Both keyboards have trackpads, but the one on the Macbook is bigger; both keyboards have the same 1 mm key ring
  • iPad has newer Mini-LED display technology for enhanced contrast
  • iPad has far superior sound: its speakers get much louder
  • iPad supports Apple Pencil, Macbook does not
  • iPad Pro is more expensive: the 12.9 “model with keyboard starts at $ 1,450 compared to $ 1,000 for the Macbook Air M1

You can order the new iPad Pro M1 from Apple here:

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

$ 799


Buy at Apple

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

$ 999


Buy at Apple

iPad Pro 2020 vs Macbook: Software

iPadOS vs macOS

Nothing has changed on the software front, and the iPad is still an iPad, which means it can not run any of the professional apps that Macs are known for. You can edit videos and probably entire movies with Final Cut Pro on a Macbook, you can create songs with Logic, you can encode and compile with Xcode, and yes, you can not do that on an iPad.
So if you are a professional user, an iPad is probably still just a fancy toy for you, one that the people who just surf the web and look at photos use. It’s not for you.

Recent rumors have hovered the idea that Apple may change this and bring professional apps to the iPad in the near future, but this is not coming until the fall of 2021, not at all.

We also have to say that multitasking is much easier on a Macbook, and although you can put apps side by side and even float apps, the iPad is better, but not on par in that regard.

iPad Pro vs Macbook keyboard

Apple charges you $ 350 for the iPad’s Magic Keyboard, which is … expensive!

When you pay $ 350 dollars for a keyboard, it’s better to be good. Yes, it will be your total sum for Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro that looks cool, clicks magnetically on iPad so it kind of floats in the air as you type. It’s a comfortable size with large and clickable buttons that actually have the same key weight as the keyboard on Macbooks.
One important difference, though, is that the Macbook keyboard uses a solid connection so you can not snap it off, but it is far more robust and seems to resist abuse more easily. Plus, the trackpad is much larger. The Macbook keyboard also has Touch ID in the top right corner, while the iPad keyboard is not … well, because the iPad uses Face ID and it does not need it.

Last but certainly not least, users need to know that shortcuts simply do not work on the iPad for the simple reason that … it uses the iPad OS! Sorry!

iPad Pro vs Macbook screen quality

iPad has the better screen, but do you really need better than the already large screen on Macbook?
The signature feature of the 2021 iPad Pro 12.9 “model is the display. It uses the brand new one Mini LED display technology (you get a standard 11 “iPad Pro LCD screen). This Mini LED display is great, essentially having the much smaller backlight, which is separated into almost 2,600 dimming zones, dozens of times more than on a standard screen so you can turn off very specific parts of the screen and get deep blacks and large contrasts, almost like an OLED screen, this can be especially noticeable when watching HDR movies or videos, but this alone is a valuable reason to upgrade?
That’s hard to say, because M1 Macbooks already have high-quality LCD monitors. But you get a brighter screen on the iPad that hits 600 nit typically against 500 nit peak brightness on Macbook Pro M1 and 400 nit peak brightness on Macbook Air M1. You only need to really worry about these numbers if you are using your device outdoors where the conditions are more challenging and you need a screen at the maximum brightness to be able to see it properly.
And in terms of resolution, the iPad is very slightly ahead with 264 pixels per inch (ppi) versus 227ppi on the Macbook, not a massive difference.
An important benefit, but one that you should not forget, is ProMotion. Yes, you get a 120Hz smooth refresh rate on the iPad, while the Macbook runs at a 60Hz, which just does not feel as smooth as you scroll.
At the end of the day, the iPad and especially the iPad 12.9 “clearly have the better screen quality over the Macbook, but the difference is not that for a good and a bad screen, instead it is a difference between incredible (iPad) and excellent (Macbook) .

iPad Pro vs Macbook: Battery life

Macbooks have greater battery capacity, but in real life they hold a little bit less than iPad pros

Both the iPad and Macbook use Apple’s amazing new M1 chip, which has record performance per. Watt. Compared to previous Macbooks that used an Intel chip, the M1 difference is huge with up to three times more efficient performance.

