iPad Pro (2020) vs. MacBook Air (2020): how each compares

Apple just announced a new iPad Pro and a new MacBook Air, but the iPad Pro’s optional new keyboard case with a trackpad makes picking between the two a lot harder. If you get the iPad Pro with the new case, called the Magic Keyboard, you’re choosing between two similarly sized portable computing devices with a keyboard and trackpad. (Though Apple insists the new iPad Pro is not a computer.)

The main thing to keep in mind is that one of those computing devices is still a tablet and one is still a laptop, and each is (right now) better-suited for some tasks than others. iPadOS, which came out last year, did bring a lot more computer-y features to Apple’s tablets, like a more powerful Files app, letting a single app have multiple windows, and showing websites in desktop mode in Safari.

But if you want to make the new iPad Pro your main computer, you’ll need to make sure it can do the things you might rely on with your laptop or desktop. For me, that usually means arranging my Chrome, Twitter, and Slack windows in such a way that I can easily bounce between them. Others might need a specific photo or video editing app for their work, and that app might be easier to use with a mouse.

The new Magic Keyboard’s trackpad could help you do a lot more of those more computer tasks, but at launch, it’s not likely to unlock all new use cases. It may make things like editing and selecting text easier right away, though.

Bottom line, nobody outside of Apple has actually used the case yet, and it’s not coming out until May, while the new iPad Pro comes out on March 25th. And the upcoming iPadOS 13.4 software adds full mouse and trackpad support, but that’s not out until March 24th, so we don’t yet know how well it will work in practice.

And the decision is even harder because the new MacBook Air looks like the upgrade we’ve wanted for years. It has a reliable scissor switch keyboard, 10th Gen Intel Ice Lake processors that should be just fine for most people, improved graphics, 256GB base storage (double the 128GB base that Apple has offered for a long time), and it starts at $999, which is $100 less than its predecessor.

If you’re agonizing over which to pick, one thing that might help is taking a look at the specs in the table below. But also keep in mind that if you opt for the new iPad Pro right now and plan to get the new Magic Keyboard when it’s out, know that you’re banking on an untested case and a hope that iPadOS 13.4 makes the iPad do everything you need it to do — and right now, we just don’t know if that’s true.

The iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard sounds like a super interesting device, but there are still a lot of unknowns. With the MacBook Air, however, there’s not a lot you don’t already know about it. In that regard, at least, making a decision between these two products hasn’t really changed at all.

This table is best viewed in landscape mode on mobile devices.

iPad Pro (2020) vs. MacBook Air (2020)

Category iPad Pro 11-inch iPad Pro 12.9-inch MacBook Air with 1.1GHz Dual-Core i3 and 256GB MacBook Air with 1.1GHz Quad-Core i5 and 512GB
Category iPad Pro 11-inch iPad Pro 12.9-inch MacBook Air with 1.1GHz Dual-Core i3 and 256GB MacBook Air with 1.1GHz Quad-Core i5 and 512GB
Starting price $799 $999 $999 $1,299
OS iPadOS 13.4 iPadOS 13.4 macOS Catalina 10.15.3 macOS Catalina 10.15.3
Display 11-inch (2388 x 1668) Retina display 12.9-inch (2732 x 2048) Retina display 13.3-inch (2560 x 1600) Retina display 13.3-inch (2560 x 1600) Retina display
Pixels per inch 264 ppi 264 ppi 227 ppi 227 ppi
Refresh rate Up to 120Hz Up to 120Hz Up to 60Hz Up to 60Hz
Dimensions 9.74 x 7.02 inches 11.04 x 8.46 inches 11.97 x 8.36 inches 11.97 x 8.36 inches
Thickness .23 inches .23 inches .16 to .63 inches .16 to .63 inches
Weight Wi-Fi: 471g; Wi-Fi + Cellular, 473g Wi-Fi: 641g; Wi-Fi + Cellular, 643g 1,290g 1,290g
Battery capacity 28.65 watt hours 36.71 watt hours 49.9 watt hours 49.9 watt hours
Processor A12Z Bionic A12Z Bionic 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3, configurable to 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 or 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core 1.5, configurable to 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
RAM TBA TBA 8GB or 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X 8GB or 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB PCIe-based SSD 512GB, 1TB, 2TB PCIe-based SSD
Ports USB-C (and another USB-C port with $299 Magic Keyboard) USB-C (and another USB-C port with $349 Magic Keyboard) Two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports Two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports
Rear cameras 12MP (F/1.8) wide angle, 10MP (F/2.4) ultrawide 12MP (F/1.8) wide angle, 10MP (F/2.4) ultrawide N/A N/A
Front cameras 7MP (F/2.2), 1080p 7MP (F/2.2), 1080p 720p 720p
LIDAR Yes Yes No No
Biometrics Face ID Face ID Touch ID Touch ID
Brightness 600 nits 600 nits TBA TBA
LTE Yes, with the $150 more expensive Wi-Fi + Cellular model Yes, with the $150 more expensive Wi-Fi + Cellular model No No
Power Adapter 18W USB-C 18W USB-C 30W USB-C 30W USB-C
Colors Space gray, silver Space gray, silver Space gray, silver, gold Space gray, silver, gold
Wi-Fi 6 Yes Yes No No
3.5mm headphone jack No No Yes Yes
Keyboard Add-on only Add-on only Yes Yes
Trackpad Yes, with $299 Magic Keyboard Yes, with $349 Magic Keyboard Yes Yes
Stylus support Yes, with $129 Apple Pencil or supported styluses Yes, with $129 Apple Pencil or supported styluses No No

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