Are The New iPad Pros MacBook-Killers?

October 31, 2018

1:10 pm

Apple unveiled two completely redesigned iPad Pros at its launch event in Brooklyn yesterday. According to John Ternus, Apple’s VP of Hardware Engineering, it was the device Apple had “dreamed about building from the very beginning.”

That’s big talk, but the new iPads represent probably the biggest departure from the original iPad unveiled by Steve Jobs almost 10 years ago. The tapered edges, home button and Lightning port are all gone.

The new iPad Pros certainly present the biggest change to the iPad range so far. But could they also inadvertently compete with Apple’s MacBook models?

See more on all the new launches from Apple’s latest event

Apple iPad Pro: What’s New?

The design of these new iPads is completely different to the older Pro models they replaced.

The cost? The 11-inch model starts at $799 and the 12.9-inch model starts at $999.

More Screen, Less Frame

The tapered sides have been replaced with flat sides, similar in style to the old iPhone 5. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is now gone, in favor of an 11-inch model, though it keeps the same overall proportions.

The 12.9-inch iPad retains the same screen size, but in a package that’s now 25% smaller overall.

Good news for notch-naysayers – there’s no notch in sight to spoil the top of the iPad Pro screen.

The corners of the new iPad Pro displays are curved, and use the same LCD Liquid Retina display tech found on the new iPhone XR. It’s apparently “the most accurate, responsive and beautiful display” Apple’s ever made. On paper, it seems they might be right as the new displays are brighter, and feature resolutions of 2388×1668 for the 11-inch version and 2732×2048 for the 12.9-inch version.

FaceID and No Home Button

The Home Button – once core to Apple’s design strategy for touchscreen devices – has been replaced with the gesture controls familiar to iPhone X, XS and XR users. TouchID is gone, as well, replaced with FaceID.

Bye Bye Lightning, Hello USB-C

In a big departure for the iPad, the Lightning Port has been replaced with a USB-C connection. This brings the iPads closer to the new MacBook models, which all use a type of USB-C port called Thunderbolt 3 (though you needn’t worry about compatibility issues, as USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are completely interchangeable.)

More Power

There’s a souped-up version of the A12 Bionic processor which debuted on the iPhone XS and XR, called the A12X. It’s designed to cope with more demanding tasks, and even offers the same graphical performance as an Xbox One S.

Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio

There’s also an improved Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio on offer but, as usual, these aren’t thrown in for free and cost $129 and $179, respectively.

In bad news for existing iPad Pro owners, your old Pencil and Keyboard Case won’t work with either of the new iPads.

What Does This Mean for the Regular iPads?

Fortunately, the iPad lineup is nowhere near as confusing as the MacBook lineup, so it’s quite easy to work out how they all fit together, and who they’re meant for.

iPad Mini

The iPad Mini 4, with 7.9-inch display, is the smallest, cheapest and oldest iPad on sale, having been released in 2015. It costs $329, and has 128GB storage as standard.

iPad 9.7

The iPad with 9.7-inch display is cheaper than the iPad Mini, at $329, but has to make do with just 32GB storage as standard. Opt for 128GB and it’s $429. It also supports Apple Pencil, and was touted as a great education tool by Apple when it launched.

iPad Pro 10.5

The old 10.5-inch iPad Pro is still being sold by Apple, but has now been superseded by the new 11-inch model we detailed above. The old 12.9-inch model is long gone.

We wouldn’t be surprised if Apple quietly kills off the iPad Mini at some point in the future. The new iPhone XS Max’s display is 6.5-inches, and is almost as sharp.

An update to the regular iPad, probably with the new design of the iPad Pros seems logical, but given the new version only arrived last year, we’d expect to wait until at least next year for a replacement.

iPad Pro vs MacBook

But, how do the new iPad Pros compare with Apple’s MacBooks? After all, both have keyboards (an extra purchase for the iPads) and both are designed for productivity and power on-the-go.

What’s more, companies have started releasing fully-featured desktop programs for the iPads, including Photoshop and the (less work-focused) Sid Meier’s Civilization 6.

If you buy an 11-inch iPad Pro, throw in a keyboard and a pen, you’re looking at a price tag of $1,107. The 12.9-inch with the same accessories will set you back $1,329. The new MacBook Air costs $1,199 and the cheapest MacBook Pro costs $1,299.

This raises a fair question – is Apple’s long-term strategy to kill the MacBook in favor of the iPad?

It sounds crazy, but would make sense. The iPads use Apple’s proprietary components, such as the A12X Bionic processor, while its Macs use Intel processors (though Apple is moving towards developing its own chips).

The iPads are also more versatile than MacBooks, with their touchscreen and stylus support. With Apple constantly touting its desire to help people create, the iPad might just be a better tool for the job than a MacBook.

Still, you’d have a long way to go to persuade many designers to abandon a 15-inch MacBook Pro in favor of a smaller iPad. But Apple is clearly hoping to convince high-end users that an iPad Pro can indeed do it all.

See our round-up of the Best Laptops For Designers

Should You Upgrade?

The question remains, though, should you upgrade to an iPad Pro?

If you have one of the older, second-gen iPad Pro models, you may be tempted. But we’d advise sticking with what you have already. Your existing iPad Pro is likely to be just as powerful and just as capable, and will keep receiving iOS updates for years to come.

If you’re thinking about upgrading from an iPad to an iPad Pro, it’s worth considering whether you’d actually be able to use the Pro to its fullest. Both the 11- and 12.9-inch models are designed as laptop replacements, and if all you’re doing is watching catch-up TV on your current iPad, it’s probably not worth it.

However, if you’re looking to replace an existing MacBook or Windows laptop, it might be worth taking the plunge on the new iPad. You’ll be able to accomplish all the tasks you’re used to (with the exception of some gaming functions), in a sleeker, better-designed package more suited for use on-the-go.

It’ll feel wrong and strange at first, but we think it’ll be worth it in the long run. And hey, if you miss the keyboard, Apple will happily take $179 off you to put things right.

Want to know more about Apple’s new launches?

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.Co covering everything from website builders to mobile phones. He also loves soccer, probably too much.

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