So … what about battery life? First, the 11 “iPad Pro 2021 model has the smallest battery capacity of only 28.6Wh, while you get a larger battery on the 12.9” model at 40.9Wh, and then the battery capacity of the Macbook Air M1 is 49.9Wh, just marginally larger, while the Macbook Pro M1 has the largest battery of the pack at 58.2Wh.
Okay, okay, Macbooks have the bigger batteries, that’s pretty obvious, but what about battery life? For this, we turn to Apple’s official battery test, and here are the numbers:
  • iPad Pro 11 “: 10 hours on the Internet or watch videos via Wi-Fi
  • iPad Pro 12.9 “: 10 hours on the Internet or watching videos via Wi-Fi
  • Macbook Air M1: 15 hours of wireless internet
  • Macbook Pro M1: 17 hours of wireless internet
Okay, so these are the official Apple numbers, and they’re not quite comparable because they measure different things. So let’s speak from experience, which is that iPads in casual use surround the promised 10 hours of use in real life, while Macbooks do not hit the above numbers in real life, and you should expect about 8 hours on a single charge for Macbook Air M1 and 9 hours on Macbook Pro M1. Not a big difference, but technically, the iPad should last a little longer in real-world scenarios.

iPad Pro 2021 vs Macbook for College

So … if you’re a college student, you might be wondering if you should go for iPad Pro or a Macbook?

In a nutshell, here’s what we would consider: the more solid form factor of a Macbook makes it the better typewriter, and most power user tasks are much easier performed on a Macbook. Things like photo editing, video editing, connecting to other peripherals like a solid state drive, the professional software … all these are the benefits of a Mac.

However, there are two main reasons to get an iPad instead: portability and Apple Pencil. An iPad is much lighter: the 12.9 “iPad Pro weighs only 1.41 kg compared to twice the 2.8 kg for the Macbook Air M1, so an iPad is definitely easier to carry around and take with you in class. drawing or studying architecture, Apple Pencil will be an extremely useful tool that will also swing your choice towards an iPad.If these two things are not so important, however, a Macbook is the cheaper and probably more versatile option for most students.

iPad Pro 2021 vs Macbook for gaming

Apple devices are just not made for serious gamers, so if you are that person, a Windows laptop would be the obvious choice (if you want portability, that is, you can always get a PS5, if not). PC gamers have the Steam store with a much wider selection of titles on Windows, so gamers probably shouldn’t bother with a Mac or iPad.

But if you are happy with the limited selection of games or just want casual games, our advice would be to go to Macbook as it supports all iOS games AND then some “real” games like World of Warcraft and GTA that play built-in on the M1 chip.

As for mobile games and Apple Arcade, not all iPadOS mobile games are available on Mac, but all Apple Arcade games are. Another thing a Macbook does not have is the portability of the iPad, so it is much easier to take an iPad to bed for gaming.

iPad Pro M1 2021 vs Macbook M1: Price

iPad professionals are more expensive than Macbooks, especially if you count all the external devices to them

After all this, it’s time to take a closer look at the prices, and you might be shocked to hear that a 12.9 “iPad with a Magic Keyboard actually costs almost 50% more than a base Macbook Air M1 model!

So here’s a quick overview of the prices of the iPad Pro M1:

  • iPad Pro 11 “: $ 800 for 128 GB model ($ 900 for 256 GB, $ 1,100 for 512 GB, $ 1,500 for 1 TB, $ 1,900 for 2 TB)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 “: $ 1,100 to 128 GB model ($ 1,200 to 256 GB, $ 1,400 for 512 GB, $ 1,800 for 1 TB, $ 2,200 for 2 TB)
  • Add $ 200 on top of the price for each mobile connection model
  • $ 350 for Magic Keyboard
  • $ 130 for Apple Pencil 2
And here are the Macbook M1 prices:
  • Macbook Air M1: $ 1,000 to 256 GB model, $ 1,250 to 512 GB
  • Macbook Pro M1: $ 1,300 for 256 GB, $ 1,500 for 512 GB

So when you draw the proverbial line in the sand, the iPad Pro M1 is the most powerful iPad ever made (duh!), But it’s still too … an iPad! It still has iPad benefits and iPad limitations. It’s easy, but does not run pro-apps; it has a touch screen, but the Magic Keyboard does not feel so solid, and multitasking is just not that good, and the list goes on and on.

Is there a better device? Not really, but now you know the areas where each of them excels.

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