New M2 MacBook Air: Apple’s Macs keep getting better and better. The iPad, on the other hand, is a question mark that changes slowly.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
Apple seems to have made a completely useful and highly functional laptop with the new MacBook Air with M2 and a new design. Once it seemed like the Mac line was becoming less important, but now it seems stronger than ever. This seems like a good time to buy one, but there is one big question mark: What about the iPad?
When new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros came out last fall, my coworker Daniel Van Boom had these thoughts. But now, with a redesigned mainstream laptop and an iPad OS that looks more and more like Mac OS, it seems like the lines between these products are getting a little bit blurrier. Still, it’s not enough.
I was talking to a coworker who was trying to decide whether to buy a MacBook Air or an iPad with a keyboard, and the answer is still not clear. The MacBook is still very useful and has gotten better in areas like battery life and speed, but it still looks like an old laptop and doesn’t have a touchscreen. The iPad, especially the Air and Pro models, is getting more and more like a laptop.
Keyboard and trackpad/mouse support, a new way to switch between apps in iPadOS 16, and finally, support for an external monitor that works like an extension of your iPad workspace. It also has some features that Apple’s Macs don’t have, like the Pencil for drawing and writing, Face ID on the Pro models, better cameras with lidar that can be used for some AR and 3D scanning, and a lot of apps and games that aren’t available or optimized for Macs.
iPads get too expensive at the top end, costing as much as a laptop even though they don’t do everything a laptop does. At the lower end, entry-level iPads don’t have some of the future-forward chips (and USB-C) that could make a bigger difference in a couple of years.
I’m leaning toward buying an M2 MacBook Air as a long-overdue upgrade to my personal laptop, mostly because I know that iPads still can’t do everything I need them to do for work and personal data management. At least, it won’t be easy. Still, what I’d really love and keep waiting for is an iPad that can run macOS or something that’s basically the same. Apple keeps getting better at this, making small changes every year or so. In 2022, iPads with an M1 chip will be able to do more than one thing at once. So far, what I’ve seen of the public beta isn’t enough to make me give up my PC or Mac.
Apple is expected to release a new iPad Pro in the fall. It might have the same M2 chip as the latest MacBook Pro and Air. But don’t expect it to change a lot about how you use an iPad: Apple still limits how flexible iPadOS can be. Even though iPadOS 16 improves the number of app windows that can be opened at once, there is still a limit. So far, the performance on M1 iPads that are already out there seems fine (except for some crashes, but it’s hard to tell if that’s just because the software is still in beta).
If you’re looking for the safest iPad to buy right now, I’d recommend the Air: The M1 chip should keep it ready for OS updates in the future, and it’s a lot faster than the entry-level iPad (which will probably get an update in the fall, too). But on the other hand, new iPads are coming out in a few months, and recent Prime Day sales didn’t have very good deals, so maybe it’s best to wait and see.
But I find it all pretty annoying because Apple has made it so easy to get a pretty good computer with a Mac. iPads are good, but they are still on the edge of the market. Macs and iPads are getting closer than ever, but it’s still hard to decide which one to buy, especially since Apple’s answer still seems to be “buy both,” which isn’t a good answer for most of us.