The New M1 iPad Pro NEARLY EQUALS the MacBook Air M1: Comparison

First off, the two fancy toys from Silicon Valley: iPad Pro 12.9 and 2021 Macbook Air inherit the latest custom silicon Apple M1 chip that gives them a jolt of processing power and a 40% better graphics performance. 

m1 chip

However, we want to give a go-over of the differences and similarities between the prototypical ultraportable laptop and the top-heavy iPad Pro hinged with Apple’s magic keyboard that is perfectly detachable.  

The decision ultimately rests on your work ethic and what you do every day on your laptop or your tablet. Some folks would find the Air their lucky charm while the Pro’s might actually drift over to iPad Pro. 

This decision for many has gotten a lot trickier to answer. So, if you are in the market for either, you have to weigh the specifics carefully. 

Read on to find out how these two speedy machines stack up mainly in terms of processor, memory, and storage.

We will also compare everything from the design, weight, portability, displays, keyboards, trackpads, and much more to figure out which one is worth spending your hard-earned cash on!

iPad Pro 12.9 2021 VS MacBook Air M1: The Price Battle

The new M1 iPad Pro 2021 kicks off with a starting model price of $799 for the 11-inch screen, while the 12.9 inch iPad version takes up the price to $1,099.

Contrarily, Apples’ M1 MacBook Air has a starting price of $999 for the base model (7-core GPU and 256 GB of SSD storage) and $1,299 for a beefier model with an improved M1 chip (8-core GPU) and twice the storage, you will better be ploughing in a lot of money. 

The M1-powered MacBook Air sports all the power of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard for hundreds of dollars less, so if you splurge for the brand new 12.9 inch iPad Pro and a matching Apples’ Magic Keyboard, you’re already paying an approximate $1,500.


And if you want to spice things up with a pixel-perfect, Apple-Esque designed stylus, you will run another $129

Apples M1 MacBook Air vs iPad Pro 12.9 2021: The Design 

The M1 MacBook Air shares the same chassis as its predecessors with its wedge shape design that is 4mm at its thinnest and 16mm at its thickest point. This helps it to shed volume compared to the M1 MacBook Pro making it light enough to carry and manoeuvre around.

M1 Air 2021 weighs 1.3kg or 2.8(Ibs) which is only a hair lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. MacBook Air features the latest keyboard design with a shallow, failure-prone butterfly keyboard which has impressive clickiness for feedback that is reliable and soft for long time usage. Similarly, the trackpad is nice and large and responds perfectly.

To the left and right of the keyboard, you have the speaker grills perfectly made for a massively thin laptop. This elevates the sound and makes sure the sound is balanced and clear between the two extremes. The Speakers Sound AMAZING!!


You have two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports and on the right is a 3.5mm audio jack connector. 

As a result, the M1 Macbook Air does everything so right as a laptop and has just enough body to be a wrist rest while typing but for people with larger hands, be ready to see some marks.

On the other spectrum, we have the iPad Pro with the same chip as the Apples Macbook Air 2021. The Apple tablet is 6.4mm thick and its sleek thin-bezel fronts and stark flat sides reduce the footprint and increase the screen-to-body ratio. 

The larger iPad Pro weighs 628g which is still lighter than a MacBook Air. For something tablet-sized, that is really good. However, if it has to replace your MacBook Air for desktop use, then we need to consider the Apple Magic Keyboard that has a delightfully mini trackpad. 

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Adding these engaging and attractive accessories to iPad Pro 12.9 takes up the net weight to 1.3kg in total. Therefore, you will end up marginally at the same weight as that of MacBook Air 2021. However, the luxury of detaching the Magic Keyboard from the iPad Pro is not something you will get in MacBook Air.

The Apple tablet M1 has a single USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port that is used for accessories and charging purposes. It entertains speaker grilles on its shorter ends with speakers on either end for a room-filling sound that automatically orients correctly whichever way you hold it. 

The Sheer Number of LEDs Packed in the iPad Pro 2021 Allows For A Better Contrast Control

Apples M1 MacBook Air vs iPad Pro 12.9 2021: Display

The MacBook Air has a standard Retina 2,560×1,600 display that’s sharp and crisp showcasing vibrant colours and sharp detail at a decent brightness level. However, the panel pixels might not be the ultimate choice because Dell XPS 15 has an advantage over it.

