The 12.9-inch iPad Pro and MacBook Air: They’re more alike than you think.
Scott Stein / CNET
It’s been almost five years since I’ve written a passionate story about how Macs and iPads came together. I’ve been thinking about such thoughts since … well, since the iPad came out in 2010. It’s now 2021, and iPads and Macs are still two completely different Apple product lines. But the merger is in full swing. It’s just a series of very slow steps.
I have always imagined the iPad as the most likely path to the computer that I would prefer in an ideal future universe. But I’ve used Apple’s latest M1 MacBook Air and it changed my mind. The Laptop It may not have an exciting design, but it is extremely fluid and immediately functional. It almost feels perfect. And even the entry-level 8GB RAM I’ve tried seems more than enough to handle almost anything I need.
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The M1 Macs, using Apple’s own chips, point to a future where the line between Macs and iPads will actually become very blurred. It’s likely that Apple will announce new versions of its iPad Pro sometime in the spring, a year after the relatively minor changes in the 2020 version. What would i expect What would i want In a post-MacBook M1 world, I started to think very differently about the iPad.
On the way to a new iPad, the MacBook M1 has already changed my perspective. Distorting a famous quote Attributed to William GibsonI see the same thing about Apple’s future computers.
When the Magic Keyboard is enabled, the dimensions of the Air and iPad Pro become pretty similar. And yet different.
Scott Stein / CNET What is an iPad now that the Mac is also immediately available?
I now use the MacBook more first of all. It’s quick to start, doesn’t hang or blow fans, and battery life wins over everything. The iPads had this advantage over Macs before, but now I’m starting to think … What else could an iPad do for me?
The MacBook is easier for Zoom meetings. I can prop it up without a case and the camera is in the correct orientation. Plus, everything from Zoom theatrical performances to writing classes can be done more easily. The iPad has to acknowledge our new zoom life, taking into account both the placement of the camera and the ease with which browsers and programs can run side by side and don’t feel as if they were isolated. On iPads, the experiences still feel too easy for my needs. On a MacBook, I can plug in a monitor and double my screens.
The iPad wins through portability … just about. With a keyboard case, the iPad Pro is nowhere near as light or thin as you might think. In the end, the 12.9-inch iPad feels the same as a MacBook Air, but is even denser.
The natural strengths of the iPad on display and touchscreen … how far could they go?
The iPad has a better display, better camera, and better sounding speakers. It has facial recognition, which I like more on a home tablet than on a phone. I prefer to watch movies even if the aspect ratio is more square. I also prefer games on an iPad. And of course the touch and pencil support on iPads is excellent. There are many apps, documents I need to e-sign, and photo editing projects that I would rather do on an iPad. With MacBooks without touchscreen or pen input, I sometimes feel distant from the experiences on my screen. Using a mouse or a touchpad is not always enough.
New iPad models are expected to use mini LED technology for a potentially improved display. The iPad Pro display already looks great, but the OLED displays on iPhones still look better (if they’re smaller).
Scott Stein / CNET iPadOS needs to transform into something similar to MacOS
Last year the iPad added touchpad and mouse support, which made a huge difference in how I use the iPad with a keyboard case. With a Magic Keyboard (or a Logitech case) everything finally feels like one Laptop on – if I want to.
iPadOS may never look like Mac, but it should keep evolving to meet Macs halfway through. I want (and expect) better ways to use apps for multitasking and ultimately, real monitor support for second screens (iPads mostly mirror themselves right now unless a specific app uses it).
iPads present apps faster and easier than Macs, so my kids can use them quickly. However, iPads still don’t have multiple modes or accounts so kids can set up their own space. Or I can customize my own workspace when I go on the same iPad.
Most of all, I want better ways to access stored files. The Files app is a start, but I’m still very limited in how easily I can download and organize, bundle, and share documents, videos, and photos with others when needed.
If the next iPad Pro gets an M1 chip, why can’t these things happen?
It’s likely that the next iPad Pro will have a processor identical to the current MacBooks … or a new A-series chip that is so spiritually close that it feels the same. The iPad’s processor has been extremely powerful for years. After the new Macs showed what M1 chips are really capable of, the iPad can no longer do – and also handle more multitasking.
There’s no reason why an iPad couldn’t be my everyday computer. Apple just needs to take off the rest of the training wheels.
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