What is the future of personal computing? The traditional PC model as evidenced by Apple’s Mac? The iPad Pro with more power than most PC notebooks but still not a solid competitor to the keyboard centric Mac? The Microsoft Surface model which marries a Windows touchscreen to a detachable keyboard?
We may want a winner but the reality is obvious. All three modes can peacefully coexist without worry. Choice is good. Since the iPad Pro was launched a few years ago I’ve tried on numerous occasions to have it replace my Mac.
No. Can. Do.
The first consideration is the most obvious. The Mac is a powerhouse device if you know how to use the keyboard and avoid the mouse or trackpad. ‘Keep your hands on the keyboard‘ is what every Mac power user knows to improve productivity. As many keyboard shortcuts as the iPad has with a physical keyboard– and many are identical to those on the Mac– the need to touch the screen never goes away.
The second consideration is less obvious yet visually distinct. Screen real estate. Yes, this issue depends upon your workflow requirements but simply put, there is no substitute for screen real estate where multiple applications can be open and visible onscreen at the same time.
iPad and iOS have a Split View or split screen option, but that reduces the visible page of each open app, while a 27-inch Retina 5K iMac has no such limitation. The caveat here is new to iPad Pro; the ability to drive an external Retina 4K or 5K display. iPad Pro, meet screen real estate at 5K.
Yet, the touchscreen requirement remains. iPad Pro will need to be near the keyboard to touch specific onscreen options.
My third consideration is where Mac vs. iPad has a similar weight, regardless of which Mac an iPad Pro would attempt to replace. Weight. Size. Allow me to compare the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with either the 13-inch MacBook Air or the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
- iPad Pro – 1.4-pounds
- iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard Folio and Pencil – 2-pound
- MacBook Air – 2.75-pounds
- MacBook Pro – 3-pounds
That makes iPad Pro more totable and mobile than either Mac notebook yet with roughly the same size display and similar sized case. The MacBook Pro is just over half an inch thick. MacBook Air is thinner at one end, but slightly thicker at the display hinge end. iPad Pro dimensions are slightly smaller than either Mac, and half the thickness, but the added Smart Keyboard Folio makes the device slightly thicker than either Mac.
What prevents me from using an iPad Pro vs. a Mac? Everything else being equal, it boils down to keyboard and display size. An iPad Pro cannot replace what the Mac does best, despite more power and capabilities.