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iPad vs MacBook Air (2021): Can the New iPad Pro Replace the MacBook Air?

Despite the cancellation of the March 2020 Apple event, the Cupertino-based giant still unveiled the latest additions to its iPad and MacBook lines: the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Air. Apple’s release of a trackpad-equipped Magic Keyboard for the new iPad Pro has made choosing between the two even more challenging. We unpack their specs and features to help you decide which one to get.

Apple iPad vs MacBook Air Comparison Chart

 iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2020 model)MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020 model)
 Amazon product Amazon product 
 Amazon product Amazon product 
11.04″ x 8.46″ x 0.23″
(280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9 mm)
0.16–0.63″ x 11.97″ x 8.36″
(0.41–1.61 x 30.41 x 21.24 cm)
WeightWiFi: 1.41 lbs / 641 g
WiFi + Cellular: 1.42 lbs / 643 g
2.8 lbs / 1.29 kg
ProcessorA12Z Bionic chip with 64-bit architectureDual-Core Intel Core i3
Quad-Core Intel Core i5
Quad-Core Intel Core i7
Operating SystemiPadOSmacOS
Display12.9-inch Liquid Retina13.3-inch Retina
Resolution2732 x 20482560 x 1600
Pixel Density264 ppi227 ppi
Built-in CellularAvailableNo
Rear CameraWide: 12MP
Ultra Wide: 10MP
Front Camera7MP720p FaceTime HD camera
LiDAR ScannerYesNo
Magic KeyboardCompatibleYes
Apple PencilCompatibleNo
Touch ID / Face IDYesYes
Battery LifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 11 hours
Storage CapacityFrom 128GB to 1TBFrom 256GB to 2TB
Space Gray
Space Gray

Design and Display

The 12.9″ iPad Pro has a slightly smaller display than the 13.3″ MacBook Air; the iPad Pro doubles as a tablet and laptop if paired with the Magic keyboard

design and display ipad vs macbook air
Both the iPad Pro (left) and the MacBook Air (right) boast True Tone Display

Consistent to Apple’s sleek, elegant design, the new iPad Pro and MacBook Air sport slim bezels and premium aluminum finishes. While they don’t have a significant difference in display size, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro offers slightly more vivid colors than the MacBook Air. The iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina display has a max resolution of 2732 x 2048 and a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch (PPI). On the other hand, the 2560 x 1600 resolution of the 13.3-inch MacBook Air gives it a pixel density of 227 PPI.

Another area where the iPad Pro trumps the MacBook Air’s display is in its screen’s refresh rate. With up to a 120Hz refresh rate, you can expect a better viewing and scrolling experience in the iPad Pro than the 60Hz refresh rate of the MacBook Air. Both the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air boast True Tone display that adjusts the screen’s brightness depending on your lighting.

magic keyboard for ipad and macbook air

A major highlight in the new iPad Pro and the MacBook Air (2020) is their Magic Keyboard. The MacBook Air has upgraded from its butterfly keyboard to the Magic Keyboard that elevates your typing experience. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro is compatible with the Magic Keyboard which can be bought separately, just like the compatible Apple Pencil. If you intend to get the Magic Keyboard with the iPad Pro, expect the pair to weigh almost the same as the MacBook Air (depending on your chosen configuration).


The iPad Pro (2020) is powered by Apple’s A12Z Bionic chip while the MacBook Air is available in a 10th gen quad-core Intel Core i7 configuration

performance ipad vs macbook air
The iPad Pro (left) and the MacBook Air (right) boast significant upgrades, power-wise

If you’re waiting to upgrade your older iPad or MacBook Air, now’s a good time to do so. Both the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air offer significant upgrades from the previous models in terms of computing power. The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is equipped with Apple’s bespoke A12Z Bionic chip. While it’s not a jump from the A12 to the A13 chip found in the latest iPhone 11 series, its 64-bit architecture and eight-core GPU allow the iPad Pro to handle multitasking and graphics-intensive apps smoothly.

Meanwhile, the 2020 MacBook Air boasts double the CPU performance of the 2019 MacBook Air. In addition, Apple claims that the new MacBook Air’s graphics performance is 80 percent better. The entry-level 2020 MacBook Air runs on a dual-core Intel i3 processor. The top-tier Air is equipped with a quad-core Intel i7 processor, giving it power that’s almost comparable to the MacBook Pro.

Cameras and Storage

The 2020 iPad Pro comes with two rear cameras and 4K video recording while the MacBook Air only has a 720p front camera

ipad pro camera and macbook air front cam
Unlike the new iPad Pro (left), the 2020 MacBook Air (right) doesn’t have a rear camera

Catering to the creatives’ need to capture stunning videos and photos, the new iPad Pro comes with a 12MP wide camera and 10MP ultra-wide camera. Its 7MP front camera doesn’t slack either as it can also record 1080p videos at 30fps or 60fps like the rear cameras. On the other hand, the 720p front camera of the 2020 MacBook Air is not as impressive. Perhaps the lack of upgrade stems from the fact that most MacBook users only use its camera for video calls or Face ID.

Where the MacBook Air edges out the iPad Pro is in their storage configurations. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s storage capacity starts from 128GB up to 1TB. Meanwhile, the 2020 MacBook Air’s SSD storage configuration starts at 256GB and an impressive 2TB configuration is also available. If you’re getting the powerful Air model, it’s a good idea to upgrade a bigger capacity.

Battery Life and Additional Features

The new MacBook Air has slightly longer battery life than the iPad Pro; the iPad Pro is equipped with a LiDAR scanner

Expect a better augmented reality experience with the new iPad Pro’s LiDAR sensors

Both devices provide long battery life so you can work anytime while on the go. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a runtime of up to 10 hours when doing casual tasks such as browsing and video and music playback. Meanwhile, the MacBook Air offers a slightly longer 11 hours of usage when surfing the web and it can last for up to 30 days on standby.

A unique feature found in the new iPad Pro that’s not in the MacBook Air is the addition of LiDAR sensors that work with its cameras. This improves the augmented reality experience and opens up more app development possibilities for gaming, design, education, and more.


The new iPad Pro is more versatile and offers more features, but the MacBook Air is more cost-effective and has an option to upgrade to more powerful configurations

Amazon product

Undoubtedly, the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro can perform a range of computing tasks that the 2020 MacBook Air can. The Mac Catalyst and the release of the Magic Keyboard further narrow the gap between the two Apple devices. Choosing between the two will largely depend on your budget, usage requirements, and the software you often use. It is worth noting that the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro also costs a pretty penny.

If cost is no object and programs you often use have an almost identical app version, the iPad Pro is the clear choice for you. In addition, most artists and designers will benefit from the LiDAR sensors and compatible Apple Pencils of the new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. These features are missing in the MacBook Air. However, if the programs you use work better on a laptop or you’re after a more cost-effective Apple computer, get the MacBook Air 2020 model instead.


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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.