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The super-premium tablet from Apple has a TV-beating display with significantly improved brightness and contrast. Believably, the iPad Pro 12.9 packs more pixels than the MacBook Air’s excellent Retina display as there are 10,000 mini LEDs in the 12.9 -inch iPad Pro’s screen resulting in sharper image quality. The HDR-enabled screen has up to 1,600 nits of brightness at the peaks, and 1,000 across the whole screen making the display on iPad far superior. 

In addition, you will see that the black tones are immensely black and that elements such as white UI icons over dark backgrounds seem more vibrant and extra sharp because the screen is able to highlight them against the background more effectively. The MacBook in contrast has sharp pixels enough to watch movies and view photos but it is not noteworthy

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Both of the products include Apple’s True Tone tech. This adjusts the colour balance of the screen to match the ambient lighting to your surroundings. For example, a white screen will go with paper or something. This makes document reading or scribbling easier and better, hence, consistent colour performance from the screen. 

M1 iPad Pro VS M1 MacBook Pro: Camera

The five-element lens in iPad Pro bestows a high clarity and ultra-wide focus. Its ProMotion Technology and Ultra-Wide lens curate Center Stage technology for video calling that helps you stay laser-focused. 

On the other aisle, we have MacBook Pro that comes with a 720p regular output camera that is great for FaceTime but not for some real graphics compared with iPad Pro 2021. 

M1 iPad ProM1 MacBook Pro
Camera5 element lensWide: 12MP, ƒ/1.8 apertureUltra-wide: 10MP, ƒ/2.4 aperture720p FaceTime HD output
Video output4K video recording at different fpsOne external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz

M1 iPad Pro VS MacBook Air M1: Performance

Apple has continued its legacy of exceptional performance because its internals runs on an Apple M1 processor with an eight-core CPU, a seven-core GPU and Apple’s 16-core neural engine. You may call this raw information, but we’ll see how it actually performs. 

The eight-core desktop-class processor is incredibly powerful to handle whatever you throw at them. It switches instantly and keeps on working even while sleeping, pulling in new emails, updating apps, and generally taking care of business. 

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With the eight cores capable of running nearly 25,000 threads simultaneously and supporting up to 2.6 teraflops of throughput, according to Apple, the GPU manages highly demanding graphics calculations quickly, which translates to a smoother 4K and 8K video playback and 3D graphics and image rendering

While setting up the new M1 Air to test it out, I was smitten the moment I pressed the combo power/Touch ID button to wake it up. It woke instantly fast.


The device never gets hot and there’s no fan noise because there is no fan and there’s not much difference in thermal throttling during long workloads. 

According to the benchmark test, the iPad Pro outshines the MacBook Air when it comes to graphics processing power, but they perform relatively similar during general computing tasks. 

The MacBook Air and iPad Pro both achieved similar scores in Geekbench 5’s processor (CPU) test, which assess general computing performance. Here’s what the statistics show:

Geekbench 5 CPU3DMark Wild Life Stress Extreme
MacBook Air1,731 (single core), 7,644 (multi core)4,437 (best), 1,490 (lowest), 33.6% stability
iPad Pro1,722 (single core), 7337 (multi core)5,045 (best), 3,964 (lowest), 78.6% stability

Test and compare the performance of the latest iPhones and iPads with this free and easy-to-use benchmarking app 

The iPad Pro can be seen getting some good scores in the 3DMark Wilf Life Stress Extreme benchmark. It has also been tested that the iPad Pro exports large image files from Adobe Lightroom faster than the MacBook Air by some significant seconds. 

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Not only does the MacBook Air beat the previous model, but it also outweighs many mobile processors, especially in single-threaded performance. This makes the MacBook Air a viable option for complex tasks. 

The iPad Pro 2021 with an octa-core chip offers 50% faster CPU performance and 40% better graphics performance over the previous iPad models which also relied on the Apple A12Z Bionic processor. This time, Apple claims as much as 2x improvement in storage access speed for most tasks. 

This will produce better CPU and graphics performance translating to faster Augmented reality development, higher video frame rates, improved graphics speed and image editing and overall quicker operations. 

The iPad Pro is still superior in some ways – Face ID, FaceTime camera, and a touch screen, but the MacBooks are now getting close enough. Otherwise, they’re the same, even down to the fact that they’re both fanless designs, meaning there’s not much difference in thermal throttling during long workloads.

