The new iPad Pro 2021 still can’t replace my MacBook Pro — here’s why

iPad Pro 2021 vs MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

The new iPad Pro 2021 will likely be the best tablet ever — again. And there’s a lot to recommend this slate, including the fact that it packs the same M1 chip as the latest MacBook Pro M1

The iPad Pro’s mini-LED display also looks like it will put my MacBook Pro’s panel to shame, The Liquid Retina XDR packs 10,000 LEDs into its 12.9-inch screen, boasting 1600 nits of peak brightness and a 1 million-to-1 contrast ratio.

Add in optional 5G connectivity, Thunderbolt support and a new 12-MP ultra wide front camera that keeps you in the frame during video chats, and you have lots of reasons to consider making the switch from a MacBook Pro to an iPad Pro.

However, even with all of these advantages, I’m sticking with my MacBook Pro and am waiting for the new MacBook Pro 2021. Here’s why.

The iPad Pro's very high price

iPad Pro 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro just jumped up in price from $999 to $1,099 — and that’s just for the tablet. If you want a Magic Keyboard to go with that (which would be essential for me), the total suddenly soars to $1,448. Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299.

Note that the iPad Pro starts with just 128GB of storage, while the MacBook Pro has 256GB. It will cost you another $100 to get 256GB on the iPad Pro. Apple Pencil? That will be an extra $129, please.

I’d probably skip the Pencil, but if I got the same amount of storage as the M1 MacBook Pro and the Magic Keyboard, the difference in price would be $249.

macOS still beats iOS on multitasking

iPad Pro multitasking

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad has gotten better at multitasking over the last few years, and I like that the home screen can now show more info with the redesigned widgets and Smart Stack feature. In addition, the app design has improved, with pull-down menus for quickly accessing more functions. 

However, for pure multitasking I still prefer macOS. Yes you can work on a couple of different apps at the same time in iPad OS, but features like Slide Over and Split View don’t offer the same versatility as a full-fledged desktop OS. 

I don’t expect Apple to morph iPadOS into macOS, but if would be great if the iPadOS interface automatically transformed to a "window-friendly" mode when you attached the Magic Keyboard.

iPad Pro battery life vs. Mac laptops

Apple rates the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro for 10 hours of surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, which is the same as the previous version. That’s pretty good endurance, but the MacBook Air M1 is rated for 15 hours of wireless web and the MacBook Pro M1 has a claimed 17 hours of battery life.

In our MacBook Air M1 review, Apple's laptop lasted a very impressive 14 hours and 41 minutes — that's quite close to Apple’s lofty claims. The MacBook Pro M1 hit an even higher 16:32. I’ll take 4.5 to 6.5 hours of extra juice over the new iPad any day of the week.

Tiny touchpad on the Magic Keyboard

iPad Pro 2021 vs MacBook Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro offers remarkably good travel for a tablet accessory, but its touchpad is tiny compared to the trackpad on the MacBook Pro. A bigger trackpad gives you more room for scrolling, selecting text and anything else you might want to do.

Granted, the iPad Pro 2021 features a touch screen, while the MacBook Pro makes do with a lame Touch Bar that doesn’t do much. But when I’m in productivity mode I’d rather have the larger touchpad. 

A lack of iPad Pro ports

iPad Pro 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

I’m glad that the new iPad Pro 2021 supports Thunderbolt, which means you can now connect external storage, displays and docks. You can even connect Apple’s 6K Pro Display XDR display — if you happen to have the budget.

However, a single port won’t cut if for me. When I’m at home, I’m usually fine for a single port for connecting my CalDigit dock, which connects everything from my microphone and webcam to a ring light. But when I’m on the move, I would not want to be limited to the iPad Pro’s single port.

The MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, plus a headphone jack. 

Bottom line: iPad Pro vs. MacBook Pro

There are some things I find very tempting about the new iPad Pro, including its mini-LED display and optional 5G connectivity. Plus, the iPad Pro supports Face ID, while the MacBook Pro still relies on Touch ID.

Speaking of cameras, the MacBook Pro really needs an upgrade to 1080p; the 12MP sensor and 122-degree field of view on the iPad Pro seem much better suited for video calls. 

But for now I’m sticking with the MacBook Pro, especially with a new rumored 14-inch MacBook Pro on the way with its own mini-LED display. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • A_P
    The only really important bullet here is the lack of desktop interface.

    And what the author missed is inferiority of most iPad apps compared to their desktop equivalents.

    What Apple needs to do is to merge iPadOS and macOS and make every single Mac app run on iPad.