Apple iPad Professional (2021) vs. MacBook Air (2020)


After months of hypothesis and predictions, the brand new iPad Execs are lastly right here, and it’s time as soon as once more to check them to Apple’s M1 MacBook Air. The brand new M1 chip blows the competitors out of the water. The Air has a powerful battery life, and its fanless design makes it completely silent.

And because of Large Sur’s new design language and the M1 chip’s capacity to run iPhone apps on MacOS, the MacBook Air is extra just like the iPad Professional than ever earlier than. On the flip aspect, the brand new iPad Execs will include the identical M1 chip discovered within the MacBook Air and Apple’s different latest Mac merchandise. Which means the iPad Professional is extra like a pc than ever.

With a lot in frequent, which one will come out on prime?

Show and design

Ever since its redesign in 2018, the MacBook Air has solely been out there in a 13-inch dimension. That’s no totally different with Apple’s M1 MacBook Air, which makes use of the identical exterior chassis because the earlier mannequin. It’s acquired the identical 2,560 x 1,600 decision (227 ppi), the identical 16:10 facet ratio, and the identical skinny (however not ultra-slim) bezels. Its Retina show additionally options True Tone, which dynamically adjusts the white steadiness to match the ambient mild.

The iPad Professional’s show is somewhat totally different. There are two sizes of iPad Professional to select from — 11 inches and 12.9 inches — with the previous having a 2,388 x 1,668 decision and the latter coming with a 2,732 x 2,048 decision. The 11-inch iPad Professional has a 264 ppi pixel density, which ought to make it somewhat sharper than the MacBook Air, regardless of having related display sizes.

Each the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Execs include True Tone and have an edge in that their dynamic refresh fee goes all the way in which as much as 120Hz, giving them fantastically clean scrolling and animations. The MacBook Air continues to be locked at 60Hz.

The 12.9-inch iPad Professional comes with Apple’s new Liquid Retina XDR show. It’s a mouthful, however the brand new show has some promising options. Together with its excessive refresh fee, it additionally has 10,000 mini-LEDs within the panel. That permits the display to have 2,500 dimming zones, giving it a powerful 1,000,000:1 distinction ratio and nuanced HDR. Apple says it’s on par with the Professional Show XDR, however that continues to be to be seen. It must be spectacular, although.

Each the MacBook Air and the iPad Professional now include Magic Keyboards. In each instances, that’s an enormous enchancment over what was on provide earlier than. Earlier fashions of the MacBook Air had been caught with the shallow, failure-prone butterfly keyboard, whereas the keys on the iPad Professional’s keyboard case had been gentle, mushy, and unsatisfying. For each units, this can be a main improve.

The Magic Keyboard could be very totally different from each earlier keyboard designs. As we mentioned in our MacBook Professional 16 overview, it’s “one of the best Mac keyboard ever launched,” with massive keys, a handy guide a rough mechanism, and even a bodily Esc key. We like it.


Macbook Air (2018) Review
Riley Younger/Digital Traits

Let’s speak concerning the MacBook Air first. The M1 MacBook Air makes a monstrous leap in efficiency. The earlier MacBook Air from earlier this yr was caught with simply two cores and 4 threads within the base mannequin. The M1 MacBook Air has an eight-core CPU, a seven-core GPU, and Apple’s 16-core neural engine.

How does that translate to efficiency? Not solely does the M1 MacBook Air beat out the earlier mannequin, however it additionally basically beats out most different cell processors, particularly in single-threaded efficiency. Which means when you’re a budding content material creator or photographer, the MacBook Air is lastly a viable possibility for advanced duties.

The 2021 iPad Execs will include the M1 chip, the identical discovered within the MacBook Air. Apple is promising a 50% improve in efficiency, which is a very spectacular generational leap. Which means enhancing pictures and video, enjoying graphics-intense video games, and even multitasking might be extra fluid than ever.

Nonetheless, there’s one query that begs to be requested. Efficiency on the final iPad Professional was nice as properly. Actually, there wasn’t actually any single app that pushed the iPad Professional to its restrict. It was already the quickest pill available on the market, and the M1 processor will make it much more so. However is there any motive it must be quicker?

A part of what limits the potential of the iPad Professional is iPadOS itself. Perhaps we’ll see some thrilling overhauls at WWDC in June to justify the inclusion of the M1.


Each units are designed for portability. The MacBook Air is Apple’s thinnest and lightest laptop computer, whereas the iPad Professional’s pill standing makes it simple to place in a bag and take wherever you go. The MacBook Air weighs in at 2.8 kilos and measures 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches. Its all-aluminum building retains it light-weight whereas nonetheless making it sturdy and durable, as you’d count on from an Apple laptop computer.