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iPad Pro 2021 vs MacBook Air M1: Battery life

The iPad Pro 12.9 inch and MacBook Air both deliver great battery performances, but the MacBook takes it on this one. Apple estimates that the MacBook Air lasts for 18 hours on a single charge, while the iPad Pro battery lasts out for 10 hours given the screen and other areas it gets used in. 

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We wish that the M1 chip can do the same for the iPad Pro’s battery life as it did for the MacBook Air M1, but Apple claims that for the present they’ll keep it up to 10 hours of battery of streaming or surfing the Web. We are not sure what the 2022 iPad Pro will bring up, but we’ll surely be satisfied with its battery deliverance.

M1 iPad Pro vs M1 MacBook Air: Software & Productivity

Software counts in the most between the iPad Pro and MacBook Air M1. The iPad Pro runs on iPadOS, while the Air is powered by macOS. The Apple tablet uses a mobile operating system designed specifically for the iPad while macOS is Apple’s desktop operating system. 

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Our editors claim that macOS is still superior to iPadOS when it comes to work and productivity. Since laptops were designed for a more traditional work ethic, MacBook Air has a windowed interface that makes it easy to transition between apps, web browsers tabs, and additional desktops. The experience makes the Apple laptop an overall better utility. 

When we compare iPad Pro with the Air, we see that the Pro has an edge over work-related features like the ability to use apps in split-screen mode, pin an app in a sidebar alongside the main app you’re working in. 

Your iPad Pro has a proper file manager for accessing documents on your tablet and in the cloud. It now supports Thunderbolt 4 for improved compatibility with peripherals. The now-added mouse and touchpad are back in 2020. 

To be more productive on your iPad Pro 2021, you need to spend some time making it your primary computer. Its multitasking gestures require some getting used to. To make things efficient, you can open multiple apps while also using apps that are specifically pinned to the dock at the bottom of the screen. 

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While our editor had no trouble clicking on any program on the dock or not while using another app and having it opened in a separate window, it was easier to resize and move window tabs to our liking on a MacBook. While the iPad Pro 12.9 we had purchased had us practice on Apple’s specific multitasking gestures, such as swiping left or right with four or five fingers to cycle between apps. 

We have found that the programs made exclusive for the iPad or designed specifically for the tablet won’t always work the same on a Mac device. The plethora of productivity and creative apps available on the iPad are really great, but the most popular ones are missing some features on the iPad Pro 12.9 inch. 

Microsoft Word, for example, has some real features like adding and updating citations that you’ll be missing out on the iPad version. These capabilities are available on Word for Mac and Windows. As such, we don’t consider it essential for every Word project, except for research and papers. Likewise, the iPad Pro 12.9 has lagged behind its sibling (Air) and has a different interface. 

Content creators or Creatives may benefit from the true powers of iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil support for sketching or levelling up the photos. As a whole, the MacBook Air 2021 has more gripping when it comes to apps and OS to use multiple programs at once, but the iPad has been seen as a more teasing option to ditch the MacBook Air. 

In terms of productivity-oriented tasks, MacBook Air is better off than the iPad Pro 12.9 inch. If you wish to use iPad Pro, just be a little sure that the programs or apps you want for work offers all the desired features you need to get the work done

The Bottom Line

The MacBook Air’s productivity and friendly software, sturdier keyboard, better battery life and portability make it the best choice for a desktop and college computer. The iPad Pro 12.9 is the best choice for camera and display and the elite stylus that does so well as a tablet. The versatility allows it to serve as a laptop or a desktop. 

The fact that you can hook your iPad to Apple’s excellent Magic Keyboard starts to look like the realization of the dream coming true: a magical tablet that also doubles as a great laptop.

But, for the most part, it comes with a hefty price tag of at least $1,500. At this price, you could get the top-line M1 MacBook Air with extra RAM or storage a built-in keyboard and a battery that can outperform the iPad Pro by quite significant numbers. 

The iPad Pro with the creative features doubles as a work machine and is a nice toy for a lot of people. If you need the best laptop and don’t care about the screen embellishment, a new M1 MacBook Air would be your best investment. 

So, What do you think?

Are cameras a priority for you or just a fast and lightweight machine with excellent battery life with one of the nicest logos that many admire at just $999?

Joe Warne
Joe Warne
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