MacBooks VS iPads: which is better?

A Macbook and Ipad opposite each other
(Image credit: Future)

With the launch of the new iPhone 14 and Apple Watch models behind us, we suspect that Apple isn’t done yet, and will be releasing a flurry of new tech this October. We're even getting new iPad Pros soon, as the last family of iPad Pros was announced this time last year, and potential updates to the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) and the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)

Of course, new iPads and new MacBooks bring up the familiar question: which one is better? Let’s compare the two and dissect which one may be a good fit for various users. For the sake of simplicity, we will directly compare the currently-available iPad Pro 11 (2021) and the MacBook Pro 13-inch

MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 model in an office on a desk

(Image credit: Future)


The iPad Pro 11 (2021) model starts at around $850 (£749 or AU$1,360) and the MacBook Pro 13-inch starts at about $1,480 (£1,299 or AU$ 2,360).

Obviously, that's quite a price difference and if you're on a budget, you may be tempted to just pick the iPad Pro and be done with it. And while it may always be the cheapest option when compared to a MacBook, owing to the smaller size and difference in capabilities, there are also plenty of reasons why you may want to spend extra on the MacBook Pro.

In some ways, going to the MacBook Pro 13-inch could even save you money in the long run, as the more powerful component (most notably the M2 chip at its core) mean it’s more future-proof than the current M1 iPad Pro, so you won’t have to upgrade for a long time. 

It’s also worth considering that iPads can require some added purchases to make them functional for certain tasks, a lesson learned the hard way by anyone who rushes into buying an iPad and then had to buy additional kit - like the Magic Keyboard - which made the overall expenditure creep very close to the price of a standard MacBook.

MacBooks will come with everything you need to be able to use them efficiently, and perhaps the only thing you might need on top of the original purchase would be a mouse. But with the iPad Pro 11, you would need a keyboard or keyboard folio case as well as a mouse, a case, and maybe an Apple Pencil if you're a creative professional who likes to draw or a student that wants to use the iPad in lectures to take notes. 

  • Winner: iPad Pro 


Ultimately, both of these are very portable devices. If you’re mulling over which device may be better for you, portability is a vital deciding factor on whether or not you will purchase a new Apple device or not. 

The MacBook Pro 13-inch is incredibly thin and relatively light at 1.4kg, so you won’t be lugging around a massive machine. The MacBook has all you need in one place, so it’s relatively easy to carry around. However, it is still quite a bit heavier than the iPad Pro which sits at a slender 0.47kg. 

But remember that the iPad may add on weight with some of the accessories you’d need to take to work or class to make it usable. Of course, not all iPad accessories weigh an absolute tonne, but portability is more than just the weight of the device - it's also the ease with which you can carry the device around. It’ll always be easier to chuck your MacBook into your bag and get going than to grab your iPad, your keyboard, your mouse, and maybe a pen. 

  • Winner: iPad Pro 

An Apple iPad Pro 11 (2021) from the back, on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future)


As we said, there are a large variety of MacBooks and iPads out there for you to grab, so it can be difficult to pick which one is right for you. Preference plays a big role when it comes to screen size, for example, and the size that’s best for your needs will depend a lot on what kind of tasks you’re going to be performing. Also, bear in mind that the larger the screen size, the bigger the device will be overall, which impacts its portability.  

Both MacBooks and iPads come with stunning displays in their own right, so you won’t be starved for a decent display when deciding between the two.

The Macbook Pro we’ve been looking at here has a 13.3-inch display that’s sleek and crisp with great color saturation. The iPad Pro has a Liquid Retina display of around 11-inches, noticeably smaller than the MacBook but not microscopic in comparison. 

The fundamental difference between both devices is the touchscreen - or lack thereof. iPads have touchscreens that make them perfect for students who like to write their notes on by hand with a stylus, or for people who’d only use it to scroll through their socials or watch a few films or digital artists. The tactile interactivity of the iPad makes it a popular device, and if you are thinking of taking it to class (like I did) it can make setting up before lessons go a lot smoother. I was able to take my iPad in its case around all day without being too weighed down, watch lectures or a bit of Netflix in the library and take up minimal space.

With a MacBook, you have a larger display and can split windows a lot easier than on an iPad. They don’t have touchscreen capabilities like the iPad does, though, so you’ll be typing up your notes. They do, however, have the nifty touch bar that runs across the top of the keyboard and lets you perform specific functions with the tap of a finger.

  • Winner: MacBook Pro

An Apple iPad Pro 11 (2021) on a table, with a keyboard

(Image credit: Future)


Both devices have pretty standard battery lives for what they are, with the iPad obviously having a shorter battery life with its smaller battery. In our review of the MacBook Pro, we got 15 and a half hours out of the compact computer. 

When you’re comparing devices and you look at them through the lens of battery life, going for the one with the biggest battery life may not always be the best way to decide. We all want the very best out of everything we buy, but sometimes you do have to be honest about what you actually need from your future tablet or laptop. Apple products are expensive, and if your intention for your device leans more towards the iPad but you’re worried that the MacBook has a better battery, you will end up compromising so much over one small factor.

Essentially, bigger is not always better. 

The iPad Pro will drain a little faster when connected to peripherals like keyboards or mice, so you may want to consider that if you plan to sit in class with it. But iPads do generally have chargers that weigh very little, and you will likely be able to slot your charger in anywhere you are, be that the office, school, or in a cafe. MacBooks are the opposite, in that their chargers can be quite heavy, and generally a pain to carry around. You’ll have a longer battery life with the MacBook for sure, but that depends on your use - if you happen to be running demanding software, it might shorten significantly.

For heavy-duty workloads, the MacBook Pro is your best bet here, but for a few emails and hours of viewing pleasure, the iPad Pro is for you. 

  • Winner: MacBook Pro

Which should you choose?

MacBooks and iPads are brilliant in their own right, and that is often why it's so hard to decide which might be right for you or which one is better. They exceed in their own categories, so it’s hard to pick the absolute best one.

If you’re looking for a device you can do a few bits of homework on, answer emails and do some light admin, an iPad is the one for you. You'll get to do all of that to a high standard on a smaller, less costly device and be able to use it as a viewing device to take with you and catch up on your shows. If you’re hoping to start that new creative project, run heavy-duty software for work or university, and plan to be doing a lot of typing, you’ll be better off with a MacBook Pro. 

Check out our best iPads and Macbook pages if you want to know which device would suit you. 

  • Overall Winner: Draw
Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison.

Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place.

Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).