Workflow. That’s what using a Mac is all about. We Mac users have specific applications to accomplish specific tasks. Some of them– Safari, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Notes, and others, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote– work much the same, Mac or iPad.
What’s different with everything else is workflow. How we do what we do with the apps we use do it. If you’ve used an iPad and a Mac then you know the shortcomings and advantages of the former, and the capabilities of the latter. I’m here to tell you that an iPad Pro can replace a Mac. Just maybe not your Mac or your workflow.
The iPad has come a long way since 2010. Today’s iPad Pro models are more powerful that entry-level MacBooks and compete well on benchmarks with mid-range MacBook Pro models. If you’ve never used an iPad Pro with iOS 11 then you’re in for a treat, mostly thanks to the Files app and the new Dock.
iPad Pro can be very Mac like. Add a Smart Keyboard or Bluetooth keyboard with keys made for iOS and you’re, well, getting there. I’m not a keyboard fanatic so I don’t have much of a favorite because I bounce around during the day from one machine to another. I know some Mac users with special keyboards that work with specific applications better than the generic iMac keyboards or those on the Mac notebooks.
I found an iOS compatible Bluetooth keyboard on Amazon for $20. It feels as good as most Bluetooth keyboards for Mac or Windows and about the same as the iMac’s wireless keyboard. Pairing it with my iPad Pro was easy enough, and the keyboard is so thin and light I can carry it in the neoprene zip sleeve I used for my MacBook Pro. Both fit easily inside (I added an inexpensive case to the iPad Pro; $17 on Amazon).
So far, I’ve added $37 for case and keyboard. The iPad Pro itself, the 12.9-inch model with 256GB of SSD storage is $949. Grand total, $986. A comparable, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and 256GB of SSD storage is $1,799. It also requires the same $17 neoprene carrying case. Grand total, $1,816. That’s an $830 difference.
Both iPad Pro and MacBook Pro have the basics beyond storage, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Facebook and AirDrop, and about 10 hours or so battery life with normal usage. The screen size is about the same but the iPad Pro’s screen is fabulous– but not capable of driving additional 4K displays the MacBook Pro can do.
For hardware, both are comparable but different. The iPad Pro weighs about a pound less (1.5 pounds itself, plus a case). The iPad’s camera is far better on both front and back.
And, yes, the Mac is a far more capable device. It can run professional grade applications which you just won’t find on the iPad App Store. Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro X, Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design, and many other apps do not have similar apps that run on the iPad. The Mac an also run Windows and all Windows applications, plus most flavors of Linux and Unix, and all at the same time. Sorry, the iPad can’t perform those tricks.
That said, only a small percentage of Mac users bother with Windows or Linux or the aforementioned professional grade applications. Instead, most of us– Mac and Windows users– have adapted to a workflow that includes Microsoft Office– with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint– or Apple’s own iWorks counterparts, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps.
All of those have capable counterparts for iOS and perform very well on the iPad Pro. If you use Office for Mac regularly but are not a power user, then you will find yourself at home on an iPad Pro with Office apps.
More applications are available for iPads than the Mac but tend to scale toward easier to use applications rather than the professional apps mentioned earlier. Both iPad Pro and MacBook Pro are mobile, but the former is easier to use almost anywhere than the latter.
iPad Pro usability from keyboard to screen is different than using a MacBook Pro with trackpad and keyboard. Some functions are the same, but fingers don’t need to move from the Mac’s keyboard except for Touch Bar and Touch ID. iPad Pro users will exercise a few arm and shoulder muscles often, but not enough to develop tendonitis.
To be honest, I’m impressed by how much I can squeeze some of my Mac’s workflow into iOS, how much I can get done on an iPad Pro with Files and Dock (the inexpensive and lightweight Bluetooth keyboard helps immensely). We can argue until the cows come home about which is better– MacBook Pro or iPad Pro– but we have to acknowledge they’re different strokes for different folks with different workflow.
iPad Pro, with the new Files app and the Dock, have closed the gap with entry-level MacBook models, thanks to an awesome display, fast CPU and storage, incredibly competent graphics capability, commonly used applications that span platforms, a lower price tag, and better mobility.
Alas, for now I remain a devoted Apple customer who carries a Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Watch, all of which work well together, and if I had to drop one device it would still be the iPad.