Veteran Mac users, even those who love the iPad Air 2 as the best iPad ever made, probably would answer ‘no’ to each question. An iPad Pro, while packed with power, great battery life, and a screen and pencil combination as good as the technology gets, is not a MacBook Pro, which is capable of all kinds of heavy lifting, but very little traditional pencil-like drawing capability.
So, in a word, ‘no‘ an iPad Pro will not replace a MacBook Pro for most Pro users and it wasn’t designed to. Could an iPad Pro replace a MacBook? The answer is a qualified ‘yes‘ because those who use a MacBook are not what is typically termed ‘power users’ so the playing ground is somewhat more level.
My MacBook Pro sports 16GB of RAM, plenty of ports; USB, Thunderbolt, headphone, SDXC card slot, HDMI, and MagSafe 2. It also has an Intel Core i7 CPU so it churns through Final Cut Pro, Adobe’s Creative Suite apps, and Microsoft Office like scrolling through warm butter. It also weighs 3.5-pounds. By all accounts, a MacBook Pro is a powerful but traditional personal computer so it’s just not right to compare it to an iPad Pro.
What can be compared is the typical usage and configuration of a MacBook, which comes with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a single and somewhat anemic USB-C port, and weighs in at about 2-pounds. The display is somewhat traditional at 2304×1440 pixels, but it can support an external display with 3840×2160 pixels. This is a lightweight Mac designed for maximum travel and lightweight and somewhat general responsibilities.
How does the MacBook compare to an iPad Pro?
The physical size and price tag are similar; weight, too, if you add the Smart Keyboard. The Pro’s display is actually larger in size and resolution than the MacBook, at 12.9-inchs and 2732×2048 resolution, but no option to drive an external display. Unlike the MacBook, iPad Pro has both a back facing iSight camera and a front facing FaceTime HD camera.
Similarities include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, headphone jack, stereo speakers, but the iPad Pro also has Touch ID, a 3-axis gyro, accelerometer, barometer, an ambient light sensor, a digital compass, and options for cellular wireless.
Like the MacBook, iPad Pro also comes in silver, gold, and space gray. Most early reviews say the iPad Pro is a wonderful device, and graphic designers laud the new $99 Pencil add-on as a game changer (Wacom’s stock is down on the year, but holding its own since iPad Pro was introduced).
iPad Pro benefits from over half a million iPad specific apps, and soon you’ll seen iPad Pro specific apps from the likes of Adobe and Microsoft to take advantage of Pencil and the increased real estate. The MacBook has available a few tens of thousands of Mac apps, but a few are high end suites– Creative Cloud and Office, not to mention Apple’s own Pro apps– not as well suited for the diminutive Mac.
So, back to the original questions.
Can an iPad Pro replace a MacBook Pro?
Probably not because they’re different fruit with different purposes, though, for some functions, there is plenty of crossover. The ‘Pro’ for iPad means something different than the ‘Pro’ for a Mac notebook.
Can an iPad Pro replace a MacBook?
Probably, though it depends a bit on what you use each device to accomplish, and there is certainly more functional overlap between the two. The MacBook is a traditional, albeit thin and light, and of modest power with a good keyboard, notebook, while the iPad Pro is state of the art; most powerful tablet CPU, best screen, but the keyboard is mostly ‘meh.’
It’s interesting that both devices, the high end iPad Pro, and the entry-level MacBook are priced about the same (with keyboard) but the Mac bristles with more RAM and storage capability and expansion options not available to the iPad Pro.
I’m not the typical use case user, hence my MacBook Pro, but if I had to choose between a MacBook and an iPad Pro, I would go with the MacBook (more pro-level apps, better keyboard, runs Windows and full Office and Creative Cloud) vs. the iPad Pro. For many MacBook owners an iPad Pro might be a better, more flexible alternative (dual cameras, removable keyboard, Pencil, and hundreds of thousands of apps).
Some benchmarks already put the iPad Pro ahead of the MacBook and a strong rival for the more comparable 13-inch MacBook Pro line. It’s a lighter device with a better screen, better graphics performance, better battery life, and a more flexible use case. What has taken place with this comparison is recognition that the entire industry has reached an expected inflection point– mobile devices as powerful or more than than traditional computing devices at both entry level and mid-range– Apple’s A9X CPU is pushing the boundaries reserved for Intel’s Core i7 devices.
Can an iPad Pro replace various Mac notebooks? Yes, but every use case is different; some, like me, will go for both. Pro-level Mac users will be perfectly happy continuing to use the Mac as their primary device. Apple’s pricing of iPad Pro, though, won’t change how the iPad is perceived by the buying community. Generally speaking, it’s an extra device and while Apple may want and expect many customers to switch from Windows notebooks or hybrid devices to an iPad Pro, it’s unlikely the expensive model will be Apple’s biggest seller.