iPad Pro or MacBook Pro for studies?

MacKing Blog

You've come a long way, baby

When Apple's iPad was first introduced in 2012, it was quite rightly hailed as a wonder of modern science. Lovely as it was, however, it was little more than a superannuated iPhone. Granted, a nice big touchscreen, but surely not a serious replacement for the laptop?

Ten years is a long long time in technology, and the iPad is now a very serious bit of kit, especially since the introduction of the iPad Pro in 2015. Over the years, everything got better, more powerful, and crucially, third party developers were now able to join the ...er...party. Paired with a compatible keyboard, iPad could now almost become a laptop (albeit in two bits), and the introduction of the Apple Pencil created exciting new possibilities in graphics and design.

Who's the daddy?

As a grumpy-old-sod parent of six, I'm really directing this at the older generation - or to put it more accurately, I'm aiming at the people who'll be paying for this. You've done the nappies, the sleepless nights, the schooling, the sandwich making, the dreaded teenage years and now you're packing them off to uni with an expensive computer. So which one, and how expensive?

If your beloved progeny are anything like mine, they'll break things. They'll lose things. They'll splii drinks on them and drop them. So.....don't buy new! Buy refurbished. Learn a bit of basic computer maintenance, because they won't (see my other blogs about this). In short, like your whole parenting experience, expect trouble.

A brand spanking new Apple machine is certainly a glorious thing, but are they really going to need all that power? Are they flying to Mars or doing a degree in psychology? A refurbished Macbook Pro or iPad Pro, carefully chosen, will save you ££.

Rant over.

The first thing to understand is the basic difference between how these two machines work.

Softly softly

iPad Pros work on the iOS platform, whereas MacBook Pros work on MacOS. These two operating systems are distinct (but related) cousins. Both platforms have excellent support and security from Apple, but it still broadly remains the case that many popular apps have increased functionality in their MacOS versions (MS Word and Photoshop to name two). It's worth bearing this in mind, depending on what the intended use is.

Cash and carry

An iPad is an elegant and robust device with no moving parts (to break, darling).

In terms of performance, it's becoming a closer and closer call between the two platforms, but generally the MacBook Pro (MBP) still edges it in many areas.

An iPad Pro is significantly lighter and more portable than an MBP, and it's also significantly cheaper. Hurrah!


Extra, extra

That lovely iPad touchscreen is more than capable of data input, but for (say) long essay writing, a keyboard is a no-brainer - it'll be much easier, and faster, to use. If the intended area of use is heavily graphics-based, you might also want to consider an Apple Pencil. That will involve more money, more stuff to carry around as well as being more things to lose (or break, darling).

Connected and stored

The most obvious difference between these two devices is connectivity and storage. A refurbed MBP will potentially have much greater local storage, and given the two to four ports (depending on model), external storage is both easy and cheap. Not so with an iPad - it's designed to be a physical connectivity minimalist, relying on Bluetooth and cloud use. Having said that, much study work is now be cloud based - again, it depends in the nature of your studies.

Also, MBPs have a dedicated headphone jack - not so with iPads. Both platforms do, however, support the use of Bluetooth audio outs ('Dad, can you buy me some Air pods?').

Consider your storage and external connectivity needs before deciding.

Cameras and displays

Whilst the cameras on MBPs have improved massively in recent years, the iPad wins hands down in this respect - they're just better (as well as having additional rear cameras). Depending on the model, iPads also have superior displays for the ££.

'....are selfies really an essential module in the course darling?'

'What do you need this for darling?'

This is the most crucial question in your decision. If intended use involves high end processing and/or local storage (music or video, for example), then it really has to be the trad laptop route. Likewise, if your little treasure is a serious gamer, you'll need an MBP.

However, if the intended area is, say, languages or English Lit, then an iPad may be ideal - it can also double as an e-reader. No carrying libraries around.

Remeber, though, as I've said - many apps have better functionality under MacOS, so be sure to check intended use.

The third way

The elephant in this room that I haven't mentioned yet is the MacBook Air - something that lies between the MBP and the iPad Pro. Think of it as an iPad Pro with a keyboard. A MacBook Air's display and cameras are slightly inferior to the iPad Pro's (depending on the model), but you get a lot of bang for your buck, and they really are cute little machines.

Most affordable refurbished MacBook Airs will ship with between 128gb and 512gb of SSD storage (although they now ship with up to 2tb), and run on MacOS. Very light, slim and elegant. A bit like me.

Or not.

Don't believe the hype

Getting the most out of an iPad for daily work will involve a learning curve to fully master those multitasking gestures, and perhaps a more familiar laptop experience will be easier in a strange new world. Or perhaps it's just more familiar to an old git like me....

We're all susceptible to marketing;- your kids will tell you that they need to be going on their travels with the very latest M1 chipped machine - they don't. Lovely as these computing wonders are, a good solid refurbished machine is your best way forward.

Thinking of buying a MacBook Pro or iPad Pro from new? Think different.

Apple are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, but computer manufacture is notoriously carbon and rare earth heavy - not to mention the sumptuous packaging!

We all have a part to play in maintaining the environment we live in. By buying a refurbished MacBook Pro or iPad Pro, we're collectively reducing our carbon footprint and preserving the planet - now and for future generations.

Now that's education.