Comparison between M2 Macbook Air and M1 iPad Pro [VIDEO]

After using the M2 MacBook Air for over a week, I’m excited to share how the M1 iPad Pro stacks up. Here’s everything you need to know.

Even though the M1 iPad Pro is a powerful machine, I still find myself using a MacBook Air for that 5% of the tasks I can’t easily do on an iPad. However, I still use both devices for all sorts of tasks from creative work on YouTube and professional work on corporate groups like Microsoft to custom CRM software and so much more.

For this reason, I feel in a perfect position to give some in-depth ideas about which “computer” is best for you and your workflow to help you decide between the new M1 iPad Pro and the new M2 MacBook Air.

For the sake of comparison, we are going to talk about the M1 iPad Pro with 256GB of storage. A baseline MacBook Air will set you back around $1,200. That’s with the latest M2 chip, 256GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM. The 256GB iPad Pro has 8GB of RAM, while its price also starts at $1,200 for the same configuration. In order to really be able to compare the M1 iPad Pro and the M2 MacBook Air, we’ll also need the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard accessory, which will add another $350 to the base price.

Adding this $350 accessory puts the M1 iPad Pro at $1,550, while the optional Apple Pencil costs an additional $130. Fortunately, there are third-party Bluetooth accessories that are much cheaper and work with the iPad. As with most Apple products, for the absolute best usability and functionality, you simply have to get the Magic Keyboard.

See the table below for a full price comparison:

MacBook Air M2 M1 iPad Pro (WiFi only
price storage RAM price storage RAM
1199 USD 256 GB 8 GB $1099 128 GB 8 GB
1,399 USD 512 GB 8 GB $1199 256 GB 8 GB
$1,599 1 TB 8 GB $1399 512 GB 8 GB
1999 dollars 2 TB 8 GB $1,799 1 TB 16 GB
$2,399 USD 2 TB 24 GB $2199 2 TB 16 GB

Comparing the M2 MacBook Air directly to the M1 iPad Pro is unfair given that the tablet needs quite a bit of extra hardware to be considered a “computer” in the same way – think of a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

The iPad Pro has some hardware features that may justify the higher price depending on how you use the tablet. The first is a 12.9-inch miniLED display. The ProMotion 120Hz monitor has a base brightness of 1,000 nits and a maximum brightness of 1,600 nits. For this reason, you don’t have to worry about using the iPad Pro in bright or sunny environments. Furthermore, the miniLED display on the iPad Pro is still the cheapest way to reach the level of quality Apple’s Pro Display XDR has. This puts the show in a league of its own.

In comparison, on the M2 MacBook Air, you get a 13.6-inch LED IPS Retina display. By itself, it is wonderful. When compared directly to the iPad Pro screen, you will easily notice the 60Hz refresh rate and 500 nits maximum brightness.

M2 Macbook Air Left, M1 iPad Pro Right

When discussing cameras, the iPad Pro easily wins. While you may not use the dual rear cameras, you can still have access to capable photo and video sensors. Even if you didn’t initially intend to use the rear camera setup, it is there as an option and more than capable if you need to use it.

It is clear that the M2 MacBook Air does not have rear sensors. The new MacBook Air has a new, upgraded 1080p webcam, and while it’s a nice upgrade, the iPad’s selfie camera is still about the MacBook Air’s camera. Furthermore, the iPad has a Center Stage built in. For security, the iPad makes use of FaceID, but the M2 MacBook Air includes Touch ID. Both biometric security options are very fast, but FaceID is passive, and requires no action from the user to unlock the device.

Hear for yourself in the video below, and you can hear that the iPad’s speakers are fuller, louder, and offer a larger base than the MacBook Air. They both technically have a quad speaker system but the iPad is just a better speaker system.

If you value ports and expansion, the M2 MacBook Air is the obvious choice. Apple has reintroduced MagSafe again on the MacBook Air, and this frees up an additional Thunderbolt port. This means you can connect two devices or accessories, while on the iPad, you can only access one port. This must be shared with power and data traffic but can be expanded with compatible USB-C hubs.

If you choose the Magic Keyboard, it is worth noting that there is a power port. However, it is only usable for power access and cannot be used as an additional access or expansion port for the iPad Pro. Despite having two ports, the MacBook Air still supports one external display with a resolution of up to 6K. The same is true with the iPad Pro, thanks to the addition of Stage Manager with iPad OS 16.

iPadOS 16 Stage Manager
iPadOS 16: Theater Manager

When discussing charging, battery life is one of the areas where you will notice the biggest difference. MacBook Air is an absolute champion when it comes to battery life. The Apple website claims that the M2 laptop has a maximum lifespan of 18 hours. In our testing, we couldn’t manage a full 18 hours, but after a full day of heavy use with third-party apps like Google Chrome and Microsoft Suite apps, the MacBook Air doesn’t have any issues. With this use case, we were still able to finish the day with about 50% battery left. In our opinion, you can take this on a weekend of heavy use and don’t need to bring a charger.

Unfortunately, the iPad Pro can’t compete here in the age bets. Under heavy use with the Magic Keyboard, we regularly run five to six hours before needing to find the charger.

When it comes to raw battery life, the M2 MacBook Air is the clear winner. Also, the iPad Pro’s maximum charging speed is rated at 33W compared to the MacBook Air which can charge up to 67W through MagSafe.

iPad Pro with the optional Magic Keyboard suite makes the iPad heavier and thicker than the MacBook Air. Although, it’s hard not to look at the iPad Pro, at least in terms of its versatility and overall portability. Not only is it a tablet for entertainment purposes, but it is also starting to become a powerful tool in the business for many.

In many ways, the iPad is still the “must have” device on the market. Having owned an iPad since 2018, I personally made this decision based on aesthetics. It’s light, fluffy and incredibly strong. In many ways, it still looks too good to be true. Sure, the new MacBook Air’s design is stunning in itself, but something about the iPad when paired with the Magic Keyboard — and its unique floating hinge design — feels like an even better package.

So from a pure hardware perspective – no matter the price – I feel the iPad Pro has the advantage. With greater versatility, better cameras on board, and a better screen it’s arguably a first-class piece of art, which is why Apple dominates this market segment.

In conclusion, which device is right for you still depends only on preference and price. In my opinion, I would choose the iPad Pro due to its portability, ease of use, and the fact that it is more fun to use in general. You have millions of apps on the App Store to choose from, so you can always find something useful or entertaining. It’s simply more versatile – it’s a tablet, digital notepad, computer, and game console all in one.

It’s hard to argue with the fact that many people just want a familiar laptop, that does everything from work to productivity, can be used on a daily basis, and has great battery life. For this group, I usually only recommend the MacBook Air for its cost-performance and familiarity ratio.

If you can afford both, the M1 iPad Pro and M2 MacBook Air complement each other perfectly thanks to features like sidecar, sweeping control, and the Apple ecosystem.

While the M1 iPad Pro is a great option for me, if I had to recommend a PC exclusively for the next five years, it would be hard to look beyond the M2 MacBook Air. It delivers powerful desktop-level performance in a portable chassis, with true desktop applications, great keyboard and touchpad, and external monitor support without compromise.

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