Apple just announced a new iPad Pro and a new MacBook Air, but the iPad Pro’s optional new keyboard case with a trackpad makes picking between the two a lot harder. If you get the iPad Pro with the new case, called the Magic Keyboard, you’re choosing between two similarly sized portable computing devices with a keyboard and trackpad. (Though Apple insists the new iPad Pro is not a computer.)
The main thing to keep in mind is that one of those computing devices is still a tablet and one is still a laptop, and each is (right now) better-suited for some tasks than others. iPadOS, which came out last year, did bring a lot more computer-y features to Apple’s tablets, like a more powerful Files app, letting a single app have multiple windows, and showing websites in desktop mode in Safari.
But if you want to make the new iPad Pro your main computer, you’ll need to make sure it can do the things you might rely on with your laptop or desktop. For me, that usually means arranging my Chrome, Twitter, and Slack windows in such a way that I can easily bounce between them. Others might need a specific photo or video editing app for their work, and that app might be easier to use with a mouse.
The new Magic Keyboard’s trackpad could help you do a lot more of those more computer tasks, but at launch, it’s not likely to unlock all new use cases. It may make things like editing and selecting text easier right away, though.
Bottom line, nobody outside of Apple has actually used the case yet, and it’s not coming out until May, while the new iPad Pro comes out on March 25th. And the upcoming iPadOS 13.4 software adds full mouse and trackpad support, but that’s not out until March 24th, so we don’t yet know how well it will work in practice.
And the decision is even harder because the new MacBook Air looks like the upgrade we’ve wanted for years. It has a reliable scissor switch keyboard, 10th Gen Intel Ice Lake processors that should be just fine for most people, improved graphics, 256GB base storage (double the 128GB base that Apple has offered for a long time), and it starts at $999, which is $100 less than its predecessor.
If you’re agonizing over which to pick, one thing that might help is taking a look at the specs in the table below. But also keep in mind that if you opt for the new iPad Pro right now and plan to get the new Magic Keyboard when it’s out, know that you’re banking on an untested case and a hope that iPadOS 13.4 makes the iPad do everything you need it to do — and right now, we just don’t know if that’s true.
The iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard sounds like a super interesting device, but there are still a lot of unknowns. With the MacBook Air, however, there’s not a lot you don’t already know about it. In that regard, at least, making a decision between these two products hasn’t really changed at all.