Last month, Apple upgraded both the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro. While neither update could be described as revolutionary, they were welcome for different reasons. For example, the MacBook Air ditched the much-maligned butterfly keyboard in favor of the same Magic Keyboard found on the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
The iPad Pro, in addition to getting a Magic Keyboard accessory of its own, also got an upgraded processor and some pretty nifty camera technology. Of course, Apple's latest update might have you wondering exactly which of the two you should consider if you happen to be in the market for a relatively affordable, yet powerful device.
I've spent the past two weeks with a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with 256GB of storage and the Smart Keyboard Folio, and a Core i3 MacBook Air, also with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, so I could compare them for you.
I'll cut to the chase--for most people, the MacBook Air is the laptop to get.
That doesn't mean that the iPad Pro isn't also pretty great. The problem is there really wasn't anything wrong with the previous version that this one fixes. My 2018 11-inch iPad Pro is already faster than most laptops I've used. Honestly, the biggest change to the newest iPad Pro is the introduction of real support for a mouse or a keyboard, and that's available on any iPad Pro running iOS 13.4.
Yes, the new iPad Pro also has a LiDAR scanner, but I'll give you $5 if you can tell me what that means--without Googling it. OK, no I won't, but I'm still pretty sure no one is buying an iPad Pro because it has a fancy laser camera.
The other issue is that in order to really make the iPad Pro comparable to a laptop, you have to add a keyboard, which is at least another $199.
The updates to the MacBook Air aren't extraordinary either, but then again, no one expects otherwise. It's the same MacBook Air. That's either a plus or a minus, depending on how you feel about the design, which has been around, with small variations, for over a decade.
Yes, the bezels are smaller; yes, it now has a Retina display; and yes, you can get it in space gray; but it's still the same sleek aluminum Air. It's also still sporting only two USB-C ports, one of which is taken anytime you have it plugged in to power. You're still going to need something like the HyperDrive USB-C adapter if you want to plug in much of anything or download an SD card.
However, the MacBook Air now has the new Magic Keyboard, which is enough of a reason to recommend this as the go-to laptop for anyone who doesn't need the extra power of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It really is that good. It also benefits from tenth-generation Core i5 processors that are plenty powerful for most people. If you're looking to edit photos or video on a regular basis, you're probably looking for a MacBook Pro anyway.
By the way, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is as good, if not better, than almost any laptop out there. It's just not that great as a tablet. It's too big. It's not comfortable to sit with on your lap. It isn't conducive to reading a book, the way I enjoy using my older and smaller 11-inch version. On that note, I actually prefer the 1.43:1 aspect ratio of the smaller iPad Pro over the 4:3 ratio on the 12.9-inch version.
The bottom line is still the same: You should probably get the MacBook Air. It's more affordable than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro for the same amount of storage and is fully capable of being the primary device most people need.