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.
- ↩I’m sure some Geekzone readers will answer the question with “none of the above”.
- ↩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.
- ↩In terms of raw processing power the MacBook is quite modest by 2015 standards. You wouldn’t choose one to run demanding applications.
- ↩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.