In an interview with The Telegraph about the iPad Pro, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, ”I think if you're looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?” Actually, there are several good reasons to pick a Mac instead of an iPad Pro— bigger screen possibilities, more connection options, an operating system (Mac OS X) that’s more sophisticated for multitasking, and the fact that the 27-inch iMac with Retina display is the best darn computer ever made.
The iPad Pro isn’t a viable replacement for a computer for folks who need to run power intensive programs or who need to run lots of apps simultaneously. Still, both it and the 12-inch MacBook are solid choices as secondary computers.
So, assuming you want a second computer to complement your main Mac, which should you choose?
If you consistently switch between multiple apps, the MacBook is the best choice. It’s not the hardware of the iPad Pro that’s limiting (the A9X processor and 4GB of RAM kept things running smoothly) in this regard, as much as the operating system. Though it’s more powerful with version 9, iOS is still a mobile operating system (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and its multitasking features are still in their infancy.
You invoke Slide Over in iOS 9 by swiping from the right edge of the screen. You can switch to Split View by tapping a divider and resizing apps. If you’re only working with a few apps that’s fine. However, as I do my Apple World Today tasks, I have Pages, Mail, Safari (with multiple tabs open), Contacts, Calendar, Pixelmator, and, often, iTunes up and running. You can do this on an iPad Pro just as you can with a MacBook, but switching between apps on a Mac is more seamless.
With a keyboard attached, ⌘-Tab works for app switching just like it does on the Mac. Tap it and release and you switch to the most recently used app. Tap it and keep holding down ⌘ and you get a visual switcher showing the 10 most recently used apps. But the process feels kludgier than doing it on a Mac. Admittedly, since there’s as much workspace as two iPad Airs on an iPad Pro, you do have substantial screen space to work with .However, the horizontally scrolling list of running apps can get quite long; a simple search bar atop the screen would be nice.
What’s more, you can’t customize the home screen’s large — really large — icons with files or other shortcuts. You can’t place the two windows of the same app side by side. For some apps you really need a trackpad. There’s no trackpad for the iPad Pro, and tapping/touching items onscreen really isn’t a suitable alternative.
Finally, you won’t save much space in toting an iPad Pro instead of a MacBook Air or even a MacBook Pro. Inside a keyboard case, the iPad Pro has a nearly identical footprint to the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and is appreciably bigger than the 11.6-inch MacBook Air.
On the other hand….
Still, I’m a big fan of the big iPad. I do most of my work on my iMac. For some time, I’ve been using a MacBook to do my Apple World Today work when I occasionally travel and my iPad Air 2 is always close at hand.
Or WAS always close at hand. It and my MacBook will probably be replaced with an iPad Pro. This means one less gadget in my life. The super-sized tablet does work as a reasonable laptop replacement despite the limitations previously mentioned — and it’s the best iPad ever though it may be oversized for some people.
The screen — with its 2732 x 2048 resolution — beats the gorgeous, 2304 x 1440 screen of the MacBook. Ebooks, photos, digital comic books, and videos look incredible on the iPad Pro screen.
And those speakers! The iPad Pro has four speakers — two on “top,” and two on “bottom” — which make the speakers on the MacBook sound wimpy. Apple’s stereo separation feature works seamlessly, too, properly switching the “left” and “right” channels over to the correct speakers as you rotate the iPad Pro around.
If you spend a lot of time switching between lots of apps, go with the MacBook. It’s more elegant at juggling multiple tasks than the iPad Pro.
If you do run multiple apps but don't mind the less elegant multitasking capabilities of iOS, and if you want a compact machine that’s superb at audio and video, go with the iPad Pro as I have. Just test one out in person to make sure it’s not too big for you. This iPad is a LOT bigger than any previous Apple tablet.
Of course, if you don’t mind having multiple Apple gadgets around, have the money, and don’t have a lot of intensive app needs, go with a MacBook-iPad Air 2 combo. This means you’ll have the best of all both worlds. You can also use the $15.99 Duet Display app to increase your screen real estate by using your iPad Air 2 as a second display with your MacBook.
As for me, after just a few days of use, I’m happy using my iMac as my workhorse system and my iPad Pro as my secondary/backup system. I think of it as my iMac’s sidekick.