Much has been written about the post-PC era, how the iPad and iPhone would revolutionize personal computing, blah, blah, blah, ad nauseam. Allow me a moment to straighten out the issues, flatter the hype, and add a taste of reality.
First of all, the post-PC era definitely is here already, but it’s not the iPad that’s king. It’s the smartphone, led by the iPhone. Tablets, including the iPad, are merely an adjunct to the trend of mobile devices taking over what were formerly Mac and PC functions.
Second, the PC isn’t dead, but the requirements to own and use a PC have changed. Generally speaking, PCs, including the Mac, are more powerful devices that are being relegated to functions where mobile devices are not well suited.
Third, as with most products, there’s an element of crossover; where the low end of one product line touches the high end of another product line. In this case it’s the iPad Pro, arguably the top end of the tablet segment, competing with the MacBook, arguably the low end of the premium PC notebook segment.
Indeed, pricing between the two is similar. An entry-level MacBook comes with 256GB of flash storage, Intel Inside, 8GB of RAM, and all the benefits of OS X, for $1,299. The high-end iPad Pro starts at $799 but the 128GB version starts at $949, but needs both the $99 Apple Pencil and the $169 Smart Keyboard to be competitive at the premium end of the spectrum. Grand total, $1,217 vs. the MacBook at $1,299.
In some ways the iPad Pro is a far more professional machine and the 12.9-inch Multi-Touch display has higher Retina resolution than the new MacBook. Hardware aside, the real differences between the iPad Pro and the MacBook are in the applications and capabilities. A MacBook is not a good machine for artists and designers who will find the iPad Pro to be the best graphic artist tablet they can buy.
At a base level, both devices– iPad Pro and MacBook– have similar functionality, thanks in part to Apple’s consistent interface and usability in Safari, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, FaceTime, Messages, Photos, iTunes, iMovie, Maps, Garageband, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers.
That’s where the status quo ends.
The iPad Pro has many tens of thousands more applications (though few that take advantage of the new screen and Pencil yet) than a Mac, but the MacBook easily runs Microsoft Office for Mac, Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and what are considered professional level applications. The Mac can also run Windows, Linux, and most flavors of Unix, and all at the same time if needed, which makes the Mac the ultimate PC.
The iPad Pro beats the MacBook with the number of applications and their variety. It wins on screen resolution and graphic artistry, even though some hardware specifications are less (storage and RAM). With the Smart Keyboard added to the iPad Pro both devices weigh about the same, have similar battery life, and similar benchmark scores for power.
The MacBook beats the iPad Pro on hardware specs (storage and RAM), and flexibility; the Mac runs Windows and Linux, and, ostensibly, more powerful applications than show up for the iPad on the App Store. That we’re even discussing the differences between an entry-level MacBook with a high end iPad Pro indicates that the post-PC era is encroaching on even more territory that once was the domain of traditional desktop and notebook PCs.
The true litmus test here is the answer to this question. ‘If you could choose only one of the two– iPad Pro vs. MacBook– which would you choose?‘