The 12.9-inch iPad Professional is the closest mannequin to the MacBook Air when it comes to dimension. Its Wi-Fi mannequin weighs 1.41 kilos, whereas the Wi-Fi and mobile model is available in at 1.42 kilos — half the burden of the MacBook Air. It measures 11.04 x 8.46 x  0.23 inches, placing its dimensions near these of the MacBook Air.

The 11-inch mannequin is a good quantity extra moveable, although, weighing simply 1.04 kilos and measuring 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches. It’s the one to go for if small dimension is necessary to you.

Apple claims the MacBook Air’s battery will final for as much as 15 hours of wi-fi internet shopping, as much as 18 hours of Apple TV playback, and as much as 30 days of standby time due to its built-in 49.9-watt-hour battery.

The iPad Professional doesn’t final fairly as lengthy, however it’s not far behind. Apple says each fashions can provide you as much as 10 hours of Wi-Fi internet shopping and video playback, or 9 hours of internet shopping utilizing a mobile community. The 11-inch mannequin has a 28.65-watt-hour battery in comparison with the 12.9-inch mannequin’s 40.88-watt-hour battery.

The app ecosystems

iPad Pro (2018) review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Traits

Large Sur and the introduction of the M1 chip mark the most important integration of MacOS and iOS’s app shops since Mac Catalyst. Catalyst allowed builders to simply port their iPad apps to Mac.

With Large Sur and M1, many iPhone and iPad apps now run natively in MacOS. Nonetheless, the expertise is blended, to say the least. The MacBook Air doesn’t have a touchscreen, so Apple has applied touchpad controls, that are complicated at greatest and irritating at worst. Builders additionally must choose in to permit their apps to seem on Mac, and customers will discover a lot of their favourite iPhone or iPad apps lacking as a result of the builders determined to not do it.

So, whereas there’s definitely progress being made, there’s nonetheless a stable divide between the 2 app ecosystems.

Configurations and value

Apple MacBook Air 2020

The MacBook Air’s configurations aren’t as sturdy as they had been final time round, however with the M1 chip being the one possibility, that’s to be anticipated. The bottom mannequin of the M1 MacBook Air consists of the M1 chip, 8GB of unified reminiscence, and a 256GB SSD. Customers can configure the 8GB mannequin with 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB SSDs as alternate options. You can too improve to 16GB of RAM, with the bottom mannequin of that beginning with a 512GB SSD. That may be upgraded to 1TB or 2TB.

For I/O, customers are simply as restricted as they’ve been up to now. You get two USB-C ports, the Magic Keyboard, the Pressure Contact trackpad, and a Contact ID sensor. The MacBook Air additionally helps Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. The webcam is identical dismal 720p decision we’ve all grown accustomed to.

The configurations are even much less versatile on the iPad Professional, the place customers solely decide the inner storage (although RAM does go up with storage). The bottom mannequin (in each sizes) begins with much less storage — simply 128GB. This may be elevated to 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and now 2TB with the brand new fashions. The entry-level 11-inch model with Wi-Fi and 128GB of storage prices $749; max it out with 2TB of storage and mobile connectivity and also you’ll have to pay $1,999.

In case you choose the 12-inch model, the entry-level mannequin begins at $1,099, whereas the top-end mannequin prices $2,299. That places the worth premium for shifting up from 11 inches to 12.9 inches at $200.

That’s a large value bounce from final yr, however take into account the 12.9-inch does include an improved show and each include 5G connectivity.

What about that snazzy new Magic Keyboard cowl for the iPad Professional? It’ll provide you with a tool that’s much more intently akin to the MacBook Air, however be warned — it’s extraordinarily costly. The 11-inch model prices a princely $299, whereas the bigger version is an eye-watering $349. Even with the 11-inch iPad Professional, you’re taking a look at paying a minimal of $1,098 for the mix, which is $99 greater than the entry-level MacBook Air.

The MacBook Air’s energy makes it the clear winner

Macbook Air M1
Mark Coppock/Digital Traits

We nonetheless suppose the MacBook Air is the most suitable choice for most individuals. Whereas having the M1 within the new iPad Execs is thrilling, we will’t advocate it for everybody till we see how iPadOS adjustments with the brand new chip. And whereas the Liquid Retina XDR show appears superior, at $1,099 it will not be essential for most individuals.

The MacBook Air isn’t as moveable because the iPad Professional, however it’s nonetheless skinny and lightweight and certainly not uncomfortable to lug round, however the M1 chip makes the MacBook Air worthwhile. Whereas it was once an honest laptop computer, it’s now a really succesful platform that may deal with video and photograph enhancing with ease, effortlessly opening tabs on Chrome on the identical time to optimize your expertise. Plus, whereas the mixing of apps could also be buggy now, it provides a number of potential for the longer term.

WWDC is arising in June, and that’s when Apple will announce any massive adjustments to iPadOS. Verify again regularly to seek out our overview of the brand new iPad Professional when it comes out.

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