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iPad vs Laptops For School (2021): Can iPads Replace Laptops For School Use?

With keyboards and accessories now available for iPads, many students and teachers ask: Can an iPad replace laptops for school use? Which is better? There is no simple answer to this age-old question. To cut to the chase, it is highly likely that an iPad can replace laptops for basic school tasks. We weigh in on the pros and cons of using an iPad or a laptop for school to help you decide which better suits your needs. We also list some of the best iPads and laptops for school use that fit different budgets.

Apple iPad vs Laptops For School: Pros and Cons

The Apple iPad is more lightweight and portable, but laptops are more efficient for complex school tasks

Jot down notes with the Apple Pencil and conveniently search your handwritten notes using your iPad

To help you decide whether you should get an Apple iPad or a laptop for school use, we break down their advantages and disadvantages:

Pros of iPads for School Use

  • More portable and lightweight
  • Versatile as it can work as a tablet and as a laptop when used with a keyboard
  • Great for reading digital books while on the go
  • Can be used with the Apple Pencil or other compatible stylus for annotation or jotting down handwritten notes
  • Allows light editing of photos, videos, and audio files
  • Comes with high-resolution cameras for taking pictures of notes or for Augmented Reality apps
  • More affordable than MacBooks and other premium laptops

Cons :

  • Not the best for arts and design students
  • Not as efficient as laptops when doing complex tasks such as coding, editing, web development, and similar tasks
  • Storage is limited, so cloud storage may be required
  • Use of spreadsheets is more limited and less efficient when using an iPad
  • Accessories such as keyboard, mouse, or stylus are bought separately

Apple iPad (10.2 inch)

Pros of MacBooks / Laptops for School Use

  • More efficient and can perform an array of complex computing tasks such as video/audio editing, programming, coding, web development, graphic design, etc.
  • Usually has a more powerful processor than an iPad
  • Typically comes with more internal storage
  • Supports more programs and software
  • Documents, spreadsheets, and other Microsoft Office tools are easier to use on laptops as their app versions are limited
  • Bigger screen options are available
  • Better for multi-tasking, as having multiple tabs open is easier than having to switch through apps


  • Not quite as portable as an iPad
  • Cannot double as a camera, as laptops typically only have front-facing cameras
  • Most MacBooks and premium laptops are more expensive than iPads

If you only require basic needs such as typing, editing, note-taking, web browsing, video streaming, and the like, the Apple iPad can easily replace your laptop for school use. However, if you perform more productivity, audiovisual editing, and coding tasks, you might find the iPad wanting. Sure, there are apps you can download that will let you edit videos, photos, and code, but using the laptop or MacBook for these school tasks is simply more efficient.

Apple MacBook Air Laptop (13-inch)

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Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020 model)

The ultra-lightweight Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020 model) packs power in its sleek body. It features up to a 4-core Intel i7 processor and up to 1TB of storage.

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Should You Get an iPad or a Laptop for School?

The iPad is a good companion device if you have a desktop or computer in the laboratory that you often use for more complex computing tasks.

ipad vs laptop for school
Whether to get an iPad or laptop for school depends on your specific computing needs and budget

For students whose major requires more powerful computing, a laptop is a better purchase for school use. As shown in our breakdown of their pros and cons above, the iPad can replace your laptop if your school work typically includes casual typing, editing, creating slide presentations, and emails.

However, if your degree includes advanced computing, such as engineering, programming, graphic design, film, etc, getting a laptop is the safer bet. Even if your school work typically requires complex spreadsheets, you may want to get a laptop instead of an iPad as apps don’t always have the same functionalities. Perhaps a reason why you may still want to opt for an iPad despite the need for a powerful computer is if your school has a computer laboratory you can use anytime or you have a desktop at home.

If you know people from the program you’re planning on pursuing, asking them is always a good idea. They can advise you on the software and programs they typically use so you are better guided in your decision.

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Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020 model)

The ultra-lightweight Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020 model) packs power in its sleek body. It features up to a 4-core Intel i7 processor and up to 1TB of storage.

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We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.
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Best iPads and Laptops For School Use

We narrowed down the list of iPad, MacBook, and Windows laptop models that are great for school use and will fit different budgets

Best iPads for school: 10.5 inch iPad Air and 10.2 inch iPad

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Both the 10.5-inch iPad Air and the 10.2-inch iPad are solid Apple tablet options that also carry reasonable price tags. The 10.5 inch iPad Air is equipped with the Apple A12 Bionic chip, making it faster than the 10.2 inch iPad that runs on the older A10 Fusion chip. They can handle casual computing tasks well and load graphics fast. Pair them with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard and you can type, edit, design, and more with your iPad anywhere.

Best MacBook laptops for school: 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro

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The 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are the best Apple laptops for school use as they are lightweight, sleek, and can handle more complex computing tasks and programs than the iPad. Students who require a powerful laptop can get the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Despite its compact size, the MacBook Pro packs a 1.4GHz Quad-Core 8th-generation IntelΒ Core i5 processor.

If you want a lighter and more affordable alternative, the 13-inch MacBook Air will suit you better. While not as powerful as the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air’s 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor can handle most demanding computing tasks well. Both are available in 256GB and 512GB storage options.

Best Windows laptops for school: Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook and ASUS ZenBook 13

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The Dell XPS 13 and the ASUS ZenBook 13 have effectively combined portability with powerful performance and a reasonable price. They weigh less than 3 lbs, perfect for students who need to carry their laptops around the school. Both Dell XPS 13 and the ASUS ZenBook 13 have a 13.3-inch Full HD display.

These Windows laptops are further equipped with 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8565U CPU, thus they can handle processor-intensive tasks without issues. Between the Dell XPS 13 and the ASUS ZenBook 13, the ASUS offers overall better value for your money as it boasts 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage.

Best budget 2-in1 laptops for school: Microsoft Surface Go & Lenovo Flex 14

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Students who only do casual school tasks such as typing, editing, and web browsing will find the Microsoft Surface Go or Lenovo Flex 14 a worthwhile purchase. They are not as light as an iPad, but these laptops are portable enough for school use. The 10-inch Microsoft Surface Go is one of the lightest hybrids, weighing only 1.15 pounds. Get the Surface Signature Type Cover and stylus for the Microsoft Surface Go and you have a great laptop for school use that you can also use for writing in-class notes.

Meanwhile, the 14-inch Lenovo Flex 14 has a larger display and offers great value for your money. It boasts up to 10 hours of battery life and comes with an active Lenovo Pen stylus so you can annotate and jot down hand-written notes. Both the Microsoft Surface Go and the Lenovo Flex 14 are also well-built so they can withstand the everyday rigors of school life.


πŸ“Œ Is the iPad Air faster than the regular iPad?

The 10.5 iPad Air boasts an Apple A12 Bionic chip as opposed to the regular, 10.2 inch iPad’s A10 fusion chip. This allows it to load graphics faster and handle computing tasks more efficiently.

πŸ“Œ What’s the main advantage of using an iPad for school?

The main draw of an iPad is its portability and ease-of-use.

πŸ“Œ Is a laptop better than the iPad for editing videos?

You can carry out much more complex editing through a laptop. However, the iPad does come with really great and comprehensive third-party video editing software.

πŸ“Œ How much battery life do I get from the ASUS Zenbook 13?

The ASUS Zenbook 13 offers up to 14 hours of battery life.

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Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Former Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about food, people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.