Portable computing shootout: MacBook Pro vs. iPad Pro

“If you’re looking for portable power in the Apple ecosystem, the MacBook Pro immediately leaps out. But the iPad Pro is also a very capable contender for your attention, especially after its most recent update,” Alex Blake writes for Digital Trends. “The new compact frame, beefy processor, Apple Pencil support, and Magic Keyboard case all make it a very strong choice for working on the go.”

In macOS Catalina, users can extend their workspace and use iPad and Sidecar alongside their new 13-inch MacBook Pro.
In macOS Catalina, users can extend their workspace and use iPad and Sidecar alongside their new 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Alex Blake for Digital Trends:

So, which should you choose? Despite the entry-level quibbles, the MacBook Pro’s performance really does scale well with its price, and the high-end 16-inch model blows the iPad Pro out of the water. If pure power is what you need, it’s worth spending more on a MacBook Pro.

Still, the iPad Pro is an incredibly powerful device that’s undoubtedly the best tablet money can buy. Its display is superb, and its processor can chew up any task you throw at it. Its lightweight, portable nature also makes it ideal for working on the go. Pair it with an Apple Pencil, and you’ll have a tool that’s perfect for digital painting, photo editing, or taking notes.

Moreover, the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard makes it an even more compelling purchase. Aside from the floating design, the backlit add-on sports a multitouch trackpad supporting gestures, removing the need to touch the screen. All native apps support the trackpad, while third-party developers continue to add compatibility.

MacDailyNews Take: We know several businesspeople who, in the last couple of years, have since moved on from MacBooks Air and Pro in favor of iPad Pro models. They’re just easier to toss in a briefcase or bag. But, for those who need not only pure power, but also for very powerful apps, the Mac Pro stands alone. If you need a MacBook Pro, you likely know it already, but keep your eye on iPad Pro; it’s not a toy and you can get some serious work done on an iPad Pro now – and it’ll only get stronger.


  1. It will be interesting to see how people make the decision in the future. I love my iPad Pro but I cannot live without my MacBook Pro. One of the chief aspects of the iPad Pro was the amount of new software being developed for it. In the brave new world of Apple Silicon where anything developed for one of the Apple devices will run across the spectrum including the Mac, that aspect is sort of gone.

    The iPad is unconventional and that makes it fun to use. At least for me. Everyone else seems bound and determined to find enough snap ons to turn it into a conventional laptop. Which makes you have to wonder, why? Why force the iPad to be a laptop when there are perfectly good Mac laptops available. The MacBook Air maxed out is pretty much the same price as the iPad Pro maxed out. But the MacBook Pro has a full blown can do anything UNIX based operating system.

    It will be fun to see how things shake out.

    1. I enjoy my iPad Pro a lot but like you said, there are things for which your MacBook is necessary. There’s nothing I can think of that I need my iPad for, it’s just better and more fun to use for a lot of things that my MacBook is too slow or cumbersome for or my iPhone is too small for. The desire to make iPads more like laptops probably ties back into the minimalism fad and simplifying things into one main computing device. If push came to shove my MacBook and a large iPhone would be enough for me though. We’ll probably sooner see a hybrid MacBook with a detachable screen than an iPad-optimized MacOS. Until this happens iPads will be nice supplementary devices for lots of people but never quite the primary devices that people want them to be.

      Apple has been selling the iPad as “the future” of computing for a decade, so the inexcusable hobbling of the latest iPad OS compared to iOS 14 with its go-anywhere widgets and app library makes you scratch your head, not to mention the pivot back to the Mac with Apple Silicon. I’m beginning to think that iOS will always be intentionally limited to give Apple maximum control over the entire experience to the detriment of more advanced users. They don’t want people satisfied with one device after all, they’d prefer you buy an iMac, MacBook, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPods, etc. and new ones on a regular basis.

    2. Agree. I’m a Mac admin, and I can’t comfortably do what I need to on my 2020 iPad Pro 12.9″

      I just bought that to compliment my MBP, and it’s the first time I’ve owned an iPad since the 3rd gen. It took me a while to get used to using it again, and while I do not have the keyboard/trackpad, I have fun with it consuming media and it’s better for reading in bed.

      But when it comes to my job, I have to deal with scripts and other things that just don’t work as well on the iPad, so for now, it’s both. I’m not sure why Apple keeps trying to sell it this way as it’s just a tool, and if it meets ones needs for whatever task, it will be used as such. But quit trying to make it something it’s not. It sells on its own merits.

    3. What a shame we can’t have a touchscreen Mac that can run iPhone, iPad and Mac apps.

      Well, we’ll have such a MacBook later this year with Apple Silicon, but will it have touch?

      If so, problem solved permanently and forever. The End. QED. Fin

  2. Depends on what you are doing. I own both plus an iMac. I love the portability, handwriting, magic keyboard and LTE on the iPad but trying to work on multi worksheet Excel files and pivots tables require a Mac. Similarly, I need a Mac for Logic Pro X and my myriad of plug-ins. Sometimes you need a sports care sometimes you need a Truck/SUV.

    Using: RD-2000, Logic Pro X, Omnisphere, Keyscape, Komplete 12, CFX Lite, Arturia V Collection, Pigments, ME80, VPS Avenger, u-he Diva, Hive2, Roland Cloud, OP-X, 27” Retina iMac, 13” MacBook Pro w/touch bar

    Sold: Kronos 88, Yamaha: Motif XS8, Motif ES8, Motif 8, KX88, TX802, Oberheim: Modular 8 Voice, OBXa, OB8, Korg: T3, MS20, Prophet 5, Roland D50, Dyno-My-Rhodes, Crumar T2

  3. The iPad Pro is still a bit display real-estate challenged. I even wish my 13.3″ MBA has a wee bit more space (here is hoping for a 14″ MBP)…

    That said, I don’t do any heavy lifting anymore. Video editing hobby died off once kids arrived – ha! Both are time consuming!

    I used my MBA for business, and I don’t give a hoot about processing power. Emails and PDFs and video conferencing do not don’t really require a lot of horse power.

    What I DO NEED is a powerful Directory. Apple’s MacOS Finder is where I live and it’s simply gotta be that easy and powerful. So many customers and files to organize and store for easy access and review. iPad OS is still a Fisher Price, my first finder, solution.

    Many sales folks use Sales Force or other solutions online, but they cost bank and are for larger organizations than my own. My own storage and management locally is key for me.

    Lastly, weight. A 16″ MBP doesn’t work. Not when constantly on the shoulder through airport travel, walking a manufacturing floor for an hour+, it’s just too much weight. My 12″ MB was great in terms of weight, but screen size challenged for sure, and just not durable. Way too flimsy.

    iPad just doesn’t cut it for me at this point.

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