Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) vs Apple iPad Pro M1 (2021): Which to buy?

Apple launched the all-new MacBook Air (2022) during WWDC22. The reveal also included that of macOS Ventura — which further enriches the Mac lineup with handy features. And considering that this new MacBook packs the M2 chip, you might want to take a look at our list of best apps for Apple silicon. These applications are specifically optimized for the family of M chips that power the company’s latest computers. Speaking of M processors, Apple has even started including these chipsets in some of its higher-end iPads. This is the MacBook Air M2 (2022) vs iPad Pro M1 (2021) — two thin and light, M-powered beasts that cater to different users.

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Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) vs Apple iPad Pro M1 (2021): Specifications

Apple MacBook Air M2 Apple iPad Pro M1
  • Apple M2 (8-Core GPU)
  • Apple M2 (10-Core GPU)
  • 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches
  • 2.7lbs
  • 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches
  • 1.5lbs
  • 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display (2560 x 1664), up to 500 nits peak brightness, True Tone technology
  • 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR multi-touch display (2732 x 2048), up to 1600 nits peak brightness, True Tone technology, ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz
  • Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports (40Gbps, Power Delivery, one external display)
  • MagSafe 3 port
  • Headphone jack
  • Thunderbolt/USB 4 port (40Gbps, Power Delivery, one external display)
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
  • 52.6Whr battery
  • Up to 18 hours of video playback
  • 30W charger
  • 40.88Whr battery
  • Up to 10 hours of video playback
  • 20W charger
  • Four-speaker sound system with wide stereo sound and spatial audio support when playing Dolby Atmos content
  • Pro rear camera system: Wide and Ultra Wide cameras
    • Wide: 12MP, ƒ/1.8 aperture
    • Ultra Wide: 10MP, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 125° field of view
    • 2x optical zoom out
    • Digital zoom up to 5x
    • Brighter True Tone flash
    • LiDAR scanner
  • TrueDepth front-facing system
    • Ultra Wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 122° field of view
    • Portrait mode with advanced bokeh, Depth Control, and lighting effects
    • Retina Flash
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 5G (on Cellular model)
  • Silver
  • Starlight
  • Space Gray
  • Midnight

Design: We’ve got a Pro that is lighter and thinner than air!

the iPad Pro 2021 with a white Magic Keyboard on a table.

Let’s start with design. Design is one of the important aspects to consider when buying a new computing device. That’s because it’s the first thing we look at when we’re about to start using a certain product — before we even log in and check its software. Fortunately, both products have futuristic chassis that are very easy on the eyes. Obviously, though, there’s more to consider when it comes to their designs than just them looking modern.

MacBook Air side view in four colors

If you’re looking for the thinner of the two, the iPad Pro is the one to go for. It’s definitely also more portable, thanks to its smaller size and lighter weight. The MacBook Air, though, comes with more ports, a built-in keyboard, and a larger display. So depending on what you’re looking for, you will likely find yourself leaning to one of the two devices and the physical features they offer. It’s also worth noting that you could always buy a separate keyboard for the iPad Pro. And, finally, the MacBook Air comes in Midnight and Starlight in addition to the colors that the iPad Pro offers (Space Gray and Silver). Ultimately — in terms of design — the iPad Pro is clearly cleaner and more minimalistic than the MacBook Air.

Display: Touch-enabled, brighter, clearer, faster — the Pro has got it all!

The notch on the new MacBook

Whether you’re a creative looking to utilize Apple’s mighty M chips or a binge watcher looking for the superior display — there’s a clear winner in this round. The iPad Pro’s dominates that of the MacBook Air from all aspects except when comparing their sizes. For starters, it’s a multi-touch screen, allowing you to doodle using your finger, Apple Pencil 2, or a regular stylus. Secondly, it has a higher resolution and supports the ProMotion technology, which further… ProMote and crown it as the better display.

Apple's iPad Pro with a white Magic Keyboard.

For those unfamiliar with the ProMotion technology, it’s Apple’s marketing name for 120Hz refresh rates. So on the iPad Pro you get to take advantage of these buttery-smooth animation and scrolling speeds that are nowhere to be found on the MacBook Air. Another aspect to consider — especially if you tend to work outdoors — is the peak brightness. That of the notebook is 500 nits, which is obliterated by the 1600 nits the tablet offers. The iPad Pro’s display truly is a pro at what it does. Oh, and it doesn’t have a notch like the MacBook Air.

Performance: Air? More like a hurricane!

Apple M2 specifications graphic

Performance on a computing device can be the top priority for customers looking to get the maximum power their bucks can buy them. This round isn’t as simple as the rest — simply because we have two devices of different natures. Obviously, the MacBook Air wins it, but we have to dissect the specific details nonetheless. Starting with the processor, both devices are powered by an M chip. The Mac goes for 2022’s M2, while the iPad Pro packs the 2020 M1 chipset. As you’d expect, the M2 is faster and more power efficient than the first gen of this SoC.

m1 chip overview

Chips aside, you can get up to 2TB of SSD on both devices. However, the MacBook Air offers more RAM options — 8GB, 16GB, and 24GB. The iPad Pro misses out on the third option. Though, let these insignificant differences not distract us from what I would consider the biggest disadvantage of the iPad — iPadOS.

Yes, iPadOS 16 adds Stage Manager and proper external display support. However, it’s still iPadOS. The MacBook Air runs macOS — which means you don’t have to deal with the restriction Apple bakes into its mobile operating systems. In the iPad Pro’s defense, though, you get stylus and better accessory support. If you’re an illustrator or take plenty of handwritten notes, then the iPad might make more sense to you.

Bottom Line: It’s all about weighing your pros and cons

The Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) and iPad Pro M1 (2021) are two very, very different products. They’re powerful and lightweight in their own unique ways — epitomes of Apple’s modern design, reflected through reliable, long-lasting, and unsophisticated technologies. Both should be receiving software support for years to come. Ultimately, you should decide if you want a laptop or a Pro tablet. Do you prefer the clearer touch screen or the built-in keyboard? Would you sacrifice macOS for the slimmer, Face ID-enabled design? It really is up to you. We’ve only helped you pick by breaking down what you need to know about the two Apple computing devices.

Both devices are in the same price range, with the MacBook Air starting at $1,199 in the US and the iPad Pro going for a slightly cheaper $1,099 price tag.

    Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022)

    The 2022 MacBook Air offers the M2 chip and a redesigned chassis with MagSafe support. Best Buy can notify you when it’s available.

    Apple iPad Pro M1 (2021)

    The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) packs the Apple M1 chip, includes optional 5G support, and houses the TrueDepth camera system in its thin bezels.

Which Apple powerhouse will you be buying, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

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