While the iPad Pro and the 2015 MacBook have much in common, you’d choose one over the other for quite different reasons.

Computers don’t get more portable than Apple’s 12-inch MacBook. Tablets don’t come any more computer-like than the iPad Pro.

So which would you choose?1

In the end it comes down to whether you want a touch screen or not, your taste in keyboards and whether you can find the apps you need. Let’s look closer:

Computers don’t get more portable than Apple’s 12-inch MacBook.

Here we’re talking about full-blown computers with a half-decent keyboard2, 12-inch screen, desktop operating system and all the things that collective potted spec list implies.

Despite its 12-inch display, the 2015 MacBook is dwarfed by the 13-inch MacBook Air. It looks just as tiny next to the iPad Pro.

It is slim, light and silent. So slim, light and silent you might easily forget it is there. In fact I often did. Only last week I left home with the MacBook in a briefcase only to stop after a few minutes to check I hadn’t left it behind.

Unlike the MacBook Air, no fan starts humming when you push the processor too hard. Indeed, the 2015 MacBook barely warms up in use. You can rest it on your lap without burning your thighs.

For a while the MacBook felt like the future of personal computing. That was before I used the iPad Pro.

Tablets don’t come any more computer-like than the iPad Pro.

It may be an iPad, but when you add the keyboard case, it starts to feel a lot like a laptop.

Apple wasn’t first to realise the barriers between the classes of device are breaking down. Microsoft’s Surface Pro is now in its fourth generation and represents a credible alternative to both the MacBook and the iPad Pro.

The key to the iPad Pro is that it is far more powerful than the 2015 MacBook3. This is noticeable when running video or audio editing apps. It handles HD movie editing with aplomb. Complex graphics and photography jobs are a cinch. Add the Apple Pencil to this and you have a superb design tool.

My feeling is this is where developers will focus on the iPad Pro. I’ve seen demonstrations of architectural and medicine apps that push the graphics beyond anything you would find on a conventional laptop. The touch-screen interactivity takes this to a new level.

So which one?

If you want grunt, graphics or work with any creative apps, the iPad Pro stands head and shoulders above the MacBook in terms of raw capability. However, it runs iOS and that operating system still lacks the level of software support you will find in the OS X world. Some creative types may need to wait for their software developers to come up with iOS versions of their favourite apps.

If portability trumps everything, then the MacBook will be your first choice. The keyboard is better than the iPad Pro’s keyboard cover. Unlike the iPad Pro, it has a touch pad. This means you don’t need to constantly  lift your fingers from the keys and touch the screen4.

It’s early days for the iPad Pro, I’ve only had it in my hands for 24 hours, but I’m starting to think It could be my main portable device. That will depend on how I get on with the keyboard. All my important work apps are there and I find the bigger screen improves my overall productivity.

Which means it’s possible I may not need a new OS X computer. For the moment there are a few non-work apps that don’t exist in iOS. I’m due for a technology refresh in the middle of next year, right now I’m not sure which way I’m going to leap. But my next computer might not be a computer in the traditional sense.

For more recent thoughts read about the time I should have had more faith in my iPad Pro.


  1. I’m sure some Geekzone readers will answer the question with “none of the above”.
  2. This is controversial in some circles. Not everyone likes the 2015 MacBook keyboard. I’m a touch typist and I’ve used it for the last three months. During that time I have written around 100,000 paid words without a hitch. I never thought the keyboard was a problem. On the other hand, I’m writing this post using my MacBook Air and typing feels more comfortable. So maybe the critics have a point.
  3. In terms of raw processing power the MacBook is quite modest by 2015 standards. You wouldn’t choose one to run demanding applications.
  4. Since this was written I’ve changed my view about this. The point still applies, but apart from the need to touch the screen, the keyboard functions as well as the MacBook keyboard. See iPad Pro, 2015 MacBook, MacBook Air productivity.

7 thoughts on “Which mobile Apple: iPad Pro or 2015 MacBook?

  1. Tablets don’t come any more computer-like than the iPad Pro.

    Really? Communicating with the outside computer world is hardly the iPad’s forté. Android tablets are much better at it, and it’s one reason I ditched the iPad and joined the Android camp. Windows tablets are actually the most computer-like (albeit with a limited software selection).

    • It’s arguable whether Windows tablets are PC-like tablets or tablet-like PCs. Either way, they are computer like. But then so is the iPad Pro.

      From what I’ve seen, I’d be happy with a Surface, an iPad or a MacBook. I’ve seen some good Windows devices from HP and Lenovo among others. While I understand there are people who like Android tablets, they are not without merit, Android wouldn’t be my first or second choice.

  2. As always – thanks for the comparison review Bill! You always answer the questions I’ve not voiced. For now I’m just watching and learning. It will be a year or two before I can lay money down on anything in these budget ranges. One of my restrictions is always $$$ (who am I kidding – it’s all of my restrictions) Which means anything I get needs to be entry level 🙁 One day, one day… So current solutions are either Win tablet + keyboard or Android tablet + keyboard. Having done the Nextbook Windows 10″ jobby I’m almost regretting it: because Android understands small storage capacity MUCH better than Windows does. Additionally with Android: there’s an app for that. Windows: meh

  3. Will the iPad Pro work with the separate touchpad via bluetooth. I have one for my Air and it sits alongside the keyboard. Wouldn’t be without it especially as you can do all the gesture-based input there too (especially useful with voiceover).

    • Is that the Apple Bluetooth Touchpad? I’m not sure it will work. The spec sheet says it needs a Mac running OSX. I don’t have one myself to test. I can connect my other Bluetooth keyboards.

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